How to Lace a Motorcycle Wheel

26 May

how to lace a motorcycle wheel

Building or rebuilding a motorcycle requires a lot of different skills. Of course you can outsource all things, but in that case you’ll never learn anything… In this post I’ll explain the basics of how to lace a motorcycle wheel. For this I’ve used my original ’72 Honda CB500 front hub and rim which are powder coated. The Honda has a 40 spoke pattern, but thus tutorial will also work for 36 or 32 spoke wheels.

Please note that this tutorial is about lacing a motorcycle wheel in it’s original state with the original lacing pattern. It’s a good habit to take pictures of the original lacing first, so you can take this as a reference.

What you Need to Lace a Motorcycle Wheel

Before you start, make sure you have everything you need:

  • Hub
  • Rim
  • Spokes and nuts
  • Spoke wrench
  • Some (copper) grease or other lubricant
  • Tape

Double check if you have the right length and amount of spokes and nuts; it’s very frustrating when you find out that you miss a spoke or nut at the end… In most (web)shops you can buy replacement kits based on your specific motorcycle model and type. If you use an aftermarket rim, sometimes the holes are too small for the nuts, so you have to drill them to the right size.

Notice that you have 2 types of spokes, the inner and outer spokes. You can see the difference between those 2 in the angle they have, see the picture below:

inner spoke outer spoke

In fact you have 4 “patterns” to lace/spoke:

  • 2x 10 inside spokes on both sides
  • 2x 10 outside spokes on both sides

We’re going to start at the point where the valve stem will be placed and from that point on you have 4 spoke numbers which will help you along the way:

lace wheel

In this particular “How to” I’m putting the spokes in the hub in 4×10 steps. Some people prefer to put in all spokes in the hub, but I found out that it makes turning and flipping the wheel harder with all loose spokes dangling around.

Start with the first 10 inner spokes. You can just pick a hole from the hub and put the spoke towards hole number 1. Also make sure to mark this first hole with a piece of tape, this make it easy to work your way back when you messed up. On the hub you just can start from anywhere and you only have to count to 2 . For every series of 10 spokes you have to remember:

  • Hub: skip 1 hole
  • Rim: skip 3 holes

Make sure that you put some grease (or other lubricant) on the thread of the spokes and the nut hole. This will make tightening the nuts smoother and easier when you’re truing the wheel. To keep the spokes in place you can put on the nuts very loose.

wheel lacing start

When you’ve work your way around the first 10 spokes it should look like this:

how to lace a wheel

So far so good; this was the easiest part. Now you’ll have to turn the wheel around to put the next 10 inner spokes on and this is where it’s getting more tricky. On the other side of the hub you can see that the holes are not exactly in line with the other side. Pick the first hole on the opposite left of the very first spoke you placed (the one to marker at the valve stem) and put the spoke in the 7th hole and point it to the whole on the other side of the valve stem. The pictures below will help:

lace motorcycle wheel

spoked motorcycle wheel

When you’re done it should look like this:

wheel lacing

It’s starting to look like a wheel huh!? At this point you might want to check if all spokes have the same margin between the rim and the nut. If some nuts are way out like the picture below, you probably made a mistake somewhere:

Laced motorcycle wheel

So now it’s time to put on the first 10 outer spokes, this is pretty easy while the pattern is obvious. The outer spokes have to cross the inner spoke at the hub, see the picture below. On some hubs you can still see the track of the outer spokes which can be your reference.

Important: put in all 10 spokes and place them towards the hole on the rim where they need to be. Every spoke you’ll put in place will make it harder to move the hub from the rim to put the spokes in place.

inner and outer lace

Now turn the wheel around for the last 10 outer spokes, these should be a no brainer if you’ve done everything right and the result should look like this:

wheel honda cb500

Great job! Take a moment to enjoy the result… Feels good doesn’t it? No go round all nuts and tighten them until you have just about 2mm of thread visible and get it ready for the real fine art: truing the wheel. I’ll write a post on this later!

Tips on How to Lace a Motorcycle Wheel

  1. Count and sort your spokes and nuts before you start
  2. Always mark your first spoke at the rim
  3. Don’t bend the spokes
  4. Put some grease on the spoke thread and nut hole
  5. When putting the spokes in the hub: try to get them in line for the right hole at the rim, it’s getting harder with each spoke in place to move the hub from the rim to make some extra space.

Here’s a video that will give you some more feeling. It’s not the same wheel, but it’s the same principle:

Well that’s it for now! Liked this tutorial about how to lace a motorcycle wheel? Or do you have some specific tips or tricks for lacing a motorcycle wheel? Feel free to reply!

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