In the family of skills broadly known as motorcycle building, many skills are a subspecialty in themselves. We can learn each of these individually and do reasonably well though we may never reach the proficiency of those who decide to practice their art and become true masters, metal shaping being one of the best examples. Lacing wheels, on the other hand, though certainly not easy, is something we can learn to do, if we have a bit of patience and don’t mind attending to detail. It’s easy to do poorly and the wheel, though it may look OK, will be weak, but if we do it right the finished wheel can be amazingly strong.
I remember reading the Cycle World magazine build up of a Yamaha Vmax back in the late ’80s, where the stock wheels were replaced with custom laced units and they proceeded to run sub 10 second quarter miles with nary a broken spoke. Impressive. Many European cars have long run the classic wire wheels with center knock offs and when you think of the torque applied and side loads in the turns, you begin to respect how strong a well laced wheel can be.
Though I have never tried my hand at a motorcycle wheel, I’ve replaced many, many spokes on bicycles and found the process to be a bit more complex than it at first appears, truing and tensioning are a back and forth puzzle that can quickly frustrate the less patient among us.
I came across this step by step description of a fellow rebuilding the wheel from a Royal Enfield with photos of each step. So far he has the wheel together, the truing will be covered in part two. We’ll see how patient and thorough he is when the wheel is finally done but he seems to doing OK so far.
So what have your experiences been with spokes and rims? Any pros out there with words of advice for those of us who might like to give it a try?