Saturday 6 Feb 2016. Wheel maintenance on the DR800

As the avid reader (all three of you!) may be aware, I have been doing some work on the DR800. As it is ridden both on and off road and gets used for experimenting new ideas on, it gets a bit of a beating. Purist motorcyclists may consider this to be pure form, as this bike is considered a classic by some and should be treated as such. I don't agree and believe that it should be used however the owner wishes to to. Certainly I do my best to make sure that it is in the best mechanical condition and good to ride but that takes some learning.

Anyhow, I have been reading up wheel maintenance. Things like tightening spokes and the cush drive. Lets start by talking about the wheel spokes as that is all I did on the wheels on Saturday. These need to be kept to a certain tension and that tension needs to be consistent across all spokes. This ensure the ability to transfer the energy of a hard hit on a wheel across the entire wheel, the rim, the spokes and the hub. In turn, this increases the resistance to dings on the rim. The consistent tension also helps prevent broken spokes.

So the next question is, how do you do this job properly. I've seen this done before on TV and read about it but to be sure I watched a number of YouTube clips. Here's one that explains the process fairly clearly:

Some people do this process just using a spoke spanner, hitting the spokes and listening to the sound. I am not confident that is very consistent and several years ago I bought a proper spoke tension wrench. Mine is a Pit Posse brand but there are plenty of others:

Armed with the correct tool, empowered with YouTube knowledge I did the front wheel first and then the rear wheel. The number of spoke that were loose on the front was a surprise and I think I ended up doing about five passes to be sure that everything was nicely tensioned and secure. The most important points of doing this job are:

  • Be sure to set the tension to the manufacturer's setting.
  • You do not tighten each spoke one after the other. Start at spoke number 1, next to the valve and then skip two or three and do the next one. Continue in this pattern all the way around and then move to spoke number 2 and proceed in the same fashion. Weather you skip two or three spokes on an individual run depends on the total number of spokes in the wheel. The DR800 has 36 spokes and as 36 can be evenly divided by either 3 or 4, I could have done either option.
  • Only turn the spoke a maximum of a quarter of a turn each run. If that is not enough to reach tension, then keep doing the process until all spokes reach tension. This may take a while.
  • Your final run is when all spokes click the tension wrench.

According to everything I have read, the wheels should transmit a more solid feel through the frame and handlebars. I'm not sure I am a good enough rider to actually sense that but I am looking forward to trying it all out.