Wheelbuilding 101... Continued

Tensioning & Truing
With the lacing complete, tensioning and truing may now begin. Preferably, you’ll need a truing stand but this process can be completed with only a frame available to hold the wheel, using either the brake pads or a pencil and a spring clamp as guides.

First, make your way around the rim and place a drop of chain lube on every nipple/rim joint and wipe any excess off for a smooth tensioning process. Proceed around the rim and with a spoke wrench thread the nipples so that they are consistently engaged with the threads without tensioning them for a solid starting point. In half- and then quarter-turn increments, start going around the wheel and evenly tensioning spokes on each side. Keep in mind dish, defined as centering the rim over the center of the axle (as explained later). On hubs with gears, disc brake mounts or otherwise having flanges not equidistant from the centerline of the hub the tension on each side will ultimately vary in order to keep the rim centered about the axle.

During tensioning keep mind of the wheel’s true (sidebar, p72) and make corrections while bringing it up to ultimate tension. After each time around the rim doing a quarter turn or so of the spokes, gently squeeze parallel spokes together to relieve any spoke windup, when the spoke twists rather than the nipple turn during tensioning. Determining the final tension of the wheel is done by feel and experience by most folks, whereas others swear that you can’t build a proper wheel without a tensionometer. For my first wheels I would compare tension with other handbuilt wheels by feel, not tone of the spokes when plucked. An undertensioned wheel will tend to break spokes and not stay in true during use, whereas an overly tensioned wheel will be near impossible to true during the building process as the rim attempts to buckle under the pressure. V-section aero rims are typically able to be laced to a higher tension than lower profile rims.

Once the wheel is brought up to adequate tension, do a round of rough truing of the wheel. Then take the wheel out of the stand, placing the axle on the ground with the rim parallel to the floor. Gently push down on opposite sides of the rim to set the spokes in the hub and rim holes, and to further relieve windup. Give it a half turn and repeat, then flip it over and do it again. You’ll likely hear some clicks and pings as the spokes set in place. Put the wheel back in