Spokes - Maintenance
Have you checked your dirt bike spokes? Some lessons you just have to learn the hard way. I spent a whole season riding without checking the spokes on my dirt bike. As far as I knew everything was fine, until one of the last rides of the year when I found out 10 of the 36 spokes were broken. It was embarrassing, but I was lucky I didn’t wreck the wheel completely.

The best thing to do, obviously, is to check your spokes regularly. The quickest way is to tap them with something metallic and listen for that taut-sounding ping, or you can pluck them with your fingertips. A loose spoke will have a dull sound, while a tight spoke will have a higher pitch. Get in the habit of checking them regularly and you’ll quickly get a good idea as to what they should sound like. You can also head to your local dirt bike retailer and give their spokes a tap or flick to see what they sound like.

A common beginner’s mistake is to blame broken spokes on over-tightening. Then those beginner dirt bike mechanics start loosening spokes, which allows them to move (especially against the hub where they’ll wear) and flex more.

If you have loose spokes, tighten them right away. The easiest way is with a spoke wrench. You’ll be tightening by sound, unless you’re lucky enough to have a spoke torque wrench. Although you CAN over tighten a dirt bike spoke, it’s not likely you’ll do so. Unlike a bicycle, a dirt bike rim is fairly strong and knows what shape it wants to be in. I have used a small crescent wrench in a pinch to tighten spokes, but it makes a simple job tedious, and you risk rounding off the edges of the nipple. A better option, if you can’t get a spoke wrench, is an open end wrench of the correct size. NEVER use pliers on the nipples (unless it’s the only way to get your bike moving to escape the axe murderer who’s killing everyone else in the campsite).

To check if your wheel is running true, get it up on a stand to the wheel in question can spin freely. Wedge a piece of wire somehow so that you can bring one end very close to the rim. Spin the wheel and see if gets closer and/or farther from the wire. There should be very little movement.

If your dirt bike wheel needs to be trued, check here.