Vintage bicycle wheel repair is an essential skill for anyone interested in cycling, but it’s especially essential for vintage collectors who like to repair or restore their own vintage or antique bicycles. Because bicycle wheels endure so much wear and tear, they have to be fixed often, therefore bicycle wheel repair is an essential skill for any cyclist or vintage enthusiast.
The ability to fix a bicycle wheel is an essential skill for vintage collectors who want to restore their vintage finds on their own. Most vintage or antique bicycles have worn out or damaged wheels. Although buying a new set of wheels is always an option, many restorers prefer for their bicycles to have all original parts.
Identify the Problem
Did you know…?
Did you know that vintage bicycle wheel hubs can accommodate radial lacing?
Most modern wheel hubs cannot accommodate radial lacing unless they have been specifically built for that purpose, but as vintage hubs are made out of harder and thicker steel, they are unlikely to break even with radially laced wheels.
When restoring the wheels of a vintage bicycle, the first step is to identify any problems, primarily, check for a warped portion of the wheel.
If you have a bicycle repair stand, your work will be much easier. If you don’t have a repair stand, turn the bicycle upside down and let it rest on the fork. This will make it easier to work on the bicycle. Slowly spin the wheel of the bicycle while looking at the brake pads. This will help you locate any warped area because it will hit the brake pad once the warped portion gets there.
Mark Problem Areas
Once you identify the warped/damaged area, mark it with a pencil or chalk. If your vintage bicycle has spokes, identify three of them to help you keep track of the area that you need to work on.
Next, determine which way the bike is warped or bent. Determine whether the wheel is rubbing against the right brake pad or the left. This will tell you the direction in which the wheel is warped.
Tighten the Spokes
If your antique or vintage bicycle has spokes, pull out your spoke wrench and pliers. If you don’t have either of these tools, they can be picked up at a bicycle repair shop. If the wheel is bent on the right side, you will need to tighten the spokes on the left side while pulling the wheel to the left.
This can be accomplished by turning the spokes clockwise. Then loosen the spoke on the right side of the wheel by turning the spokes counter clockwise. If the warp is on the left side of the wheel, follow the opposite version of these steps.
Check for Mistakes
After you’re done tightening and loosening, slowly turn the wheels again to see if the problem has been resolved. If the wheel still touches the brake pads you will need to continue to tighten the spokes.
If the wheel is now touching the brake pad on the opposite side, you have over adjusted the spokes. You can fix this problem by reversing what you have done little by little until you get the proper tightness, and the wheel doesn’t rub or touch on either side.
Last Word about Vintage Bicycle Wheel Repair
When you’re done adjusting your bicycle wheels on your vintage bicycle, take it for a test drive to see how it feels. If it’s a bicycle you’re restoring, not for riding, you can test it simply by slowly spinning the wheels.
If you purchase an antique or vintage bicycle with wooden wheels and/or spokes, and you want it fully restored, you will probably need to seek the help of a professional restorer.