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Build a precision bicycle wheel truing stand for less than fifty bucks

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Picture of Build a precision bicycle wheel truing stand for less than fifty bucks
Seriously, it will be as precise as any high-end stand. We'll take an inexpensive but solid Performance Spin Doctor truing stand and add threaded indicators to make it much more effective - faster to use, more durable, and light-years more precise - for less than $7.
 
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Step 1: Our base: the Performance house brand Spin Doctor II truing stand

Picture of Our base: the Performance house brand Spin Doctor II truing stand
This guy is always "on sale" at performancebike.com. As I write this it is $49.99, but I have seen it as low as $39.99 occasionally.

In addition, there are lots of ways to get it cheaper. Personally, I think I got it for $49.99 - 20% off offer - 10% Team performance + free shipping offer, so about $36, which is why I say that this project can be done for well under fifty bucks.

First of all, Performance basically always has at least a 10% discount code around. Check out bikeforums.net in the coupon forum - you'll often be able to get or ask for the latest one. Also, Performance regularly offers free shipping, so you can get on their e-mail list and keep an eye out for that and other offers. If you happen to live near a Performance you can also have it shipped to the store for free. You will have to pay sales tax, but if you live near a store you will probably have to pay tax on an internet order to your house, too. Finally, if you buy bike stuff regularly, it may worth it to pay to be a Team Performance member, where you get 10% back in points to use towards other stuff, plus faster shipping.

I am not connected to Performance Bike in any way. I just happened to buy this particular stand for myself, and this instructable uses it as an example for modification. You may find other inexpensive stands on the market and be able to do similar modifications. I personally haven't seen one that is of this quality for less, however.

Clearly if you're handy you could try to make a stand from wood, metal, plastic, whatever, and add threaded bolts in a similar fashion.

There are two reasons this will be tough, however, and may make buying a pre-made stand worthwhile:

1. Different wheels have different axle lengths, and your stand will need to adjust for those differences and still remain rock-solid.

2. Most wheels with quick-release hubs are actually not fully tightened to the bearings until the quick-release is clamped down. That is, if the quick release is not tightly clamped onto the wheel hub, the wheel actually has a little extra play in it, and this will affect how true you can make your wheel. So your homemade truing stand will have to allow for this solid clamping and still remain rock-solid. You can't just rest the wheel in some slots and go at it. Well, you can, but don't expect to be able to get really tight tolerances.

(I am using a pic grabbed from the Performance website without their permission. I suppose this instructable may drive some traffic their way however, so I doubt they'll mind.)

Step 2: Seven bucks worth of extra materials

Picture of Seven bucks worth of extra materials
This is all you need:

Three bolts at least three inches long. The size I have used (that fit as well as I can imagine) is
"#10-24 x 4 inches" ($1.20 at my local hardware store)

Six nuts to fit said bolts (#10-24 in this case) ($0.30)

One small hand clamp ($3.00 at the hardware store). These really clamp down amazingly hard. Get the smallest one you can find that will work, so that the weight doesn't pull it away from the rim when in use (and of course smaller = cheaper). The one I'm using is 4" long.

Super Glue ($3.50, but don't you have some in a drawer somewhere?). If you feel chintzy using Super Glue, you can use industrial strength JB Weld or similar epoxy, but the super glue has been plenty solid on my prototype, plus you can use the stand right away.

A pair of pliers (everybody has some...right?).

File or dremel grinder for rounding the tips of the bolts (optional)

Step 3: Remove the original lateral indicators

Picture of Remove the original lateral indicators
The original lateral indicators are simply metal dowels that are held in place by rubber o-rings that allow some resistance and hold the indicators firmly. This system is functional but imprecise and frustrating, since when you are trying to move them a tiny distance to just barely touch the rim you end up either pushing too far or not moving them all!

To remove them, simply grab ahold of the plastic tips with pliers and pull them off, then pull the indicators out the other end. You may find that another set of pliers to grasp the other end is helpful if you have them available, but they should not be necessary.

Step 4: Optional: remove o-rings

Picture of Optional: remove o-rings
It is not necessary to remove the rubber o-rings with the bolt size I have listed, but if you want to - or if you need to use a larger bolt than I have suggested - just use a small screwdriver or other tool to push out the brass insert that holds them. You will need to push pretty hard, and you will need to put the brass insert back in before moving on!

Step 5: Install the first nut

Picture of Install the first nut
If you have removed the brass insert, put it back in.

Now you will simply super-glue (or J-B Weld, or whatever) the first nut to the outside of the brass insert - the 10-24 nut I have used actually fits pretty much perfectly within the plastic circle. Be careful to use as little glue as necessary to get a good bond, and do not let it block or gum up the threads in any way! (and if you do get a little messy, remember that fingernail polish remover removes super glue).

Note that the screw hangs a bit after install, which is why we'll add another nut or other support in the next step.

Step 6: Add another nut (or other support)

Picture of Add another nut (or other support)
Now we'll add another nut on the outside.

Three key points:

1. Put the nut most of the way onto the bolt, then add a bit of glue and back the bolt up to bring the nut/glue to touch the plastic. This way the threading will match for both nuts.

2. Once again, be careful to use as little glue as necessary for a good bond, and avoid getting any on the the threads of the bolt or nut.

3. Back the bolt up only enough to touch glue to plastic. If you "squeeze" it onto the plastic, the threading of the two nuts may be slightly mismatched and make it more difficult to turn the bolt.

Note that an actual nut is not necessary since there is already threading on the first nut. If you can find a washer with the perfect-sized hole to fit the bolt, that would work as well, and maybe even be preferable, because variations in the bolt threading could result in a mismatch of threading between two bolts spaced an inch apart. One option: drill into the second nut with a drill bit just thick enough to eliminate the threading.

That said, I used two threaded nuts on mine and have had no problems.

Step 7: Repeat for the other side

Picture of Repeat for the other side
Uh...yeah. Hopefully pretty straightforward.

Step 8: Add a comfy "knob" with whatever you like

Picture of Add a comfy
The screw heads are small and no fun to turn over and over, but it's easy to super-glue on something more comfortable. Use pennies, washers, half a superball, a medicine bottle top, whatever you have handy.

Keep in mind that the larger the diameter of your knob, the more precise your movement of the indicator can be. If you really want to be able to move the indicator just a hair's breadth, a bigger diameter knob is the answer (but it will also take longer to move wide distances).

I found the original knobs to be pretty comfy. They were both screwed and glued onto the metal dowel, so I clamped them down hard in a vise and unscrewed the knob with pliers.

Note: if you choose to use pennies or other currency, please be aware that it will increase the cost of this project. Of course, you can get a refund any time you like...

Step 9: Adding a roundness indicator.

Picture of Adding a roundness indicator.
The Spin Doctor stand supposedly has a roundness indicator, but it's pretty worthless. It's impossible to move it small distances, and it is wide enough to touch both edges of the rim. It's also next to impossible to keep it accurately pressed against the rim to find dips.

We will just add one screw onto the original roundness indicator. Note that it is preferable to have a roundness indicator that just touches one side of the rim. It is impossible for a rim to be perfectly even on both sides of the rim, so trying to touch both sides at once is both confusing and inaccurate. By making one edge perfectly round, the other with be as round as possible as well.

The first step is simply to put two nuts on our third bolt, about an inch apart.

Step 10: Clamp on the roundess indicator.

Picture of Clamp on the roundess indicator.
Next we simply clamp the bolt on. Be sure to use the smallest clamp you can find so the weight of it won't pull the indicator down.

I originally thought to simply super-glue this on, too, but I realized that it wouldn't be adjustable for different rim widths. Thus the clamp, which allows you to move the indicator to suit any wheel. And believe me, this little clamp is plenty strong enough to hold the bolt solidly.

Note that you can adjust this setup to any angle. It doesn't have to point straight up and down, as long as the tip of the indicator can touch edge of the rim.

Step 11: Optional but recommended: file the bolt tips or add a buffer

The bolt tips have sharp edges, so it's advisable to round them off, either with a file or a grinder.

Alternatively, you can buy little nylon caps at your hardware store, or put a drop of J-B weld on the tip of each.

I personally plan to grind mine with a dremel because I like the clear sound of metal-on-metal when I'm truing a wheel.

I'll add a pic when I get it done.

Step 12: The finished product

Picture of The finished product
So there you have it, an on-the-cheap truing stand that is precise down to fractions of millimeters, using metal parts that should last and last, and easy to overhaul if for some unknown reason you need to.

Step 13: Final thoughts

Picture of final thoughts
Some final thoughts:

There is another instructable that uses a dial gauge and a similar inexpensive stand. That instructable actually inspired me to consider modifying my own! But do you really need a dial gauge? From my perspective the answer is "no". Just buy a cheap set of "feeler gauges" that include 0.2mm and 0.5mm sizes. With the precision of the screws we've installed, you can insert a feeler gauge between the indicator and the rim. Then spin the rim. If it doesn't touch the entire way around, your wheel is true to that maximum error.

If you want it to look mildly prettier, you could conceivably file/dremel the edges off of the "second" nut and insert it into the plastic, then press the brass insert in over it.

Opinions and suggestions on this guy are welcome!
Seriously? There is nothing precise about this. why not just spend a couple more bucks and buy the Workman Pro stand. still sub par compared to the ones we use at the shop, but better than that thing and it works right out of the box. If you really wanna build your own get an old fork, mount it upside-down to a board then find a way to attach a dial gauge to it so you you can keep track. then just flip the wheel. You can use the gauge to tell when it is even on both sides.
theopowers (author)  mattlikesbikes6 years ago
I'm looking at the Workman Pro on REI's site. Looks like it's pretty much exactly the same as my modder for 50% more. So everybody can decide individually if saving 50% is better for them or not. It has a roundness gauge that will hit both edges of the wheel too, which as discussed in the instructable is not preferable according to most wheelbuilders and Barnett's, so if I were to buy the Workman Pro I would personally want to mod that anyway. Also, the bolts installed on this mod can be moved hundreths of a millimeter and can true to well under 0.2mm, which is widely considered an extremely tight tolerance, and well as under the "acceptable" tolerance of 0.5 mm. So that seems pretty precise. Finally, the old fork method and a dial guage is a good idea, but for me personally, flipping the wheel over and over is unnecessary effort, when my modder or a Park TS-3 or the Workman Pro holds it right there for ya and does the job just as well (the value of a dial gauge is discussed in the instructable, too). Thanks for the input!
Any ideas on how to attach a dial gauge sturdily? Love this mod by the way.
mailstatist3 years ago
Very cool! I will try it ;-)
fdrennan3 years ago
This is a great mod to a good truing stand. I've got one of these stands on the way and am looking forward to modifying it along these lines. Regarding dial gauges and the like, two things. Firstly, a dial gauge will make the work easier as it can just rub on the rim, removing the need to fine tune the lateral screws. Secondly, one the key issues is to maintain the rim in a central position relative to the hub. Using a dial gauge you can judge not only where the rim goes to the left and right, but also where the true centre is. Knowing this makes truing the wheel more accurate, especially the rear where there is considerable dish. The Park TS-2 truing stand get around this problem by using a pincer gauge that simultaneously brings in the left and right indicators. A neat solution, but the TS-2 retails for 5 times the Performance stand.
mrmikeq4 years ago
Great instructable!  I recently bought this truing stand and was looking for a way to mod it for better precision.  This is perfect for my needs.  I agree that truing while using the frame is doable, but is just not a great system.  By nature, the Seatstay and Chainstay do provide areas to mount a temporary gauge but it is just that, temporary.  In the time it takes a person to clamp their temporary gauge on their chainstay, I've got my wheel in the truing stand and already making adjustments.  I'm not quite sure why people comment on an instructable just to prove they don't need to do the thing they're reading.  I used to true on the frame, but there are things you cannot do while it is on the frame.  The first time I checked my wheels on this stand, I realized my roundness was out as well as the true wasn't as good as I thought.  If for $50 I can get a more precise way of measuring and adjusting roundness, trueness, and dish then I'll take it!  Good jod and thanks!
Prometheus6 years ago
Not to discredit this project or comments to it, but I have the best truing stand for free, and that is the bike frame/fork itself. Honestly, I have never seen the necessity for a truing stand despite over two decades of cycling experience, and I'm about as perfectionist as it gets when it comes to wheel-true, since I expected to have perfect stability at 80MPH+ (and have tested that when going for the world speed record). Since a typical bicycle fork will not accommodate a rear wheel width, and since the wheels are already mounted on the bike, why not just use the frame itself? An ideal brake setting (assuming you have properly matched your brake levers to your cantilevers or calipers) puts the brake pads 1mm from the rim surface (and they should meet firm and flat, with exception to toe-in to counter fork/stay torsion). If the question of more precise truing is asked, just tighten your brakes to allow less and less clearance. I have gotten wheels true "mounted" in every circumstance, with no need to remove the wheel from the inherent truing stand to another device to simulate what was already there before I removed the wheel in the first place. Again, no disrespect to this project, but IMHO, truing stands are about as useful as training-wheels for tricycles, and I still do not understand how they save any labor in truing a wheel when the equipment is already available to anyone owning a bike in the first place. Careful attention to detail gives me a true within 0.01" without disturbing the wheel mountings at all once I determine that both sides of the axle are properly bottomed in the dropouts. Bicycle forks and rear triangles are built on jigs that assure proper alignment, and that is about as true as you need to get. If your front wheel leans to the left, but is "true", reverse it and see if the deviance is the same in the other direction. If not, replace your fork as it has likely collapsed one side of the crown or one blade has more rake than the other. For suspended forks, the center-stay may have been warped. These are extraordinarily unlikely, as well as a final reason, being that the fork was poorly-assembled to begin with. Do not discount this before checking to see that the axle itself isn't bent (always replace an axle with a "black-steel" or Chro-Moly axle if ever, the minimal extra cost is far more worth it's weight in gold). If you are expecting perfect true and you are riding a Huffy/Murray/Free-Spirit, or such, you don';t need a truing stand, you need a quality bicycle in the first place, if not for your own safety. Again, I never needed a stand because the frame itself made one inherently, but a good project in any case. I applaud the effort.
Yes I have built wheels on the frame, but have disk brakes, so obviously I can't use the brake callipers to true it. A stand would, for me, appeal because a dial gage could be added rather than sticking bits of tape or what ever to the frame. My eyes just don't work well enough any more. Off the point a bit, can anyone tell me why $200 dishing gauges sell, they're just 5 welded parts and a centre bolt?
I see your point, but one of the benefits is that perfect true is not entirely necessary. However, if you are like me, you want them perfect anyway.

Try a Park Tools WAG-3 for a cheaper solution. The idea of "dish" is just to make sure the rim is centered on the axle, so this should do you well. I haven't seen a $200 one, but I'm sure you are paying for a name or excess features with that one.

The Park Tools WAG-4 is twice the price, but allows you to dish the wheel on the frame.
Excellent point, and diplomatically made. I was considering dropping some $$ on truing before I read your post! Now I'll just do it myself. wicked.
Ok I am a sort of dumb ass in this respect - mostly. But I can see your point... really you only need to "gap" between the rim and the frame and there you have it. Dubble butt.... I can also see a truing stand as a neat thing by and of it's self, if one already has a fully functioning bike and or one needs to build an extra wheel or one has to periodically build a number of wheels for a number of different people - who may or may not have their bikes around the place. Plus - with me being a fat bastard, when it comes down to it, when I have to start spoking up my OWN wheels from scratch, for a special upcoming project, I'd rather be assembling my own wheels, on a NICE clean, well lit bench (kitchen table), with a meal, a cup of tea, the wireless (plus pencil, paper and calculator)... some time between dinner and going to bed, rather than wrestling on the floor with / without a bike, and odd shaped parts . I feel it's valid to say that YOU do not and have never needed a truing stand, but I feel that it's one of those areas - that is' not right or wrong, it's more down to personal choice or ones own needs.
I use 5 minute epoxy to glue a 1/4 nut to the fork or frame and then use a bolt as the indicator. It works really well for my purposes. I'm usually just fixing my kids bikes after their crashes (and mine too) so I'm no purist. When I'm done I just knock the nut off. I might do an instructable when all our snow finally melts.
theopowers (author)  Toxictom6 years ago
I agree with Prometheus there that the bike frame can be a perfectly good truing stand - though there are pros and cons - and I actually have an idea similar to yours that I'm formulating an instructable on. Haven't been able to get to the hardware store to get the stuff for it yet though.
This is really excellent. I was just starting to get frustrated with the low precision of my Performance stand. I'm excited about modding it now!
zackary6 years ago
Very cool! I just bought this truing stand and I know now what you are talking about. I don't know why Spin Doctor didn't start with a threaded indicators in the first place. Thank you for the how to!!
How about doing an "ible" on how to true a wheel?
theopowers (author)  shantinath10006 years ago
I am thinking about it. A simple yet complex task, so I'm mulling both how to explain it and also how to communicate it with graphics. If I think I can do a good job I will.
Ohm6 years ago
For mine I just took an old front fork and welded it to a piece of angle iron and clamp it to the bench and then use two dial indicators on mag bases on either side of the wheel.
theopowers (author)  Ohm6 years ago
Sounds cool. Got an instructable for it?
Ohm theopowers6 years ago
No, it was just something I threw together one time when I needed to true a wheel.
rimar20006 years ago
When I was a boy, I spent all day in bicycle, and to align the wheels (truing, did it occasionally) used only the rear bracket of the bicycle. Never I had need of a special device. Nevertheless, good job!
el eliel6 years ago
i like it! i used to be a pro wrencher in moab, utah, and obviously we had all the best toys, so if a wheel truing stand doesn't cost $300 and also make you coffee, i tend not to consider it a "real" one. my finances being what they are now, i just true by feel and eyeball on the frame. of course there's nothing inherently wrong with this, but it is extremely time consuming: it now never gets done until it's really bad. :( Maybe now i'll make your "real" one. thanks again, it couldn't get much easier unless you just come over to my house and do the mod for me!
mpap896 years ago
this is exactly what i've been thinking of doing, but i just had no clue how. Thanks for the great instructable. i've kept the truing stand under a bunch of crap for a year since it was so worthless, but i suppose i'll have to dig it up this weekend.