Most wheels are extremely simple to lace once you
understand the pattern. The picture shows a typical wheel and the lacing
pattern is typical to 90 % of motorcycle wheels that you will
encounter. Before exploring the lacing pattern, first look into the spoke anatomy. Spokes come in two varieties, hooks and
nails. The wheel pictured uses all hooks. That is the
spokes have a hook on the end that is secures them in the hub. My
BSA C15 on the other hand uses nails with the holes drilled
in the hub facing the rim. The spoke is simply pushed through
a hole in the hub that directly faces the corresponding hole in
the rim and the flat head on the end of the spoke, which looks like
the head on a nail (and hence the name), holds it in the hub. whereas my
BSA B50 has hooks.
The lacing pattern
Click on the image to view the pattern.
First note that there are 18 spoke holes drilled in the brake
side of the hub and that they are evenly spaced around the hub.
There are another 18 holes on the non-brake side. Note also that
the holes are staggered from side to side making 36 equally
spaced holes around the rim alternating from side to side. Note
that the picture is viewing the hub from the brake side. You can see 4 'numbered' consecutive
spokes going in the clockwise direction on the hub. Spoke 1 is on
the outside of the hub, brake side and angles clockwise. Spoke 2
is on the non-brake side, outside and angles clockwise. Spoke 3
is on the brake side, inside and angles counter-clockwise. Spoke 4
is on the non-brake side, inside and angles counter-clockwise.
This pattern then repeats itself eight more times around the
wheel. Your wheel may differ in the exact order of the 4 spokes
but will follow a similar repetitive pattern of 4's. Look at
figure 1 again. Notice that on the brake side every other spoke
is outside and angled clockwise (like spoke #1). Those alternate
with insides angled counter-clockwise. By the way, some bikes such
as BSA and Triumph have 40 rather than 36 spokes. In that case
there are 10 repeats of 4 rather than 9 repeats of 4.
Before disassembling the wheel be sure to make a drawing of
the spoke pattern. Better still, if you have a digital camera, take some photos
and print them out. This is important so you can put it back
together properly. Note that you only need to document 4
consecutive spokes as was done above. Your notes should indicate
side of the wheel (usually brake or non-brake), inside or outside,
and clockwise or counter-clockwise. Finally, be sure to note which
side of the wheel you were looking at with reference to the
clockwise or counter-clockwise bit. Make a quick
sketch of 4 spokes. The image shows a typical
sketch for a wheel. You also need to note the rim offset.
Place a straight edge across the brake drum and measure thee distance between it and the rim.
You will need a spoke key to loosen the nipples on the wheel. A universal key
fits 6 common
sizes and at about £3-00 the spoke key is a superb investment. Note that most nipples have
a screwdriver slot in their head but usually the end of the spoke
protrudes into the slot making it impossible to grip with a
standard screwdriver. Also if the spokes are rusty a screwdriver
may not be strong enough to break them loose. Use the spoke key to loosen the nipples until they can be turned with a
screwdriver. Also a reversible electric drill with a
screwdriver bit in the chuck helps take the nipples off quickly.
By the time you unscrew 36 spokes your wrist can get very tired.
After removing the nipples the rim should lift free of the hub
and the spokes can be removed from the hub.
Reassembling the wheel
Now that you are ready to put the wheel back together. Clear off a good 3 to 4
feet of workbench and put down newspaper so you have a good
clean surface on which to work. Then as things get messy just lift off the
top page and discard it. Set the flat side of the hub on the workbench. And
identify the spokes. If you have hooks
notice that the hooks come in two varieties. Inside spokes have
hooks with less angle than the outside spokes. Separate the
spokes into two piles, insides and outsides. Also some wheels
like that BSA Bantam have short spokes on the brake side and long
ones on the non brake side. If that is the case, further separate
them into longs and shorts. Now start threading the spokes onto
the hub in the proper inside-outside orientation until all holes
are filled. If you have nail type spokes you job is even easier -
just push them in their holes. Again lay the hub flat on the work
bench and arrange the spokes in their clockwise counter-clockwise
orientation as per your diagram. Now take the rim and lay it over
the hub and spokes.
Note that holes in the rim are drilled to face one side or the
other and to accept either clockwise or counter-clockwise spokes.
Rotate the rim until the pattern of the holes in the rim matches
the spoke's orientation. If you cannot find a fit, try flipping
the rim over. When properly oriented each spoke should point to a
hole in the rim that is aligned with it. Always start with the
bottom-most layer of spokes (outsides next to the bench top). Put
one spoke in a matching hole in the rim and loosely screw a
nipple on to it (just 2-3 turns). Note that you should put a drop
of oil on the threads before starting the nipple to preserve the
threads and so you can adjust for proper torque. Skip 4 holes and
put the next bottom-most spoke in that hole and start another
nipple. Go around the wheel until all bottom spokes are in place.
Now do the next layer of spokes (bottom inside) put each in its
respective hole and start the nipples. Now come up to the top
inside layer and do it. Finally, align the top outside spokes and
start their nipples. At this time you should have what looks like
a complete wheel. Check carefully at this time for correct
orientation of all the spokes. When satisfied that things are as
they should be go around and screw the nipples in just to the
point where the hub starts to become firm in the wheel. It is
important that all nipples are screwed on to the same amount in
this step so that the wheel will be at least close to properly
aligned. For example, you might turn each nipple until the spoke
body is just visible in the screw driver slot. You will have to
use your judgement here as it is impossible to predict what
length your particular spokes will be. Do not attempt to torque
down any nipples at this point.
Aligning the wheel
A wheel stand as shown
is a useful tool for aligning a wheel but is not a necessity, although you could make something similar from angle
iron (See bottom of the page).
You can manage by clamping the axle in a vice to hold the wheel firmly
so it could be spun to check for alignment. Note that the wheel
stand has a pointer guide attached to it which can be positioned
near the rim to check for run-out as the wheel is spun. If you
are using a vice tape a piece of coat hanger wire to the edge of
the bench to serve as a pointer. The key to truing the wheel
is to understand how the spokes move the rim. Lets say you spin
the wheel and find a high spot. Assume that the high spot is on
the left side of the wheel in figure 1.
The figure shows how to move the rim to the right relative to the
hub. To do that you loosen spokes on the right side of the wheel
(indicated by red) and tighten the corresponding spokes on the
left side of the wheel (indicated by yellow). To move the rim
from side to side you tighten spokes on the side you want the rim
to move toward and loosen those on the other side as shown in figure
2. By repeatedly adjusting spokes you
should be able to get the rim so that it runs true when spun. Initially get everything within 1/8 of an inch maximum wobble. Take
your time and think about what you are doing. A little piece of
masking tape can be useful for marking a high spot.
Commercial Wheel Stand
Getting the proper tension on the
Spokes can be
tightened to a torque spec but few of us have torque screwdrivers.
If the spokes are too loose the wheel will flex back and forth as
you ride the bike. Too tight and the hub may explode. Use the
ear method to determine the correct tension. Tap a loose spoke with a spanner and it has a dead
sound. As you tighten it makes a nice ringing sound who's pitch
increases as you continue to tighten (just like a guitar string). Under proper torque the
spoke should have about the same pitch as that of an empty wine
glass when tapped with a fork. Go and tap some spokes on an assembled
wheel to get a feel for the sound. Once the wheel is true, go
around and tap spokes. Tighten them little by little until they
all have a nice ring. After tightening one spoke a turn or two
tighten the spoke on the opposite side. Tap and listen. Go around
the wheel several times sort of at random so that you do not
loose your alignment by tightening up spokes on just one side of
the wheel. Eventually all spokes will be adjusted.
Now do the final truing as the torque down of the nipples may
have put the wheel back out of alignment. Make the final truing using
the same procedure as above but now the spokes will be much
tighter. In order to true up the wheel some spokes may have to be
tighter (higher pitch) than others. That is to be expected
especially if your rim has some dings in it.
Where to get parts
Wheel Components (UK) can supply all you need in the UK.
Stainless Rims:- £78 each
40 stainless spokes & nipples:- £43-50
There are other suppliers on the adverts page, but I have used Central Wheel
and can recommend them.
Home Made Stand
above is the type a bike shop would use. I would imagine you could
buy one, but it would not be cheap.
I use a stand made from Angle Iron approx
1.5" x 1.5" x 12" long for the two uprights, which are bolted to
This could be clamped in a vice or you will need to bold a
cross-member at the and to stabilise it.
This page is based on
information from Jim Downey's page with some of my own information and
techniques. I feel his work is excellent. Please
take time to visit his site as there is a lot of other useful restoration information
and projects there.
Go to Jim Downey's