Originally Posted by Bikeguy Joe
What's you tip for balancing wheels?
Hint, this is a test, haha.
There are fancy jigs that are specifically designed for truing wheels, but I'm going to assume that if you own one, you already know how to use it. Here's how to do it without one:
Optional: Take the tire and tube off your wheel if it's seriously out of whack, it makes heavy truing easier. For a light touch-up, don't bother, as it isn't worth the effort of putting the tire back on.
First, check to see if any of the spokes are ridiculously loose by squeezing them with your hand two at a time. If any of them are easy to squeeze, tighten them (with pliers or spoke tool) until they're not.
Prop your bike up in such a way that the wheel you want to fix is off the ground and able to spin freely. Take a C clamp and put it on the brake handle and tighten it until the brake pads almost touch your rim, but not quite. Then slowly spin your wheel and watch for if the brake pads brush against the rim. If they don't, slowly tighten the C clamp until the pads start brushing against the wheel. If your wheel is out of alignment, the pad will only touch in certain places. Once you have identified a section of wheel that needs to move to the right or left, use a pliers (or a spoke tool if you have one) tighten all the spokes on the corresponding side along the length of the out-of-whack section (if the wheel needs to move to the left, tighten the spokes on the left side and vice versa) one quarter turn at a time (start with a quarter, do it in smaller increments later) until the wheel spins freely again. Once you have dealt with all the problem sections and the wheel spins freely again, tighten the C clamp a bit more and repeat. Do this until you can have the brake pads almost touching the rim for the full revolution of the tire.
Once you have done that, line up your wheel parallel to your bike (as if you are riding straight ahead), give the tire a spin, and sight down your wheel and frame. At this point you may notice that the center of the tire is slightly to the left or right of the center of your frame. If this is the case, tighten all the spokes on the corresponding side 1/4 turn (if the wheel needs to move right, tighten spokes on the right).
Now, there is a third step to properly truing a wheel, but it is difficult to do without specialized equipment. However, here's how I do it. For this step you have to take your tire and tube off. Get a pencil and some tape and tape the pencil to the top of your fork (just above the wheel) so that the tip almost touches the center of the rim. Now spin your tire and sight the gap between the tip of the pencil and the rim. If the gap changes as the wheel spins, then find where it is smallest and tighten those spokes 1/4 turn on BOTH sides. Spin the wheel some more and fix problem areas, then move the pencil a little closer and repeat until the gap is very small and doesn't change size when you spin the wheel.
Congratulations, you now have a true wheel on all 3 alignment axis without spending $200 on wheel truing equipment.