Checking Harley Spoke Wheels for Tightness

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If your Harley Davidson has spoke rims, it is extremely important to inspect the spokes for proper tightness at regular maintenance intervals. If Harley spoke wheels become and remain loose from neglect, it can not only be very damaging to the wheel, but riding conditions will become extremely dangerous.

If you have never experienced riding on loose Harley spoke wheels, it is an unnerving feeling. You will have a lack of control and feel completely unstable, especially when leaning. It is more common to have spokes loosen in the rear wheel. This gives you an uncontrolled, shifting, feeling beneath you.

Checking for correct Harley spoke wheels tightness or tension is not difficult to do. You will need to invest in a spoke wrench. It is not an expensive tool. You don’t need to purchase it from Snap On or Mac Tools. If you search online, you will see that there are a number of options. Also, another option is to purchase the tool from Harley Davidson. The factory service manual for your year and model should list a Harley part number for the specific tool for your spoked motorcycle rim.

We do not recommend using a standard open end wrench for spoke adjustments. This type of wrench will often flex and does not cover enough surface area to turn the spoke nipple. Trying to use a standard, open end wrench will typically result in stripping the flats of the adjusting nipple.

To check or adjust spokes, you will need to secure the motorcycle and raise the wheel that is to be inspected. Use the valve stem as a starting reference point. Then, make small adjustments on any loose spokes as you make your way around the rim. Never over tighten any, one area, of the rim as you will render the rim out of true.

A rim that has many loose spokes will need to be professionally re-trued. This means, stripping the Harley spoke wheels so that the rim can be mounted on a trueing stand. Here a mechanic can use a dial indicator to continuously measure radial and lateral run-out as the spokes are tightened and adjusted. Lateral run-out is side to side movement of the rim. Radial run-out (also called “hop”) is up and down movement of the rim.

Check out our Harley wheel truing demonstration.

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