Wheelbuilding Tutorial–Part 2: Lacing

This tutorial describes how to build a bike wheel, aimed at the novice wanting to build their first wheelset. The tutorial is broken down into the following:

Part 2: Lacing

With rim, nipples, spokes, mulfinger, nipple driver, and spoke prep (two colors if preferred) in hand, we are ready to begin. For the description below, we will refer to the hub/rim/wheel sides as either drive side (DS), the side with the cassette,  and the non drive side (NDS), the side with the disc.

Prep the spokes

    • Dip threads of DS spokes in color-coded spoke prep; ~3/4 of the thread
    • Wipe off excess; air dry
    • Repeat for NDS spokes (different color)
    • If using same color prep, put spokes in separate containers to keep from getting mixed up

Insert key spoke (NDS spoke)

    • Select side of rim to be DS and NDS (usually the side with the rim label is chosen as the DS)
    • Drop a spoke inbound through NDS flange (spoke head on outside of flange)
    • Facing NDS of rim, locate hole to the LEFT of the valve hole
    • Insert key spoke through hole and add nipple with a few turns
    • Add a piece of tape to the key spoke for reference

Insert remaining NDS spokes

    • Put a spoke in every other hole of flange as with the key spoke (spoke going inbound, spoke head on outside of flange)
    • Attach to rim working CCW, every fourth hole, with nipple (3 holes between spokes)


Insert DS spokes

    • Flip the wheel
    • Locate key spoke on flange of the NDS
    • Locate hole offset to RIGHT of key spoke but on DS flange (holes are offset from each other on flanges)


    • Insert inbound spoke and attach to RIGHT of key spoke


    • Drop spokes through every other hole of DS flange (inbound, head on outside of flange)
    • Attach to the rim, working CW, to the right of each NDS spoke


Insert remaining NDS spokes

    • Still facing DS, drop spokes through remaining holes in the (far) NDS flange (insert outbound with spoke heads on inside of NDS flange)
    • Flip wheel (hold onto the spokes or they will drop out)
    • Grab the hub spindle and twist the hub in drive direction; this will rotate the hub and make the spokes more tangential to the hub. It will look something like this (schematic courtesy of sheldonbrown.com):


    • Lace the previously inserted NDS spokes to the rim (for 3 lace, the spoke goes over two spokes, under one and is inserted into the first available hole; for 2 lace, over one, under one)


    • Attach nipples using a Mulfinger tool (or a sharpened spoke) to hold and twist the nipple onto the spoke.

Insert remaining DS spokes

    • From the NDS, drop the remaining DS spokes through the (far) DS flange with the spoke heads on the inside of the flange.
    • Flip the wheel (hold onto the spokes or they will fall out)
    • Lace and attach to rim as done in the previous step

And the lacing is done!


To check if the lacing is right, look for the regular symmetry of the lacing. For example the groups of three spokes or the regular “gap” of spokes.

Next up, truing the wheel (the real work!).

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