How Hard Is It To Lace A Wheel?


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A common question from cyclists is “How hard is it to lace a wheel?” The answer is, it’s not that hard! Lacing a wheel consists of four relatively simple steps. Also, make sure you have your “in Bike Tool Kits” ready! 

How to lace a wheel

1. Remove the hub from the frame and set it aside for now.

2. Loosen each of the spokes holding the rim to its neighboring spoke using an adjustable wrench until they feel free enough to turn. 

3. Un-tighten the spokes, following the same procedure as above.

4. Determine how you would like to lace the wheel by grouping spokes together based on spoke tension. 

For example, one may prefer to lace a wheel with all spokes in very loose tension, while another may opt for an even tighter pattern of spoke tension. 

5. Once you’ve determined the optimal lacing pattern, begin tightening each spoke one by one using an adjustable wrench.

Any remaining loose spokes can be tightened with a spoke key that’s inserted into the hub’s nipple and twisted as required. 

6. Using an appropriate 15mm wrench, tighten the axle nuts on each side of the hub to accelerate moisture evaporation from inside the hub. 

After this step, the wheel should be properly tensioned and ready to ride.

Factors To Consider Before Lacing A Wheel

As with all things bike-related, there are a number of factors to consider before choosing the proper lacing pattern.

To begin with, you’ll want to consider your desired level of a spoke tension: 

If you’d like the wheel to spin freely when you’re riding, you’ll want to lace each spoke in as loose a pattern as possible. 

If you’d like the wheel to stay true when you ride, the spokes will need to be even more tensioned.

READ ALSO: Why Are Wheelsets So Expensive? Here Is Why!

 If you’re looking for a wheel that performs well under varying conditions, it’s worth lacing the spokes in such a way that they can withstand wind and moisture fluctuations, as well as they, would if conditions were perfectly calm and dry. 

The next factor to consider is the spoke count:

If you’re looking for a wheel with low spoke tension, several high-quality low-cost carbon rims may be of interest to you. 

On the other hand, if you’d like a wheel with high or medium spoke tensions, it’s a good idea to consider purchasing an alloy wheel instead.

If your wheelset consists of several components such as front and rear wheels, it’s best to have each component sized correctly when determining lacing patterns. 

Here’s an example: 

If you’re spinning a wheel with twelve 16-hole spoke patterns and you’d like the wheel to rotate smoothly and stay true, it’s beneficial to lace the spokes in a loose pattern. 

If you’d like the wheel to have more tension, make sure that each of the spokes is laced by the same amount in order for all of them to be equally tight. 

Wrapping up, the easiest way to lace a wheel is to start with all spokes in very loose tension and then tighten them one by one. 

As long as the spokes are tightened evenly, it’s a good idea to tighten each spoke just enough that they’re no longer moving, but not so tight that they’re excessively hard on your hands. 

Once you’ve reached this stage, the wheel should be ready to ride.

READ ALSO: Alpkit Strada Men’s Short Reviews 2021 – Reason To Buy/Not To

Q and A

How To Lace A 32 Hole Spoke Rim?

How do you lace a spoke with a 32 hole rim? Well, first you need the right tools for the job. You’ll need a hole saw to cut the spoke slots in the rim, and preferably with a drill guide to make sure they’re straight.

You’ll also need spokes with sleeved eyelets, and if your hub has removable end caps then take them off before cutting the spokes.

Then you’ll need a rim strip cutter (or hacksaw), bent spokes to make the spanner, and a little patience. The rim strip cutter will only make the spokes slot slightly wider, so you’ll need to leave them as is then cut them to length, and this is when you also have to come up with a solution for your bends.

Remember that there’s no such thing as being able to cut through steel. You can’t go too far with your cuts, or the spokes will end up too thin. Your method for bending the spokes will depend on your specific spokes.

And remember that there’s no such thing as being able to bend a spoke too much.

So let’s see how it looks:

Step 1: You’ll need to unscrew the aluminum rim strip until it comes off completely. This is done by hand and can be a bit of a pain if you’ve never done it before.

You’ll need to unscrew it at the bottom of the rim (the valve side), then the top. So basically two complete revolutions, and depending on your rim it could take a bit of elbow grease.

Step 2: Take a 32 hole spoke, and cut it to length. It’s best to cut them all a bit long so you can work with them better until you’re sure of the placement. I always cut the ends with a hacksaw, which works well enough, but obviously, you don’t need to do that.

Step 3: Make an L-shape in the spoke with a sharp knife. (Note that it’s best to start from about halfway along the length of the spoke and work towards the tip to avoid damaging it. The bend you’ll be making needs to meet the middle of the spoke, but it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit off to one side or the other.)

Step 4: Bend the spoke in your L-shape with a wire bender. It’s best if you allow them to expand naturally when they’ve been bent, but sometimes you can get away with a little more force.

I’m sure by now you’re thinking that I’ve been messing around with my spokes and cutting too much.

Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but no. That’s the only time you can cut them too much. The only time you need to cut the spokes too much is when you’re only going to bend them a small amount. Otherwise, everything else will be fine.

In this case, cut your spokes a little long (actually a lot!) because you will be adding two bends in each spoke, and it’s easier for you to twist the spoke between your hands before bending it. So, they ended up:

Step 5: Now it’s time for you to find out what angle works for your rim. This is best done with a rim strip cutter, but you can also make a trial bent spoke and see what works for you. In my case I found that the “backward” bend worked out best for me:

(Note that I usually bend the spokes in a big circle, which means that I always work from the valve side to the non-valve side of the wheel.

This is because, at this point when I’m building, I’ve got my spacer in place, but it’s not bolted on yet. So what I do is start bending the spokes to the rim, then twisting them back 180 degrees to do the next spokes. It’s easier this way, trust me.)

Step 6: Once you have done half of your spoke it’s time to see how good you are. You’ve got a bent spoke and a straight one and all you need to do now is place them on the rim so that they are as close as possible to be parallel with each other. And then use the spanner to bend them in the other direction:

After all that hard work it’s time to take a break, and then repeat the process for the other side of the wheel. Then flip your wheel over and do it again.

Step 7: Once you have got both sides of the wheel done, you can see if everything is straight. It’s best to go around the rim two or three times with your fingers before checking it with your eye.

And there you have it! A 32 hole spoke rim!

How do I know what length spokes I need? Conclusion

There are a few things you need to know first before figuring out how to order spokes for your bike. The type of rim and hub you have, how many inches wide they are, and the wheel size all factor into determining what length spokes you need.

To find your measurements, just follow these simple steps:

1. Measure the distance around the wheel from one side to the other with a tape measure or ruler

2. Find your hub with the spoke holes labeled, typically on the side of the hub

3. Find the rim width, a little more difficult. Measure from one edge of the rim to the other across the widest part of it (thickest).

If you have a 14-inch rim, and it measures 12 inches from one edge to the other around, then your rim is 2 inches wide. The measurement you get will be in millimeters and probably be somewhere around 25 or 26mm.

4. The final measurement you need is the inch width of the wheel. An example would be an 18-inch wheel which would be a 3.5-inch wide wheel

5. Now that you have all of these, you can determine your spoke length! Inch Wheel Size x Rim Width / Hub Spoke Hole Pitch = Spoke Length

Rim sizes are always in inches and so are hubs, but spokes don’t come in inches so we must do a little math to figure out the length we’ll need for our new wheels.

Spoke length is determined by rim width and hub-spoke hole diameter, but it’s also dependent on the number of holes in the hub.

For example, you may want to know if You Can Use 32 Holes Hub On 36 Holes Rim? The answer is no because a 36 spoke wheel will have a different spoke length than a 32 spoke wheel.

Also, the shorter you make your spokes the stronger they are. Shorter spokes equate to higher tensile strength.

However, shorter spokes also mean fewer threads in contact with the rim so you’ll need more spokes for your wheelset to carry the same load. The only tradeoff is between weight and strength.

The easiest way to get the spoke length you need is to use a spoke calculator.

To use a calculator, choose the appropriate values for each part of the formula. Most calculators also have a chart with common rim and hub combinations so you don’t even need all of the measurements above. 

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