When you check out your dirt bike, dual-sport or older street bike, your gaze will pass right over a couple of objects that you likely hardly even notice any more: Your wire-spoke wheels. But in truth, there’s a lot of history on hand here, and these wheels deserve a little tender loving care every now and then to keep your bike rolling in tip-top shape.
G.F. Bauer patented the wire-tension spoke in 1802, and some 67 years later the idea was transformed into one of the first bicycle wheels. The wire-spoke wheel has been with us ever since, an elegantly simple solution to creating a wheel. Wire wheels do occasionally require some maintenance to keep them spinning true and round.
To perform this maintenance, you’ll need some simple tools, such as a spoke wrench sized for your spokes, a work stand to support the motorcycle. You can usually true your wheels while they’re still on the bike and regular maintenance is the key to avoiding a much larger job that requires removing the tires and performing the work in a truing stand.
First order of business is to visually examine your wheels for damage: dents, dings, cracks and the like. If any are evident, you need to take them to your local Honda dealer. Likewise, if your wheels are more than 5mm out of true, vertically or laterally, take them to your dealer.
One way to start is to simply grab the spokes in your hands, feeling for loose ones. Another way to discover loose spokes is to give each one a smart rap with a screwdriver to elicit a musical “ping”; a loose spoke will return a dull “plonk” sort of tone. If you find any loose spokes tighten them gently, no more than half a turn each.
Then look for side-to-side run-out. If it’s less than 5mm, gently tighten the spokes that run down to the opposite side of the hub. That is, if the run-out is to the right, tighten the spokes that run down to the left side of the hub. Work carefully, in small increments.
Similarly, if the wheel has vertical run-out, carefully tighten the spokes opposite to the vertical run-out. Again, tighten the spokes no more than half a turn each.
Afterwards, check the spokes again by grabbing them with your hands or plinking on them. Any loose ones should be snugged up carefully, then you should check the wheels again for trueness.
Spoke wheels have been with us for almost a century and a half. They don’t demand much in the way of maintenance, and if you’re careful, they’ll last a very long time.