Need a spoke key to tighten spokes? How?

Hey everyone,

Not sure if I’m posting in the right section, but oh well. I need to tighten my spokes but don’t want to take it to my lbs. I know there is a spoke key, but do I need one to tighten the spokes.

Would someone write up a tutorial?

yes you need a spoke key, it goes on the flats of the nipple where the spoke goes in to the rim. If you wheel is just lose, do every nipple up a quarter of a turn, then repeat if still lose. If the wheel needs trueing then follow Sheldon Brown’s tutorial on wheel building and trueing.

There’s a good chance that you’re LBS sells a tool to tighten your spokes for about $7, go ask.

What I want to know is how tight do I want my spokes???

You can use something like an adjustable C-wrench.

You tighten them by turning clockwise on the tire side

So you have to turn them counter clockwise to tighten from the hub side of the rim.

If for some reason you have the tire off, you can tighten them with a screwdriver from the tire side as well.

When you go to buy a spoke wrench, take your unicycle with you. They have different sizes, and you’ll need to know which size fits.


I went to Halfords and bought a spoke wrench only to find out it had the wrong sizes for what I needed and had to get another one.

A tutorial isnt really nessesary but whatever, I’ll try to help you out.

First off, you dont need a spoke key or the pain of taking your uni apart then using a screw driver. IF!!! you have one of these…

You don’t have to have a tool exactly like that, but one that has a similar handle. so you can use it like this…

It works so much better then a spoke key, better grip, resizeable and what have you.

Hopefully you have a tool like that, I don’t know about everyone else but I’ve got them all over the place.

Don’t worry about over tightening, I rode with badly put together spokes for about a year :stuck_out_tongue: and only just decided to tru my wheel and nothing has gone wrong.

Wow. Really smart. Although I still like my Park spoke wrench a lot–nice fit in the hand.

Please follow Kington99’s advice, and start with small adjustments. Be sure to mark the first spoke you tighten (best to start with a spoke next to the valve), so you know when you’ve made it all the way around. If you’re tightening the same amount on each spoke, you won’t mess up your wheel’s true; a little off, though, and you can get things in a mess quickly. Remember, you don’t want it really tight–a wheel isn’t meant to be completely rigid; if it’s too rigid, it will break instead of flexing.

Working with wheel tension and truing is a kind of zen thing–patience is a definite virtue.

Spoke adjusting for rookies,

I try to first isolate loose or over tightened spokes. I give each spoke a pluck (like a guitar string), and listen to the tone. Try to get the tone of all the spokes close, as this is a indicator of even tension, which makes for a stronger wheel. After all the spokes are good and tight, I then begin looking at wheel to see if is true(left on right, and up and down). I make small adjustment to bring it in. Try not to crank down ( you can pull them through the rim) or lossen on one spoke too much to bring the rim into true. They all should be working together to support the load evenly.

If a rim has a slight twek in it, it can be hard to get it true with even tension. I would rather be sligtly out of true, than have un even tension. It is one of those things you get a feel for, but is not hard to do.

A real Spoke wrench is highly recommended. Park makes a very small 3 way/3 sizes, that is a nice carry tool (Good),

or you can buy one that just does your size(Better).

yeah, a real spoke wrench is a good investment. the back of the side cutters trick would work in a pinch, but unless your spokes are horribly stuck, do you really need more leverage? what about making a half turn? no way thing can do consistent turns as you could never make more than about a 1/4 of a turn before having to reposition.

some flex to you spokes is normal and in fact needed. making everything “good and tight” will likely result in an overtightened wheel which even if perfectly true, will break more easily and ride a bit funny. go slow, (1/4 turns at a time), take your time(rushing is a great way to royally screw this up), and use a real spoke wrench.

I hate to bring up an old thread, but I noticed today while I was rotating my tire, that my spokes are all decent except one. How do you go about tightening one, would it be a good idea if I just rode on it until I can go to my LBS?

Just tight it, it is normal to have one not tightened.

I have always tensioned my spokes using the 3x3 method in order to give even tension to the wheel around its circumference. I was taught years ago that tensioning a wheel by adjacent spokes is hard on the rim and hub flanges. Basically it goes that you tension every third spoke starting at the valve hole, and it takes three revolutions to tension the whole wheel. On a 36 spoke wheel you have to skip to the next spoke once you reach the valve hole, but on a 32 spoke wheel it starts eacs subsequent revolution in the right place.

Quarter turns are a good default unless you know what you are doing and are sure that you need more.

nice tip I will try this method next time!

old thread again - do i just tighten them up until they sound the same when i pluck them?? or do i need an electrical thingymabob to tell me when there all the same?

My spokes were creaking so I went around and tightened them until they were tight-ish and all sounded the same when I “pinged” them. This was last weekend and everything has been great since, I just used a small adjustable wrench and used my judgement to work out when they seemed about right.

It made a huge difference to the rideability of my unicycle, although if you have something that cost more than the £40 mine did you’ll probably want to do more of a professional job!

Oh, and to answer the question, you can get a torque wrench for tightening bolts on cars to a particular torque (it’s mechanical, not electrical) but I don’t know if you can get one small enough for spokes.

You can get a spoke tension meter that will tell you what tension you have on each spoke. They generally measure the deflection of the spoke rather than the torque. Unless you have a reason to be extremely accurate with your tension (carbon rim, 8 spokes), I find that you can get good tension by squeezing paired spokes together all of the way around, or by getting the pitch close.

Like jtrops said if you are going to measure the spoke tension you use a tension meter i nstead of a torque wrench.

I got a Park TM1 tension meter a coupple years ago which is great for getting wheelbuilds just right but I was doing just fine without it too. I used the paired spoke squeezing technique as I just don’t have a good ear for pitch.

Also I would worry about getting your wheel round and true before worrying about tension balance in your spokes, it is often not possible to have a wheel both perfectly strait and balanced. If the rim is bent you have to decide where you are going to compromise.

So my uni wheel is unevenly tensioned all the way around (tighter in some spots, looser in others). Would it be best if I loosened it about evenly all the way around, or just got it more true by tensioning and truing?

Won’t be truing it till school is out in about a month, but figured I would get some info. It’s out of true, but not terrible enough to give me huge problems (except maybe some tire rub). No flat spots I can see or anything like that.

I might just end up getting a new rim and spokes when school gets out.:smiley: