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Thread: Adjusting Hubs

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    Senior Member TromboneAl's Avatar
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    Adjusting Hubs

    Here's my problem when adjusting the cones on my hubs. Let's say I make an adjustment, tighten the lock nut, put the wheel on the bike, check it, and find that I want it a little looser.

    Ideally, I'd loosen the lock nut, and then loosen the cone by, say, and eighth of a turn, and test again..

    But in loosening the lock nut, the cone also turns, so then I don't know where it was, and I'm starting from scratch. What do you guys do to avoid this? I could put the nuts on the other side of the axle in a vise, but that would mean removing the skewer for each adjustment.
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    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Use a cone wrench to keep the cone from turning as you loosen the nut. Then, tighten the cone as needed. Then, again use a cone wrench to keep the cone from turning as you tighten the nut. Repeat as necessary.
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    I just take up the slop in the cone wrench just before loosening the locknut so the cone stays in one place i.e. gently turn the cone wrench against the cone until it stops, in the OPPOSITE direction from loosening the locknut, just strong enough so that I know the wrench flats are touching the cone's flats in a way which is ready to resist torque.

    I also clamp the other end in a vise so only the locknut turns. I prefer to do it this way because it helps me keep track of what's moving; I am not saying there's anything fundamentally correct about it

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    I have senior moments... bikinfool's Avatar
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    I've always just used two cone wrenches simultaneously.
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    P. S. why not test the wheel without putting it in the bike? I bet your fingertips can tell much better how accurately the cones are adjusted. I just clamp a stack of washers on each end of the hub and close the skewer on them before checking how freely the axle spins. Then when installing the wheel I readjust the skewer so that the clamping starts in the same place of the lever swing despite the slightly different thicknesses of dropout and washer stack.

    Of course that means you are compressing the axle and several washers when you adjust, and then compressing a dropout and axle when you ride, but I think the axle does most of the compressin' and the difference in compressibility of washers vs dropout is irrelevant even if the dropout is aluminum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bikinfool View Post
    I've always just used two cone wrenches simultaneously.
    Right but you can carefully ensure you take out the slack in the bottom wrench before loosening the top.

    I do the same as you but not always with two cone wrenches; sometimes I use one cone wrench and one crescent wrench or box end wrench.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    I also clamp the other end in a vise so only the locknut turns. I prefer to do it this way because it helps me keep track of what's moving; I am not saying there's anything fundamentally correct about it
    +1 This Allows you to see the direction the cone wrench is pionting before loosening the lock-nut. The make the small angular adjustment to the cone and retighten the lock-nut. Also recommend checking the feel of the bearings with the QR and washers. The relative compression of the washers versus the dropouts doesnt matter. What matters is the clamping force on the ends of the axle

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    Quote Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
    But in loosening the lock nut, the cone also turns, so then I don't know where it was, and I'm starting from scratch. What do you guys do to avoid this? I could put the nuts on the other side of the axle in a vise, but that would mean removing the skewer for each adjustment.
    Looks like your hub manufacturer did not place a keyed washer between the locknut and the cone. They saved a few pennies in manufacturing cost.

    Without such a keyed washer you need to control 3 items: the locknut; the cone and the axle. If you put the axle in a vise, then ideally you need to make this adjustment only once, so removing and replacing the skewer is not a burden.

  9. #9
    surly old man jgedwa's Avatar
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    And also, it just takes a bit of touch. And I gather that no matter how many of them a person has adjusted, sometimes it just takes a handful of attempts to get it just right.

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    I think my method also reduces undue wear and tear on the axle threads because if you just hold the cone wrench any old way while loosening the locknut, then the cone will rotate with the locknut until the flats on the cone firmly engage the flats on the cone wrench. If the cone nut and locknut rotate while being locked together, they put an enormous load on the threads. In fact, if you've been doing your cones that way for a while, it wouldn't surprise me if the locknut strips soon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    I think my method also reduces undue wear and tear on the axle threads because if you just hold the cone wrench any old way while loosening the locknut, then the cone will rotate with the locknut until the flats on the cone firmly engage the flats on the cone wrench. If the cone nut and locknut rotate while being locked together, they put an enormous load on the threads. In fact, if you've been doing your cones that way for a while, it wouldn't surprise me if the locknut strips soon.
    Nonsense.

    This is the way hubs are quickly adjusted, by moving the entire unit as one. We've been building bikes with looseball hubs and adjusting these for over 3 years now and not one has stripped.
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    Quick release axles should be adjuted slightly loose so that when the QR compresses the axle the play goes away and a slight preload is left.
    http://www.parktool.com/repair/readhowto.asp?id=105

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidad View Post
    Quick release axles should be adjuted slightly loose so that when the QR compresses the axle the play goes away and a slight preload is left.
    Of course they should. I am saying it's easier to check if the play has gone away if the wheel is not in the bike.

    Clamping a stack of washers on each end of the hub with the quick release lets you apply the clamping force to the axle without putting it in the bike.

    Testing to see if the axle spins freely is much more sensitive because you have a lot less leverage when you twirl the axle in your fingers vs when you turn the wheel when it's installed in the bike.

    Also, you can feel if all the balls are in solid contact with their races.

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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    Nonsense.

    This is the way hubs are quickly adjusted, by moving the entire unit as one. We've been building bikes with looseball hubs and adjusting these for over 3 years now and not one has stripped.
    I suggest readers of this thread try to find this procedure documented someplace before they try it.

    This guy's trolling. If he isn't, then recall there's a lot of things which work once or twice without immediate consequences.

    Operator, do you mind if I ask what shop you work for?
    Last edited by garage sale GT; 01-01-10 at 08:30 PM.

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    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    Using the stack of washers is a great idea; that's how to get it absolutely perfect.

    As for the cone and locknut being turned as one, it could very slowly mash threads when they're too tight against each other and you need to use a lot of force, but it's totally not a big deal cause you'd need to be continually doing it with em so tight you could barely move em to do much damage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    I suggest readers of this thread try to find this procedure documented someplace before they try it.

    This guy's trolling. If he isn't, then recall there's a lot of things which work once or twice without immediate consequences.

    Operator, do you mind if I ask what shop you work for?
    I'm not trolling.

    Once the OP is forced to do hub adjustments more than a half dozen times a day it becomes immediately apparent how to speed up said process. Loosen? Two cone wrenches on the inside. Tighten? Two normal wrenches on the outer locknuts. Only a small number of hubs come with their locknut/cone hardware tightened so much that this shortcut does not work. At which point you do it the slow way, or you undo them enough so that you can.
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    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    Bingo.

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    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    Nonsense.

    This is the way hubs are quickly adjusted, by moving the entire unit as one. We've been building bikes with looseball hubs and adjusting these for over 3 years now and not one has stripped.
    +1 this.

    I've been doing this for over 30 years without problems.

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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    I'm not trolling.

    Once the OP is forced to do hub adjustments more than a half dozen times a day it becomes immediately apparent how to speed up said process. Loosen? Two cone wrenches on the inside. Tighten? Two normal wrenches on the outer locknuts. Only a small number of hubs come with their locknut/cone hardware tightened so much that this shortcut does not work. At which point you do it the slow way, or you undo them enough so that you can.
    Perhaps, but that requires a feel you've acquired. People who don't have it are liable to ruin their hubs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    P. S. why not test the wheel without putting it in the bike?
    That works for hubs in perfect condition. Where one is running a little rough you feel the drop in smoothness before it's tight enough to eliminate lateral play in the rim.

    Of course with a work stand it's pretty easy to adjust bearings with the wheels on the bike. Loosen the QR most of the way to allow adjustment but keep the axle from turning, adjust so that the play goes away, and then back-off until play returns but goes away with the skewer closed (unless running something like the Campagnolo hubs with alloy axles that have no change in preload with the skewer closed in which case you stop when there's no play and don't need to loosen the QR).
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 07-13-12 at 12:50 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
    That works for hubs in perfect condition. Where one is running a little rough you feel the drop in smoothness before it's tight enough to eliminate lateral play in the rim.
    I've never had a hub in perfect condition. (well, one set-a Spidel Professional, which I found tougher to adjust than rougher hubs. you can't tell when you're preloading it because you can't feel the drag! It's on ebay now btw, Gitane Tricolore...nearly new condition!!!) I adjust until I feel every lump and flat spot in the bearing balls and races in firm contact, but without a great deal of drag (when the quick release is clamped over the washers and hub.)

    Then you don't even need to check for play because you know it's gone.

    This condition is easy to find if you adjust the cones until the wrench feels like the cone is stopping against the bearing balls, then back the cone away maybe two or three degrees, then clamp the washers with the quick release and check the adjustment.

    If you adjust the cones and locknuts together, it's critical that they not be locked together too tight or you'll ruin the axle and locknuts. Maybe it's best to adjust by loosening the locknut, moving the cone, and tightening the locknut. However, when you tighten the locknut, the adjustment of the cone gets tighter because you're pushing all the slack in the cone threads inward.
    Last edited by garage sale GT; 07-13-12 at 09:54 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    Perhaps, but that requires a feel you've acquired. People who don't have it are liable to ruin their hubs.
    Liable? How liable? How will they ruin their hubs? How did all the mechanics that adjust hubs this way not ruin a lot of hubs until they acquired a feel? The way operator mentioned to do this is the fastest and easiest way to adjust a hub. As with most things, after you've done a few, you learn how much play is about correct, so a quick tweak with the cone wenches or the regular wrench and the hub is adjusted.

    I had a manager that wanted me to use an axle vise to adjust hubs. It would take me longer to put the axle vise in the vise and put in the wheel, then it would to quick adjust the hub. He finally relented and allowed me to do it operator's way. I have not ruined one hub in this learning process.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetLou View Post
    Liable? How liable? How will they ruin their hubs? How did all the mechanics that adjust hubs this way not ruin a lot of hubs until they acquired a feel? The way operator mentioned to do this is the fastest and easiest way to adjust a hub. As with most things, after you've done a few, you learn how much play is about correct, so a quick tweak with the cone wenches or the regular wrench and the hub is adjusted.

    I had a manager that wanted me to use an axle vise to adjust hubs. It would take me longer to put the axle vise in the vise and put in the wheel, then it would to quick adjust the hub. He finally relented and allowed me to do it operator's way. I have not ruined one hub in this learning process.
    You can't assume the cone and locknut aren't jammed together so tight that they won't ruin the threads.

    Those guys can tell right away from the feel whether the cones require too much force to adjust without loosening the locknuts.

    Not everybody else has developed such a feel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetLou View Post
    He finally relented and allowed me to do it operator's way. I have not ruined one hub in this learning process.
    I quite agree, chances are you won't. But some people will.

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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    Once the OP is forced to do hub adjustments more than a half dozen times a day it becomes immediately apparent how to speed up said process. Loosen? Two cone wrenches on the inside. Tighten? Two normal wrenches on the outer locknuts. Only a small number of hubs come with their locknut/cone hardware tightened so much that this shortcut does not work. At which point you do it the slow way, or you undo them enough so that you can.
    This is almost exactly how I do it as does the shop manager at the coop I work at. Works perfectly and saves so much time over the trial and error method.

    What I do is tighten the cone and locknut on the freehub/freewheel side of the axle to the maximum torque. I don't want that side to move at all since quite often you can't put a cone wrench on that side once the non-drive side of the axle is assembled. Then I put balls and grease in place. Next I put the cone, spacers, and locknut in place and tighten the cone and locknut only somewhat. I tighten them down to the point where they won't move but I don't torque it down so much that I will do any damage to the threads if I try to use 2 wrenches to tighten the 2 sides against each other. So the drive side cone/locknuts are tightened to max torque and the non-drive side are tightened enough to lock down but not be super tight. Then I can use a normal wrench on the drive side since chances are the cone isn't accessible. I can then use a cone wrench on the non-drive to loosen the whole assembly and a normal wrench on the non-drive to tighten the whole assembly.

    Once the bearing play is perfect, I then finally then apply the full amount of torque to the non-drive side cone and locknut and everything should be perfect and 95 percent of the time is perfect.

    Very fast and easy IF you have a strong sense of torque and bearing feel which should come naturally to mechanics. If you don't understand torque very well or bearing feel then it won't work so well.

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