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I bought a new 27 speed Shimano 105 bike this year. Up to now I haven't been serious and have been riding a Schwinn 10 speed around the neighborhood. I've trued my wheels in the past, since I was a "kid" and I've gotten pretty good at it. BUT how do you determine how tight the spokes should be? I've always tap them with a screwdriver and expect to hear a ping rather than a clud. Other than buying a tensioner, is this a satisfactory way? On my new bike, should I use this tapping method to check for spoke tension? and then if it clunks, tighten it? A previous post said under tension spokes break.
 

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lawrence said:
On my new bike, should I use this tapping method to check for spoke tension? and then if it clunks, tighten it? A previous post said under tension spokes break.
As a rule, cheap machine-built wheels are not stress-relieved, are undertensioned, and the spokes have not been properly "bent" at the elbow... and they tend to fatgue and break after a couple of thousand miles.

It just takes a bit of work to make them good, though. If you have a rubber mallet, tap on the outer spokes where they exit the hubs... if you don't have one, press on the spokes in that area with your thumbs so they make a straight line out of the hub. Stress relieve all the spokes by grabbing pairs and squeezing, or any method that increases the tension in the spokes. Lube all nipples at the threads and where they go into the rim. Check for loose spokes on each side of the wheel by tapping (as you said) or plucking... I use a guitar pick. Tighten loose spokes until the tone is the same. Stress-relieve again. Bring the wheel to final tension and true.

If you don't have a tensiometer, maybe you could borrow one or have your local shop check a couple of spokes... it would only take them a minute. Generally the drive rear and front spokes should feel very tight.
 

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"There are no bad boys, just bad ..."

lawrence said:
I bought a new 27 speed Shimano 105 bike this year. Up to now I haven't been serious and have been riding a Schwinn 10 speed around the neighborhood. I've trued my wheels in the past, since I was a "kid" and I've gotten pretty good at it. BUT how do you determine how tight the spokes should be? I've always tap them with a screwdriver and expect to hear a ping rather than a clud. Other than buying a tensioner, is this a satisfactory way? On my new bike, should I use this tapping method to check for spoke tension? and then if it clunks, tighten it? A previous post said under tension spokes break.
If I can paraphrase Father Flanagan (founder of Boys Town): There are no bad wheels, just bad wheel builds. The integrity and durability of a wheel may depend more on the quality of the build than on the components, and its never too late to improve the build quality. Correcting the spoke line, re-tensioning and stress relief can all be done on wheels at any point in their life, and can improve the quality of a wheel that was poorly built to begin with.

Like rruff says, the machine built wheels that come as standard equipment on mass produced bikes can often be improved with just a little work. If you don't have tensiometer, you can often get a good idea of proper tension by comparing the tone of a plucked spoke to that of another similar wheel that you know has proper tension.
 

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Comparative anatomy

lawrence said:
I bought a new 27 speed Shimano 105 bike this year. Up to now I haven't been serious and have been riding a Schwinn 10 speed around the neighborhood. I've trued my wheels in the past, since I was a "kid" and I've gotten pretty good at it. BUT how do you determine how tight the spokes should be? I've always tap them with a screwdriver and expect to hear a ping rather than a clud. Other than buying a tensioner, is this a satisfactory way? On my new bike, should I use this tapping method to check for spoke tension? and then if it clunks, tighten it? A previous post said under tension spokes break.
The easiest way to do this is to find someone who has a "good" set of wheels and compare tension by the "paired spoke squeeze test." The paired spoke squeeze is a standard way of stress relieving a wheel as it is being built, and an easy way to feel overall wheel tension absent any direct measuring device. Be aware that different spoke gauges will affect this feeling, so try to find a wheel with the same size spokes. As the other posters have said, your machine built wheels are likely uneven in tension, and perhaps low in tension.
 

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At the bottom of this web page, there's a table that suggests target musical tones to check the tension of your spokes:
http://www.bikexprt.com/bicycle/tension.htm

You don't have to aim for these exact tones, but it's a good place to start. You can check to see if your spokes are way off the mark -- which I would guess they are, since you mentioned a broken spoke after just a couple hundred miles in the other thread.
 
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