A spoke wheel is a thing of beauty. Here at Garage Night, you can’t tell us otherwise. Cast wheels might be acceptable if you ride a road toad, but if you’ve got spokes, you’ve got class.
Just think, each thin metal spine is fragile on its own, but strong enough when laced together with a bunch of buddies to bear several times the weight of your bike when you’re full on the brakes, or keep your wheel from crumpling when you smash through a wash-out. And no matter how you try, for elegance of both form and function a cast or billet wheel can’t come close.
An old, neglected spoke wheel is NOT a thing of beauty, though – as I found when I bought a complete secondhand USD fork front end for my bike and discovered the seller had been less than honest about its condition. The Garage Night guys were never going to let me put it together in that state. So the wheel had to come apart.
At first the plan was to whip out the spokes, paint the hub, tidy up the rim and put it all back together – even retaining the original spokes, but with new nipples. It all went pear-shaped when we discovered how horribly seized the spokes and nipples were. You can see us locked in battle with the wheel in the episodes linked above.
Anyway. When I had it all ready to go back together – with new spokes and nipples from Hagon – Trent was the man to see. As a mechanic he spent some years respoking rims on everything from farm bikes to dirt squirters and classic cars.
It all looks horribly complicated – you’ve got the spokes lying like a pile of uncooked spaghetti on the bench, a packet of stubby little nipples and no assembled wheel (or photograph) to go by.
But Trent breaks down the job in typically methodical fashion, showing how to figure out the spoke pattern, then screw in the new nipples and “true up” the wheel to eliminate both lateral and radial run-out (in plain speak, that’s making sure the rim doesn’t wobble up and down or side to side).
Before you go ripping apart your wheel, there are some things you need to check. The hub and rim may be offset. This is best measured by placing a long straight edge along either the disc mounting surface or bearing face, and measuring at 90 degrees down from the straight edge where it crosses the edge of the rim. You’ll see what we mean in this episode.
You need to reproduce this offset when you tighten the new spokes and “true up” the wheel. Most bikes have the hub centred laterally but some have an offset, and there may be different lengths or bends in the spokes to achieve this.
As always, watch the episode and you’ll get the full picture. For me, the next step is to collect all the nuts, bolts and bits needed to get my twin-disc USD front end on my Cagiva Elefant. It’s a race between me and Richard – his BMW F650 is getting a USD front from a KTM 950 Adventure. Ooh-aah, you say. Well, stay tuned.