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Wheel Building 101

Wheel Building 101

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Published by: Patricia Faulkner Cisek on May 05, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Wheel building is actually quite easy and if you’re a serious rider, at one point or another, you’ll need to rebuild

a wheel.
One way is to just transfer an already built wheel with a destroyed rim to a new rim. But this doesn’t work if you don’t have a wheel to copy from or you need new spokes or a new hub. You can also take your wheel to your local bike shop and pay them to do it for you, but in most cases you can expect to pay up to $50.00 per wheel and have to wait a few days. Building a wheel is easy and if you take your time doing it, you don’t need all of the special tools (though it does make it easier to have them) and with a little ingenuity you can do it yourself. There are quite a few different ways to build a wheel, but I’ve found this way to be the easiest. With these steps you can build any type of wheel with any number of spokes. It’s the same pattern for any normal lace type, the only exception are radial-laced wheels. If you can’t figure out how to build a radial-laced wheel, you should probably not bother trying to build a cross-lace wheel. Here are ten steps to lace a wheel like a professional.

text and photos by Al Mohr

Drop every second spoke into one of the flanges. See figure A.

Take the spoke that is to the left of your starting point on the hub flange and thread it into the rim four holes over to the left of the Starting Spoke. Again, just thread the nipple on enough so that it doesn’t fall off. Continue this pattern for all twelve spokes (if it’s a 48H rim) or nine spokes (if it’s a 36H rim). Make sure that you use every fourth hole of the rim. Remember to have three open holes between every spoke that you put into the rim. See figure C.





1 Valve Hole Starting Spoke

stepfour steptwo tools
You don’t need many tools to build a wheel. Here are the essentials: • Trueing stand. If you don’t have one, you can put the wheel into your frame or forks and use your brake pads for this. • Nipple driver or just a flathead screwdriver. • The proper size spoke wrench. Take one spoke (it doesn’t matter which one) and put it into the hole to the left of the valve hole and thread a nipple on. This will ensure that when the wheel is complete, there will be space for your air valve. Do not thread the nipple on the whole way—just a few turns so that it doesn’t fall off. This spoke will be called your Starting Spoke. See figure B.

Once you have all of the spokes that were dropped in Step One threaded into the rim, you now have to start on the opposite hub flange. Now go back to your Starting Spoke. If you look at the holes in your hub, you’ll notice that the holes on each flange are not directly across from each other—they are offset. Look at the hole that the Starting Spoke is in, for the next step you need to start with the hole that is offset to the left, on the opposite flange. Put a spoke into this hole in a way so that the head of the spoke is on the outside of the hub flange. This spoke will be called your Opposite Spoke. See figure D.

Opposite Spoke

Starting Spoke Valve Hole

Valve Hole Starting Spoke



What this does is seats the spokes into the hub and it makes sure that the heads of the spokes are properly seated into the hub. See figure I. you can now start lacing in the actual cross-pattern. This means instead of tightening one spoke two turns. To straighten the rim side to side is easy: • If the rim is out of true to the right. this means that a spoke will cross over four other spokes before it reaches the rim. Now you have to thread the spoke into the rim. you need to drop spokes into the open holes of the original flange that you started with. Basically you just have to put your spokes into the rim next to the spokes that you threaded in on Step Three. Do the same thing as in Step Nine and make a four-cross by going over three spokes and then under one spoke. flip the wheel over back to the original starting side. FIGURE J Valve Hole Twist CounterClockwise You now do the same as you did in Step Three. Do this to the remainder of the spokes and your wheel is laced. You’ll know if you’re in the correct spot if the angle of the hole in the rim is drilled out to the same side as the spoke that’s going into it. making a total of four spoke crosses. Start by dropping the last spokes into the hub and then flipping the wheel over. FIGURE K Once you have these spokes all threaded in. FIGURE H stepeight stepten Now you only have one flange left to lace. With all of the spokes in on the one side. See figure K. It should be obvious which way you go and into which hole you thread the spoke and nipple into. See figure G. this will be easy. Make sure that the spoke heads are facing the inside. You’re now looking down at the wheel with the side that has all of the spokes in the flange. See figure E. If you are building a 36 hole wheel. The first step that I do is to thread the nipples that are barely threaded onto the spokes onto the spoke until the threads of the spoke are completely covered by the nipple.stepfive FIGURE E Flip your wheel over and drop every second spoke starting with your Opposite Spoke into this hub flange. or opposite of the spokes that are already in. Most 48 hole wheels are a four-cross (you can use a three-cross with a 48 but it will change the length of the spoke that you use). you can put the wheel into your frame or forks (depending on which wheel you are building) and just use your brake pads to align the rim. See figure J. you normally use a three-cross. it’s better to turn three or four spokes a half turn each to spread out the load. the next thing you need to do is to tighten your spokes while at the same time keeping your wheel straight. Continue this pattern with the rest of the spokes on the flange. take a screwdriver and place it in between a cross of the spokes and push it down. The way you make a wheel straight is to tighten or loosen spoke nipples to allow the rim to be pulled in the proper direction. Do this to every cross of spokes on the wheel on both sides. See figure F. Go through all of the spokes and make sure that all of the nipples are in the same spot on the spoke. If you were not to do this. Depending on what size spokes you use will also determine how many crosses you have. the spokes would set into the hub on their own and your wheel will go out of true after riding it. FIGURE I straightening tightening removinghops Once you have your wheel laced up. Now follow the original pattern of putting in spokes every fourth hole. Doing this will allow you to drop the spokes into the hub flange. See figure H. If you put the spokes from Step Nine into the correct spots on the rim. The best way to determine where the spoke goes into the rim at this point would be to go two spots over from where the last spoke that you crossed is in the rim. Once this is done. Take the hub and twist it counterclockwise so that the Starting Spoke is angled away from the valve hole. FIGURE F stepsix stepnine Valve Hole Starting Spoke Opposite Spoke stepseven FIGURE G With the hub twisted and all of the spokes in the flange. 2 Under Cross 4 1 Push Down Last Spoke Crossed Over Cross 3 Over Cross 2 Over Cross 1 The best way to true a wheel is in a wheel-truing stand but if you don’t have one. starting to the right of your original Starting Spoke (take into account that your wheel is flipped the other way). The key to doing this properly is to make small adjustments and to also spread out the pressure. thus making it easier to work with. you tighten the spokes on the left side of the rim (Figure L) and if SPRING • 2002 47 . Take any one of the spokes that are not yet threaded in and start your pattern by angling it to the left and going over three spokes and then going under one spoke.

FIGURE N • Start at the valve hole and tighten every spoke a half turn. (Figure M) Remember to use small steps and to spread out the pressure. This does the same thing as seating the spokes into the hub. it will make your wheel tight. • Remove any hops or low spots. strong and longer lasting. viseversa. Hop 1/4 Turn 1/2 Turn 1 Turn 1/2 Turn 1/4 Turn If you tighten your spokes too much. • Seat the spokes. just check a new wheel that is already built. • Take the next two spokes out from the middle spoke and turn them half as much as the middle spoke(s). See figure O. take the middle spoke (two spokes if it’s an even number of spokes) and tighten the spoke(s) one complete turn. tighten each spoke the number of turns shown above. • If you do this until your spokes are tight. • Seat the spokes. • Keep following this pattern until you reach the outside of the spokes in the hop. To remove a hop.the rim is out the other way. The one thing to remember is to make sure all the spokes are tightened evenly! The trick to tightening your spokes while keeping the wheel straight is by using baby steps: To get a hop out of the wheel is also quite easy: • First you have to find the beginning and the end of your hop. • Once you have counted the spokes. you sim- . Simply by going through the wheel and squeezing two spokes together throughout the wheel will accomplish this. • Then count the number of spokes in the hop. • True the wheel. which would be a quarter turn. FIGURE O Tightening the spokes on the left will move the rim to the left. This also works if your rim has a low spot. Do not try to do it all with one spoke! FIGURE L ply loosen the spokes instead of tightening them. • The spokes in your wheel need to be tight but they can’t be too tight. • The other thing that you have to do is seat the spokes every time you make a move on the spokes. If you’re not sure how tight to make them. you can see exactly how much you have to turn a spoke to make the rim move into the position that you want it. • True the wheel. Squeeze Together FIGURE M Tightening the spokes on the right will move the rim to the right. • Go to the next two spokes out from the middle and turn them half as much as the last step. See figure N. your wheel could blow up if you land hard on it since a wheel needs to be able to flex a little bit. • Remove any hops or low spots. which would be a half turn. • Tighten all of your spokes another half turn. By spending a little time and experimenting a bit.

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