Workshop: How to lace a wheel

Get started with wheel building

Wheel building is considered something of a dark art, so we’re breaking it down into two parts: lacing them, then tensioning and truing them. Follow our step-by-step guide and you’ll throw yours together in a snap…

  • Time: 30-60 mins 
  • Cost: rims, hubs, spokes 

Tools you'll need

  • Spoke key
  • Medium flat blade screwdriver

1] Get measured up

Your first job is to get the right length spokes handy. Measuring at home is impossible, so it’s best to drop into your local shop with your rims and hubs to ask them to measure them for you. Alternatively, you can go to www.dtswiss.com and use the spoke calculator to work it out. Separate the spokes out into four clearly marked containers – front disc side, front non-disc side, rear disc side and rear drive side.

2] Assemble the rear wheel

Holding the rear hub so it hangs vertically, drop a disc side spoke downwards into the disc side flange. Now sight the first hole on the drive side flange that’s counter clockwise from where the other spoke is, dropping a drive side spoke downwards into it. Get your rear rim and place it nearby – you’ll need it for the next step.

3] Separate your spokes

Holding the hub disc side up and the rim horizontal, separate the spokes and insert the disc side spoke into the eyelet on the rim that’s next to the valve hole (counter-clockwise). Now place the other spoke into the eyelet directly counter clockwise (heading away from the valve hole) to the first one. Thread the nipples on a couple of turns to hold it all in place.

4] Threading by numbers

With the hub disc side up, count seven holes clockwise from the spoke in the disc side flange and insert a new spoke up through that seventh hole. Insert the spoke into the rim two eyelets clockwise from the valve hole. Screw a nipple on a couple of threads as before.

5] Game, offset and match

Keeping the hub disc side up, count another seven holes clockwise from the spoke in the drive side flange (it should be slightly offset from the disc side spoke you inserted in step 4). Insert a spoke up through that seventh hole and then place the spoke into the open eyelet on the rim found next to the valve hole. Screw a nipple on a couple of threads.

6] Hot crossed spokes

With the hub still disc side up, thread another spoke downwards through the hole two spaces clockwise from the one already downwards in the hub (see step 2). Put the spoke into the rim four eyelets clockwise from the valve hole, lacing it over the spoke it crosses. Screw a nipple on and repeat this (apart from the spoke crossing) around the wheel. Each spoke should go in the fourth eyelet clockwise from the previous one.

7] Finish the side

Complete this side of the wheel by inserting a spoke up through the flange two holes counter clockwise from the one already upwards (see step 4) in the hub. Put the spoke into the rim three eyelets counter-clockwise from the valve hole, lacing over the first two spokes and under the third. Screw a nipple on and then duplicate this around the wheel with each spoke going into the fourth eyelet counter clockwise from the previous one.

8] Assemble the drive side

With the disc side down, repeat steps 6 and 7. As you assemble the drive side you may need to flex already fixed spokes out of the way, or tweak the ones you’re putting in, to get new spokes them past successfully. When you’re finished, put the rear wheel to one side without tightening the nipples.

9] The front wheel

Get the font wheel hub and, holding it vertically, drop a disc side spoke downwards into the disc side flange of the hub. Sight the first hole counter clockwise in the flange on the other side from where the first spoke fell, then insert a non-disc side spoke upwards through it. Place the rim nearby, you’ll need it for the next step.

10] Get lacing

Holding the hub disc side up and the rim horizontal, separate the spokes and insert the one in the disc side into the eyelet next to, and counter clockwise from, the valve hole. Then place the non-disc side spoke into the hole directly counter clockwise to that one. Thread the nipples on a couple of turns.

11] Lucky seven

With the hub disc side up, count seven holes clockwise from the spoke in the disc side flange, then insert a spoke up through that seventh hole. Insert the spoke into the rim in the second eyelet clockwise from the valve hole. Screw a nipple on a couple of threads.

12] Count clockwise

With the hub disc side up, count another seven holes clockwise from the spoke in the non-disc side flange and then insert a spoke downwards through that seventh hole. Insert the spoke into the rim in the eyelet that’s just clockwise from the valve hole. Screw a nipple on a couple of threads.

13] Repeat around the wheel

With the hub disc side up, put a spoke downwards in the hole two spaces clockwise from the one already downwards (see step 12) in the hub. Put the spoke into the rim four eyelets clockwise from the valve hole, lacing it over the spoke it crosses. Screw a nipple on and repeat this (apart from the spoke crossing) around the wheel. Each spoke should fit into the fourth eyelet clockwise from the previous one.

14] Complete the side

Complete this side of the wheel by inserting a spoke up through the flange two holes counter clockwise from the one already upwards in the hub. Put the spoke into the rim three eyelets counter clockwise from the valve hole, lacing over the first two spokes and under the third. Screw a nipple on and duplicate this around the wheel with each spoke going into the fourth eyelet counter clockwise from the previous one.

15] Disc side down

With the hub disc side down, put a spoke in downwards, two holes counter clockwise from the one already downwards in the hub. Put the spoke into the rim three eyelets counter-clockwise, lacing it over the spoke it crosses. Screw a nipple on a couple of threads. Repeat this (apart from the spoke crossing) around the wheel with each spoke going into the fourth eyelet clockwise from the previous one.

16] Finish the job

Complete this side of the wheel by inserting a spoke up through the flange two holes clockwise from the one already upwards in the hub. Put the spoke into the rim four eyelets clockwise from the valve hole, lacing over two spokes and under a third. Screw a nipple on. Duplicate this around the wheel with each spoke going into the fourth eyelet counter clockwise from the one previous.

Workshop Wisdom

  • To stop your spoke nipples dropping into a deep section rim, thread them backwards onto a spare spoke then feed them through into the rim.
  • Lacing wheels is just following a process, so the only skill is to be extremely methodical. It’s most important to not mix up the different lengths of spoke. Before you take each spoke from its relevant container, double check where it’s going on the hub.
  • Place the spoke nipples in a small container (an aerosol lid will do) and add a couple of drops of a good, thick oil (such as 3-in-1). Give them a good mix around then fish them out as needed. This lubricates the nipples so they turn more easily in the eyelets when you come to add tension.

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