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Lester Wheels

Copyright 2020, R. Fleischer

This is article 54, section 7

Working on wheel innards is serious business.  Wheels need to be carefully inspected for cracks, and all work should be carefully done.   Information in this article should be considered as educational, and I am reporting on what I do, and some respected others.  I am not responsible for any problems you may have.  The wheel bearings on nearly every BMW motorcycle before 1985 are roller-bearing types in a taper design and need to have the preload pressure adjusted by selecting the proper shim, often called a Wedding Ring by BMW owners.  The range of allowed preload pressure is restricted.  The wheel innards need to be assembled and installed properly.  Read this article carefully and also  read my other article(s) (links are in this article) about this type of work, and if you do not feel competent, take your wheels to an expert.  OK, with this legal statement now the articles....

Lester cast alloy "7 spoke" wheels were a popular aftermarket modification/addition for BMW motorcycles.   Lester made front & rear wheels for many types of motorcycles, bicycles, etc.  Lester wheels can have problems.   They were not well designed nor put together (inside the hub) correctly from the factory, and the wheels have a disturbing tendency to get stress cracks (from nasty potholes) or worse around the hub, and elsewhere's.  These specific wheels do not have the safety-rim 'bumps' for use with tubeless tires, others do have them.  Besides the tendency for cracking, the main problem is that Lester did a lousy job on what they put INSIDE the hubs, and you may well find almost anything inside them!  If you are servicing Lester wheels and you find just a piece of water pipe inside for a spacer, you really should install the proper BMW parts.

Lester wheels were well-known by most Airhead master mechanics to have improper preload shimming, and there were no actual changeable shims. Too tight and the bearings overheated, sometimes with disastrous results. My understanding is that Lester was sued out of existence.

Lester alloy wheels of the tubed type probably should not be used in tubeless mode, as they do not have a safety bead for the tire to hump over, which tubeless rims do.  There are Lesters with the hump, however.  Many have run the tube type safely as tubeless for huge mileages with no problems ....rather similarly as were many BMW Snowflake tube-type wheels were used as tubeless.  There is an in-depth article on this website about that:

If you have the single internal "pipe", I suggest you install the BMW parts, which include an item called a ring (36-31-1-235-570), and:
Plastic sleeve need two ...36-31-1-237-595; "pipe" 36-31-1-235-785 (usually on RS and RT bikes) or 36-31-1-238-875 (usually on /7 and later, except RS and RT); and note that the early rear wheels have two internal pipes, a large diameter one, often called the outer pipe or spacer tube, 36-31-1-230-324; and, the inner pipe, often called the inner sleeve or spacer sleeve, 36-31-235-1-737.

Use one original BMW shim (wedding band) as required to set preload. The process is quite similar to the early BMW wheels in which one inserted the axle from the drum side, heated the hub, and withdrew all the items out of the hub. What you do with the contents, and the seals, etc., all depends on what you find inside your Lester wheels. Heating the hub is absolutely required to install or remove the bearings, etc., as there is no steel insert (for the bearing outer race) cast into the wheels.   About 250F is required. You will need a large source of heat.

You can remove all the innards by having it all together, cap cover removed, and insert the axle FROM THE DRUM SIDE & add a piece of pipe to take up the distance from the outer bearing to the threads of the axle.    Tighten moderately (15 ftlbs or so). Heat the hub, and when quite hot, use a brass or dead-blow type of hammer on the axle on the brake side, and it all comes out.  Thereafter, when you have installed BMW parts, etc. do the wheel bearings just like early BMW innards, because they ARE.  Remember that you must heat to either remove or reinstall the bearing assembly.  I suggest chilling the innards in a freezer, and install quickly, on a very hot hub, and NOT hammering when reinstalling.  Hints about the sometimes difficult removal from various sources have included making up a fast heating setup, using an old gas-fired water heater flame ring, and some thin oil around the bearing area, to help with the assembly removal.

If you have Lester wheels, they must have the wheel bearings serviced just like any other early BMW wheels, which means cleaning, lubricating, new seals, and ...of course ...checking the preload on the bearings very carefully. 

The bearings are the same bearings that BMW used before 1985,  #30203.  That is a very common bearing, at any bearing supplier, or your BMW dealership or independent shop.

If you intend to ride on Lester wheels, at least inspect them now and then in the hub area for cracks, and especially after any serious pothole, etc., events.

If your wheel has noticeable side play, or too much bearing friction, I highly advise you fix that!

For a relatively easy way to install the parts as used on the 1970-1978 BMW motorcycles, adjusting the shimming withOUT the need for special tools, see Duane Ausherman's website, although this is covered in my articles too.

I have other articles that explain what you might need/want to know:  (tubes versus tubeless)

Below is an slightly edited copy of a posting to the Airheads LIST on 09/04/2013:

From Snowbum:
"I was in contact with this gentleman some months previous to this posting; he was complaining, a lot, about Hansen's BMW,  and we had several E-mails back and forth, and I also contacted Craig Hansen.  At that time I did not receive the slightest word from Mr. Nast that his wheel was a LESTER wheel.  I am sure that many of you know that Lester wheels have had problems.  Not getting into that here.   I do note that Mr. Nast was quite unhappy with Hansens BMW in Medford Oregon, as he felt (my words here) that they did not back up their warranty sufficiently ....wanting HIM to pay for re-riveting. He contacted me, and I never did receive the full information on what was going on with that wheel ...but, see the below E.  I did not know it was a Lester, he left that out in all but the last communications with me.  He did not, apparently, re-contact Hansens after the second riveting. The website you are reading this on, mine, contains an article describing how the splined cup can be replaced using bolts.  I did not develop that basic procedure (I have some added information, that's all). The procedure was developed by Oak Okleshen, a very prominent & noted Airhead Guru. I make no additional comments on the below verbatim E-mail from Mr. Nast to the LIST. I am sure you can see what happened, and why people who complain, often mightily, seem to leave out details, often not revealed without a number of questioning E-mails."

From Mr. Nast:
"One of my bikes is a 1978 R100/7 with Lester wheels.  Hansen's repaired the final drive splines at ~ 100K, and riveted a new coupler onto the rear Lester. About 20K later, I noticed a rivet had fallen out.  Hansen's stated that all rivets should be replaced, which they did, at my expense.  About 20K after that, I noticed spline grease on the outside of the wheel.  Pulling the wheel, I noticed that the coupler was loose.  It could be rotated a bit, and rocked a bit.  Could this be why there was a strange clicking from the back (noticeable when coasting with the engine off)?  The grease was escaping through the rivet holes.  So, the rivets had failed again.  Time for another plan.  After reading all I could find on the web, I was satisfied that bolts would work, but I was not confident about the details I read.   Here's what worked for me; it's holding up well.  There may be variations for stock wheels.  First, I removed the old rivets, using a mill.  The rivets were pretty worn where they passed though the coupler, btw.  Next, I milled a true flat spot for the bolt heads on the wheel.  On the Lester, there is a slight slope in the casting where the rivet or bolt head would be.  Probably OK for rivets, but not for bolts.  I also milled in a slight chamfer, because the bolts have a little extra material where the shaft meets the bottom of the head which require clearance. Next, I milled true flat spots for the nuts on the coupler.  Again, there is a slope (more than then wheel had).  The coupler steel is tough, you need an expensive end mill here.  In a couple of spots this removed a little metal from the outside of the splined area, which didn't bother me -- the coupler is still plenty strong, and now the fasteners will fit the way Orville Wright intended. For fasteners, I used MS21250-04008 bolts ($3.70 each) and MS21042-04 nuts (cheap).  The bolts have a half-inch "grip" (unthreaded shaft) and half-inch thread.  This is a different size than Snowbum specifies.  A good table of milspec bolt sizes can be found at  No washers were used, or would fit.  The milspec fasteners were sourced from Spencer Aircraft in Puyallup 1.800.424.1160.  Note that you will want some 5/16" (or 8mm) 12-point sockets for assembly; these are surprisingly uncommon. Because I removed the least amount of material possible and there are casting irregularities, there was a variation in how far the bolts protruded through the coupler of about 1.75 threads.  The bolt shoulder must pass through the coupler, but not beyond.  The simple expedient was to cut any additional thread needed with a die (1/4-28).  About six of the ten bolts are custom fitted in this manner -- the rest fit without modification.  Sounds like a lot of trouble, but this part went quickly.   Assembled using blue Loctite, torqued to 120 inch pounds.  The excess thread above the nut was removed with a cutoff tool, and touched up with brushed-on gold brake caliper paint to fend off rust. So far (500 miles), the repair is holding up perfectly.  Hansen's respline is also holding up well, with no noticeable wear in ~45K.  The clicking I heard in the back is now gone - it was the coupler tapping the wheel.  The only downside to this procedure is the time involved -- if you're paying a machinist, a new wheel might be cheaper (though good luck finding a new Lester).  Those 12-point gold cadmium-plated heads really do sex up the wheel, even if my neighbors have not lined up to admire them."

11/23/2004:  Minor, for clarity.
01/23/2010:  Minor clarity and emphasis changes
04/10/2010:  Minor clarifications, and then add hyperlinks.
06/20/2011:  Slight updating.
10/09/2012:  Add QR code, add language button, update Google Ad-Sense code.
04/15/2013:  Redo for additional clarity, and add part numbers.
09/04/2013:  Add section with E-mail from Mr. Nast, and my comments.
08/14/2015:  Fix a hyperlink
08/25/2016:  Update metacodes, fix scripts, fix HTML, layout, colors, fonts, etc.  No substantive details changes.
02/14/2018:  Clean up entire article; reduce redundancies and excessive html, colors, fonts.  Improve layout.  Remove bad link.
06/11/2020:  Corrections to part numbers and descriptions for wheel innards.
06/27/2020:  Minor improvements in clarity on wheel innards removal, plus add cautionary note in red color box.

Copyright 2020, R. Fleischer

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Last check/edit: Monday, December 07, 2020