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Wheel Hub Adjustments

In this article, we’ll discuss adjusting your wheel hubs – since many hubs are the adjustable cone and bearing type, that’s what we’ll cover.

The hub is made up of an outer shell, which the spokes are attached to, and it encloses two sets of bearings which are held in place by cones. The cones screw onto the axle and are “locked” into place by one or more washers and a locknut. The axles protrude out on either side of the locknuts and fit into either the front fork or the rear “dropouts” and are tightened on with axle nuts or quick-release “skewers” or bolt on axles.

Now, let’s move onto the adjusting – remove the wheel(s) to be adjusted. You’ll need the correct size of cone wrench (the front is usually 13 mm and the rear 15 mm) – it’s a thin wrench which allows you to fit between the narrow space between the shell and the locknut and onto the cone. Loosen the locknut on one side of the hub and gently turn the cone clockwise until it comes into contact with the bearings and begins to tighten up. When you try to move the axle from side to side, you shouldn’t notice any play or looseness or any unnecessary tightness when trying to turn the axle. Getting it “just right” takes some practice. Once adjusted, tighten the locknut while holding the cone in place – think of the action required to open a pair of garden shears and you’ll get an idea of how you should tighten the locknut while holding the cone to maintain the adjustment.

Install the wheel back onto the bike, tighten the skewers or axle nuts and then check the tightness of the hub again – if it’s not properly adjusted, you’ll have to remove the wheel and start all over again. Adjusting rear wheels may require removal of the cassette (gear luster). Specific tools are required for this so see your local shop for advice.

Be patient and, as always, it will get easier the more you practice.

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