Any avid cyclist has probably had to align their bent rims at some stage. It’s a simple process that anyone with a bicycle can master. If you’re not a bicycle enthusiast, it may be difficult to understand when either of these measures should be taken.
Do You Need Alignment After New Rims? Rim alignment is a part of the replacement process. If you are getting your rims replaced professionally, however, it is not necessary to align the rims again after the fact. Rim alignment is also something that you can do to keep from getting your rims replaced at all, which can save you a lot of money or effort.
Aligning your rims at home is much simpler than replacing them. To understand how rim replacements and alignments interact, context is needed.
Let’s look at the mechanisms of both of these processes to get a better idea.
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Rim alignment is a simple process that returns wobbly wheels to their original stability. This process is also commonly referred to as truing. The process involves tightening the spokes of the wheel, which gives it more stability overall.
When a rim is true it will align perfectly with the rest of the bike.
Reasons to Align
There are two major reasons that bicycle rims may not be true. Sometimes wheel spokes can loosen over time. This is due to the pressure put on the rims from riding, so there isn’t really any way to avoid it.
Another reason that bicycle rims might need to be aligned is if a bend has formed. Bends typically form after either one great impact or constant regular impacts. This is very common for those who mountain bike, as the bumpy terrain can create added pressure on the tires.
Practicing bike tricks like jumps or flips can also increase the likelihood of bends in the rims. If these bends are minor, an alignment can be a simple solution to the problem. Minor bends, if not aligned, can become more severe. Severe bends that cannot be repaired with alignment will require a rim replacement.
Aligning rims is a very important process in making sure that your bike is safe. If rims are replaced without alignment, the chances of bends increase significantly. Without straight tires, the ride on the bike will not be smooth at all. The bumpier the ride, the more likely it is to break the rim, etc. Overall, it’s important to make sure that your wheels are true regularly.
The Process of Aligning
The only tool you really need to complete a rim alignment is a spoke key. The spoke key is used on the spoke nipple to tighten the spokes to the rim. As it tightens, the tire should straighten out, aligning it completely.
The tightness of the spokes pulls the rim back into its original place, fixing bends. This process does not fix cracks, though. When aligning a bike, checking for cracks in the rim is important. If a crack goes unnoticed it could be seriously dangerous.
Rim alignment isn’t a process that should require professional expertise. Though, it is not always the best course of action to take when something is wrong with bicycle rims.
Replacing rims is not as simple a process as alignment, unfortunately. Rims should only be replaced if absolutely necessary due to the effort that it takes to complete the process.
Reasons to Replace
Bike rims can wear out for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it is due to of a build-up of dirt or sand in the lining of the rim. This build-up rubs against the metal and, over time, wears down the rims. When they are weak enough, the rims can falter at the pressure of the tires.
On most modern bikes, manufacturers have added a small divot in the rim. This divot can be felt by moving a finger across the surface of it. This is an indicator for whether a tire rim should be replaced from normal wear. If the divot can still be felt, no replacement is necessary. If it is gone, the rims need to be replaced immediately.
This faltering can also happen if a rim has been cracked. Cracks really only occur after a significant blow to the wheel, like after a particularly powerful landing. These cracks can eventually lead to an overall-all bust in the rim.
The bust happens because the crack in the rim makes the overall rim weaker. The pressure from the tire onto the surface of the rim causes it to buckle, making the tire burst.
As stated above, another reason for a replacement may be a harsh bend. A significant enough bend can turn into a break. If caution is not taken, the bend in the rim can become more and more prominent over time. If turned or landed on the wrong way, the bend will bust.
Busted rims are incredibly dangerous. They lead to popped tires, which will immediately wipe out the bike while riding. It is very important that rims are checked regularly to make sure that they do not need replacing. All of these issues can be checked pretty simply, so this is not something to put off.
You also may need to replace your bike rims if you are changing out your bike tires for larger ones as it’s important to make sure that your rims and tires are compatible with one another.
The Process of Replacement
The process of rim replacement is a complicated one. If the rim of a bike is showing signs of weakness, it should be taken to a bike shop for inspection. They will be clear on if the rim needs replacing or not.
Rims usually only need to be replaced if they are worn down, cracked or significantly bent. If any of these are the case, a rim replacement will be recommended by a bicycle mechanic.
Unless you are very well versed in the mechanics of bicycles, replacing a rim yourself is not a great idea. The process is, again, complicated. While there are plenty of instructional resources online, they are difficult to understand without a good bit of bicycle knowledge.
Replacing a rim means extracting the original rim, and then moving all of the spokes over to the new one. This is a long and tedious task that, if not done sufficiently, can lead to wipeouts.
Due to the complicated nature of the replacement process, the simpler and more dependable option is to get it professionally replaced.
Replacing and Aligning
While replacing a bicycle rim at home is possible, it’s not recommended. The best course of action if you suspect a replacement is needed would be to bring the bike to a shop.
A mechanic at the shop will be able to say whether a replacement is really necessary. They can easily and effectively replace the damaged rim. If the rim has been professionally replaced, no additional alignment is necessary. If you decide to replace any rims yourself, you will have to align them. Though, it is not an additional step.
This is because alignment is actually a step of the replacement process. After returning the tire to the rim on the bike, alignment is necessary to make sure that the spokes are properly secure.
So, alignment can be used as a solution on its own for smaller dents, or as one of the last steps in the replacing process. Aligning tires is a process that should be done semi-regularly, while replacing rims should be much rarer.
While rim alignment is part of the replacing your rims, it is not just that. Rim alignment is more commonly used as a simply fix to the problem of a bent rim. If rims are replaced professionally, the mechanic will align the wheels. No additional alignment is necessary. If the replacement is being done at home, though, alignment is one of the last steps in the process and should not be skipped.