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Q: Lacing a bicycle wheel. ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Lacing a bicycle wheel.
Category: Sports and Recreation > Hobbies and Crafts
Asked by: jeeperjake-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 31 Jul 2005 12:46 PDT
Expires: 30 Aug 2005 12:46 PDT
Question ID: 550124
When lacing a traditional bicycle wheel with spokes (3 cross, both
sides), how is it easiest to begin inserting spokes in the hub to
ensure they will lace up properly on the wheel with regards to proper
wheel weld/seam and tire valve hole alignment?  I have done this many
times, (over 2 dozen) but it seems like a crapshoot - half the time I
have to unlace one side and/or realign a side.
Subject: Re: Lacing a bicycle wheel.
Answered By: clouseau-ga on 31 Jul 2005 13:11 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello jeeperjake,

Thanks for an interesting question.

Sheldon "Wheels" Brown who is Service Manager for Harris Cyclery has a
great web page on wheels with much more than just lacing, but his
tutorial seems particularly helpful:

Excerpts from this tutorial include:

"...Lacing is most easily done sitting down, holding the rim on edge
in your lap. People who build wheels all day long start by putting all
of the spokes into the hub, then connecting them to the rim one after
another. This approach is slightly faster on a production basis, but
the occasional builder runs a higher risk of making lacing errors this

Non-production wheelbuilders usually put the spokes in one "group" at
a time. A conventional wheel has 4 "groups" of spokes: Half of the
spokes go to the right flange, and half go to the left. On each
flange, half are "trailing" spokes and half are "leading" spokes...

...The first spoke to be installed is the "key spoke" .

This spoke must be in the right place or the valve hole will be in the
wrong place, and the drilling of the rim may not match the angles of
the spokes. The key spoke will be a trailing spoke, freewheel side. It
is easiest to start with the trailing spokes, because they are the
ones that run along the inside flanges of the hub. If you start with
the leading spokes, it will be more awkward to install the trailing
spokes because the leading spokes will be in the way.

Since the key spoke is a trailing spoke, it should run along the
inside of the flange. The head of the spoke will be on the outside of
the flange. (see sidebar "Which side of the flange?")

It is customary to orient the rim so that the label is readable from
the bicycle's right side. If the hub has a label running along the
barrel, it should be located so that it can be read through the valve
hole. These things will not affect the performance of the wheel, but
good wheelbuilders pay attention to these things as a matter of pride
and esthetics.

Rims are drilled either "right handed" or "left handed". This has to
do with the relationship between the valve hole and the spoke holes.
The spoke holes do not run down the middle of the rim, but are offset
alternately from side to side. The holes on the left side of the rim
are for spokes that run to the left flange of the hub. with some rims
the spoke hole just forward of the valve hole is offset to the left,
with others it is offset to the right (as illustrated). Which type is
"right handed" and which "left handed"? I have never met anyone who
was willing to even make a guess!

The key spoke will be next to or one hole away from the valve hole in the rim.

As viewed from the right (freewheel) side of the hub, the key spoke
will run counterclockwise, and it will go to either the hole just to
the right of the valve hole (as illustrated) or the second hole to the
right, depending on how the rim is drilled. The aim is to make the
four spokes closest to the valve hole all angle away from the valve,
giving easier access to the valve for inflation.

Screw a nipple a couple of turns onto the key spoke to hold it in
place. Next, put another spoke through the hub two holes away from the
key spoke, so that there is one empty hole between them on the hub
flange. This spoke goes through the rim 4 holes away from the key
spoke, with 3 empty holes in between, not counting the valve hole.

Continue around the wheel until all 9 of the first group of spokes are
in place. Double check that the spacing is even both on the hub (every
other hole should be empty) and the rim (you should have a spoke, 3
empty holes, a spoke, etc. all the way around. Make sure that the
spokes are going through the holes on the same side of the rim as the
flange of the hub. It should look like this:...

...Now turn the wheel over and examine the hub. The holes on the left
flange do not line up with the holes on the right flange, but halfway
between them. If you have trouble seeing this, slide a spoke in from
the left flange parallel to the axle, and you will see how it winds up
bumping against the right flange between two spoke holes. Turn the
wheel so that the valve hole is at the top of the wheel. Since you are
now looking at the wheel from the non-freewheel side, the key spoke
will be to the left of the valve hole.
If the key spoke is next to the valve hole, insert a spoke into the
left flange so that it lines up just to the left of where the key
spoke comes out of the hub, and run it to the hole in the rim that is
just to the left of the key spoke.

In the illustration, the key spoke is right next to the valve hole.
Some rims are drilled with the opposite "handedness" so this may not
be the case for your wheel.

If the key spoke is separated from the valve hole by an empty spoke
hole, insert a spoke into the left flange so that it lines up to the
right of where the key spoke comes out of the hub, (looking at the
wheel from the left!) and run this tenth spoke to the hole between the
key spoke and the valve hole

If you have done this correctly, the spoke you have just installed
will not cross the key spoke. When you flip the wheel back around so
you're looking from the right side, if the tenth spoke is to the left
of the key spoke at the hub, it will also be to the left of it at the
rim. Like the first group of spokes, it will be a trailing spoke, it
will run along the inside of the flange, and the head will face out
from the outside of the flange. Install the other 8 spokes in this
group following the same pattern.

At the end of this stage, the wheel will have all 18 of the trailing
spokes in place. In the rim, there will be two spokes, two empty
holes, two spokes, two empty holes...etc. as shown below:.."

There are illustrations all along the way to be sure you are
performing the process correctly. The tutorial continues on with the
remaining steps through tightening and truing. Do read it all.

Normally, I'd provide more than one source for a question like this,
however I doubt there is a better tutorial or one that might provide
anything else you might need to know to be sure your lacing comes out
the way you desire. But, just in case..

You will find a number of interesting links on lacing and variations on this page:

And another good set of step by step instructions here:

And here is a review of a book available at for more than
you might ever wish to know on bicycle wheels:

"...The Bicycle Wheel 

Jobst Brandt's classic tome on the what makes our world go round,
reviewed by Myra Van Inwegen.

This book is a classic. Despite having been first published in 1981,
the information remains up- to-date, and applies just as well to
mountain bike wheels as road wheels. The writing is terse and dry, but
the information is valuable enough to make it worth a read for
beginner and experienced wheelbuilders alike.

The book is split into three sections. It starts by discussing the
various aspects of wheelbuilding. These include choice of materials as
well as different numbers of spokes and lacing patterns. For each
aspect, Brandt discusses a number of alternatives, then states his
preferred method and gives reasons for his preference. However, he
gives you the information you need to allow you to construct wheels
with any method and materials you choose...."

Search Strategy:

Lacing +"bicycle wheel"

I trust my research has provided you with several good sets of
instructions and interesting links for more information on bicycle
wheel lacing. If a link above should fail to work or anything require
further explanation or research, please do post a Request for
Clarification prior to rating the answer and closing the question and
I will be pleased to assist further.


jeeperjake-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Great answer - quick & painless - exactly what I was hoping to find
without having to buy a book or deal with searching myself... Thanks

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