Hey everyone, Max here. A couple of days ago I was walked through the process of lacing a wheel and then learned how to tension it correctly. I’m making this post maybe to impart some new knowledge but mostly to share some of the nuances and observations about the process that surprised me.
Leading spokes and trailing spokes…
A fair bit of jargon must be acquired before you can really begin threading a hub. On either side of the hub, drive side or non, there are two types of spokes that provide support in different situations. Leading spokes are the spokes that point forward towards the front of the bike relative to the trailing spokes which point to the back.
On either side of a hub, you will always alternate leading and trailing. When you take into consideration that both sides of the hub have a lead and trail spoke, you will end up with a pattern of four spokes when it comes time to threading them into the rim. For instance this pattern would go like, drive side lead, non drive side trail, drive side trail then non drive lead before repeating.
What was once a pile of spokes, hub and rim may actually resemble a wheel after everything is threaded in place. But without any tension on the spokes the rim is as fragile as ever. This is where we would put a wheel on a stand, and start the first round of preliminary tension. For me, this would be like getting all of the nipples tightened until you can’t see the threads on the spoke anymore. The most important part of this process is tightening everything down as evenly as possible and taking note of any irregularity along the way.
After truing my first wheel, I left the experience with an entirely new understanding of the wheels that keep me rolling. One of the biggest surprises/ findings that intrigued me, had to do with pulling a wheel into true. While a wheel is on the stand you can see all of the places where the rim is getting pulled too hard to one side. For instance, if the calipers show me that the wheel is getting pulled too far to the drive side, then I got to the non drive side spokes in this part of the rim and apply more tension to them. Amazingly, as you apply tension to the spokes on one side of the hub, the wheel will actually start to get pulled over and bend ever so slightly to that side.
It takes quite some time to go around an entire wheel, smoothing out any imperfections in an even manner. After I’ve gone around a wheel once and gotten it to the best of my ability, I have to put stress on the spokes to bed them in, hopefully getting them to sit more flush against the hub flanges. After doing this de-stress, you will find that the wheel is once again, completely out of true, but don’t worry we are getting closer to having a functional wheel.
After multiple sessions of tensioning, and relieving stress from the spokes, you will eventually get to a place where everything feels completely solid and in place. The wheel should have no awkward wobbles in it, and after pulling and pushing on the spokes, the wheel should remain true. At this point you can finally say that you have built your first wheel, Nate seems to deem this achievement as being yellow belt worthy. I still have a long way to go before that black belt, it’s a good thing that building up a wheel is so fun because I have a feeling I have a lot more to do.