August 2000 Tech 
Home / Features / Wheel lacing
   Indian Wheel Lacing, part 1
   By Paul Bartholomew
Wheel building is almost an art, and as I am not an expert on the subject, I encourage someone with more experience to follow up here with an addendum to correct anything I may have gotten wrong, or to replace this text entirely, if needed.

With that said, let me offer the following on lacing a late Indian wheel. Some people may be put off by the fact that Indian wheels are not trued to the center, and actually have quite a bit of offset.  This varies quite a bit depending on the year (2 15/16” on pre ’46 wheels and 2 5/16” on ‘46-’53).  Don’t let this put you off, just realize it – the work of lacing is the same either way. 

At this stage in the availability of repro parts, most people will start with buying replacement spokes in sets (ideally stainless).  The reason for this is that there are actually four slightly different lengths of spokes used in lacing these wheels.  As you might suspect, they are the “sets” of inside/brakeside, inside/farside, outside/brakeside and outside/farside, where "inside" refers to lacing in a way that the spoke is coming from the inside part of the hub. 

Harley spokes generally won’t work, as they are not quite the right length, and they increase in diameter too much in the area that goes through the hub.  For the hardcores or those on a fixed income, you can get universal spokes much, much cheaper that you cut to length and thread yourself.  I’ve known people who have even cut down longer spokes from another bike, though you have to consider several things when doing this, and it is really not recommended unless you get a really close match because of all the stresses involved.  See below*  for the things you will have to consider if going that way.

If you do choose stainless, much frustration can be avoided by using lubricant especially for stainless steel.  You can’t do the job without it!

The things you are striving for are the proper pattern, proper offset, concentricy and trueness.  For the first two issues, take a look at the drawings or an original wheel.  For concentricy, it is initially set by the “inside” sets of spokes, while the “outside” sets are used more to pull the wheel into true.  Of course, they all need to come together in the end with all the above factors plus proper tension.

Lacing itself is easy, but takes a while.  So, if you just want to do that much – then turn it over to a pro for truing, you can save a few bucks.

We will take up truing in the next of what we hope will be a series of wheelbuilding articles.  If anyone has done some non-standard improvements to bearings, axles, or has adapted disc brakes, please forward a decription to either Dave Clements or me for possible inclusion in future writeups.

* Things to think about when selecting generic spokes
Unless you plan on doing more than a couple of wheels, this probably won’t be a viable option, as you’ll see below, and you’ll need at least one original spoke to examine and compare. Following are five points to consider: (1) All spokes don’t necessarily make a 90degree bend at the bottom.  90 degrees is probably the exception, rather than the rule as variations are needed to account for the width and diameter of the hub (and rim diameter).  You’ll want to match Indian’s bend as close as possible.  (2) The length after the bend will vary by an amazing amount, even with two different steel wheels, (spokes used with alloy wheels can usually be ruled out immediately as the bent amount will be too long to accommodate the wider flanges that alloy wheels require – even when recessed).   (3) The diameter will also have to be matched.  There are 3 or 4 “standard” diameters, and most enlarge on the hub end.  Late Chief spokes are some of the smallest diameter ones out there (earlier ones were some of the fattest), and that might mean ruling out an otherwise perfect generic spoke.  (4) You will need to purchase a spoke “threader” – you can’t use conventional taps, as you may know, the threads on a spoke are raised.  This means the metal was displaced, rather than cut away, providing a stronger thread.  Fortunately, these threaders are not too much.

More wheel lacing info here (mostly for bicycles, but interesting): 
Spoke length calculations  Lacing and truing

Click on pictures for full size

Step-by-step Wheel Lacing

What you start with

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

What you want to get

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