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How to Adjust Your Hubs

You will need:

  • Two cone wrenches

1. Check current adjustment.

Start by checking the hub’s current adjustment to see if it is too tight, too loose, or just right. You can do this by spinning and shaking the wheel or pushing it back and forth, while still on the bike.

If the wheel binds and sticks instead of spinning smoothly, the hub is too tight. If the wheel flops back and forth, and you can feel play in the hub while moving the wheel laterally, the hub is too loose

2. Remove wheel.

If the hub needs adjusted, it’s much easier to do it while the wheel is off the bike. So remove the wheel from the bicycle, and remove the quick release from the hub. You might also need to pull back a rubber boot that is hiding the wrench flats on the cone and locknut.

3. Lock drive-side locknut in place.

When you adjust hubs, you only need to adjust one side. The other side’s cone and locknut should be locked in place. (The locked side should be the driveside, although it doesn’t really matter on a front wheel.)

To do this, put one wrench on the cone and the other on the locknut. Turn the cone counter-clockwise while turning the locknut clockwise.

Now you are ready to adjust the other side…

4. Adjust.

Part A: To adjust the hub, you’ll be turning the cone and locknut on the left side of the hub, while holding the locknut on the right side of the hub to keep the axle from moving.

So start by holding the driveside (right) locknut in place.

Part B: Now go to the non-driveside of the hub where you will be adjusting the cone and locknut. Slightly loosen the locknut so you can play with the cone.

(The cone is what will adjust the bearings, and then the locknut will hold the cone in place, to keep the adjustment.)

Part C: This is the tricky part – you need to tighten the cone so it presses against the bearings with just the right amount of pressure, so the hub spins smoothly.

If the hub seems to bind or you hear grinding, then it’s too tight. If there is lateral play in the hub, it’s too loose. (So you will probably need to readjust a few times to get it just right.)

Part D: But it gets even trickier – once you get the right adjustment, you have to lock it in.

While holding the driveside locknut, snug the left locknut lightly up against the cone.

Then, to lock it in place, put your cone wrenches on the left cone and the left locknut, and tighten them against each other. This requires turning the cone counterclockwise and turning the locknut clockwise.

The tricky part is doing this without disturbing the original adjustment! It’s quite possible to do that, so check it out, because you might need to readjust once again.

5. Put wheel back on bike.

Now that the wheel seems to have the proper adjustment, put it back on the bike, and install the quick release.

When everything is tightened down and ready to ride, spin the wheel once again and check for any grinding or excessive play.

If everything seems correct, you can ride.

But it’s possible that the adjustment is now too tight. That is another trick – sometimes the pressure of the quick release on the hub will make a tight adjustment too tight.

So the trick is sometimes to leave the hub on the loose side of tightness before clamping it down in the bike! But don’t worry – it’s easier to do than it sounds, and with a little practice, you’ll be fine.