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Bicycle Tune-Up Step 3 - Adjust The Front Wheel Bike Hub


Although many modern bicycles have non-adjustable, wheel hubs, many still require adjustment. If your bike has "cartridge" or non-adjustable hubs, you can skip this section. "Sealed" only means that your hubs have seals to help keep dirt and water out, but does not identify whether your hubs are adjustable. Your bike shop can help you figure out what you have.

If the hubs are too tight or too loose, you will soon damage the parts.

By setting the hub cones close together, the adjustment becomes tight. Screwing them farther apart causes looseness. When a wheel is off the bike, set the adjustment to very slight wiggliness, because clamping the wheel into the bike compresses the hubs slightly. Once installed, there should be just barely detectable looseness at the rim, or none at all.

On many American bikes, you simply turn one of the cones before tightening the axle nuts that hold the wheel on the bike.

Most others have thin locknuts that are jammed against the cones to keep the adjustment from drifting. To operate on this type, loosen the locknut on one side, use thin "cone wrenches" to change the adjustment, then retighten the locknut.

Cone Wrench

If it is impossible to adjust the wheel so that the hubs are not too tight and not too loose at the same time, or if the hubs feel gravelly when turned, an overhaul is recommended to examine the parts for wear, and replace whatever is needed.

If the side of the wheel hub looks particularly dirty, and if the hubs are not sealed, then overhaul is a good idea to clean out the old, dirty grease, and replace it with fresh grease.

To overhaul the hubs, unscrew one locknut and hub cone from the axle over a cloth. In most hubs, the balls will fall out. Clean everything as much as you can, using a non-flammable, safe-to-breathe solvent. Examine everything for wear, especially the hub cones, the cups (inner surfaces of the hub) and the balls. The bearing balls should be shiny, not dull. Although rare, you should check for cracking of the hub body itself, especially around the outsides of the cups. Put fresh grease in the cups, stick the hubs into the grease, put the cones and locknuts back on the axle, and adjust properly.

If your hub has cages that hold the balls in groups, note which way they fall out, and put them back the same way. Almost always, the balls face each other, and the backs of the cages face toward the outside.

bike hubs


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