Want a long-lasting, strong wheel? Then you got to pay attention to spoke tension. Spoke tension is the amount of force pulling on the wheel’s spokes. And if you have proper spoke tension, your wheel will stay true longer and your spokes and rim will last longer.
When your spoke tension is too low, your spokes tend to loosen even more each time you ride. This leads to metal fatigue and a shortened lifespan for your spokes. And on top of this, your wheel will need to be continually re-trued.
On the other hand, too much spoke tension can lead to premature failure of rim, hubs, and, of course, spokes. And the flats of the spoke nipple may round out, because of the the increased force needed to turn the nipple.
It's a Goldilocks situation: you don't want it too high or too low. You want it just right.
Measuring Spoke Tension
Some mechanics will pluck each of the spokes like the strings on a harp and listen for tone in order to measure spoke tension. And some even play music this way. But for a tone-deaf mechanic like me, the best and more precise way to check it is to use a spoke tensiometer.
A tensiometer measures spoke tension by gauging how much a spoke deflects (or flexes) when force is applied to the spoke. Before starting to true a wheel, you should check the spoke tension with a tensiometer. These measurements let you know if the spokes should be tightened or loosened while truing.
The Importance Of Balanced Spoke Tension
More important than individual spoke tension, though, is uniform (or balanced) spoke tension. All of the spokes on your wheel need to have relatively similar tensions. If your wheel is properly tensioned and balanced, it'll be more stable and the spokes won't need to be adjusted as often. And your wheel won't have to be re-trued as frequently. Having balanced spoke tension is actually more important than having a perfectly true wheel. In fact, perfect trueness can be sacrificed in order to have a wheel with properly balanced spoke tension — and a great ride.
Questions or want us to work on your wheel? Call 901-871-2453 or email us.