Too much maintenance. Think of your
spokes as the strings on a guitar. The strings
can be strummed to play a perfect tune
when they are tensioned correctly. A loose
string on a guitar delivers a false note. Many riders
think that checking their spokes means tightening
them. Not true. Checking them means assessing their
state of tune. The biggest cause of broken spokes and
ultimately broken wheels is riders who turn each spoke
a little each time they ride. Doing this tunes every
spoke to an F-sharp and increases the risk of having
the threaded end of the spoke poke through the nipple
into the inner tube.
Torque wrench. This is one tool that
every rider should invest in. A spoke torque
wrench is the best way to make certain the
spokes are serviced properly and set to the
correct torque. For stock wheels, refer to the owner’s
manual for these torque specs.
Preserve. If you choose to run aftermarket
billet hubs, there are a few things to note.
These hubs are typically made from billet
alloy and then anodized. The rear hub can
get very hot from heat disbursed from the rear brake.
When cleaning your bike after riding, it is best to only
use water until everything cools down. The chemicals in
cleaners will stain or streak the hubs when they are hot.
Stock hubs will usually get stained regardless of what
you do, especially the rear, as things like chain lube will
get onto the hub when it’s hot. Also, when you wash
your bike, avoid spraying directly into the area of the
wheel bearings. For a deep cleaning, take the wheels off
the bike and use compressed air to eliminate any moisture in the area of the bearings.
Factory hubs. Factory teams can use
up to 10 sets of hubs per rider per sea-
son. Depending on the number of hours
they were ridden and the conditions that
the hubs were used in, the used hubs may be transferred
to the rider’s practice bikes the following year. Most
teams use new hubs every season for safety. ❏
Rims. It doesn’t matter whether the spokes
are tightened properly or not, rims do bend.
There is no substitute for a quality rim. The
difference between a great rim and a good
rim can be as little as a flat spot or as much as a broken
rim. Lower-quality rims typically fail at the weld.
Hubs. Stock hubs versus aftermarket—who
takes the cake? At the top levels of the sport,
the majority of Pro racers use either works or
aftermarket hubs, many of which are billet.
Billet hubs are strong and reliable but tend to be heavier
than well-made cast hubs. Casting allows the designer to
select the proper dimensions without having to whittle
the design out of a solid chunk of metal. On a side note,
the question of “turning down” (shaving material off the
hub) the stock hubs to resemble the factory look often
comes up. We do not recommend this.
Bearings and seals. Bearings are an
often-overlooked aspect of race performance.
Worn, galled or seized bearings reduce
wheelspin, increase drag and wobble at
speed. Replacing wheel bearings at regular intervals
(at least once a year) is an inexpensive service that
Suspension. The way you set up your
suspension can affect the lifespan of your
wheels. Stock wheels are built to rigorous
standards—with the understanding that
casing jumps, flat landing or plowing into a downed bike
can exceed the limits of aluminum rims, steel spokes and
cast hubs. Properly set-up suspension can increase the
lifespan of your wheels.
Rim locks. People often ask how many rim
locks to use. Rim locks stop the tire from
spinning on the rim. Front wheels only need
one rim lock. For rear wheels, the number
can vary depending on horsepower, riding conditions and
air-pressure choice. Large-displacement bikes (450cc and
up) could warrant two rims locks due to the amount of
wheelspin and torque. Running low air pressure would
be another reason for two rim locks. If your rim only
has one hole, you can drill a second hole; however, we
recommend contacting a good wheel-service company
such as Dubya for this procedure.
Spokes and nipples. Typically, OEM
spokes and nipples are of good quality;
however, KTM and Husqvarna had issues
this year with their front spokes. Replacing
spokes can run anywhere from $50 to $200 per wheel.
As with any part, spokes wear out. They stretch over
time, break in collisions and suffer from lack of tighten-
ing or over-tightening. If you don’t check your spokes
regularly, like before every race, you endanger the
structural integrity of the wheel itself. If you over-tighten
the spokes, you can stress them enough to break. The
same holds true for spoke nipples. We have seen riders
round off their spoke nipples by trying to tighten spokes
that have stretched beyond reason. We have seen riders
whose spoke nipples are so loose that they have disap-
peared down into the rim. We have seen spoke nipples
that are so seized on the spoke that the only way to dis-
assemble the wheel is to cut the spokes off.
YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WHEELS