Lace A 80 Spoke Motorcycle Rims

Spoked wheels are still as cool as they are practical.

Wheel lacing isn’t quite a lost art the way that, say, polar bear boxing might be — but it’s pretty close. Spoke wheels reigned supreme once at the dawn of the automobile motorcycle and automobile, when human labor was cheaper than machine tools and aluminum hadn’t gotten as strong and reliable as it is today. More than 100 years after the first motorcycles, the traditional spoke wheel remains a contender for its strength, light weight and low material costs. But spoke wheels don’t lace themselves — and that’s where good old human labor comes back into play.


1. Identify the parts of your wheel. You have a center hub with two sets of holes drilled into the flange on either side and an outer rim with another 80 holes. The 80-spoke rim uses spokes of two different lengths; long inner spokes, and shorter outer spokes. The spokes on a 16-inch Harley Davidson 80-spoke, for instance, measure 5.19-inch for the outer and 5.59 inches for the inner spokes. Before anything, separate the spokes by length, and keep the nuts nearby.

2. Place your wheel hub on a table with the brake side facing up and push the outer (shorter) spokes down through each of the outer hub holes on the top flange. The spokes don’t fasten to the hub; a stop on the end of the angled tip keeps them from going all the way through. As you push the spokes through, turn them so that they all angle clockwise. When you’re done, the assembly should look like it’s “spinning” counter-clockwise.

3. Center the rim over the hub assembly, and lower it to the table. Pick up the spoke that falls just to the left (counter-clockwise direction) of the valve stem hole, and push it through the hole just to the left of the valve stem. Hand thread the spoke nipple onto the end of the spoke from the outside of the rim. Continue around the wheel in this manner, installing all of the outer spokes and loosely installing the spoke nipples. Do not turn the rim or hub before you install all of the spokes. The outer spokes should land in every fourth hole in the rim.

4. Install the first inner (long) spoke, angling it counter-clockwise and crossing it under four outer spokes (running the opposite direction). Install all of the inner spokes in this manner, again, inserting them into every fourth hole above the rim center-line. Loosely install the spoke nipples. Carefully flip the rim over and repeat steps two and three on the other side.