I carry a mini tool on virtually every ride, so it was with some surprise that I ended up stuck on the side of a road when a wheel went out of true enough that the tire started rubbing the frame. Turns out, my mini tool didn’t have spoke wrench slots built into it. Surely, I thought, this was a fluke and all the other myriad pocketable multi tools I have included them, right? No. In fact, of the fifteen or so mini tools I have laying around, very few actually do.
This can happen for a number of reasons – you hit something, someone hits you, or spokes just gradually detension. Whatever the cause, it can quickly ruin a ride and leave you calling the support vehicle (aka: significant other).
So, the easiest fix is to make sure your tool has spoke wrenches. Failing that, here’s an easy way to get back on the road…
Using the pics here as an example, my wheel would have been out of true to the left, with the tire rubbing the left side of the frame. That means the right side spokes were too loose. To make them able to be tightened by mere fingers, you need to release the tension on them so the nipples will spin easily. That’s as simply as pulling the wheel as far to the right as possible, which is very easy by grabbing the wheel and chainstay and squeezing them together. The fork legs work just as well for front wheels.
You’ll want to squeeze at the point where the wheel is most out of true first, tighten the nipples as much as you can by hand, then give it a spin. If it’s still too close for comfort, pull the area just in front and behind the section you just fixed and tighten a few more spokes. Test again by spinning the wheel. Assuming the wheel isn’t destroyed, that should be enough to let the wheel spin freely and get you back home.
The bike shown here has disc brakes, which means there are no brake calipers to clear. With rim brakes, you may need to open up the calipers so the rim clears the brake pads. If the wheel’s too wobbly, you may even need to undo the cable and open them all the way up, relying on the other brake to stop you. Not ideal, sure, but better than walking home, right?