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Another Hub Bearing Adjustment Question (Or how much spoke flex is normal?)

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Another Hub Bearing Adjustment Question (Or how much spoke flex is normal?)

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Old 12-06-18, 02:21 PM
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Another Hub Bearing Adjustment Question (Or how much spoke flex is normal?)

So I can induce a slight amount of side to side movement in both of my wheels, and I'm wondering if there is some normal amount that can result from spoke or wheel flex, or if any play must be bearing related.

Here is the background info: Campagnolo Zonda wheels with less than 100 miles on them, mounted in a 1990 steel frame. For those that don't know, the Zondas have cup and cone ball bearings, with the (relatively) new style rotating adjustment ring (pinched by a 2.5mm allen key). I did a first adjustment on the bearings before ever using the wheels (since I've had experience with tight bearings out of the box), and everything seemed straightforward and easy. My adjustment procedure was 'by the book', meaning I first loosened the bearing adjustment ring to induce some free play, and then carefully tightened it until the free play was just eliminated once the wheel was mounted and the quick release lever closed tight. At this point there was no play in the wheel, but (big BUT), I was checking it in the stand with my hand at the 3/9 oclock position on the wheel (depending on which side of the bike you are on), not the 12 o'clock.

So last night, as a little checkup on the new wheels that have done a few commutes, I pull pretty forcefully from side to side at the 12 o'clock position, and it looks like there is some movement. Not much, maybe 1mm in either direction, but it is noticeable in relation to the brake pads (so I'm not swaying the whole bike). To be clear, there is no knocking sensation, and no feel of looseness. And the bike was riding fine. It just feels like something is bending or flexing enough to permit this movement.

After that I went and re-adjusted the bearings again, using a similar procedure but leaving the wheels in the frame and the QR levers in the full closed position (I wasn't at home, so I didn't have access to a stand, nor to other bikes that I could use as a basis for comparison). Once again I backed off until there was bearing play (on these wheels you have to give them a sharp bump to induce play once you loosen the adjusting ring), and then progressively tightened until the play disappeared. Of note: as an experiment I tried over-tightening the adjuster one time, going well past the point where the bearing play was eliminated, and it basically stopped (significant resistance to further tightening), before any noticeable binding occurred while spinning the wheel (no noise either).

But, even after re-adjusting them to be sure there was no free play (and even with the experiment of tightening the adjusters to the point of significant resistance), I can still pull both wheels side to side slightly in the 12 o'clock position. No knocking at all, and in the 3/9 o'clock position this play isn't really perceptible, likely because I don't have the brake pads for reference, or I can't hold the frame securely enough while checking. The bike rides very well, and the wheels spin true.

Am I just being paranoid, or is there a potential issue here? My previous experience is with higher spoke count wheels (32-36), and this is my first set of modern, lower spoke count wheels, so is this lateral flex somewhat normal? These aero spokes seem super thin, and with the G3 lacing pattern on the rear, some spots on the rim feel like they have no direct connection to the hub (I know it's sort of an illusion, but...)
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Old 12-06-18, 02:52 PM
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The wheel should be able to flex side to side when the bearings are tight enough. If the normal flex led you to tighten the bearings, then there's a good chance you overtightened them, because they were probably not too loose to begin with. The side-to-side test is to feel if there is a thunk kind of feeling, because there shouldn't be. Another test is to bounce the bike, but it's harder to describe or detect the play this way unless you are experienced.
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Old 12-06-18, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
The wheel should be able to flex side to side when the bearings are tight enough. If the normal flex led you to tighten the bearings, then there's a good chance you overtightened them, because they were probably not too loose to begin with. The side-to-side test is to feel if there is a thunk kind of feeling, because there shouldn't be. Another test is to bounce the bike, but it's harder to describe or detect the play this way unless you are experienced.
Thanks for the feedback. At first I simply tried to tighten them further, but when that didn't seem to have any effect, I backed them off and re-adjusted, so I'm confident they aren't over-tight.

Just did some bounce testing (the people in adjoining offices must love me), and everything feels solid as can be. Nice firm bounces from the tires like well inflated basketballs.
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Old 12-06-18, 04:07 PM
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The axle should spin very easily in your fingers.
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Old 12-06-18, 04:39 PM
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I'll add that using the brake pads to judge axle bearing free play is not the best method. Why? Because if the wheel has enough flex to allow it to contact the pads, due to only the wheel's flexibility, this can be mistaken for hub slop. Both will have a bit of what Tom called a "thunk" (not a bad description). If the pads are set close to the rim then this misconstrued feeling will happen more easily. I grab the rim/tire and a stay/blade and with my fingers/hands wiggle or push/pull the rim to either side to feel any bearing slop. No pads are involved. If I'm doing this near the brake then I open it up if I have to, this insure only the hub's condition is felt. Andy
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Old 12-06-18, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
I'll add that using the brake pads to judge axle bearing free play is not the best method. Why? Because if the wheel has enough flex to allow it to contact the pads, due to only the wheel's flexibility, this can be mistaken for hub slop. Both will have a bit of what Tom called a "thunk" (not a bad description). If the pads are set close to the rim then this misconstrued feeling will happen more easily. I grab the rim/tire and a stay/blade and with my fingers/hands wiggle or push/pull the rim to either side to feel any bearing slop. No pads are involved. If I'm doing this near the brake then I open it up if I have to, this insure only the hub's condition is felt. Andy
As a matter of fact, I did undo the release on the brake levers (Campagnolo) to get extra clearance and make sure they weren't hitting the pads and giving off a knock, thunk or thud from that contact. And when they were clear of the pads, absolutely no knock/thunk/thud. The bearings have no slop at all.

So I guess you and Noglider are confirming that wheels do have some natural flexibility to them? I was pretty sure that this was what I was dealing with, but don't have enough experience to know for certain.
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Old 12-06-18, 07:17 PM
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Wheel flex for sure. I advocate a smig of bearing movement, clunk as it were, with the quick release tight. Not much mind you but too loose is better than too tight.
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Old 12-06-18, 07:46 PM
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I agree with Nessism.

To test wheel flex VS hob slop just adjust till there's a tad of known slop in the bearings. Now retry the moving the rim side to side and learn that feel of a lose bearing. Now readjust till too tight and re test. Note the different feel? Before you ride go back and readjust before actually grinding your bearings prematurely. Andy
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Old 12-07-18, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Nessism View Post
Wheel flex for sure.
Yes, my apologies, as I was definitely being a little paranoid. I finally got to go home last night after work, and I noticed similar flex on all my other bikes.

Everything is adjusted as it should be now, so no worries about grinding. All of this has made me re-think the amount of clearance I have on my front brake pads, though. I normally like them super close to the rim, for near immediate engagement (yes, I know about the mechanical advantage of having more lever pull before contact, but I guess it's an old habit and I find them easier to modulate this way). Now that I know that the rim has the potential to contact the pads due to flex, I'm thinking I don't want tiny little potential hits of drag here and there.
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Old 12-07-18, 10:41 AM
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When I was quite young and working in my first bike shop (well, almost. It was a ski and bike shop) I had a customer that was sort of a friend of the shop's. He was younger and had more $ then I had at his age. He had a pretty nice bike, for the time, a Raleigh Competition. He had us work on it. His primary concerns were brake rub. The wheels were true and well tensioned, not bad for a Raleigh of that era. But he had his brakes adjusted really tight, the Weinman centerpulls used more lever travel then the Campy sidepulls that he lusted after. He was a big guy who mashed instead of spun. He complained of brake run with every pedal stroke when he was really hammering (not sure I'd call it sprinting). So I rode the bike and DUH! even with my then 125lbs I could get a lot of rub. I adjusted the brakes for more clearance and he complained about too much lever pull being wrong. I told him that he had to decide between rubbing brakes or lever pull increase, his choice as I'd set up the bike either way. But that his choice wasn't the bike's problem or my problem, in so many words. I was learning even at that age to not be shy with explaining the way things are. Andy
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Old 12-07-18, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Nessism View Post
Wheel flex for sure. I advocate a smig of bearing movement, clunk as it were, with the quick release tight. Not much mind you but too loose is better than too tight.
With angular contact bearings there should be a slight amount of preload for proper adjustment. https://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/...djustment.html
With radial bearings there will be a little play at the rim that means nothing.
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