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Old 05-25-12, 10:52 AM   #1
Ronius_Maximus
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Slight Play in Rear Wheel NEED HELP ASAP

Hi all, i'm very new to this forum and after doing a days worth of research through google, I figured I might as well use my first post on a question that has been bugging me for the past 24 hours.

Yesterday morning, I got my brand new Nashbar Hounder and I put it together. For some STUPID reason, I decided to mess around with the locking nut on the rear wheel. My rear wheel is a flip-flop hub with fixed gear / single gear. I tightened each side a little bit and obviously, I couldn't spin the wheel any more. When I loosened the locking nuts, my problem got worse. I When I got the wheel to spin freely, the axle or rear hub would be loose. Then when I tightened the locking nuts just enough to get the wheel to spin, I noticed that while the wheels spun there was a slight "holding back" I should say where it felt like maybe a slight rub in the bearing.

I am not very good at explaining things and HOPEFULLY someone can understand what I am trying to say. For hours yesterday, I kept tightening and loosening the rear locking nut just to find that equillibrium where the wheel wouldn't wobble on the axle and where I can spin the wheel without any problems There is no quick release skewer so it is a straight axle in the back. I've read that if it was a QR, then a slight wobble would be okay since it would tighten up when locking the skewer.

It is a BRAND NEW bike and any help or input is gladly appreciated as soon as possible. Thank you all in advance.
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Old 05-25-12, 11:08 AM   #2
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Sounds like to me that the cones have come out of adjustment. You really need two cone wrenches to do this job right as its quite hard to get it right without them. The cones adjust the amount of pressure on the bearing race in the hub - too loose, the wheel will wobble laterally and too tight, it will bind.

Have a read of this, it explains it better then I do
http://sheldonbrown.com/cone-adjustment.html
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Old 05-25-12, 11:14 AM   #3
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Thank you for your input. I think i'll get the cone tools from my local bike shop. Money is just so tight right now and am trying to see if I can do this on my own. I'm fairly mechanically inclined but for some stupid reason, I decided to mess with the rear wheel. I got in a bolt tightening frenzy as I was making sure everything on the bike was tight.
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Old 05-25-12, 11:30 AM   #4
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Get to your local bike co-op. Most of them will lend you their tools and a small workspace for a small sum.
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Old 05-25-12, 12:00 PM   #5
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You do want a slight amount of drag that you can feel with your fingers to have a little preload on the bearings.
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Old 05-25-12, 12:16 PM   #6
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You have to understand that the "locknuts" have to lock against something, namely the cones inside of them. They do not lock anything by themselves but are jammed up against the cones to keep both from rotating once the bearing adjustment is made. A better term for them might be jam nuts.
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Old 05-25-12, 12:21 PM   #7
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I assume you've made sure the rim is not rubbing the brake pads or frame ?
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Old 05-25-12, 12:43 PM   #8
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Thank you all for your very much appreciated responses. Yes, they are not rubbing the break pads or anything else. I went to my LBS and purchased a cone wrench and after really playing around with it for half an hour, I stiill can't gachieve that equilibrium I am looking for. A hair click one way, there is some axle wobble. A hair click clockwise, the axle is just barely tight with almost no wiggle but then there's some drag.
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Old 05-25-12, 12:57 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Ronius_Maximus View Post
Thank you all for your very much appreciated responses. Yes, they are not rubbing the break pads or anything else. I went to my LBS and purchased a cone wrench and after really playing around with it for half an hour, I stiill can't gachieve that equilibrium I am looking for. A hair click one way, there is some axle wobble. A hair click clockwise, the axle is just barely tight with almost no wiggle but then there's some drag.
This sounds like what you want. I guess it's hard to describe the amount of drag via internet.
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Old 05-25-12, 01:05 PM   #10
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So the drag is supposed to be kind of like a small clunk, correct?
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Old 05-25-12, 01:22 PM   #11
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So the drag is supposed to be kind of like a small clunk, correct?
No: http://sheldonbrown.com/cone-adjustment.html

Heh, looks like spurious beat me to posting that link. For rear wheels, you want the hub to turn without any notchy-ness, and with the tiniest amount of axial play.
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Old 05-25-12, 01:23 PM   #12
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The really frustrating part is sometimes the axle turns with the locknut which effectively backs the cone away from the bearings. Sometimes it doesn't and the cone stays where it is. You're just going to have to play with it for a long time. The payback is that next time, if there ever is one, you'll have a better feel for it. Pedals are even worse, so just leave them alone for now!

The drag should be more like almost-steady friction with zero play. It might feel a little "grainy" as the BBs rub each other. As in the Sheldon Brown article, excessive drag would not allow the wheel to turn under the weight of the valve stem. I wouldn't describe it as a "clunk", unless there's a bad bearing.
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Old 05-25-12, 01:40 PM   #13
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The really frustrating part is sometimes the axle turns with the locknut which effectively backs the cone away from the bearings. Sometimes it doesn't and the cone stays where it is. You're just going to have to play with it for a long time.
The way to prevent this is to use the correct tools. A cone wrench for the cone to hold it in position and a suitable cone, open end or box wrench for the locknut to tighten it against the now stationary cone. An axle vise will prevent the axle from turning with either. None of these tools are expensive and make an otherwise touchy adjustment quite straightforward.
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Old 05-25-12, 02:01 PM   #14
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Thank you all for chiming in again. I literally read your posts, and go back to the bike. "Knotchy" is a better word than clunky to tell you the truth. So wow... I really can't get this but what I think i'm going to do is tighten one side of the axle to the side of the bike (poor man's vise) and see how that works. Being a former car mechanic, I thought this would be a piece of cake but wow, this sure is a challenging. I've spent hours so far and keep coming out of it the same.
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Old 05-25-12, 04:39 PM   #15
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After tons of tinkering, I "think" I got it... I have it to a point where there is no play and only SLIGHT drag. What I did was center the axle first... Then tightened down one side (tightened the lock nut to the cone) and posted the tightened down side to the side of the frame. From there, I did about 1mm increments with the cone and although I couldn't get it 100% perfect, I was able to get it just barely tight, but with just a slight bit of drag. I then tightened the lock nut to the cone and bolted it on the bike. The rear wheel is tight with no play and it spins freely when ON the bike. I grasped each side of the rear frame and it felt as good as can be. I'm hoping since these wheels are BRAND NEW that it will just kind of wear itself in. Couldn't have done this without your input, everyone, thanks!
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Old 05-25-12, 05:19 PM   #16
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I slightly over-tighten the cone so that when I tighten the locknut the cone loosens up to where it should be. Takes a couple tries but no axle vice is needed.
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Old 05-25-12, 07:13 PM   #17
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Since this is a cheaper model bike, it's possible the cone races are not machined to a very fine finish or have as hard of a surface as some fancier hubs. This means you probably want to err on the side of too tight. The pressure and spinning will quickly do the job of work hardening and smoothing the bearing surface.

Also I see you use the word drag a lot, as though you might be worried that this will add extra drag to your ride. Rest assured that bearing friction even if you crank that sucker, will be pretty negligible compared to the total drag on a bike. The only reason you really want to worry about the bearing pretension is how it affects the long term durability of the bearing.

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Old 05-26-12, 01:09 AM   #18
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Adjustment for hubs with axle bolts is different than for bikes with quick releases. Since your single speed has axle bolts, you want to adjust the cone nuts to the point where the hub spins freely without any play. The quickest way to do this is to have a few cone wrenches, usually a 15 and 17mm for rear wheels. The cone nuts are the inner nuts that contact the bearings on the inside of the hub. These affect the amount of "drag" or looseness in the hub. The locknuts get screwed down on top of the cone nuts to hold everything in place. The art of adjusting hubs is getting the cone nuts loose enough so the wheel spins freely, but not too loose that there's play (knocking), then tightening down the locknut without changing the cone nut's adjustment.

For hubs with cartridge bearings, there is no adjustment to be made after the bearings are properly installed, just keep everything tight but not squeezing the bearings.

For hubs with quick releases and loose bearings, you adjust the cone nuts while the wheel is off the bike to have a very small amount of play (knocking). When the QR is engage, it squeezes everything together and removes that play, leaving a perfectly adjusted wheel.

I'm not sure what people mean by saying some drag is good to have. Cartridge bearings may feel a little sluggish when spun with your hand but that is because they are under preload and perform fine when in use. Loose ball bearing hubs should never feel tight.
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Old 05-26-12, 08:10 AM   #19
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I'm not sure what people mean by saying some drag is good to have. Cartridge bearings may feel a little sluggish when spun with your hand but that is because they are under preload and perform fine when in use. Loose ball bearing hubs should never feel tight.
Because it's a new cheap bike and the cones will quickly wear grooves, making a perfect tension become wobbly, and a tight bearing become perfect. Cartridge bearings are "sluggish" because you have a small torque arm when you play with them, and you're feeling the friction of the grease recirculating in a small area
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