How To Lace Your Own Wheels


Been Around the Block
Ok so I really no expert at this. In fact this is the first set of wheels I have ever laced. What I have noticed though is that there are a ton of instructions and videos on how to do it but that they are missing information. I had questions that nothing I found was able to answer. It seemed that they took a lot of stuff for granted and didn't spell it out like the moron I am. So here is a guide I came up with that answers the questions I had and made it so that I was able to be successful in respoking my own wheels.

A few rules to start.
1: If you have to force it then stop! this doesn't take any force anywhere along the way.
2: You may have to flex a few spokes in a few places but DON'T BEND THEM!
3: Have beer and patience

First things first, there are two different types of spokes. Inner and Outer. I will refer to them this way throughout. The inners have a shorter bend and its a little less than 90 degrees. The Outer ones are longer and are a full 90 degrees.

On the rim locate the valve stem hole. It will be a reference point for just about everything. After that you will notice there are an upper line of holes and a lower line of holes. These holes are also at 4 different angles. 2 angles on the upper line that face eachother and 2 on the lower line that face eachother. The hole to the right of the valve stem on the upper line angled to your right is the one you are concerned with right now. Remember it mark it. Do it! Yeah its important. If you start right you can't fuck this up

Now pay close attention here. This is the most important part of the whole thing. Remember the hole on the rim I told you to mark. You need to run your first spoke from one of the holes on the hub on a tangent line to the rim. Seriously if you get it started here you are pretty much home free its hard to mess it up from here. That being said mark the rim the spoke and the hub you started with. Trust me on this I will show you later how marking will help you if you happen to screw up.

The next spoke skips 1 hole on the hub and 3 holes on the rim. The angles should all line up and be pretty self explanatory as to where they go. The important thing here is that all the spokes are on that tangent line and are going counter clockwise. As you put each spoke in and go around put a nipple on just a few turns to hold it in place.

Now flip that sucker over. You should be able to see the tape of where you started on the other side (told ya marking was important) Now notice that the holes on this side are offset from the ones on the side you started on. You wanna move one to your right if your looking down on the hub for your next reference point (that's right mark it). This pic is from a different angle for clarity sake but you can see what I mean.

This is going to be the most confusing part of the whole process but if you follow along with the picture I should be able to explain it and make it clear as mud. For the sake of making things easy in my head I wanted to start at the valve stem again. In order to do that I needed to find the hole on the hub that would be the tangent line for the rim hole next to the valve stem.
With your new reference start point marked and skipping every other hole count 2 holes to the right and put a spoke in the 3rd hole you count. One more time. Every other hole count 3 and drop a spoke in. This is the hole that will correspond with the hole in the rim next to the valve stem on the tangent line. Continue on around just as you did on the other side every other hole on the hub and skipping 3 on the rim putting a nipple on a few turns on each spoke. The angles should fall right into place. Also note that these spokes are also going counter clockwise and opposite the ones on the other side. That's it for the inners. Pat yourself on the back.

Now for the outers. They lace through the hub the opposite way, going up as opposed to dropping down in. These you can really start anywhere. Lace it through the hub and then rotate it in the opposite direction of the spokes already in on that same side. This means that the outers will be running clockwise and the inners counter. Also they will cross the innerspokes at 3 points. Once on the hub, next just outside the hub and a third time about halfway up a spoke. Not really useful just a good reference.

Once you have put the outers in on both sides you should have something like this.

Now at this point its easy to see if you screwed up. I actually did screw up on my rear wheel after finishing my front one. Basically if you had to force anything or if you have one particular set of spokes that stick out way to far into your rim and its obvious they will never tighten down. Like in the pic then you messed up. Basically you need to move all your spokes one hole around on the hub.. See that marking coming into play again. In the pic you can see how moving the spokes one hole will shorten them up in the rim and get things right.

If all looks to be going to plan then its time tighten everything and get ready for truing. Tighten all the nipples down until there is just a little thread showing on each spoke, try to get them all even and equal. They should tighten down tight but still not have to really crank on them.

Here is the finished product. Sit back and and admire your handiwork you handsome bastard!.I hope that all makes sense and answers a lot of questions. Its really not that hard and no need to be intimidated.

I know this may not be totally clear or answer everything so feel free to ask questions and comment. I will update and answer the best I can. Thanks folks
Made the topic 'sticky' - others feel free to chime in with your tutorials and hints. Thanks for the write-up!
Wow a sticky! I feel honored lol. Thanks Tim. Yes others chime in I am interested in feedback and questions
With one wheel done and one wheel to go, I'd like to thank you for posting. This would've been a great guide to follow for my front wheel, instead of starting over a couple times. At least I can still use it for the rear wheel. ;)
Now, there are difference lacing patterns to be aware of, so don't take this as a be-all-end-all instruction set. But the principles are common in terms of which spokes to start with etc. to make it easier.
We could have used this 2 years ago at Barber.

4 guys scratching their heads:

Big Rich to the rescue:
Tim said:
Now, there are difference lacing patterns to be aware of, so don't take this as a be-all-end-all instruction set. But the principles are common in terms of which spokes to start with etc. to make it easier.

Understood, and yes, take lots of reference pictures of your wheel(s) before disassembly and do one wheel at a time.
Re: Re: How To Lace Your Own Wheels

Tim said:
Now, there are difference lacing patterns to be aware of, so don't take this as a be-all-end-all instruction set. But the principles are common in terms of which spokes to start with etc. to make it easier.

Exactly. Like I said this is the first set of whels I have ever laced so its probably more of a primer than a definitive guide. Number of spokes and possibly manufacturer could change the pattern some. I do think that this will get you started though and I know that the skip one on the hub and 3 on the rim is pretty universal.
Very nice how to, props! I think I talked to you SCB at Miller raceway several weeks ago?
Reguarding the spokes, for a begginer it might seem overwhelming at first. But for a first timer, its like a puzzle game, if you sit there and work on it long enough you will figure it out, and In the end theres only one way the spokes will fit.
One at a time? I find it easier to load all the spokes in the hub first (both sides, inner and outer). Lay that on the bench and orient the spokes in the correct direction (outers go one direction, inners go the other) then angle them further than they will be when in place, drop that into the rim, and proceed to load the rim with all the spokes. It sounds more complicated than it is. On used parts you can see how the spokes should load into the hub by looking at the wear patterns in the hub. I have been caught out on this once though with an old hub that had been laced a couple times, in different ways, so it had multiple wear pattterns... but that's pretty rare.

If you are simply putting new rims on you can match the hole pattern on the new rim to the old one, tape the new rim in place on the old on, then move spokes from old to new one by one.

Disclaimer: I'm an ex-bicycle mechanic and have laced maybe 100 wheels over the years?
One suggestion: Before teardown of the old wheel it's worth measuring the side-to-side offset of the rim in relation to the hub. Lay a straightedge across the brake drum or other hub surface and measure down to the rim on each end, then re-position the straightedge 90 degrees and remeasure. Then take an average of the measurements and use that to set the offset the same when lacing back up. It's a good bet that alignment will be fine if you just leave the same amount of thread exposed on all the spokes during the initial tightening, but just in case the factory did something strange it's nice to know you are matching the original side/side alignment of rim and hub.

Second suggestion, always make sure the spoke threads and rim dimples are clean, and lubricate the threads and the nipple heads. That way they rotate freely during truing and you get a better sense of tightening torque instead of feeling thread friction. I like to use a bit of anti sieze compound as lubricant.

Third, after getting the spokes up to tension and the wheel basically trued tap all spokes several times with a plastic mallet to settle them. This will straighten out small bends in the spokes and help them conform to the hub at the angle bends for a more stable final tensioning. Then do the final tension/truing check and as each nipple is turned always give them a slight reverse twist to equalize torque in the spokes. The nipples should feel neutral, not like a twisted spring. Hope this helps.

Agreed! I've read and reread this thread (and a couple others on this topic)... I should be ready to get mine started soon.

Sent from my LG-LS980 using Tapatalk
This is what I have used for lacing. Very explicit instructions:

And for trueing:
Great topic at last got my head round the black art of wheel lacing n trueing 8) thanks mate :p
Thanks for the write up! Definitely would have screwed this up without a little direction.
Nice write up. That's basically what I do but I do tend to load all one side of inners in using the old wear marks as a reference.

I find it easier to true the wheel pretty closely using just the inners and when it's close to right but not fully tight I add the outer spokes. problem with that approach is that it is harder to get the outers in place with a rim that isn't free to move a little and it's easy to scratch the rim.

So a compromise is to fit all inners and leave them loose. Fit all outers and leave them loose. Start to tighten the inners and true the wheel, then tighten the outers and final tweaks to get it true should be pretty easy.

Just thought I'd add something to any of the wire wheel rebuild threads I come across - People often ignore one detail, and that's the CONVENTION that the stamped lettering of a rim (if it's got any) should be along the right-hand-side of the bike. You'll notice it on the Japanese bikes, and any of the British Italian German & American bikes which I'VE come across thus far. There are probably a few notable examples out there, but in any case you'll often be able to find original pics of an OEM wheel for your model - just follow the Convention is all I'm saying. It's not going to affect anything functionally (unless that is, your hub & rim are laced with a "DISH" to it and thus your holes won't have the perfect alignment though it probably wouldn't be visually obvious.

Now IF there's something particular about the lettering orientation of your OEM wheel and you're getting a custom rim drilled, and you WANT to follow the convention for your given model, then specify when ordering 'cause the wheel shops will likely follow the prevailing convention - IF it's a dished or conical wheel that is! (((In a CONICAL HUB pattern drilled rim, you won't have any choice of reversing it after the fact. )))

More to the point IF you're using a hub from another model especially if it's from another marque and especially especially so if that marque is from the other side of an ocean, be sure to clarify which way you want it drilled or laced. With a lot of hub swaps especially rear wheels, the new application might have the chain-line on the opposite side - even a 2LS drum might be reversed so long as you use an alternative shoe-plate, and so too with a caliper as a top-side caliper might be flipped around in an under-slung position. It's all very confusing when somebody doesn't have your bike sitting in front of 'em. As such, figure it out for yourself where you want the rim stamping relative to the hub's chain side or brake side. Well, or BOTH in many instances where the brake & chain-line coexist on the same side of the wheel - as with the Harley "Juice-Drum" or Norton Commando rear wheels. And with disc brakes even, when you're talking about an SSSA rear end OR the "Sprotor" combination sprocket-rotor brake/drive ... madness!

Either which way, take CONTROL of this small detail when it's in your hands whether that's when you're ordering a rim drilling / wheel building service AND/OR when the parts are on the bench and you're assembling 'em with your own meat-hooks!

'Cause it might annoy the shit out of you, how everybody at the "bike night" or show judges or the twit who changes your tires or your friends or that voice at the back of your head - how they feel compelled to point it out to you all of the time. Only one solution for THAT, is to keep the wheel SPINNING so the rim's stamped lettering blurs out.

OR, one might suppose, you could cover it over with colourful rim tape? Powder-coat the whole damn wheel in one fell swoop? Splash through the mud? Distract from the wheels altogether? Wrap 'em up in pizza plates? Ha-ha. People DO shit like that, so laugh but don't laugh at me for "suggesting" it - Usually assholes who have no respect for the COMSTAR wheels. I could understand how they might prefer a wire wheel, sure. But a CAST wheel, let alone a solid disc wheel? How's THAT better? Comstar wheels are 'F-riggin AWESOME. 'Nuff said.

Oh - and when it comes to swapping hubs left hand & right or marque-to-marque or model-to-model? Don't get hung up over the speedometer drive! You can make 'em fit and work wherever the hell you want: just gut 'em like a fish, yank the mechanical worm drive & replace it with a "Hall Effect" sensor for a modern electronic speedometer, run the wire up a hollow sheath from your old speedo cable keeping the full exterior 'cladding' of your mechanical system with all modern GUTS stuffed up inside - You can even get 'em with an analog dial and with differing rim sizes all you've gotta do is run calculations through your PC's PIE GRAPH program (((or for that matter your old "Scientific Calculator" should have RAD & GRAD functions for Radian/Gradian trigonometry!))) Just slap a new dial face on the thing & mark new increments for the critical speed limit #'s - so long as you've got the school zones and playground zone speeds marked on there, the freeway shouldn't give you too much trouble not unless they're catching fishies en masse with a photo-radar dragnet....

No, really though - I've seen some build threads where people went to truly ridiculous lengths for their new wheel or new fork new brake etc, wherein they felt they had to take the whole front end as a package deal even if that included mounting a Honda VF speedometer to the engine's output sprocket - You could mount your magnetic speedometer sensor anywhere you WANT whether that's up front or in the rear. Heck these days you could even use a smart-phone "app" with GPS calculations keeping 'perfect' time - But I'd only use that as an interim measure 'cause it's lame as hell to plaster modern electronic shite all over your classic bike - ennit? That's why I suggest using the old speedo housing, is so you can keep everything LOOKING original! But when it boils down to it you could use a speedo housing off a more modern bike as a rear axle spacer in much the same style as early '70s Triumph/BSA/Norton practice just be sure it's the right axle diameter - heck they don't even have to run the correct side with the sensor above or below the axle 'cause with the "Worm" gear removed there's no mechanical disadvantage or impediment, nothing's going to DRAG at that sensor other than the magnetic field itself & as such the housing could conceivably flipped 'round left to right. Kinda defeats the whole purpose of keeping an OEM period-correct LOOK but the point being it would still FUNCTION correctly. Of course by the same token that sensor could be strapped alongside the fork leg or speedometer, it could be screwed to a caliper hanger - there's more of a limitation on where you could place the magnet TRIGGER than where you could place the sensor - but there's always SOMEPLACE to put it!

But whatever you do with the hub and the brake and axle, fork fender blah-blah-blah, just be sure what you're doing with the RIM LETTERING, yeah?

It just looks like such a bone-headed oversight when people get it wrong aka BACKWARDS......

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