Stairs and Spokes


I’ve been riding my 20" Summit frequently and recently I have managed to ride backwards long distances and I can turn going backwards; I can now hop curbs, and yesterday I hopped several stairs, including a 3-stair set. I’m fairly happy about it.

The down side is that I’ve put my uni through the ringer doing it. I constantly have to tighten the left side of the axle where the crank attaches (usually once per hard day of riding) and now I’m getting creaking sounds that are pretty clearly coming from the spokes. Everything else on the cycle is tight and it sounds like the spokes.

I have a spoke wrench that fits them but I’ve never personally used it. How do I know how far to tighten them? I dont want to go to far. Which way do I turn them? The usual direction?


I can’t give you much advice, but from my infrequent fumbling efforts I can tell you that you need to turn the spoke key in the opposite direction to what you’d expect because you’re tackling it from behind the thread.

i.e. to tighen, turn it anticlockwise, not clockwise.

Turn only a quarter or half turn at a time and remember which ones you’ve turned so you can undo it if it makes things worse.

Better still, find an old wheel and practise on it before doing it on the uni.

On the plus side I’ve never ruined my wheel despite the fact that when I first did it I got the turning direction wrong.


Thanks. Hmm …

If there is a good chance I can screw the thing up. maybe I should let the bike shop tighten the spokes. I can’t even tell which ones need tightening, I can just hear them when I ride.

Any tips for figuring out which ones arent tight? Do they move excessively more than the tight spokes? Will they make a sound if tugged. Will they clearly be loose when I use the spoke wrench, and then clearly be tight after a turn? Or not?


my friend had the same problem with his summit…yet oddly enough he never got it fixed for some reason, even though i told him repeatedly…ahh, great memories of kris.

anyway, if you’ve never gotten the spokes trued, that’s probably it. the first 5 set i cleared on my KH20 got me a trip to the bike shop. after that it’s been way more infrequent, maybe once or twice. it happens though even if your uni isn’t new, but for ten to twenty bucks you can get it fixed for you at a bike shop, and that’s the way i’ve always done it. however, make sure the people you give your uni to know what they’re doing. i had a bike shop give me a refund and a dissassembled unicycle because they couldn’t put it back together. it was that odd thing where you have to squeeze the fork on the KH frame. if you have one and you’ve taken it apart you probably know what i’m talking about. anyway, hope i’ve given some halfway decent advice.

Look for the obvious


I am no expert wheelbuilder but I have found that noise is usually coming from a spoke or two that are extremely loose, so loose that they don’t maintain tension at certain positions of the wheel.

You can go around the wheel with your hands, grasping two spokes on the same side of the wheel and pulling them together. This gives you a rough idea of the tension and you will probably find one or two problem spokes. As mentioned before, you are turning the nipple not the spoke so you have to look at it from the tire down toward the hub and turn clockwise (counterclockwise if you are looking from the hub down to the rim).

If you only have a few loose spokes then tightening them up is no big deal, but tightening a lot of spokes affects the trueness of the wheel, in that case you should use a truing stand.

Someone on the list a while ago suggested having a bike shop tighten all the spokes if you are doing big drops, etc. Probably the tension should be quite a bit higher than a bicycle wheel built for the same sport, after all there is only one wheel bearing all the weight of the rider.


I just recently had to do the same thing to my summit. Tommy, who has many years of equipment tweeking experience, casually advised me to:

Start at the valve stem (so you can remember where to stop) and turn each spoke nut only one turn. Work your way round and don’t stop and don’t forget where you are. If the wheel is horribly out of tru, I’d seek professional help. But mine was just making creaking noises.

As for which way to turn, I was able to see some threads sticking out the top of ea nut and analyze which way was tightening.

And a resounding “Attaboy” on your cool new tricks!!


Thanks for the advice and the congrats!

Thanks to everyone else for advice as well.



Even though I had never used it before, I did have a spoke wrench, so I tightened most of them a quarter or half a crank. Some (5 or 6 total on the whole wheel) were already tight to the point I could tell I shouldnt tighten them again, and 4 or 5 were loose to the point that I felt tightening them 3/4 to 1 full turn was appropriate. Of course I didnt really know what I was shooting for. I think I mostly lucked out or managed to sense the right feel because when I was done, I couldnt pull on the spokes in pairs and notice any more difference in tension. Also, when I rode it, 95% of the creaking was gone (so perhaps I didnt quite tighten one quite perfectly). Most important, in a quick check, my wheel still seems to be true.

AND on the subject of stairs, I managed to hop up 4 of them just now. Not in one leap, no. I just mean 4 in a row without messing up. Hey, I’m new to hopping up stuff, so for me thats good. I lowered my seat after sawing off 2.25 inches off the seat post and … it doesnt seem to add more height, but I probably dont know how to utilize it yet. It did make riding harder though, but not too bad. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the tips!