Tuesday Tip:
Keep Your Spokes Tight, with Yamaha’s Jonathan Belding

Admit it! You hate tightening your spokes. Of all the pre-ride maintenance tasks you need to do, it is your least favorite. So unless you happen to be a National-caliber pro rider with a full-time mechanic, you just don’t do it.

You know it’s wrong to skip the seemingly never-ending task of spinning your wheels round-and-round as you painstakingly tighten each and every one of those lovely aluminum nipples, so you figure, “I’ll do it next time I ride.” Well, the next ride comes and you again skip spoke maintenance, neglecting them to the point that it becomes unsafe.

The bottom line is you have to maintain your spokes. Just like changing your oil and cleaning your air filter, it is something you cannot avoid. Like all those mini-dads out there constantly remind their kids; with riding comes responsibility.

Improperly maintained spokes can lead to all sorts of problems, including:

  • Broken spokes
  • Flat tires
  • Wheels that aren’t ‘true’
  • Damage to your wheels
  • Flat spots

While out testing the new 2007 YZ125 at Competitive Edge MX Park, we asked Yamaha’s Jonathan Belding to show us how he makes quick work of maintaining the spokes on the fleet of new Yamahas he is lucky enough to work on every day.

Tools Required
This is the easy part. Every new bike comes with a spoke wrench that fits your front and rear spokes. That is all you need. Some mechanics recommend using a specialty torque spoke wrench.

Step 1: Inspect
Jonathan recommends that you start by inspecting your spokes, wheels, and tires. Look for any signs of wear or damage, especially bent of broken spokes. If anything looks out of the ordinary, fix or replace it. Inspection is especially important on brand new bikes, whose spokes are more likely to be loose. Jonathan suggests inspecting and tightening (as necessary) the spokes on a new bike every 30 minutes during the first day of riding.

Step 2: Start at the Rim Lock
Jonathan-like many mechanics-starts tightening spokes at the rim lock. “I like to start at the rim lock so that I have a point of reference. This way I can keep track of where I started and not lose my place.”

Nothing is more frustrating than getting interrupted while tightening your spokes, and then not being sure where you started from. After all, each one of those little beauties looks exactly the same. In case you might be interrupted, it is handy to keep a small piece of duct tape with you to mark the last spoke you tightened. When you return to finish, you’ll know right where to start.

As you tighten, be careful not to damage the soft aluminum spoke nipples. They’re sensitive you know!

Step 3: One Quarter Turn
Now here is where techniques seem to vary somewhat. Traditionalists often recommend tightening only every third spoke during each pass around the wheel. After three passes, all the spokes have been tightened. Jonathan, however, takes a slightly different approach.

“I don’t skip every third spoke. I do a 1/4 turn on each spoke and go completely around the wheel, one spoke at a time. It may take about four full times around the wheel to get every spoke tight, but I find that by only doing a 1/4 turn at a time the wheel stays true.”

So there you have it. Maintaining your spokes still probably doesn’t sound like fun, but it really is easy. Now go out there and wrench on your nipples!