How to lace motorcycle wheels

Updated April 07, 2017

Lacing motorcycle wheels is partly master craft and partly black art. Good wheel builders can lace a wheel perfectly in half an hour. Lacing all motorcycle wheels involves basically the same set of patient skills. The difference between wheels is in the details of each particular wheel. A key concept to understand about lacing wheels is that you will always be working with two slightly different kinds of spokes. Half the spokes in a wheel will be slightly longer than the other half. This is how to lace a 21-inch rear wheel for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Harley calls the two kinds of spokes upper and lower row spokes.

Clear a three-foot-square space on a table. Put the hub on the table with the wide flange (brake disc) side down.

Insert a spoke in each hole of the lower row of holes on top of the hub to begin to build the hub assembly. Center the rim over this hub assembly with the valve stem hole facing up.

Place the unconnected end of any lower row hub assembly spoke into the rim hole that is angled to correctly accept the spoke on the upper half of the rim centre line. Insert the rest of the lower row spokes in every fourth rim hole.

Insert the first upper row spoke into the hub assembly. Angle the spoke counterclockwise so it crosses four lower row spokes. This spoke must enter the rim hole to the right of the valve stem hole

Insert the remaining upper row spokes into every fourth remaining hole above the rim centre line.

Turn the partially assembled wheel over so the brake disc side is up. Insert any lower row spoke into the hub. Angle the spoke clockwise and insert the other end of the spoke into the rim hole that naturally accepts it.

Insert each of the remaining lower row spokes into the hub, angle each clockwise and insert each into the rim.

Insert any upper row spoke into the hub, angle it counterclockwise and insert the opposite end into the appropriate rim hole. Install all the remaining upper row spokes.

Tighten all spoke nipples to 40 to 50 inch-pounds of torque with a spoke wrench.


Do not use lubricants that deteriorate rubber.

Things You'll Need

  • Hub
  • Rim
  • New spoke set including nipples
  • Spoke wrench
  • Shop manual
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About the Author

Don Davis has been a professional writer since 1977. He has had numerous writing jobs, including writing news and features for the "Metrowest Daily News" and "Los Angeles Herald-Examiner." Davis has a Bachelor of Arts in English and history from Indiana State University.