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Biking With a Mission
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey y'all,

I don't build wheels too often, but I'm sick of them not turning out to their full potential because of tension issues. It's extremely difficult to get good, proper, uniform potential without one of these deals. At $57 it's probably cheaper for me to buy one than get the LBS to build it, besides most of the mechanics at the LBS aren't worth their weight in huffy.

Any ideas or ways to measure this? I honestly don't have $50 to spend, but will be building 2 or 3 wheels in the next couple weeks and want them to be decent.
 

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I use a Park TM1. If you were local, I'd loan you mine. I would check your local cycling clubs and see if you could borrow one. I don't know if buying a cheap one is such a good idea.

I could send you mine to use, but I'm leaving for Ireland and wouldn't be able to send it 'till the begining of next month.
 

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Here's an excerpt from Sheldon Brown's website with a couple of methods that don't require a tension meter....
The late great Sheldon Brown said:
There are three ways to check tension. One is by how hard it is to turn the spoke wrench. If it starts to get hard enough that you have to start worrying about rounding off the nipple with the spoke wrench, you are approaching the maximum. Fifteen years ago, this would be the limiting factor, and you would just try to get the wheel as tight as you could without stripping nipples. Modern, high quality spokes and nipples have more precisely-machined threads, however, and now there is actually a possibility of getting them too tight, causing rim failure.

The second way of judging spoke tension is by plucking the spokes where they cross and judging the musical pitch they make. If your shop doesn't have a piano, and you don't have perfect pitch, you can compare it with a known good wheel that uses the same length of spokes. This will get you into the ballpark. Before I started using a spoke tensiometer, I used to keep a cassette in my toolbox on which I had recorded my piano playing an F#, a good average reference tone for stainless spokes of usual length. (For more details on this method, see John Allen's article: Check Spoke Tension by Ear.)

The third, and best way is with a spoke tensiometer. Every well-equipped shop should have one. Average freewheel-side tension should be up to shop standards for the type of spokes and rim being used. More important is that it be even. Don't worry about the left-side tension on rear wheels. If the freewheel side is correctly tensioned, and the wheel is correctly dished, the left side will be quite a bit looser. You should still check the left side for uniformity of tension.
 

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Biking With a Mission
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159 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
haha... I sent my dad an email asking him what he used to do, way back in the day, when he has my age, you know. (I'm trying to suggest he's old)


Well, I never used one, we’d just pluck the spokes and make a decision based on that and the entrails of a pigeon killed on a moonlit night.
 

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Don't buy a cheap one. I use the park TM-1 and a DT Swiss one all the time. The Park is pretty quick to use, the DT is super accurate. Buying cheap precision tools is a waste of everyone's time.

Also, judging spoke tension by how hard it is to turn the nipple is not a "method". It's the reason why so many brand new wheels are ****ed up out of the box.
 
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