Why Does My Rear Bike Wheel Wobble, 5 Reasons and how to fix

When the Bike wheel wobbles side to side, the whole bike loses its balance, eventually leading to inefficient paddling and brake pads rubbing the wheel. On top of all this, shifting gets slow and stopping gets difficult for a bike with wobbly rear wheel.

In short, the whole riding experience deteriorates if the bike wheel starts wobbling. Moreover, the risk of accidents increases significantly after it. You know where I am going with this, right? This needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

Lets first look at the reasons why the wheel wobbles side to side.

5 Reasons Rear Bike Wheel Wobble

Why Does My Rear Bike Wheel Wobble

A rear bike wheel would wobble for any of the following reasons

  • Bent Rim
  • Problem in the Rear Hub
  • Damaged Bearing
  • Broken Axle
  • Misaligned Tire

And below are the details on each:

  1. Bent rim: The rim usually gets bent after a crash. Rim can also bend if you frequently ride on uneven terrain. This can lead to uneven tension on the spokes causing the rear wheel to wobble.
  2. Hub problem: Sometimes, the hub fails to hold the spokes tight. And the spoke tension can’t remain uniform all around the rim. As a result, the rim gets bent, and the wheel starts wobbling.
  3. Damaged bearing: Bearings inside the hub allow the wheel to spin freely. But like any other component, it can get damaged or displaced due to everyday use and stress.
  4. Bent axle nut: An axle nut connects and holds the wheel to the bike frame. So, it goes through a significant amount of stress and strain. over time it can get bent, leading to side-by-side play in the rear wheel .
  5. Misaligned tire: Sometimes, the bike wheel might seem wobbly if the tire is not placed correctly. the tire just need some adjustment to fix this issue.

A quick fix to a wobbling rear bike wheel

Now that we have gone through the causes let’s look at how to fix this issue. There are a couple of situations where the issue can be fixed quickly without a lot of tools so lets look at these first.

  1. Truing wheel by hand: you can’t ride too far if you get in a crash and the wheel buckles a little bit. This can be fixed right away so safely get back home.
    To do this, turn the wheel to find where the bend is. Once found, Apply a little bit of hand pressure to see if the bend can be fixed enough so it doesn’t touch the brakes or frame anymore.
    Also, find the closest spoke near the bend connected to the opposite side of the hub and tighten it using a spoke key.
  1. Realigning the tire: Most of the time, the tire gets misaligned when the ribbon around the rim gets displaced or damaged. Put the ribbon back correctly. Then realign the inner tube and close the tire with a Tire Lever. Lastly, pump the tire up to an optimal pressure level. To do it correctly, learn How to inflate bike tires.

How to repair wobbling rear bike wheel

How to repair wobbling rear bike wheel

After a quick fix, the wheel should be okay to go. But it won’t be a permanent solution. For advanced troubleshooting, you will need some tools and setup. However, there is an affordable alternative way too.

If you are still interested in knowing more about this, read the post until the end. Here are the tools and essentials to repair the rear bike wheel.

  1. Wheel repair stand
  2. Spoke wrench
  3. Lubricant
  4. Spare spokes (if necessary)
  5. Rear hub (if required)

After getting the tools ready, follow this step-by-step guide to repair the bend on the rear bike wheel.

Step 1: Prepare the wheel for truing

First of all, you have to remove the wheel from the bike. Then, prepare it for identifying the bent and truing it. Let’s go step by step to do it.

  1. Firstly, remove the rear wheel from the bike. For that, shift the chain to the lowest gear and bring it out of the derailleur. Then, loosen the quick-release lever and get the wheel out of the bike. If the bike doesn’t have a quick release, loosen the axle with a Wrench or Hex Key. Be careful not to damage the disc brakes while taking the wheel off the bike.
  1. Secondly, remove the cassettes. Use a compatible Freewheel Removal Tool and loosen the freewheel with a Large Adjustable Wrench. The cassettes will be loosened after this.
  1. Thirdly, remove the tire and inner tube. Deflate the tire first. And then, use a Tire Lever to separate the tire from the rim. Finally, take the inner tube out of the rim. Also, remove the protection ribbon around the rim.
  1. Lastly, set the wheel up on a wheel repair stand. Adjust the indicator by rotating the dial. Keep it close to the rim, and you are ready to go.

Step 2: Side-by-side wheel truing

After preparing the wheel, you are ready to true the wheel. In this stage, you have to decide if there are any spoke(s) to be replaced. Also, observe the hub and whether you can go with it or you need to swap it too. However, follow the below steps for side-by-side wheel truing.

  1. Firstly, set the indicator correctly. Rotate the wheel and observe which side of the indicator the rim is about to touch. Bring this side of the indicator closer to the rim. Do it until the rim touches the indicator head.
  1. Secondly, identify the bend area. Rotate the wheel slowly and observe which area of the rim is touching the indicator. Mark that area and identify the spoke(s) positioned in that area.
  1. Thirdly, tighten the marked spoke(s). Another way you can determine which spoke to tighten is by squeezing. If your wheel is bent towards the left side. You want to tighten the spokes connected to the right side of the hub. Similarly, if the bend is towards the right side, tighten the spokes connected on the left side of the hub.
  1. Lastly, repeat the above process until the gap between the rim and the indicator is under 1 mm. After adjusting on one side, do it on the other side similarly.

Step 3: Radial wheel truing

After truing the wheel side by side, you must true it radially. Radial adjustment means giving the wheel an acceptable round shape. Follow the below steps for this process.

  1. Firstly, set the indicator correctly. You don’t need to consider the right side or left side. Work with a side you wish. Also, use a single indicator head for reference. It’s better to keep another out. Lock the free indicator with a hex key.
  1. Secondly, identify the high spot(s) and rectify them. High spots are the zones where the rim is buldged outward. In this case, tighten the spokes in this zone. This will cause the rim to move inward and aligned radially. Repeat the process until the gap between the rim and indicator is less than 0.5 mm.
  1. Thirdly, identify the low spot(s) and rectify them. Low spots are the zone where the rim tends to shrink inward. In this case, loosen the spokes connected in the low spot zone. This will cause the rim to move outward and align radially. Repeat the process until the gap between the rim and indicator is less than 0.5 mm.
  1. Lastly, perform the side-by-side truing again. After truing the wheel radially, a slight lateral bent might appear. Look for lateral deviation and fix them if any. After you are done truing, reinstall everything, inflate the tire, and go out for a ride.
Freaky Tip: This process can seem complicated and time-consuming. Get help from a professional bike mechanic if this process sounds complicated.

Frequently asked questions

Is there a difference between front and rear bike wheels?

Of course. There are differences between the front and rear bike wheels. Alongside some apparent differences(long axle/derailleur mount), there are other differences too. The rear hubs are pretty different from the front hubs.
The spoke count is higher in a rear wheel (20-28). Front-wheel is lighter and has a lower spoke count (18-24).

Are the front and rear bike wheels interchangeable?

To some extent, front and rear bike wheels are interchangeable. But I won’t recommend it to do. As I said, there are differences between the front and rear bike wheels. A rear wheel can tolerate higher stress or pressure with a higher spoke count. Whereas a front wheel can’t hold that much weight. So, it’s better not to interchange them.

What are quick-release wheels?

Quick-release wheels are a type of wheel that can be removed by using a built-in cam lever. You don’t need tools to remove a quick-release wheel from the bike. So, repairing or transporting becomes easy with this kind of bike wheel.

Is it dangerous to ride a bike with play in the rear wheel?

It can be very dangerous to ride a bike that has a side-to-side play in the rear wheel.
The bike can lose traction and cause a severe accident if going fast. the wheel can fall off if the axle is broken, and the list can go on.


There are several reasons for a wobbly rear weel, and a bent rim is one of the most common ones. But there are other reasons too. Here, I have explained all the possible reasons and solutions to fix them.

If you don’t want to do it yourself, repairing a bent wheel can get expensive to you. But, if you are a bicycle fan like me, it’s worth it. I have also written on How to true a bike wheel without a spoke wrench. It’s the most affordable way to fix a bent wheel. You won’t need any special tools or supplies to do the job. So?

Fix your wheel and enjoy your rides without worries.


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