How to true spoke motorcycle wheels

Posted on 14th May 2009 by Electra Glide In Blue in Motorcycle Tools, Motorcycle Wheels - Tags: , , , ,

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I can’t tune a piano, but I can true a motorcycle wheel. Special tools needed, spoke wrench, dial indicator, truing stand. If you don’t have these tools I highly recommend you take your wheel to a motorcycle shop for truing.
We left the last post with the wheel laced up, and the spokes only finger tight. The hub should have a little side to side play. We now need to true the hub, (center it) to the rim. 100_0129a
With the wheel installed in to the truing stand, secure a straight edge up to the hub flange.

Start at the valve hole and tighten the nipple three full turns, then do the same to the next four spokes. I tape the spokes and number them and note the space between the rim and the straight edge, top and bottom. Roll the wheel half way around and do this same thing, checking the straight edge. Now roll the wheel a quarter and do the same, then roll the wheel half way and do the same. At this point in time you should have sixteen spokes tightened roughly three turns, at four equal areas on the wheel. Flip the straight edge to the other side of the hub. You want the exact same distance from the straight edge, top and bottom to the rim, on both sides of the hub. Now you will have to mount up your dial indicator to read side runout, and secure the straight edge up to the hub flange then tighten the remaining spokes to finish centering the rim sideways with the hub and truing the rim sideways, as this must be done as one operation.
Start by slowly turning the rim to the farthest side runout on the dial indicator. Loosen the spokes on the indicator side and tighten on the opposite side. Repeat this procedure until the rim runs true. After each loosening and tightening of the spokes always check the straight edge for hub being center to the rim. Rim should be trued to two, onehunderedths (2/100″) of an inch, sideways runout. Takr your time and go slow.100_0130

After the rim has been centered with the hub, trued running sideways, we can now check the radial runout or concentricity of the wheel. Adjust the dial indicator so it runs on the rim tire bead seat. Slowly turn the wheel to find the high point of the rim. Mark this spoke with tape and tighten it up a little watching the dial indicator, then tighten three or four spokes to the right (forward) and left (backward) of the taped one. Repeating this procedure until the rim has a radial runout of two, onehunderedths (2/100″) of an inch or less.
Now check and double check your sideways run and radial run. With all readings within 2/100 of a inch, start at the valve hole and tighten every spoke equally all the way around the rim, all the while keeping the sideways run and radial run within the limits of 2/100 of a inch.100_0129

After all spokes have been tightened and the wheel is true, or almost true, remove the wheel from the stand. Seat each spoke head in to the hub with a sharp blow, using a flat nose punch and hammer. Reinstall the wheel in to the truing stand, start at the valve hole and tighten every spoke equally all the way around the rim, all the while keeping the sideways run and radial run true. This method allows the spokes to be drawn up tighter and prevents the possibility of spokes coming loose, due to spoke heads seating into the flange, after the wheel has been put into service.

Do not tighten spokes to the point of drawing the nipples through the rim or distorting the hub flange. If your spokes are left to loose they will continue to loosen when put into service.
Grind off any spoke ends protruding through the nipples to protect the tube from puncture when mounting the tire.
The key to truing motorcycle wheels is to go at it slow and easy. Every adjustment you make, affects another part of the wheel, and you only have two wheels, so do it right.
Ride Safe.

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  1. Dear EGiB:

    Thank God I have cast wheels, as patience and competence are in short supply here. Nice technical piece.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack Riepe
    Twisted Roads

    Comment by Jack Riepe — May 26, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

  2. brilliant

    Comment by steve — July 31, 2009 @ 8:33 am

  3. I’m running star hubs, drum brakes and drop center 16″ rims on my ‘57 Panhead. The Clymers Panhead manual shows a 1 7/8″ off-set but that seems excessive. When I bought the bike the wheels had 1 1/4″ off-set.

    How can I tell if I’m using the right off-set for my combination of frame and wheels?


    Comment by Perry — October 28, 2009 @ 6:42 pm

  4. Perry,
    I take it you are referring to the centering of the wheel to the hub. If your hubs are true 57 you would use a straightedge with no notches at the hub,
    and the 1 7/8″ would be your measurement for proper centered sideways in relation to the hub for correct alignment and tracking of the front and rear wheels.
    I do have a diagram, if you need it I can email it to you.
    Hope that answered your question.

    Comment by Electra Glide In Blue — October 28, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

  5. Jack,
    Thanks for the comment.

    Comment by Electra Glide In Blue — October 28, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  6. Thanks for the response. The hubs appear to be after market replica star hubs. We went with 1 1/2″ off set and, before the spokes were set, I put the wheel in the frame. It was off center in relation to the rear fender and I’m more certain that 1 7/8″ is too much for these wheels.

    A diagram would be great.

    Thanks again

    Comment by Perry — October 29, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

  7. From personal experience go at it slow and easy is definitely the key. I need to get a rim vice like yours my makeshift one isn’t cutting it.

    Comment by Ted — December 8, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  8. I am having problems with an 84 Virago 750. The rear rim seems to be offset to the right by about 1/2 inch or so, but I can not find any specs. As it has inbuilt drum brakes in the hub, the spokes are only half as long on one side, so I am not sure if the rim should be in the middle between the spoke mounting holes, or offset to one side by a certain amount.

    Anyone got any ideas?

    Comment by Dave — January 3, 2010 @ 5:03 am

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