Home » Bike Maintenance » The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

We start with a front wheel, because they are much easier. The wheel is built up in four groups of spokes, one set radiating out in each direction from each side of the hub. Divide your spokes up into four equal batches before you start: four batches of eight for a 32-spoke wheel, four batches of nine for a 36-spoke wheel and so on . . .

Assemble all components. If you’re reusing a hub, clean it up, taking special care with the spoke holes. If they are dirty, the fresh spokes you push through them will get grit in the threads and become difficult to turn on their nipples. Oil each of the spoke holes in the hub and all of the holes in the rim, so the nipples can turn easily. Oil the spoke threads too. Hold the hub so that the right side of the hub is upwards.

Servicing the hub

If you’re rebuilding on an old hub, check that the axle spins freely, with no side-to-side movement. If the axle feels rough or knocks, service the hub before you start lacing the spokes onto it. It’s easier to manipulate and clean the hub on its own, and this is a good time to check the condition of the hub.

It’s better to discover that the hub is almost worn out before you start building than to realize that you’ve got a perfectly tensioned rim attached to a pepper grinder. Check the condition of the spoke holes in the flange too. They should be neat and round. Worn holes will have been pulled into a teardrop shape. Replace hubs once this happens – the spokes in your newly built wheel won’t retain tension.

The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Check that the hub spins smoothly, with no side-to-side play

Step 1 - The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Step 1: Take the first group of eight spokes and drop them down through every other hole in the upper flange of the hub. The heads of the spokes go on the outside of the flange.

Step 2 - The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Step 2: Take any one of the spokes. This is the first spoke of the group, so you must get it in the right hole. Hold the hub vertically, with loose spokes hanging down. Hold the rim flat, label upside down. The correct hole is immediately to the left of the valve hole. Pop the spoke through the hole and trap it by screwing on a nipple a couple of turns.

Step 3 - The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Step 3: Take the next spoke anticlockwise around the hub. Moving anticlockwise around the rim, miss three holes, then pop the spoke in the next one. Trap it with another nipple. Take the next anticlockwise spoke, miss three holes and take the next. Continue until you arrive back at the valve hole. Because each wheel consists of four sets of crossed spokes, the ritual of fitting the spoke into every fourth hole holds true regardless of the number of holes in the rim.

Step 4 - The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Step 4: Keep the rim facing toward you. See the far side of the hub has the same number of holes as the near side, but they are offset; each far-side hole falls between two near-side holes. Find your first spoke again, next to the valve hole – we’ll call it spoke 1. Hold the wheel upright, with the valve hole at the top. The next spoke drops into the flange hole just left of spoke 1, and laces onto the rim on the next hole to the left of spoke 1.

Step 5 - The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Step 5: Drop a spoke through alternate holes on the further flange, and follow the pattern around the rim, fitting a spoke in every fourth hole. Now, starting with the valve hole and moving anticlockwise, you should have spokes in the next two holes, then two gaps, then two spokes, two gaps, all the way round. You should be able to see the heads of all the spokes. Hold the rim still, and twist the hub anticlockwise so it looks like this picture.

Step 6 - The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Step 6: Turn the wheel so the other side faces you. Shake the hub lightly to settle the nipples into the rim, but make sure you keep the twist in the hub. Drop a spoke through all the remaining holes on the flange nearest to you. Take one of these spokes. It will currently be hanging down between two of the pairs of spokes already laced, but you have to send it clockwise around the rim. Curving it gently, ease it between the spokes.

Step 7 - The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Step 7: It crosses three spokes on its way to the rim, passing under two and over the last one. The first one it crosses, near the flange, is its neighbour. It goes under the next one too. Weave it gently over the next spoke. Check where this crossing spoke meets the rim – your spoke fits in the hole that’s two further around clockwise. Complete the pattern, fitting in each spoke four holes on. N.B. Count all holes with or without a spoke, but never count the valve hole.

Step 8 - The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Step 8: Without turning the wheel over, drop a spoke through all the remaining holes on the far side of the hub. Lift up each one in turn. It passes over the first two spokes it meets, starting with its neighbour, and under the third. It should be obvious which hole it fits into, because there aren’t many left. It’s the one ’two further on’ from the last one it passed over.

Step 9 - The delicate art of lacing up the spokes for a new front wheel

Step 9: Complete the pattern, weaving each spoke at a time over two and under one. You’re all laced now. Starting at the valve, tighten each spoke until the thread just disappears inside the nipple. A screwdriver or a spoke key speeds this up. Now you are ready to put tension into the spokes.

Toolbox
Tools for wheelbuilding

  • Decent, well-fitting spoke key
  • Wheel jig – basic models are fine
  • Oil for spoke threads
  • Threadlock to be applied to spokes after final tensioning (optional)
  • Fresh rim tape if necessary

Source : BIKE MAINTENANCE TIPS, TRICKS & TECHNIQUES
See also bike maintenance tips, tricks and techniques “Building your own set of wheels is not as difficult as you might think”