Over the last few years I have experimented with different multi-speed rear wheel lacing patterns, working to find one that improves the lateral strength of the drive side of these rear wheels without sacrificing performance or reliability. This led to mixed lacing patterns, a wheel built with a different lacing on each side of the wheel. Two patterns were discovered that added lateral strength to the drive side without causing any unwanted conditions such as the wheel easily going out of true. These mixed lacing's are the 2-cross/3-cross pattern and the half Crow's Foot pattern. These patterns will be discussed in this chapter. This chapter will also discuss the common half radial lacing, which if done properly can also increase drive side lateral strength. At the end of this chapter I will discuss my recommendations of how to use these patterns from my experience and with them.
When building a wheel with a mixed lacing it is the easiest to work on one side at a time. I do not consider a mixed lacing to be a wise lacing pattern to use for a wheel other than a multi-speed rear wheel, such as front disc brake wheels, rear wheels with internally geared hubs, or single speed rear wheels.
THIS CHAPTER IS ARRANGED INTO
THE FOLLOWING SECTIONS:
HALF RADIAL LACING
HALF CROW'S FOOT LACING
The half radial rear wheel mixed lacing pattern has become fairly popular over the last few years with pre-built bicycle wheel manufacturers. If done properly this lacing can offer increased drive side lateral strength, when compared to a standard, fully crossed, rear wheel pattern. Ironically most of the manufactured rear wheels with this mixed lacing are done backwards, the non drive side is radially laced. The biggest problem with multi-speed rear wheels is the imbalance of the lateral strength's, this causes the majority, if not all, of the problems that plague these wheels. It is beyond my comprehension why someone would do a special lacing that does not work to correct this problem.
A radial lacing has the highest lateral strength of any lacing pattern. This is covered in the RADIAL LACING INFORMATION chapter. A multi-speed rear wheel that is half radially laced, with the non drive side being the side with the radial lacing, can only have increased imbalance in the lateral strengths of the two sides of the wheel. The radial spokes on the non drive side will also need a lower build tension when compared to a standard wheel. Since radial lacing has the highest lateral strength, the spokes do not need to be as tight to counter the lateral forces from the drive side in order to achieve a true wheel. Also, with the non drive side spokes even looser than normal, the likelihood that the wheel will go out of true from road shock is increased.
A properly built half radial rear wheel will be radially laced on the drive side. It would also be best to lace the drive side so the spoke heads are on the inside of the flange.
When you lace a wheel half radial you can use almost any crossing pattern on the non drive side. The only crossing that would probably not be a good idea to use for most rear wheels would be 1-cross. The 1-cross lacing has the poorest drive torque transfer strength of any crossed lacing, and depending on the situation, a half radial wheel built with this crossing pattern could suffer from the same problems as a full radially laced rear wheel, it could absorb drive power and overstresses the spokes. This would be true for typical 28, 32 and 36, or more, spoke wheels. If you are building a low spoke count wheel, 24 spokes or less, a 1-cross lacing could be OK to use on the non drive side, it would depend on the wheel and the intended use.
Either a 2-cross or 3-cross lacing for the non drive side of a typical wheel laced half radial would be fine. The 3-cross might give slightly more balanced lateral strength. If you are building a 36 spoke (or more) rear wheel half radial a 4-cross lacing could work. 4-cross lacing on most 32 and some 36 spoke wheels can have problems, though, of how the spokes will rest on the head of the first spoke it crosses. If the spokes rest on another's head this could create high stresses on the spokes that can shorten their life. It depends on the diameter of the hub flange and the rim that is being used.
Whatever lacing you use for the non drive side, this side becomes the side that transfers all of the drive torque from the hub to the rim. Since the number of spokes responsible for transferring the drive torque is one fourth the number of spokes in the wheel, the 'pull' spokes do undergo increased drive torque stresses. The stresses placed on these spokes when transferring power does momentarily stretch them slightly. As one would expect, these stresses cycle from a maximum when the pedals are near horizontal, to a minimum when the pedals are vertical. The stress reactions on the 'pull' spokes cause the radial spokes momentary increases in tension. But these stresses are very small, unlike a fully radially laced rear wheel, and do not cause any immediate problems.
One should realize, however, that since only 1/4 of the spokes of a half radial rear wheel transfer the driving torque, they see twice the drive torque stresses as compared to the 'pull' spokes of a standard wheel. The stresses on the radial spokes can also be larger than normal due to the physics of how the hub and rim move (slightly) in relation to each other which causes a large leverage action on these spokes. This all adds up to a wheel that will probably not have a useful life as long as this same wheel would have if it was conventionally laced. It is my opinion that this lacing is also the least favorable mixed lacing to use for increased lateral strength balance of a multi-speed rear wheel. On the other hand, it definitely will have better lateral strength than if the wheel was laced conventionally. These are things to think about when trying to decide which lacing pattern to use for your wheel.
A mixed lacing pattern I discovered that works very well for balancing rear wheel lateral strengths is the 2-cross/3-cross lacing. This pattern uses 2-cross lacing on the non drive side and 3-cross lacing on the drive side. The non drive side spokes end up being shorter than the drive side spokes, a condition that causes theoretical force vector triangles that counteracts the dish offset of the wheel. This theoretical triangle is comprised of the real force vectors of the spokes and a theoretical force vector across the hub.
The figure to the right is a simplified version of the theoretical force vector triangles created by this lacing. The RED lines represent the force vectors of the spokes, and the BLUE line represents the force vector of the theoretical third side of the triangle. The location of a 3-cross length spoke on the non drive side is indicated by the GREEN spoke head for your reference. The PURPLE line, which is perpendicular to the BLUE force vector, indicates that the rim is closer to the non drive side of this theoretical force vector triangle.
Having a theoretical force vector triangle with the opposite circumstances of the actual triangles formed by drive and non drive spoke pairs works against the imbalance caused by the dish offset. A wheel built like this still has the drive side spokes under greater tension, but the difference in the tensions is not as great as they would be if the wheel was laced conventionally. Since the spoke tensions do not vary as much, the wheel has lateral strength characteristics that are more balanced than typical. It has been my experience that these wheels do hold true much better than conventionally laced (all 3-cross) multi-speed rear wheels.
Another pattern that uses this same concept would be a 3-cross non drive side with 4-cross drive side lacing. I would expect this mixed lacing to have similar consequences, drive and non drive side spoke tensions closer than typical, resulting in better lateral strength balance and better reliability.
Thanks to feedback and idea exchange with one of the early visitors to this site, Zak Hoffer, a lacing pattern was developed that I feel makes for a rear wheel that is the strongest one possible for most spoked rear wheels. The pattern combines the principles of the 2-cross/3-cross rear lacing discussed above with the Crow's Foot pattern discussed in the CROW'S FOOT LACING chapter. The only rear wheels where this pattern, or a variation of it, would not work would be the very low spoke count rear wheels that are now available, and those rear wheels that do not use standard spokes.
Like the Crow's Foot pattern, this mixed lacing can be easily built on wheels with a spoke count divisible by 6, such as 24, 36 and 48 spoke wheels. Since 48 spoke hubs/rims aren't that common, and 24 spoke wheels are typically pre-built, this leaves 36 spoke hubs and rims the most readily available for building new wheels with this lacing. This lacing can, of course, be used to rebuild existing wheels, which would be a possibility for a 24 spoke wheel. I have also developed a way to use this lacing on 32 spoke wheels, but I do not feel it would be appropriate with 28 spoke wheels. I will discuss 24, 28, 32 and 48 spoke lacing's after I discuss this lacing on a 36 spoke wheel.
The principles of this mixed lacing are the following. The Crow's Foot pattern on the drive side gives very high lateral strength, while not sacrificing drive torque transfer capability. The standard cross lacing for the non drive side gives typical lateral strength characteristics and very good drive torque transfer. Using a standard crossing pattern on the non drive side prevents it's lateral strength characteristics from displacing the improved lateral strength of the drive side Crow' Foot lacing. A 36 spoke wheel laced with this pattern ends up having 15 'pull' spokes, compared to 18 in a standard (all 3-cross) lacing, and 9 in a half radial lacing.
In a 36 spoke wheel, while it can be possible to use either the '2-cross' or '3-cross' Crow's Foot pattern for the drive side, and use any suitable lacing for the non drive side (2, 3, or 4 cross), I feel the wheel will be the strongest if made with the '3-cross' Crow's Foot on the drive side and a 2-cross lacing on the non drive side. The '3-cross' Crow's Foot serves the multiple purposes of giving the 'pull' spokes a strong torque transfer angle, allows the wheel the benefits of the 2-cross/3-cross lacing detailed above, and gives the drive side great lateral strength due to the radial spokes. The 2-cross lacing on the non drive side gives the wheel the benefits of the 2-cross/3-cross lacing described above. The end result is a wheel with lateral strengths that are very balanced, a wheel that has very good drive torque transfer properties, and a very reliable wheel that will last a long time.
The last 36 spoke rear wheel I built for my mountain bike was built with this mixed lacing pattern. The lateral strength of the drive side is the best of any rear wheel I have ever built. The build tension differences between the drive side crossing spokes and the non drive side spokes was also smaller than a conventional rear wheel. The bike also feels very solid during out of the saddle climbs and sprints.
I have been riding this wheel for over four years now, on road, off road, over gentile terrain, and over rough obstacles. It has seen many thousands of miles and, due to various circumstances, has had the chain get caught between the cogs and the spokes a few times. After suffering from all of this use and abuse I have only needed to re-true the wheel once, and it is still being ridden today. This is undoubtedly the best rear wheel I have ever built and ridden.
In building a wheel with this lacing pattern, lacing one side at a time is the easiest, starting with the Crow's Foot drive side. I built mine lacing the radial spokes first, followed by the drive side crossing spokes, and finishing with the non drive side. I laced the radial spokes with the heads on the inside of the flange, for the greatest lateral strength. The Crow's Foot crossing spokes cross on the inside of the radial spokes, and they also cross with the spokes of the adjacent Crow's Foot pattern, so their heads alternate off both sides of the flange. This lacing is exactly like the figure of the '3-cross' Crow's Foot near the bottom of the CROW'S FOOT LACING page. I laced the non drive side with a conventional 2-cross lacing after the drive side was laced. During tensioning, I brought the drive side to final tension first and used the final tensioning of the non drive side to bring the wheel in true.
A variation of this lacing can be used with 32 spoke count wheels fairly easily. To do this you lace the drive side with the hybrid Crow's Foot lacing discussed at the bottom of the CROW'S FOOT LACING page. The non drive side can be laced with any crossing pattern, but I feel it is best to lace it with a 2-cross pattern for the reasons described for the 36 spoke half Crow's Foot. All of the drive side spokes can be laced with their spoke heads on the same side of the flange (preferably the inside), as shown in the referenced figure, but their could be a conflict problem with the derailleur when the largest cog is selected. If this potential conflict could affect your wheel or not depends exactly on your situation.
A way you can find out if your wheel can have all of the spokes with the heads on the inside of the flange would be to check how much clearance you have between the drive side spokes and you bike's derailleur when it is on the largest cog. To do this you need a rear wheel built with the same type of rear hub and a rim that is either the same one, or one with the same ERD (Effective Rim Diameter) or RR (Rim Radius) value and that has the same spoke hole Offset or Stagger. These values are discussed on here: RIM MEASUREMENTS and here: RIM SPOKE HOLE OFFSET AND STAGGER. If you don't have a rim with exactly the same dimensions, they need to be very, very close (only different by 1 or 2 millimeters). With this wheel and a spare spoke you do the following:Install the wheel on the bike with the same freewheel or cassette the new wheel will use. Shift the derailleur to the inside as far as it travels and make sure the chain is fully seated on the largest cog. Place the spoke against the outside of the hub's drive flange next to an existing spoke that anchors on the outside of the flange (head on the inside), and hold it at the rim next to the laced spoke so it hits the center of the rim just like the laced spoke (you can use tape or a tie-wrap to help hold the test spoke in place at the hub). See how much clearance there is between the test spoke and the derailleur. If there is a clearance of at least one spoke between the test spoke and the derailleur you can lace the wheel with all of the spokes on the outside of the flange, any less and you might have problems. If you cannot lace the wheel with all of the spokes anchored on the outside, lace the radial spokes this way and the crossing spokes anchored on the inside (their heads on the outside of the flange). The two diagrams below show how to do this. The diagram on the left is a idealistic view of the wheel you will use for this check, the diagram on the right is a view of the test being made. In this example the test spoke, which is depicted by the red line, does not have enough clearance so all the spokes cannot be laced heads-in, the crossing spokes will either have to be laced heads out or with them alternating.
I used this hybrid half Crow's Foot lacing on the rear wheel of my road bike for several years, with the non drive side laced 2-cross. I also ran the 2-cross/3-cross lacing on this bike for a few years. I would have to say the hybrid half Crow's Foot lacing does have better lateral strength and balance, and it also holds true as good as, if not better than, the 2-cross/3-cross.
The half Crow's Foot lacing will work without modification on 24 spoke rear wheels. A 24 spoke rear wheel laced half Crow's Foot will have four Crow's Foot groups on the drive side. A '3-cross' length for the Crow's Foot crossing spokes would be perfect for the wheel, they have a 90 degree SAA. The non drive side could be laced either 2-cross or 3-cross, but would probably be the best with 2-cross for the reasons described above for the 36 spoke half Crow's Foot lacing.
The half Crow's Foot lacing will work without modification on 48 spoke rear wheels. A 48 spoke rear wheel laced half Crow's Foot will have eight Crow's Foot groups on the drive side. A 48 spoke wheel can be half Crow's Foot laced just like the 36 spoke version, with '3-cross' crossing spokes for the Crow's Foot patterns and 2-cross crossing spokes on the non drive side.
A 48 spoke wheel has such a high spoke count, however that you can do another lacing besides the '3-cross' Crow's Foot for the drive side, this would be with a '5-cross' Crow's Foot pattern. The '5-cross' Crow's Foot is described an the bottom of the CROW'S FOOT LACING chapter. This variation makes for interesting possibilities for the non drive spokes.
If you lace the drive side with the '5-cross' Crow's Foot pattern, the non drive side could be laced 2-cross, 3-cross or 4-cross and still have the lateral strength properties described for the 2-cross/3-cross lacing. The shorter the non drive side spokes, the greater the angles of the theoretical triangle, and the potentially greater forces to counter the dish offset in the wheel. While I have not built a wheel like this, it is my opinion that a 3-cross lacing for the non drive side would work very well. With the 3-cross lacing the theoretical triangle will counter the dish offset very well giving the wheel great lateral strength characteristics and also give the non drive side spokes a very good angle for drive torque transfer.
While a hybrid Crow's Foot lacing can be used to build a 32 spoke half Crow's Foot rear wheel, I do not feel that a hybrid lacing on a 28 spoke wheel would be a good way to lace the wheel. A 28 spoke wheel has 14 spokes per side and the Crow's Foot uses spokes in groups of 3 spokes. If you tried to lace a 28 spoke wheel with a hybrid Crow's Foot pattern you would end up with 2 spokes that are out of place.
The only probable placement for these two spokes would be on opposite sides of the wheel, so you end up with 2 Crow's Foot groups next to each other, a radial spoke, 2 more Crow's Foot groups, and another radial spoke. This leaves the wheel off balance. If you had the two free radial spokes say at top and bottom, there would not be an equivalent countering force on the sides of the wheel. This would result in the build stresses of the wheel being uneven, and the way the wheel would absorb shock stresses would also be uneven.
I am sure that a 28 spoke wheel could be laced this way, but I do not feel that it would be as strong or as dependable as a 28 spoke wheel laced with the 2-cross/3-cross mixed lacing. If I was going to build a rear wheel I would choose the 2-cross/3-cross mixed lacing over a hybrid half Crow's Foot lacing.
If you are building a 24, 36, or 48 spoke multi-speed rear wheel there is no question that the best lacing to use would be the half Crow's Foot mixed lacing. The next best lacing would be a 2-cross/3-cross mixed lacing, and the last choice would be a half radial (with the drive side radial) mixed lacing. A 24 spoke wheel that is half radial will have only 6 spokes responsible for transferring drive torque, so that pattern should be avoided. Mixed lacing's make for such superior multi-speed rear wheels that, if you can lace a wheel like this, there is no reason to lace one with a standard, all crossed, lacing.
For a 32 spoke multi-speed rear wheel it's a choice between a 2-cross/3-cross or a half Crow's Foot mixed lacing. The 2-cross/3-cross appears to have a better spoke life, but the half Crow's foot has superior ride and dependability characteristics for the life of the wheel.
If you are building a 28 spoke multi-speed rear wheel I suggest using a 2-cross/3-cross mixed lacing. The next choice would be a half radial mixed lacing with the drive side radial. The spoke count is getting so low in a 28 spoke rear wheel that I feel a half radial mixed lacing would not have a long spoke life, only 7 spokes are responsible for transferring drive torque.
If you are lacing a single speed or internally geared hub rear wheel with 24, 36 or 48 spokes, I suggest using a Crow's Foot lacing for both sides of the wheel. For a single speed or internally geared hub 32 spoke rear wheel I recommend using the hybrid Crow's Foot lacing pattern for both sides. The lacing would probably best be done if you have the solo radial spokes from the different hub flanges next to each other, so the Crow's Foot groups are next to each other. For a 28 spoke single speed or internally geared hub rear wheel I suggest lacing both sides 3-cross.
GENERAL WHEEL LACING
REAR WHEEL FACTORS
RADIAL LACING INFORMATION
CROW'S FOOT LACING
STRONG REAR WHEEL LACING
LACING A WHEEL OFF-CENTER
LACING PATTERNS THAT ARE
DIFFICULT OR WOULD NOT WORK
AND OTHER THINGS TO AVOID
SPOKE LENGTH TOLERANCE
FIXES FOR SOME PROBLEMS
CUSTOM LACING PATTERNS