Lacing a Spoked Motorcycle Wheel

Spoked wheels are a mainstay in the motorcycle scene

Spoked motorcycle wheels have become a mainstay in the motorcycle scene. Classic bikes, dirt bikes and race models still use spoked wheels. Unlike most mag wheels, they do require some maintenance and care. Mag wheels usually just need a good cleaning and a good once-over for bent spots. Replacing components of spoked wheels can be tricky, but a little patience and a service manual can get the job done.

Spoked motorcycle wheels consist of three major parts. These parts are the rim, the spokes and the wheel hub. Attached to the wheel hub is usually the brake rotor and chain/belt sprocket. Steel spokes can rust over time and may need to be changed. Rims bend and hubs can rust over time. Fortunately, it is not that hard to repair a spoked motorcycle wheel. This is where a service manual comes in handy.

To fix any motorcycle wheel, the tire has to be dismounted first. This can be done by a shop or with some tire irons. The process takes some muscle so it may not be that easy for some. A motorcycle or tire shop can do it fast and fairly cheap. Once the tire and/or tube have been removed, there is a rubber strip that covers the nipples of the spokes. This strip is like a huge rubber band and should be replaced. The tire tube should also be replaced.

Now is a great time to measure to offset the wheel. Use a straightedge against the flattest part of the hub and measure the distance from the straight edge to the wheel rim. Do it for both sides on both rims. The offset of the wheel should be listed in the service manual. Sometimes wheels are offset to one side to track the road better. Take pictures of the spoke pattern and note how they are arranged. A service manual should have the correct pattern.

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lacing a spoked motorcycle wheel

The spokes can then be removed. The nipples of the spokes can be loosened with a spoke wrench. If the spokes are damaged or bent they can be cut using an angle grinder or bolt cutters. Be careful, the spoke may have tension.The spokes can be slid out of the hub and the wheel is finally apart. This is a great time to clean everything while it is  apart. Some hubs are made of aluminum and can be cleaned with a wire brush and polished, if necessary. If the aluminum is oxidized badly, they will need to be sanded and polished. Chromed hubs and rims may need to be re-chromed if the chrome is badly pitted. Steel wool and chrome polish can be used to clean-off oxidation.

Once the components are clean or replaced, the motorcycle wheels can be reassembled. Make sure the flanges for the brakes and rotors are on the same side they were on when the wheel was removed. Usually the valve stem hole must be on one side for clearance if it is not located in the center of the rim. Stainless spokes are a great choice for a replacement, since they will not rust. The spokes are usually assembled in inner and outer rows. 

Lubricate the threads of the spoke with oil. The inner rows go first. Follow the service manual for the direction of which they go. Prop the wheel rim up on some wood and have the hub center line sitting in the middle of the rim. The inner spokes go either clockwise or counter clock wise, usually rotated as far as they can to meet up with a hole in the rim. The hole in the rim has a bulge in the direction of the spoke, so it is usually easy to locate which hole the spoke should go in.

Once the inner row is in, the outer row goes the opposite direction. On a 40-spoke type of wheel, it will skip two spoke holes and go to the third. The wheel is flipped over carefully and the process is repeated. Screw the spoke nipples on by hand and leave them lose. The wheel will need to be trued. Follow our truing article on truing a spoked motorcycle wheel.

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