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How To Adjust Cup & Cone Wheel Bearings On Your Bike – Maintenance Monday

How To Adjust Cup & Cone Wheel Bearings On Your Bike – Maintenance Monday

– Cup and cone bearings. Believe it or not, they’re
not actually a thing of old, because there are a lot of
high-end wheel sets and hubs that still come fitted
with that type of bearing. Now their competitor,
the cartridge bearing, once they wear out, you
just simply remove them and fit them using a specialist tool. However, the cup and cone bearing, that can be adjusted nice and easily, using some pretty basic tools, in fact. So today we’re going to adjust one of my old wheels I had kicking around. (laid back electronic music) How does a cup and cone hub work then? Well, you’ve got here, this is a cone, which threads onto the axle of the hub. Now as you can see on the
inside here of the cone, you’ve got some really
polished hardened surfaces. Now when you thread that onto the axle, it actually meets up
against the ball bearings that are inside of the hub shell. And then inside of the hub
shell, you have a race. Now, the race is kind of
a reverse of the cone. So it’s a very similar surface on the inside of the hub shell that the balls are sandwiched in between. So those ball bearings
are rotating around them. Now, the amount of pressure or tension that you tighten the cone onto the axle determines how smooth or how
badly that wheel is gonna run. So this is where we’re now gonna tackle that adjustment of the cones. So in order to adjust and remove play from the cones on the hub, we’re gonna need a couple of tools. First up, one of these,
which is a cone spanner. They do come in different sizes, depending on the size of the actual flat on your cone that you’re gonna adjust. And then also an adjustable
spanner or a spanner like this to actually tighten the
lock nut against the cone to actually finalize that adjustment. Then also another bit of kit
which I really do recommend, but I do appreciate that not
everybody out there has a vise, is an axle vise which slots on top or inside of your current vise setup. The purpose behind it is that it holds the axle nice and tight, as well as not allowing the
wheel to move around at all, therefore allowing you to
really adjust those cones perfectly to get them
nice and smooth again. So let’s tackle this old wheel then, that I’ve had kicking around for ages and loaned to someone, and it returned in, well, in not very good condition. So as you can see, the actual axle here has become a little bit loose. I have been told that they didn’t ride it once this happened, and
they’ve left it tucked away in their shed before giving it back to me. So the best way of checking this without removing a wheel from a bike is with the quick release skewer or the nuts of the wheel
done up nice and tight, try and actually move the wheel around. If there’s any knocking at all, it means you are going to
need to adjust those cones. Don’t confuse any movement
in the rim with wheel flex, because nearly every wheel out there, you are gonna be able to move slightly. It’s when it’s knocking or
tapping or any real stiff or looseness down here
at the actual hub itself. Now, if you do have any knocking or play, that kind of thing, don’t
ride any more for the moment, because in doing so, you could, in fact, damage the hub shell, and in turn render the parts
totally and utterly useless. Because the bearings can essentially start pitting against the cones, and therefore damaging the hub
shell, the cones, and well, leaving you out of pocket
and having to buy a new hub. So today we’re gonna just
remove a little bit of play. Now at this point, it
doesn’t really matter which side you’re gonna tackle first, providing, of course, you’ve got the same amount of axle showing on either side. If you have a lot more axle showing on one side than the other, then you’re gonna need
to attack, or sorry, adjust that side first, the
side with less axle showing. Because ideally you want to have the same number of threads
showing on either side. Therefore the wheel is gonna remain equal distance from either
side of your chain stays or your fork blades when it’s installed. So in this case, they
are pretty much spot-on. I can see that this side
has slightly fewer threads, or possibly half a thread
less than on that side. So I’m actually just
gonna wind in these cones. So I’m gonna put it into the axle vise. Now I’ve got the wheel
inside of the axle vise. It is gonna make this job a lot easier. When I was a lot younger,
it was pretty difficult to actually do it without
one of these vises, because you would try
and rest it on your knees or in between your legs and
try and do the spanners, and ultimately, things
just wouldn’t really work. So if you can buy one, do. I can’t recommend them enough. Let’s crack on then with the actual nitty gritty of adjustment. As you can see, the cone
spanner, it is really flat. And the reason being is because the flats of the actual cone are
so, so narrow indeed. So you can’t use a traditional
spanner to get in there. So I’m gonna put it in there
and just hold that in place. And then with your standard
spanner or adjustable wrench, just put it over the lock nut. And at this point you kind of want to hold the cone spanner in place, and then work the other spanner in an anti-clockwise direction. You’re just freeing that up, because they have
previously been tightened to ward one another to hold them in place. Once you’ve done that, you are able to really assess how much
movement there is in there, and essentially take up any
slack with the cone spanner. So we’re just gonna turn
that a small amount. And normally you can just pick up the hub and feel any movement there. So it does require a little bit more. At this point, it’s almost a game of little bit tighter, little
bit looser, tighter, looser, until you find that ultimate balance in no friction or a
little friction, rather. The wheel’s spinning nice and smoothly. There’s no gritty feeling. If you like, hold onto
the axle, just, and feel, ’cause your hands can really
sense vibrations very well. And once you’ve found that sweet spot, you’re gonna want to hold that cone in place really, really precisely. Just tighten up that lock nut by hand. And then do the finishing touch. At this point, you really don’t want that cone spanner to move, because if it does, all that hard work of adjustment you’ve just done
is gonna go out the window. We don’t want that. Now, I do appreciate if this is the first time you’ve ever tackled it, it can take quite awhile to
get it absolutely spot-on, because those cones, they do require just tiny little bits of
movement to get them spot-on. However, if you do want to
prolong the life of your hub, it’s certainly worth
investing the time in that. Now for instance, if you were
gonna tackle your rear wheel and it was the locking nut
and cone on the drive side that was the problematic area, you are likely to need to remove either the free wheel or cassette to be able to work on
those components correctly. So just bear that in mind. Now, in the coming weeks I
do hope to actually be able to show you a full rebuild and
regrease of one of these hubs on a little project
that I’ve got going on. So do stay tuned for that. And as ever, give this video
a like, a share, a thumbs up. Share it with a mate of yours who’s rolling on some of
these cup and cone bearings. Don’t forget too, to
check out the GCN shop at, where we have a whole heap of goodies, including, get this, a GCN pizza cutter. How cool is that? And now for another great video, how about clicking just down here?

57 comments on “How To Adjust Cup & Cone Wheel Bearings On Your Bike – Maintenance Monday

  1. In my case, the knocking or tapping in the hub when moving the wheel side to side happens only in some places. I.e. along only a specific 12 to 3 o'clock section of the wheel.
    If I tighten the nuts even slightly more, the bearings seize and it will not turn. Do I need a new hub altogether? It looks mostly fine by eye and I think I haven't lost any bearing balls.

  2. I find that the tightness of my quick release can affect how smoothly my cup and cone bearings roll, is this normal? I can tighten the cones until it is perfect when off the bike, but as soon as I secure the wheel into my forks the wheel quite clearly slows down slightly when I try to roll it

  3. I don’t have bikes with this system, but my dad have a couple of old schwinn, so it was really useful for him. Old school rules!!!!!

  4. In my opion, when you adjust cup and cone bearings, it is same mount time to clean and regrease it. Ok, I admit it, takes few more minute but gives you long time for free for hub proglem.

  5. I think if you have the vice you are most likely to have done this job a few times, therefore, wouldn't need the video. It would have been nice to have tips on how to do it when you don't have the vice

  6. My fulcrum racing 3 are like this. Bought them second hand for 200euros but the back hub was sticking and grinding.
    I opened them, cleaned the rust, changed the ball bearings and sanded down the cones a bit to smooth them (they where pitted).
    Now the are somehow acceptable, but they still grind a bit and i have let them slightly looser than they supposed to be.
    The only way is new hub parts, i think.
    Anyway, thanks for the video. I used an older video of GCN to make those repairs! 😉

  7. Hi, I live in Norway, where we can afford anything except decent roads. As a consequence, my wheels have taken quite a beating from potholes, pavement edges and road surfaces that makes my teeth hurt. In addition to that, I also recently managed to ride maybe 1-2000 km with brakes worn down to the metal… so, how do I know if my wheels are safe or if I should buy new ones? I don't want them to collapse under me at the worst possible moment…

  8. Is the only thing that makes a regular vice an axle vice the special jaws I see in the video? If so, can one buy just the jaws?

  9. I have found a technique for adjusting cones just right that allows for the slight tightening that occurs when the quick release is locked down. It'a hard to describe, but I'll try. Off the bench, try to wiggle the axle. If you can hear a little clicking when you wiggle it, but can't really feel movement with your fingers, then it's just loose enough. When you lock down the quick release, it will remove that ever so slight bit of play, but still spin freely. Hope this helps.

  10. Hi Jon. At 4 minutes you say that the axle must be centered to center the rim in the stays or fork. NOT true! I have worked on many wheels and the rim is centered between the outer faces of the locknuts. However, the axle must be close to center so that the quick release will work properly. If one end is too long, the QR won't be able to close the gap and on the too short end, there is a danger of the axle slipping out of the slot and the frame will drop until the tire contacts something and stops everything! So it's got to be near center, but a mm one way or the other isn't going to affect the dish or centering of the rim in the frame. 😉

  11. I used to get valve lapping compound (for automotive engines) and clean out the grease add lapping compound and ride a century, then get new bearings replace , grease and readjust, it would be smooth as glass. I do still have a pair of Mavic CXP22 rims laced with Campagnolo Mirage hubs, use them daily they a dreamy

  12. Wow, that hub looks older than anything that I have. It looks like a Record hub from the mid 80's, where the rear hub was still a freewheel type…….Love the oil hole….PS. What rim is that??

  13. Just to be clear, you don't need a special vise. You just need jaw pads with proper size grooves in them. You can see these close up at about 1:55. They should be the correct length to fit your vise. Most attach with magnets and are fairly cheap.

  14. Understand this is a video about adjusting the cones, and it's great for that. But, unless you're doing this on a new wheel or freshly serviced hub, I can't imagine why you would make this adjustment without taking the opportunity to clean and regrease the bearings.

  15. I like cup and cone bearings because they are so easy to service and can be easily customized (custom balls — such as ceramic — and custom grease to suit different situations). The latest version from Shimano even include a nifty built-in "digital" adjuster to make the adjustment process easier. However, I'm surprised that Jon omitted the quick release pressure in his "How To" video. It's an essential part of the process. If you adjust the bearings without considering the additional pressure on them from the quick release skewer, then mount the wheel on the bike with a quick release skewer, the final bearing pressure will be too high and the bearings will wear out prematurely. Worse, you may ruin the cones or races. And, if the races are damaged, you usually have to replace the hubs.

    It's easy to account for the quick release pressure by tightening the quick release skewer on the wheel while the wheel is off the bike. To mimic the fork drop outs, simply slide a 10 mm closed-end spanner on either end of the axle when you insert the skewer. Adjust the bearings so they are just shy of the optimum pressure, then tighten the quick release skewer and test the bearing pressure by spinning the wheel. I do this while holding the wheel in the air by the two wrenches (that mimic the fork arms). This technique is a fast way to nail the correct bearing adjustment off the bike with the quick release skewer.

    Incidentally, I've got the same wheel axle vise adapter from Park Tool but I stopped using it many years ago because it isn't needed for the above procedure.

  16. If you haven't got a vice, because they cost serious dosh – at least a decent one would, but you can get a Black & Decker Workmate for about £30 and you can use the axle clamp tool in that plus it can do double duty as a coffee table so whats not to like – looking forward to the full rebuild video Jon – love my cup and cone campy and shimano wheels.

  17. I recently serviced the bearings on my dad's bike. All I had was a needle nose plier and an adjustable wrench, but I seem to have gotten a pretty good result.

  18. Before seeing your videa, I actually did this today for the first time on a recently bought 15-20yr old bike with Mavic CXP30 wheels. The front wheel had some play in it and me being a newbie tightened everything way too much then got down to taking it apart altogether…Had to clean and regrease the hub and ball bearings…scary situation to find yourself alone for the first time….I did learn a lot though

  19. When I buy vintage bikes I usually do a full rebuild/regrease of the hubs. I'll be interested to see your next video to know if I've been doing exactly right.

  20. Jon another great video, thank you👍 Are your friends at GCN and you allowed to use those beautiful Park Tools for personal use on your dream machines😊?

  21. You skipped the last step, it still has to spin free once the skewers are tightened. I use a weight to see how the pendulum swing of the wheel is.

  22. My mountain bike does have cones and bearings in them. I have it used from friend. Nice bike and i serviced cones and bearings. Lost one bearing and it works ok.

  23. My wheels that came with my bike have cup and cone and they came with ill adjusted wheels, been riding them all summer and wondered why they didn't coast too far and why i was quite slow with just as much effort.
    Tinkered with the wheels and now theyre running forever.

  24. I have read that cup and cone are much better at side way forces like when leaning the bike over, so are considered still to be the gold standard.

  25. to prove accurate adjustment I hold the wheel with both hands and give it a spin. If you feel any pulsation back out the Cones. Once on the bike you should also not feel the wiggle as Jon explained.

  26. I love that your example wheel is a tubular rim on a Campy hub with a grease port and a keyed axle and washers. Parts may change but this skill will be relevant for a good long time.

    Although you did neglect to mention that the adjustment for a QR axle should leave a tiny amount of play/lash, so that when the axle is compressed by the QR skewer, it has no play at all.

  27. I had a problem recently where the C&C were just working loose even though the locknuts were tight. LBS must have done something magic as it has been OK for a while now. I find that cheap C&C spanners are a nightmare. Worth the investment in decent ones.

  28. Now then as long as the threads are not interfering with the operation of the qr and the axel sits in the fork drop outs equal threads is just overkill don't be put off by over  complicated expansions this vid could've taken less time than it takes me to bitch about it Lmao 😂

  29. Jon make a great job and yes! I have a bike with cup and cone and it will be useful as all the other videos how to take care of your own bike.
    That is a great feeling take a ride with an lubricated bike there everything work as it shall do. Especially if you have made it self I can tell.

  30. #askgcntech
    Hi Jon. I have the following issue, and your colleagues recommended to contact you for some assistance:

    I have an Ultegra Di2 system which I try to index (rear derailleur).
    Everything worked fine, except all my gears (11) are shifted with one position, meaning I cannot shift to hardest gear (smallest sprocket) and when I shift to easiest gear (largest sprocket) the chain "leaves" the sprocket and shifts in between the cassette and the spokes.
    I tried to adjust the low and high limit screws, but then I only got left with 10 gears. No more chain slipping between the cassette and the spokes, but still no shifting to hardest gear, because the high limit screw is not limiting anything, actually. 🙂
    Is it something that I am doing wrong? Or not doing at all?
    Thanks in advance for your help!

  31. Can anyone help? I'm currently running the Ultegra RX rear derailleur and had to remove my rear wheel for the first time since fitting the new rear mech. The wheel was extremely difficult to remove because the mech always moves right under the cassette, had to remove the QR skewer and even then it was not easy.
    The clutch was in the off position, am I missing something? Thanks!

  32. While servicing a six month old wheel which developed a distinct wobble after a few hundred miles, I found 8 equal-sized bearings on the right and left sides of the hub with a huge empty space, large enough on each side to accommodate one more matching bearing of the same exact size as the other 8. The manufacturer of the wheel claimed that only 8 bearings were planned and adding an additional could damage the cone and race. But with the extra bearing installed, the wheel runs smoothly with no wobble. Will installing that extra bearing damage or cause premature wear of the race or cones?

  33. Every spring I used to take my hubs apart completely, clean re-grease and reassemble as part of the maintenance to get my bike ready for the next season. Was that overkill, or normal? Also, I thought all hub bearings were sealed, and this wan't required anymore. I know hubs don't look like that anymore. My current bike is a Trek Domane with Bontrager wheels. Does it have sealed maintenance free bearings, or should I be cleaning/regreasing them?

  34. I always struggle with cone adjustment. I am getting better (very slowly) but its a long process. I bought and axle vise but the axle still rotates in it. Not sure if my vise is not strong enough or what, but it was a little discouraging.

  35. Irresponsibly incomplete advice. If you do it exactly the way this guy outlines you'll destroy your hub. It's a lot more involved than what he shows. The act of tightening the outer nut against the cone, even when held by a cone wrench compresses the axle and increases the load on the bearings. You have to also tighten the cone wrench against the outer nut, and you'll probably have to try it over and over until you just get rid of lateral play – and then anticipate the impact of the quick release.

  36. how much play is too much?? I thought leaving a teensy amount of play was desirable to ensure there is zero resistance. I can grab the tire,…. and wobble the wheel side-to side about a skinny 1/16". I was under the impression that was OK. now I need to know if that really IS ok…..the side-to-side 1/16" of play I left is undetectable when i ride, and yes,..thats the amount of play with the skewer tightened down for action. is that acceptable??????? i will march right back out there and correct it if it will damage or mess with my hub. I heard this from a pro bike mechanic that a teensy bit of play like mine was actually desirable??? yes or no????

  37. #askGCN I was just fiddling around with my old bike repacking the hubs: Adjusting the cones I got, 1. wheel won't move, 2. there's a wee bit of friction and a rumble 3. No rumble free spinning, but a slight movement. Unless the old ball bearings I didn't replace (but should have, they don't cost much) are a problem, which of these is what I want? (I suspect the right answer is a wee bit of friction, because that's what the sealed bearings I've purchased for other things seem to be adjusted to. And the slight rumble I suspect is just wear on the ball bearings or the race.)

  38. destroyed my last hub from not adjusting. Same issue with my new hub. Intermittent clicking noise with each cycle. Need these hubs to last. 20$ second hand mountain bikes.

  39. "Hold the nut in place really really precisely" which is great advice but before that, the wheel was rotating – potentially moving the nut.

  40. I have a slight side to side movement of the rear bike wheel when I hold the wheel and move it towards and away from me and there's a varying sound of slight grinding as the wheel rotates . Is this worn bearing or something else?

  41. My BikeFriday has a Shimano Alfine 11 internal geared hub with cup/cone bearings. The wheel didn't spin for long (about 2 seconds) after a vigorous spin by hand–Culprit: the cup and cone bearings were too tight and/or the resistance of all the stuff inside the hub. Due to the design of the hub, I could only work the cone on the left side. Spins for three seconds now. Yay

  42. Anyone know why my cone are loosening while riding? Loosened off last week, Re- Tightened, Out again today and loosened again, I cant figure it out

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