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I used the following article as a basis for lacing up my first set of alloy wheels for my Norton Commando.  One important omission in this article is to check for hub to wheel offset before disassembling the old wheel.  You can do this by placing a straight edge across the rim then measuring from the bottom of the straight edge to the hub.  Be sure to lace you new wheel with the same offset.

Wayne DeLack

Article from Two Wheels, May 1974: Report and photos by Joe Blake

A handyman's guide to...
Re-spoking is one of those jobs most riders leave to a specialist. But Ducati owner Joe Blake found that owning a Desmo 450 necessitated learning the procedure. The difference between instant insanity and meeting the bill of your local wheel building specialist is purely a question of technique!

THE BIG DAY has arrived.
All your scrimping and saving has paid off. You've finally bought those alloy rims you've had your heart set on for so long. Now all you have to do is fit them onto your old hubs and you're set. Before you start heading back to your friendly local dealer and ask him to do it for you, give some thought to doing the job yourself -it's not as hard as it seems. Nor is it the simplest job in the world, but there is no reason why, with a fair amount of patience, an unskilled but enthusiastic amateur can't do it himself.

The very first thing you must do is check and see if the rim has been drilled to fit the hub. If it hasn't, better get . that done. (This may mean a trip to your dealer anyway, as I'm afraid I can't explain how to drill a hub, having never attempted it, nor even read anything about it.) All he'll need is the rims and hubs, or at least an exact description of the hub you're planning to use. Once that is done, the rest is up to you.

Before you start, you'll need a few basic tools: a nipple spanner, a small adjustable wrench (or even a pair of multi-grip pliers as a last resort) and a broad-bladed flat screwdriver, a piece of chalk, a pencil or grease pencil and a truing jig. The jig can consist of almost anything from a pair of saw-horses to two chairs (at a pinch the wheel can be trued still on the bike but it is not recommended).
Other items which could come in handy are a set of tyre levers, a pressure gauge, pump, tyre-patching kit (just in case) and a bar of soap and some water. A few cold tubes in the 'fridge may help, but not too many. There's no point in trying to true a wheel if you can't see straight.

Having removed the wheel from the bike, the tyre and tube from the wheel and old spokes from the hub and rim, pick up a handful of the spokes and look at them. You will see that there are two different types, varying in length and/or angles at the head (the photograph gives a clear indication what to look for). Sort them all out and put them into two (or more) bundles. The lacing pattern dictates what type goes where.

As a rule, the spokes with the greater angle are the "outside" spokes, as they have to bend inwards, whereas the right-angled or "inside" spokes merely point straight upwards.
Using the wrong kind in the wrong position will result in broken spokes because too much stress is placed on the angle (I've yet to see a spoke break at the nipple or in the middle).

Shot of spoke heads showing different types. Outside spoke is on the right,
Shot of spoke heads showing different types. Outside spoke is on the right, inside on the left.
Shot of nipple showing slot in head for screwdriver</i></font>
Shot of nipple showing slot in head for screwdriver


Marks on the hub
Marks on the hub show where old spokes have rested, helping to get the spokes in the right holes.


Now the part you've all been waiting for. Lacing it up. Some people prefer to place all the spokes in the hub at once, some to insert them in pairs and attach them to the rim, at the same time, and others to do one type of spoke at a time, attaching them to the rim after they're threaded through the hub. I'm one of the others - the "inside" spokes should be done first as inserting an inside spoke in a fully spoked wheel means removing at least two other spokes and loosening the rest. If the hub is the original one, chances are there are marks showing where the spokes have rested previously. This will enable you to set the spokes at the right angle and increase your odds of getting the right hole in the rim.

If you have a new hub, there may be trouble. Here's how to avoid it. If you look at the rim, you will see that the holes are drilled in pairs, one pair faces one way (forward) and the next faces the opposite, and so on around the rim. You'll also notice that the holes on the opposite sides of the hub are not paired, one trails slightly behind the other.
Taking two inside spokes lace them into two of the holes nearly opposite each other on one side of the hub. Place the hub centrally within the rim and pivot the spokes backward until they reach a pair of
forward-facing holes (those facing the direction of rotation of the wheel when it's on the bike). If the spokes are too long or too short to be threaded into the holes, pivot the spokes forward until they appear able to be threaded into a pair of backward-facing holes.

Once you have decided which holes are the more suitable, place the nipples on the end of the spokes and turn them' down a couple of turns so they will not come loose. These will be your reference spokes. Take another spoke (make sure it's an "inside") and thread it as nearly as possible diametrically opposite the first two spokes on the same side of the hub. You now have two holes in the rim to choose from to put the spoke in. Which one? Simple. Look at the other two spokes and see which hole of the two they went in, and place this spoke in the 'nearest hole facing the same direction.

Once you have the rim aligned roughly with the hub you may now proceed to do the remaining "inside" spokes on the side of the hub you are holding. While you are doing this, balance the rim on your knees and support the hub with one hand. This will allow the spokes to drop through the wheel freely. If you try to do this on the table, the wheel will have to be picked up every time a spoke is inserted. Turn all the nipples down two or three turns (the screwdriver can be used here, as the nipples have, slots on the end).

When you have done one side, reverse the wheel and do the other. The results should look similar to those shown in the photos. Once the "inside" spokes are done on both sides of the hub, 'start on the "outside" ones in a similar fashion. Eventually you will have all the spokes inserted into the rim this part of the job could take up to an hour, so there's oodles of patience required). Lay the wheel on the table and start tightening the spokes to just a bit more than finger tight. A useful method is to screw the nipples down until the spoke comes up the nipple far enough to touch the bottom of the screwdriver. This is more applicable to new spokes and nipples rather than old ones, but it should get the spokes up to roughly the same length and tension, which is what the game is all about.


Holes in the rim

Holes in the rim are shown here. Notice how the holes are grouped in pairs, one pair facing one way, the next facing the other.



First two spokes

First two spokes inserted, which help to keep the rim and hub aligned.


Now is the time to take a bit of a breather, and grab a coldie out of the fridge. Refreshed? Good. Now place the axle through the hub and put the wheel on the truing jig (if you're using the best dining room table, don't forget to lay down the paper thickly). Rotate the wheel in a brisk fashion. If you've been very careful, you won't have too much work ahead of you. Observe the rim as the wheel spins and you'll see that it appears to go up and down and side-to-side. The proper names are "axial" and "lateral ' run-out, but because we're all friends here, we'll just call them ax and lat. The first one to go is the ax. Grab the chalk (or pencil or whatever), and resting it on the jig, bring it into contact with the outside edge of the rim. After the wheel has done a few turns, you should have a streak where the rim has touched the marker (be careful not to cheat and press too hard, otherwise you'll get a line all the way round the rim, which won't help matters at all).

The idea is to get the line as long as possible, without cheating, since the line represents the high spots on the rim, and the longer the line, the more even is the height distribution. When you've finished marking out the high spot mark the rim where the line starts, where it finishes, and approximately in the centre. Starting from the centre working outwards, tighten spokes up, using the spanner (the screwdriver will not be much use any more because the spoke ends will be too far into the slot in the nipple). Work to both ends of the line and on both sides of wheels using decreasing amounts of tightening as you work away from the centre. Those done, go to the centre of the low spot, and, in the same fashion, loosen the spokes.

When you have finished that, rub all your marks out, and repeat the marking-out operation. You should find the line considerably longer. Repeat as required until the line goes as far around as possible. There's no need to make a perfect job of it, as getting rid of the lat will upset the ax anyway. To remove the lat is equally simple. Rotating the wheel again, allow the marking instrument to come in contact with the side - of and the rim. Once again, you will see the where the high spots and low spots (the -are. To get rid of the high spots, once again mark out the ends of the line, and working from the centre loosen the spokes, in decreasing amounts towards the end of the line on the side of the hub where the line is, and tighten the spokes on the other side of the hub a similar amount. This loosen/tighten method should bring the rim back into line. As previously mentioned, repeat as required until a line of satisfactory length appears. Once that is done rotate the wheel slowly and check for any loose spokes, and tighten them up, trying not to buckle the wheel.


One of the easier ways of holding the hub and rim, involving little
One of the easier ways of holding the hub and rim, involving little picking up or turning over.

One side of inside spokes done.</i></font>
One side of inside spokes done.

Both of the inside spokes done</i></font>
Both of the inside spokes done

All that is left to do is to replace the rim strap, or if it is unserviceable, a few layers of insulation tape. If there is more than say 1/16 in. of spoke protruding from the nipple, a couple of quick movements with a file should do the trick. If there's any less, don't worry about it. When mounting the tyre and tube, inflate the tube sufficiently to make it round, and take care not to pinch it. Liberal use of wet soap or any of the proprietary tyre lubricators on the market will simplify matters. Use it everywhere possible, as ~it not only helps slip the tyre onto the rim more easily, but helps the bead of the tyre to "pop" in to place. Once the tyre is on, inflate it to normal pressure (or more if the bead isn't straight) and rotate the wheel slowly. You may notice some run out, but there probably won't be much. If there is overly much, check to make sure that it isn't the tyre itself, and if it's not, re-true the wheel.

Wheel on truing
Wheel on truing jig. Note hand resting on jig support chalk.

The finished product
The finished product


As soon as possible (you'll probably be heading straight to the cot when that's done) take the bike out for a run and stop every couple of miles and check for loose spokes, and adjust as necessary with the spanner. You should now be able to look forward to many trouble-free miles of riding. It's possible that after the wheel has done a couple of hundred miles the spokes may stretch or come loose and the wheel will lose its shape and give rise to a rather strange ride. Should this occur the trueing process would have to be done over again. On the second time around it's an idea to grab a centre-punch and hammer and punch the ends of the spokes (not too hard) when the wheel has been trued. This will spread the end of the spokes slightly and stop them loosening. If you happen to break one or two spokes don't scream and moan - if it's an outside spoke, these can usually (depending, once more, op the pattern) be replaced very easily. If it's an insider, a little judicious bending of the spoke might enable you to thread it in on the spot, but don't count on it.