A little advice on How To Center Your Back Wheel When Tightening it down on your BMX bike…
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When it comes to dialing in your BMX bike, one of the most frustrating parts can come down to aligning your rear wheel in the dropouts properly. If you have wondered how to center your back wheel when tightening it down, then you’re in the right place to figure out just how to get this done.
Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of changes that involve the back wheel on BMX bikes. Many riders have opted to go brakeless, tires have grown substantially and BMX frames have wider back ends, which could all qualify as improvements in one way or another when it comes to keeping your wheel and tire from rubbing on the frame when you’re riding. Even with those changes, it can still be a pain to make sure your wheel is properly aligned in the dropouts since one thing hasn’t changed… axles and dropouts are going to make you work for it. Not having brakes gives more clearance and having a wider rear triangle due to the increased tire size has given you a little more room for error, but we’ll focus on getting it right down the center for this one. Let’s get into this…
How To Center Your Back Wheel When Tightening It Down
– Step One: Get your wheel in the dropouts and the chain around the driver so the wheel is in place, but the bolts are still loose so you can move the wheel around in the dropouts.
– Step Two: Pull the non-drive side (the side without the chain) of the wheel toward the seat and chain stays (away from the drive side) and tighten down the bolt. You will want to give the chain a little tension at this point, but it doesn’t have to be super tight at this point, just get rid of some of the slack. Once you have done this, you can use your wrench (Most likely a 17mm wrench or socket since that is the standard size for BMX axle nuts) to tighten down the bolt on the non-drive side of the wheel all the way down. Once it’s firmly tight, you can move on to the next step…
– Step Three: Now that the non-drive side is tight, you will notice the wheel isn’t quite straight in the dropout, which is okay because you’re going to fix that right now. Switch to the drive side of the wheel and pull the wheel back to increase the tension on the chain. You can move forward or backward to tension or give it a little slack. The amount is entirely up to you. If you like a bike that doesn’t make any noise, you will want it nice and tight. If you prefer to do tricks like crank flips, you will want to give the chain a little more slack to allow your cranks to spin easier. Once you have added the tension that you desire, your wheel should either be centered or close to it. Take your 17mm wrench or socket and firmly tighten down the drive side axle nut. Make sure you give it a good amount of pressure to ensure it won’t slip when you ride.
– Step Four: Take a look at make sure the wheel is straight and the tire isn’t rubbing on the frame. If the tire is rubbing, check to see if it’s because the wheel is still not straight in the dropouts or if your wheel is out of true. You can usually tell by spinning your wheel. If it rubs all the way around, it’s likely because your wheel isn’t straight. If it only rubs in a few places, it’s likely due to your wheel being out of true, which isn’t a huge issue. Learn How To True a BMX Wheel here!
Now you should know How To Center Wheel When Tightening!
More of a visual learner? Here’s a video Brant Moore put together showing you how to center your wheel in the dropouts and get the chain tight.
Note: Brant does things a little different, tightening his drive side first, then the non-drive side. This does work as well.
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Another big perk to working on BMX bikes these days is that many BMX frames come with integrated chain tensioners. These chain tensioners allow you to simply adjust the wheel with one or two screws that either run through the dropout or are attached to the dropout. Below you can find two examples…
One Chain Tensioner
When it comes to how to center your back wheel when tightening in dropouts with a chain tensioner, what you will want to do is place your wheel in the dropouts with the chain around the driver like you would have above. If you’re only running one chain tensioner, what you will want to do is pull the wheel back to the side that doesn’t have a chain tensioner and tighten the axle. Once the side without a chain tensioner is tight, you will want to begin tightening the bolt on the chain tensioner to push the dropout back until it is straight in the dropouts. You can adjust in or out to also give the chain more or less tension.
Two Chain Tensioners
When it comes to tightening your wheel straight on a frame with chain tensioners on both sides, you will want to place your wheel in the dropouts with the chain around the driver. Once you have done that, you can simply adjust the chain tensioners until your wheel is straight and you have the desired tension in your chain. Then you will want to tighten both drive and non-drive side bolts down. Since you have the chain tensioners in place, you shouldn’t have to worry about the wheel moving out of position.
So, now you know how to center your back wheel when tightening it down on a BMX bike. Obviously the best option is to have two chain tensioners, but if you don’t have them, you can still achieve the same goal with a little patience and practice. We hope this helps you out.