SPOKE LACING: What makes Sense and what is Nonsense! Efficiency Comparison using Advanced Engineering software - article comments

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To prevent article pages from being miles long, but preserve all the useful questions and answers provided over time, I've decided to copy/paste the website comments to the forum - and "move" further discussions here.

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SPOKE LACING: What makes Sense and what is Nonsense! Efficiency Comparison using Advanced Engineering software

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  1. Timm
    16/02/2022 at 23:59
    hi Relja,
    The above link to the Facebook document may show a blank page, as the group URL changed since that was posted.
    To have it display again, you can update that link to:
    Just in case, here is also the link to the original post:
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      17/02/2022 at 06:50
      Hi Timm,
      Updated the link – thank you. 🙂
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    22/03/2022 at 11:03
    Any chance of getting the data files used for the FEA software? Github, maybe?
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    05/06/2022 at 17:03
    Hi Relja,just built up another pair of double walled alloy rims,I also discovered that some rim manufactures have changed their rim drillings,I purchased Roger Mussons wheel building book and its pretty much the only book you need as what Roger says is very accurate,Before i built the wheels i tested two spoke calculators out on some older rims i pulled apart just to test the spoke calculator for accuracy,i found Rogers spoke calculator very accurate,also tested the spoke calculator on spokecalc.io site and that one is also very accurate and the guy Aljaz will also respond to your questions,before this i tried Sheldon browns method and that is also accurate,and the way Sheldon built is very much the same way Shimano built wheels before,they mainly built them that way not because you get a stronger wheel it was done that way so your rear mech did not get caught up in the spokes if you were running a very close rear mech,all wheel building methods are just as strong as each other not much difference really,cheers
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    Patrick Mclaughlin
    14/06/2022 at 08:13
    Interesting article. I have a related question concerning spoke lacing on my Roval wheels which I do not understand.
    I note that where the spokes cross, that they are in hard contact with a visible bend in each spoke. Had any pair of these crossed spokes been passed on the other side of each other they would not be in contact and a small gap of about 0.5mm would exist, avoiding wear at contact point and eliminate squeaking under load.
    Is there any sound engineering basis for this lateral contact between spokes? I can only see the downside!
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      14/06/2022 at 11:04
      Hi Patrick,
      That’s a very good question.
      First to define the terms
      By “crossing,” I mean spokes getting in contact – as you mentioned.
      Technically, the term “crossing” refers to how many opposite-side facing spokes are “passed” (i.e. crossed) by a spoke before it reaches the rim (i.e. lacing 2-across or 2X, 3-across etc.), but for brevity and simplicity, I’ll here be using the term “crossing” technically incorrectly.
      Now to explain
      Spoke crossing helps distribute torque more evenly. I’ll use a rear wheel to explain the phenomena:
      As we pedal, the bike’s chain puts some torque on the rear hub, which gets transferred to the rim via the spokes.
      The trailing spokes get more tension, while the leading spokes lose tension.
      When spokes are crossed, this is what happens:
      As the trailing spokes gain tension, they try to straighten even more, and by doing so they pull on the leading spokes at the point where they are crossed.
      This results in the leading spokes gaining a little bit of tension.
      Hence, the leading spokes’ tension reduction due to the pedalling torque transfer is… well… reduced. 🙂
      Which helps prevent them from loosening due to having too little tension.
      At the same time, as far as I can tell, there’s no measurable extra tension gain on the trailing spokes due to the crossed lacing pattern.
      Not all the wheels are built with spokes crossed in this way (again, I’m referring to the spokes making a contact). Some hubs are designed with big lateral gaps between the trailing and leading spoke holes and, depending on the wheel’s diameter and spoke count, crossing spokes becomes technically impossible (it would provide too much of a kink in the spokes). Most motorcycle wheels with very thick, rigid spokes (and rims for that matter) usually come like this. As well as some bicycle “high-end” straight-pull spoke hubs & wheels.
      Squeaking under load
      High quality silver stainless steel spokes are less prone to this.
      Black (or painted in some other colour) spokes are most prone to this.
      The solution is simple, but not permanent: a drop of oil at the intersection point.
      With regular (“ordinary”) hubs, this crossing doesn’t cause any spoke damage (a bit of paint, yes). Spokes will still break at the elbows, or at the nipples.
      For the reasons explained above, I use and recommend this crossing method whenever practically possible (except in the mentioned “exotic” exceptions).
      Hope I’ve explained more than I’ve confused. 🙂
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    20/06/2022 at 18:45
    my short answer is the 3 cross pattern 32 or 36 spoke wheels are very very strong wheels,where the spokes cross and touch actually makes the wheel stronger,dont overthink a wheel build just build them how they are supposed to be built,spokes rubbing against each other is a non issue really
  1. mike
    20/06/2022 at 18:53
    you can also align your spokes better during a wheel build to eliminate those big bows where the spokes rub,and stress relieve the spokes while building your wheels that takes out a little spoke rubbing but you cant get rid of all spokes rubbing all you can do is minimize it
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    23/06/2022 at 09:03
    Hi patrick,I would not worry about spokes rubbing against each other as it does not cause any unusual wearing or problems thats just what a cross three spoke pattern does,many years of riding all my wheels have been 36 or 32 spokes with a cross three pattern,I have never seen a downside to this fail proof pattern,I have never broken a spoke or had a rim fail with this pattern,its a tried and tested pattern over so many years on all types of bikes,its a very popular pattern and i have never seen one fail,cheers
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    25/06/2022 at 05:41
    on factory built wheels with galvanised steel spokes do squeak the most like Relja said but usually they settle down after a while,any wheel i use allways has stainless steel spokes and brass nipples they are very durable.
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    27/06/2022 at 15:39
    Hi Relja on spokecalc.io website there is a tool that will calculate the spoke tension for your wheel builds,you just put in the usual wheel building data hub,rim etc,and it calculates the spoke tension for you on either front wheels and rear wheels,i have never ever seen another tool like this.
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    06/07/2022 at 15:21
    thought i would write an article on my personal wheel builds in the hope of helping other novice wheel builders who are building their first wheels,i am no expert my aim is to just help first time wheel builders,first go buy at least one professional wheel building book,Relja can put you in touch with the right books,they are a must have,i use Roger Mussons book,then these tools are must have tools,a good 3 and 4 sided spoke wrench,a wheel dishing gauge,and a spoke tension meter,i do not play the guitar with my spokes listening to the sound its way more accurate using a spoke tension meter,oil or grease your spokes and your rim as that makes things go alot smoother,dish your wheel.true your wheel and get all spokes within a ten percent range tension of each other,how i do it is when i am not far off final tension i will deliberatly put all my spokes at exact same tension if i am building a symetrical front hub wheel and that does throw out the trueness abit but i re-true before i do those final few spoke turns,if you can find the rim manufactures maximum rim tension then build just below that,on my skinny lighter rims i dont have any rim manufactures details so i aim for safe bet around 115 kgf,have found that to be a very nice tension,most bicycle rims are built between 100 kgf and 130 kgf,i do not worry too much about radial true as none of these bicycle rims are pefectly round anyways,if they are more then 0.5 mm out i might fix the radial true but so far that has not been a big issue for me,more important to dish the wheel,true the wheel lateraly and have your spoke tension uniform all around the wheel,it takes a bit longer to put a tension meter on each spoke but its very accurate,when i build a wheel i stress the spokes all the way through final tensioning,start with an easy wheel like a 36 spoke rim with a 3 cross pattern or even practice on a few older rims first until you get used to building,i will say wheel building is not rocket science but you must follow professional wheel building procedures,its not all that hard to learn,at first i did think that it was rocket science but once i started building and started asking the right questions it became alot easier,there is way too much miss-information concerning wheel building so start with just one method and one professional wheel building book,cheers and have fun building
  1. mike
    06/07/2022 at 15:41
    oops not stress the spoke i meant stress relieving the spokes during final tensioning,one more tip when the wheel is finished i will loosen all spokes one quater of a turn to get rid of any remaing spoke twist,you cant have your spokes staying twisted they will come loose as you ride
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    06/07/2022 at 15:47
    lacing up a wheel does not take all that long and its probably the most enjoyable part,the rest of the build gets a bit fiddly and you must have patients,dont rush it and if you need a break go take a break,follow those wheel building books step by step,do not shortcut anything
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    08/07/2022 at 15:16
    in your wheelbuilding book you will find all the information that you need to build a wheel properly and professionaly,they take you through each step,how to measure the ERD,how to measure front and back hubs correctly even how to do disk brake wheels,when you learn how to measure all your components,hubs and rims then you go find a spoke calculator and put in your hub and rim data and the lacing pattern you are going to be using and you will get back very accurate spoke lengths,then you can start building,the spoke calculator i use is on spokecalc.io and that one is very easy to use and its very accurate if you put in the correct details,also read Relja’s wheel building articles and ask him a question or two if you get stuck,just dont try and build any silly wheels like trying to fit an 8 speed cassette into a 126mm frame
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    08/07/2022 at 15:46
    i dont use any trueing stand at all i just use the bike frame but i geuss a trueing stand would make it abit easier but i have had no problems using the bike frame.
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    12/07/2022 at 10:22
    when i first put the wheel together i will do all spoke nipples up so they just cover all the spoke threads,then i will only do half a turn of the spoke wrench after that all around the wheel until i get some tension on the spokes,after that is done i will do only 1/4 turns after that the rest of the way through the build,allways keeping an eye on the dish and trueness as i increase the spoke tension,lateral trueness is easy to do and i can get that much better than 0.2 mm i can get that allmost perfect,also i can get the dish allmost perfect with my dishing gauge,i will check the dish many times during the build and one final time when the build is finished,the very last step i do is put a tension meter on every single spoke and just make sure there are no loose spokes and none that are way to tight.
  1. mike
    12/07/2022 at 10:27
    i have tried using one of those nipple driving bits that are supposed to put all nipples at the same depth but i found that tool a waste of time and it was easier and faster to do the nipples up with a normal screwdriver just past the spoke threads,i did buy a professional nipple driver bit but i guess i will never use that one again
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    12/07/2022 at 11:24
    if you need a very strong wheel to carry extra weight on your bicycle like heaps of shopping or similar then build a 36 spoke cross 3 pattern rim using 14 gauge round stainless steel spokes with brass nipples and use a deeper section double walled alloy rim,those wheels will be very strong,i would not use any other pattern.
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    13/07/2022 at 08:43
    Hi Relja,due to the worldwide spoke shortage and some spoke manufactures not being able to supply me with correct length spokes i was thinking of rolling my spoke threads myself as i have many spare stainless steel spokes,have you used any of these spoke thread tools and if so what ones do you recommend,cheers
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      Relja Novović
      13/07/2022 at 11:34
      Hi Mike,
      A local bike shop has one and they used it on a few occasions, while it was still relatively new, to machine me some exotic spoke lengths.
      I haven’t used it enough to confirm the quality, but while it was new (not sure about sharpening, spare parts etc. either) it worked well.
      As you said – the machines that roll threads are a good choice. Those that cut threads are not.
      If memory serves me, the good ones are priced in thousands, not hundreds of dollars.
      Only one shop in my city has a good one – don’t know which brand or model it is though. 🙁
      But I’d ask about local bike shops if I were to buy one – to see what they got and how well it works.
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    13/07/2022 at 13:05
    Hi Relja,thanks for that speedy reply,in australia we can only buy a phil woods spoke cutter and thread roller,that one is around $7000 so i geuss i wont get that one but only a few bicycle stores here use that tool and its abit hard to actually locate a store that has one,i have been looking on the web and they sell a japanese hozan spoke thread roller and that one is around $200 and there is a cyclo one that does the same and just rolls a thread and that one is also around $200,both of these ones only roll a thread and not actually cut the spoke, so i will keep looking on the web,big shortage of spokes here at the moment and i am digging out my second hand spokes to complete a few builds,thanks for your reply Relja i just thought you may have used a few,cheers
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    18/04/2023 at 12:47
    Hi Relja, the study at the end of this comment contradicts your finding that 3×3 is the most laterally stiff lacing pattern. Figures 5 to 7 summarize radial, lateral and tangential stiffness.
    Bicycle Wheel Spoke Patterns and Spoke Fatigue 1 Henri P. Gavin, Associate Member ASCE2, URL: https://people.duke.edu/~hpgavin/papers/HPGavin-Wheel-Paper.pdf
  1. Nic
    19/04/2023 at 17:42
    Hi Relja,
    this paper seems to contradict your conclusion that 3x is the lacing pattern that leads to the most lateral stiffness: https://people.duke.edu/~hpgavin/papers/HPGavin-Wheel-Paper.pdf
    Fig 5-7 are particularly insightful.
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      20/04/2023 at 07:10
      Hi Nic,
      That’s interesting. Thank you. 🙂
      The article discusses 36-spoke wheels (as the angle of spokes depends on their total count, along with the number of crosses).
      The article talks about the 2x lacing pattern being more radially stiff. Radial deflection is negligible to begin with regardless of the lacing pattern. And the paper says there is less than 2% difference in radial stiffness between 2x, 3x and 4x lacing.
      However, for torsional loads, it states that stiffness increases as the number of crosses increases. That does align with the conclusion of this article.
      Regarding lateral stiffness, it claims that more crosses result with lower stiffness, but lower spoke strains as well. A quote from the conclusion:
      “From a theoretical analysis, a numerical analysis, static experimental analysis, and in-service
      measurements, the spoke strains appear to be insensitive to the pattern of the spoke lacing. From a
      numerical analysis, the spoking pattern has the greatest impact on the spoke strains when the wheel is
      subjected to large lateral loads, such as during cornering. In this case, wheels with longer spokes (i.e. more crosses – Relja’s edit) have
      lower strains than do wheels with shorter spokes”
      With all that being said, the number of spokes, rim’s and frame’s stiffness is what affects stiffness far more than the lacing pattern (spoke thickness plays a big part as well, of course, regardless of the number of crosses and the lacing pattern). In a similar way that tyre flexibility gives a lot more comfort than any radial rim flex (i.e. in terms of comfort, rim’s radial stiffness is negligible).
      Also, a lacing pattern with spokes laced as close to tangential as possible (without spokes overlapping the heads of adjacent spokes, which is number of crosses = the number of spokes divided by 9 and rounded down, and in 4-spoke increments, of course) gives the longest spoke life as the stress on the elbows (the critical stress point) is reduced.
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    20/04/2023 at 12:29
    Hi Relja,
    that makes sense (also accounting for strain). Would you agree that with a higher number of crossings (longer spokes) the strain on the wheel (at the spoke holes) is also reduced (similar to the reduction of strain on the spokes)?
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      20/04/2023 at 15:43
      Hi Nic,
      Spoke elbows are a critical point and extra stress there results in spokes breaking. If a spoke twists more at the elbow (as it does when a wheel is laced radially or with too few spokes), that doesn’t result in much extra stress on the rim’s side (due to spoke’s flexibility). So it would not be a concern for me.
      Also, I think that stress at the rim’s spoke holes has more to do with spoke’s angle compared to the flange, than it does with its length. Though I’d need to bash my head a bit more on that. It is an interesting question. 🙂
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    29/05/2023 at 15:47
    Hi Relja,Roger Mussons 8th wheel building book is ready for a download,if you have downloaded previous editions from Rogers website you get future editions for free,I just downloaded the 8th edition and had a good read,not many changes in this edition,cheers
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    02/06/2023 at 13:34
    Hi Relja,I just did a test on two spoke calculators,Roger Mussons and the one at spokecalc.io,I put in exact same details on both,on Rogers new calculator i got a spoke length of 305.1 mm and on spokecalc.io I got a spoke length of 305.63,these two spoke calculators are very easy to use,cheers
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    11/06/2023 at 10:43
    what about having the drive spokes with heads in or outside of flanges?
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      11/06/2023 at 16:58
      Hi Karl,
      That is a matter of personal preference when lacing – with no practical difference on modern bikes. At least in my opinion and experience.
      In theory, it could affect disc brake caliper or rear derailleur clearance when under braking or driving torque, but I’m yet to see a bike where that clearance is small enough for that to make a difference.
  1. Froust
    19/06/2023 at 13:18
    Thank you so much for this article. Also maybe you could help, but what do you think about rims that doesn’t have holes but have steel spokes vs rims with holes and carbon spokes, what do you think should be stiffer in theory?
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      19/06/2023 at 17:59
      Hi Froust,
      Stiffness depends on many different variables.
      In and of itself, rims with no holes just help with tubeless tyre sealing, and make wheel building a lot more frustrating. Apart from that, all else being equal, they are not inherently stiffer (or less stiff) than the regular rims with normal spoke eyelets.
      When it comes to carbon fibre – it has some awesome properties. The problem is how to tighten a spoke made of carbon fibre, without that being a weak link (some attachment and tightening system is needed), negating most of the advantages of using carbon fibre in the first place. As far as I know, it’s still not solved. Though some wheels come built with carbon spokes (i.e. spokes are built along with the rim, no way to replace a spoke or true the wheel), and such wheels can use all the advantages (and disadvantages) of carbon as a material. Too exotic and needlessly expensive for my taste. But such wheels can be very stiff, without being too heavy, nor creating too much air drag (they needn’t have a huge number of spokes).
      The question is how much stiffness does one really need. Also, it would be much better and easier to just start making 7-speed (or 5-speed for that matter) hubs again. Paired with modern rear dropout spacing, such narrow cassettes would allow for some quite wide flanges, and provide a lot of lateral stiffness. But that’s not easy to sell nor make much money out of, so no one even considers it. Now, we’re on the way of adding more and more sprockets, because the marketing team of a company that couldn’t make a very good front derailleur has managed to convince consumers that front derailleurs are old-fashioned and a bad thing to have on a bike. 🙂
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    19/06/2023 at 16:54
    Hi Relja,i have built wheels using most of the patterns about for 36 and 32 spoke wheels,does not matter how you build a wheel as long as it is true,round and dished and has uniform spoke tension,i even tried lacing with the asymetrical spoke pattern,I allways go back to Roger Mussons method as that method is much easier to lace with and it runs smooth,I tried park tool method,shimano method,Sheldon Browns method and many other methods,all methods will get you a nice built wheel,if there was one standout method then every one would be lacing wheels the same way,shimano did recommend building rear disk brakes their way but did shimano ever prove their method is better?Then Sheldon said his way was better but did either back that up with technical docs?dont over think a wheel build just build that wheel the best you can using any method that works,32 or 36 spokes cross 3 fail proof pattern.If your learning to build steer clear of exotic hubs and straight pull hubs,dont forget to check your build with a spoke tension meter,make sure the rim you are using can handle the tension you end up using,if you might need to adjust the tension down the track then do it without the tire on the rim,usually a well tensioned wheel does not need touching for along time,oil or grease the spoke threads and rim holes,no need to use threadlock or locking nipples,a well build wheel does not move much at all,cheers
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    17/07/2023 at 04:26
    Hi Relja,
    Thank you for the excellent article. I read it looking for information to help me decide the best pattern to use for a set of wheels I plan to build for my Bike Friday (406 wheels). These are to be for club / road riding on hopefully good roads. The wheels the bike came with are 36 hole, 3 cross. It would seem from this article, that the best choice would for me to use 2 cross rather than 3 cross:
    “The ideal angle is for the spoke to arrive at the hub’s flange tangentially. This works out to cross-3 in a 32 or 36-hole hub [ 2 ], cross-2 or 3 on a 28-hole hub, and cross-3 or 4 on the older 40-hole hubs (presuming the rims are 622/700c, as smaller sizes such as 451 will typically take 1 cross less)”
    Am I understanding correctly? I have noticed that when I look at the spokes as they thread into the nipples, there is a definite bend. Not huge, but visible. Again, this looks to support the 2 cross choice.
    Also, is there enough difference in strength that staying with 36 hole vs either 28 or 32 matters?
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      17/07/2023 at 15:52
      Hi Rick,
      The maximum number of crosses is affected by the number of holes (i.e. the number of spokes). The idea is to have spokes as close to tangential, without the spokes overlapping the adjacent spoke’s head.
      My article “Bicycle wheel building basics” explains the hows and whys in more detail.
      For smaller rims, the spoke entry angle (into the rim) becomes a concern. Generally, you want to keep it below 10 degrees, ideally below 7. It is not a huge issue, as you can manually bend the spoke at the rim entry point (and that is what I advise doing when building wheels, whenever needed, by pressing crossed spoke pairs towards each other).
      This spoke calculator calculates the spoke entry angle:
      Regarding the wheel’s strength: all else being equal, the more spokes, the stronger and stiffer a wheel. I see no point in building wheels with fewer than 36 spokes, unless it’s for a competition (though, even in that case, without a very good support team, I’d rather ride more reliable wheels).
      Is that enough difference? For me, it is. On a 36-spoke wheel, a single spoke breaking often doesn’t even cause any rim brake rub. With 32 spokes or fewer, the wheel comes out of true enough to cause some brake rub or worse (chainstay rub or similar, depending on the particular frame, tyre width, rim stiffness etc.).
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