Skip to main content
000798 000801 000804 000807 000810 000813 000816 000819 000822 000825 000828 000831 000834 000837 000840 000843 000846 000849 000852 000855 000858 000861 000864 000867 000870 000873 000876 000879 000882 000883
English French German Italian Spanish

Wheel lacing

I started my latest rebuild of my '70 Commando whilst I was living in Italy. When I got to the (oversized) rear wheel I realised the rim was shot and had a new one and some 4mm stainless spokes flown out. All quite easy (pre brexit).  Then came the hard part, finding somone to lace it up. Despite the large British bike following out there, it took me months to find someone to do it, but finally I found myself on the 4 hour drive from my home to get it done in Milan. The problem is that not being familiar with British bikes and despite having the old wheel still intact, the technician (very understandably) thought the original had been done wrong, as you would if you look at the drillings of all british bike hubs. So he corrected the mistake and laced it up as per the photo.

I contacted Richard Hoyland at Central Wheel Components and he said its fine like this too, but I'm getting cold feet now that its nearly finished and its getting close to the time to actually ride it. 

Whilst I trust Richards' experience, can anyone else with knowledge and experience of wheel building give me a second opinion? I've noticed that the outer spokes seem to be under some tension where they cross over the inner spokes.

Many thanks for any reassurance you can give me. 


... thing I can see that all the spokes have been put in from the outside. They should alternate inside / outside. I would not be happy with your wheelbuilder whatever he's used to - in my experience all wheels alternate whichever part of the globe they come from. That's why you're getting that tension. It also looks as though the spokes only cross twice - I would have expected 3 times but am not familiar with the Commando pattern.

Central Wheel are normally very good and I've used them several times but I know some people have had poor experiences.

I build my own wheels - it's easy enough if you're careful and take copious photos / notes / measurements. The Vintage Motorcyclists' Workshop by Radco has details of a jig which makes life even easier.

Hello Ian. Thanks for your responce. I agree that it just doesn't seem right or at least not typical, but I suppose the question also is, is it safe? Once I've got it back on the road I can ride it to a wheelbuilder where its easier to have something done about it if necessary I just dont want all the spokes breaking on the maiden voyage. 


I am not expert, but did you buy spokes that were all identical, particularly the bend near the hub? You should be able to see on the wheel whether there are two types of bend, in which case I expect they were made to sit half on inside , half outside.

    My Commando rear has alternate in/out from hub. They cross once very close to hub, and then again 2/3 of way out to rim, approx.  That wheel has been to the top of Norway and back on it’s first proper trip, so it works well!!


One spoke in the photo looks bent where it passes the adjoining spoke. Have a closer look, if the spokes are stressed over each other then it is clearly not correct. 


That just looks so wrong...Even bicycles don't do that...Spokes from the same side of a flange surely never cross each other ?

You may be the Human Guinea Pig on this one !


I have three old Norton wheels, they all pass twice and are INSIDE OUTSIDE. There is inside and outside spokes as well.

By the way I have an 18"steel rim, straight needs chroming, does any one want it for free?


Whoever has laced up this wheel has tried to copy the British lacing pattern for an early Norton Commando but has ended up with a dogs dinner. I can see quite a few spokes that are threaded in from the wrong side. bent, crossed and rubbing other spokes.  The attachments show the early Commando wheel spoking pattern. You do not win a prize fro spotting the missing spoke.



With the oblique picture it's not clear but the pattern looks conventional. But I've never seen all spokes from one side. The cross over means that the head of each alternate spoke is being pulled sideways from the rim.   If that means they bend under load, the fatigue life will be smaller. I suspect it might be safe, but won't last long.  Just looked at web pics of Laverda (random Italian bike) and their spoking looks just like Phil's first picture. Not the one with missing spokes...


I have only built 6 wheels  ,and I would not be happy with that.   I have had issues with Central in the past  supplying rims that could not be spoked  in the same pattern as  Bracebridge St used. I doubt it would collapse  with  light use  for a limited period.  But you are never going to be happy with it. 


Thanks everyone for your input.

It seems unanimous that its a bit too unusual for comfort.  I think Robert sums it up...I'm never going to be happy with it... and in fact I'm not happy with it now so I may as well scrap it and start again. Shame because, including an over nighter to Milan and the cost of the new rim and spokes plus shipping, it has cost an absolute fortune.


Even Central Wheel are not without issues, they move away from the OEM setup but do not tell you. The only reason I can find for the changes are to make life easier for them not the end user. Changing from 4 sets of 10 spokes to 2 sets of 20 spokes is their normal trick. 


The spoke patterns make so little difference to how the wheel behaves that the pattern actually used has always been chosen largely for the cost/convenience of manufacture.

Hi Ian,  I just had a look and I started this rebuild in 2017 in Italy and now I have moved back to the UK but I have a house to rebuild and a garage to build too. I am saddened that it just sits in the back room, I just dont have time to play with things like that right now. Lovely idea though! 

Hi John,

I am back in the UK now and coincidently only an hour from Central Wheels so I think I'll get them to sort it out. Just to keep the record straight though, Central Wheel Components only supplied the rim and spokes for me in Italy, I had it laced by a company in Milan called Scardino. 


I feel sorry for you Graham!  All that trouble and expense and you'll have to rebuild the wheel again!  What an odd way to lace a wheel.  Spokes should not bend over each other at any cost and should not chafe.  The chap you used should have looked at a photo first!  It's a good tip for any of us who need a wheel rebuild as we now know some of the pitfalls that we might not have known before.  Thanks for that.  The definition of "Live and learn" eh?  LOL!

Hi Lionel

Not only could he have looked at a pitcure of almost any british bike but he had the original rim still laced to the hub. As well as changing the way it was, he recut and threaded half the spokes to make them fit his way AND charged me extra for the extra work. As I remember it cost €75 when it would normally have cost half of that! I just cant imagine why anyone would do that. Grrrrrrr....


I once spent some time looking into cycle wheel building and did my own several times.  There are books about it, full of weird theories. Clearly it attracts obsessive types who feel a desperate need to re-invent the wheel.  He probably thought he had invented yet another better wheel.

For bicycles there is an amazing number of alternatives.  The only real difference is in appearance, and unnecessary complications like different spoke lengths.  But in your case he unnecessarily increased the bending stresses in half the spokes  which will shorten their fatigue life.  He's probably out there still building...

Hi Graham

Having read all the posts, but this one this raises the most alarming part of this saga.

Having recut and threaded the spokes. They will unfortunately be scrap.

Spokes have a rolled thread and re-cutting them is a no-no.

I lace my own rims, and only use Devon rims. Been bitten twice by CWS.

Btw front disc Commando wheels are the worst that  I've ever done.

Good luck

Thanks John. It just gets worse the more I read. I'm sure it will survive a few trips so I will ride it somewhere and have it re-done as soon as I can. 

Thanks for following it through and for your (and everyone elses) advice and comments. 


Norton Owners Club Website by White-Hot Design

Privacy Policy