Build Twisted Spoke Bicycle Wheels

Building your own bicycle wheels is a satisfying challenge, and sample lacing patterns for most standard hubs and rims are easily found. Twisting the spokes together in a variation of a standard three-cross lacing pattern sacrifices strength for decorative effect and is popular with riders of fixed-gear bicycles. Such lacing patterns are not generally available and a certain amount of trial and error, as well as experience building standard wheels, will be necessary if the wheel is not to collapse on use.


Lacing the Wheel

1. Lace one side of the wheel very loosely, using spokes much longer than normal, taking the basic pattern from a standard two or three cross lacing pattern, but instead of the spokes going directly from hub to rim, twist the spokes together and through trial and error, work out how many twists to perform on each cross to achieve the desired pattern with the spoke, rim and hubs you have at your disposal.

2. Turn the wheel over.

3. Start lacing the second side of the wheel, by threading the pair of spokes which will be twisted together into shape, following the pattern of the first side’s lacing.

4. The second pair of spokes to be loosely laced on this side should be opposite the first pair.

5. Lace the third and fourth pairs of spokes, which should be at 90 degrees to the first and second pair.

6. Complete the lacing of the spokes a pair at a time until you have two loosely threaded sets of spokes. It is likely this will get very much harder as the process nears completion. If this is not the case, the wheel will not have enough tension, and it may be necessary to re thread each spoke pair with an additional twist. The final few spokes should see the wheel start to feel firm and stable.

Tensioning and Truing the Wheel

7. Place the wheel in the truing stand. This can be done using an upturned bicycle using brake pads as calipers, but this is not recommended for such a complex lacing pattern.

8. Start tightening the spokes, one at a time. Starting at the valve hole, work methodically around the rim. It is recommended that you start more slowly than would be the case with a standard lacing as there are are more variables and the tensioning process will have unexpected effects on the tension of other spokes. Use half or quarter turns of the nipples, even while the tension is low.

9. The correct tension will be harder to maintain in a twisted spoke bicycle wheel as changing the tension on one spoke will have effects elsewhere in the wheel. If you have a tensionometer, use this to ensure similar tension in each spoke. Typically, depending on the spokes and rims selected, this will be between 200kg and 400kg. Because of the twists, it will be much harder to true by the tone of the plucked spoke; squeezing pairs of spokes will give you an idea of the tension.

10. Adjust the wheel for radial true. Using the truing stand, ignoring all but the largest lateral wobbles, ensure the wheel has no high or low spots, adding or releasing tension with half or quarter turns on the nipples to achieve a laterally true wheel.

11. Adjust the wheel for lateral true. Using the calipers on the wheel truing stand, add or remove tension on twisted pairs. If you add tension on one side’s pair, remove an equal amount of tension on the same pair on the opposite side to maintain radial true. Repeat Steps 1 to 4 until the wheel is both radially and laterally true and under the correct and equal tension all round the wheel.