True Enough (Some Yak Shaving Required)

“Do you have a stationary bike?”, doc asked, inquiring as to my capacity to do self-directed physical therapy in the aftermath of some surgery to help loosen up my leg. “No…”, I replied, but shortly thereafter set about remedying that.

I figured purchasing a cycling trainer might be a good investment and set about doing some research. After ruling out the wind- and magnetic-resistance style trainers, and settling on purchasing a fluid style trainer, it came down to either a CycleOps Fluid 2 or a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. They seemed close, but the latter appeared more solidly engineered, and thus I went. I did, however, buy a CycleOps Stackable Climbing Block for the front wheel, on the grounds that the corresponding piece of equipment sold by Kurt did not look nearly as nice (it seemed to bite the tire in an altogether unfriendly way instead of making well distributed contact).

No sooner had I received the trainer and hooked my bike up to it I was a little dismayed. I was getting a whump-whump noise that seemed sync’d to the rotational frequency of the wheel. I figured the wheel must be out of true and so cracked open my copy of Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, jumped to the “Wheels and Tires” chapter, read up on the corresponding material, and realized that my tools did not include a spoke wrench or a truing stand.

After some cursing I eventually found my calipers, measured the nipple size for my spokes, took my best guess as to what the calipers were saying (the damned button-battery was dead) and matched that up to the various sizes of wrench in existence, and ended up ordering a Park Tool “SW-40 Four Sided Spoke Wrench”, the .127 inch variety.

After some more research, I found myself thinking that the truing stand was unnecessary. I thought about the Park Tool “TS-2.2 Professional Wheel Truing Stand”, but I couldn’t convince myself that I really needed it, not with a sticker price of $250, and not without the ambition to run a bike shop. I can definitely see how it would be nice, so maybe I will spring for it eventually, but I have to fight the temptation to spend my whole paycheck on Amazon. It’s just too easy.

The way I ultimately did the work was as follows:

  1. attach the bike to the trainer (leaving the resistance mechanism unengaged; I could have also used my bike stand)
  2. turn the crank to get the wheel going
  3. gently apply the rear brake and listen for a cyclic whump sound, indicative of the rim scraping one side of the brake calipers at one or more locations
  4. if the sound is sufficiently untroubling that you are satisfied, you’re done!
  5. apply the brake until the sound gets really pronounced
  6. back off on the brake a little bit, maintaining an audible sound
  7. let the wheel come to a stop
  8. gently spin the wheel by hand and find where it is catching the brake, either flinging the wheel and seeing where it stops, or gently turning it by hand and feeling where it meets friction; continue to hold the brake at a constant tension
  9. draw an O on both sides of the rim at the problematic spoke pair
  10. with the wheel still in the sticky location, look at the brake calipers and determine which side of the wheel is hitting the brakes; you can release the brake now
  11. keeping track of the spoke pair needing attention, swing the wheel such that the place that the rim meets those spokes is at the bottom
  12. using the spoke wrench, tighten one quarter turn (turn counter-clockwise when looking down at it) the spoke that emanates from the hub opposite the side of the brake caliper that was scraping, and loosen one quarter turn (turn clockwise when looking down at it) the spoke that emanates from the hub on the same side of the brake caliper that was scraping, thus pulling that portion of the wheel away from the scraping side of the brake caliper
  13. record which way you pulled the wheel by drawing a little plus symbol on the side of the wheel toward which you adjusted it, thus keeping a record of all the changes you made during this session
  14. go to step 2

When I re-engaged the resistance mechanism of the trainer with the real wheel, hopped on, and started peddling, the whump-whump sound was gone.

Bike hackin’ skillz!

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