Home » Bike Maintenance » Lacing a back wheel

Lacing a back wheel

Now you’re ready for the next step. If you can build a front wheel, you can build a back one, but there are complications because of the cassette.

The right-hand flange (the shoulder on the hub with holes for the spoke heads) has to be shoved over toward the centre of the hub to accommodate the sprockets, so that the spokes on that side are doing a harder job. That’s why when you break a spoke, it’s usually on the drive side, where the cassette is attached. It makes sense, therefore, to start with shorter spokes on the drive side. The length difference is usually about 2mm (1⁄8 inch), which may not seem a lot, but it matters. That there are two lengths of spoke makes things a little more complicated when lacing the wheel; you must be careful not to mix up the spokes. It helps to make up the four groups before you start lacing, two batches of shorter ones for the drive side and two batches of longer ones for the non-drive side. Each group has a quarter of the total number of spokes, so if you’re building a 32-hole wheel, each group has eight spokes; if you’re building a 36-hole wheel, each group has nine spokes. The ritual of lacing is slightly different for a back wheel.

“When you break a spoke, it’s usually on the drive side”

Step 1 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 1: With the drive side (the side on which the cassette fits) of the hub facing upward, drop the first batch (7, 8 or 9) of shorter, drive-side spokes into every other hole in the top flange.

Step 2 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 2: Hold the rim upright. For extra points, make sure any labels are facing towards you. Take any one of the spokes and put it through the rim hole immediately to the left of the valve hole. Trap it with a nipple.

Step 3 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 3: Working round in an anticlockwise direction, fit each successive spoke into every fourth hole, i.e. miss three holes, fit a spoke, etc. Count all rim holes with or without a spoke, but never count the valve hole. Turn the wheel around so that the non-drive side of the hub faces you, keeping the valve hole at the top.

Step 4 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 4: Take a batch of the longer, non-drive side spokes. Look at the alignment of the holes in this side. You’ll see that each hole on the far side falls between two holes on the near side. Choose a hole in the near flange, so that when you push a spoke through, it hangs to the right of the spoke already fitted next to the valve hole.

Step 5 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 5: Fit this spoke to the right of the spoke beside the valve hole. Secure it with a nipple. Drop longer spokes through every other hole around the hub.

Step 6 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 6: Follow the spoking pattern clockwise, missing three holes then fitting a spoke until you reach the valve hole again. Check the pattern – starting at the valve hole and, working around clockwise, you should have two spokes, then two gaps, all the way back around to the valve hole.

Step 7 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 7: Without turning the wheel around, drop the next batch of shorter spokes through the remaining holes in the far flange so that the heads are between the flanges. Take the hub and twist it clockwise while holding the rim still.

Step 8 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 8: The spokes you’ve already fitted radiate out anticlockwise from the rim. The next spoke has to go the opposite way. The first spoke it crosses is its immediate neighbour – they cross with the flange between them. Keep outside the next spoke, then weave the spoke under the third. Check where this spoke meets the rim. The adjacent rim hole clockwise will already have a spoke in it – fit your spoke into the next hole clockwise.

Step 9 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 9: Repeat with the rest of this group, fitting each successive spoke four rim holes on from the last, counting rim holes whether they have spokes in or not. Check your pattern again. Starting at the valve hole and working clockwise, you should have three spokes then a gap, all the way back around to the valve.

Step 10 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 10: Take the final set of longer non-drive side spokes. Push them through the final set of holes from the drive side so that their heads are between the flanges. The hub area is quite crowded now, so ease the spokes through the flange holes as carefully as you can with a minimum of bending.

Step 11 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 11: Facing the non-drive side of the wheel, this spoke radiates out clockwise. The first spoke it crosses is its immediate neighbour, with the flange between the crossed spoke. This spoke passes over the next spoke it meets. Curve it gently to pass under the next one. Pop it into the next available hole and keep it in place with a nipple. Repeat with the other spokes in this group, fitting the spokes into the remaining holes.

Step 12 - Lacing a back wheel

Step 12: When you come to truing, the rear wheel takes a little longer than the front. Take it slowly, in very small steps. The drive side spokes end up a lot tighter than the non-drive side; typically, the non-drive side will have two-thirds the tension of the drive side. Dishing is also an issue; the wheel wants to start further to the left, and you have to pull it back.

Spoke-lacing – quick guide
Rear wheel:

  • Drive side up, drop spokes through top flange
  • Hold rim upright, valve hole at top
  • Hold hub drive side toward you, lace any spoke in rim hole adjacent to and left of valve hole
  • Continue pattern anticlockwise, lacing spokes into every fourth hole
  • Turn wheel around so non-drive side faces you
  • Feed spoke through nearest flange so that it passes immediately to the right of top spoke on far side of hub
  • Fit this adjacent to and onto the right of the first spoke you fitted, on the far side from the valve hole
  • Continue pattern clockwise
  • Twist hub clockwise
  • Keep wheel same way around, push spokes through remaining holes in further flange
  • Turn wheel over, then take any spoke, cross it over its neighbour (with the flange between the two), over the next spoke and under the third
  • Count two from the last spoke you crossed and fit the spoke in the next hole
  • Continue the pattern with the rest of this batch
  • Push spokes through remaining holes in far side of flange
  • Turn wheel over, then take any spoke, cross it over its neighbour (with the flange between the two), over the next spoke and under the third
  • Count two from the last spoke you crossed and fit the spoke in the next hole
  • Continue the pattern with the rest of this batch

Source : BIKE MAINTENANCE TIPS, TRICKS & TECHNIQUES
See also bike maintenance tips, tricks and techniques “The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel”