Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Bikes: 2004 Bianchi Veloce, Schwinn 3-speed, coaster-brake road bike, Fuji MTB
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That was an impressively well-worded reply by RG. I could never begin to explain that to someone over the internet without an illustration. Hell, I usually show people a picture to explain it in person.
But anyway: just wanted to second the opinion that it will likely take more than one try. And recommend that while you're out getting a cone wrench, you should try to find a good repair manual: almost any will explain adjusting/overhauling hubs. I like Glenn's Manual (I forget the whole name) or Bicycling Magazine's guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair. Both have gone through many editions, any of which will cover your hub problem, though newer ones obviously will cover newer developments. But both have lots of step-by-step explanations with photos..
Or if you're in Philly, you could stop by Bike Church / Neighborhood Bike Works
and someone will show you how to do it for free. Though if you've got some extra cash, they deserve it..
Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
Most likely it's the hub bearings. To tighten them you need a "cone wrench" to fit your bike, usually 15mm. It looks like an open end wrench that's been on the Atkins plan. You will also need an ordinary 17mm open end wrench.
After you find the necessary tools, you need to figure out which lock nut (there's one on each end of the axle) has come loose. Then you need to tighten the cone on that side, hole it in place with the cone wrench, and use the 17mm wrench to snug down the locknut. The art comes in getting the whole thing adjusted tightly enough that the rim doesn't wobble and loose enough that the rim still spins freely. It usually takes more than one try to get it just right.