How to Tuesdays: replacing your axle and bearings (Cup and cone type)

This week we go through the steps to replace the rear axle and bearings on a cup and cone style hub. The same steps can be applied for a  simple hub service at home but you will just be cleaning the current parts with a degreaser and replacing them after re-greasing.

  • Start by removing the wheel from the bike and cleaning any excess grease from the cassette so you don’t have a bigger mess than needed.
  • You will need a multi-functional bicycle spanner, small shifting spanner, flat screw driver or a magnet on an extension, long- nose pliers, grease and a cloth to help keep things clean.


  • The parts list is as follows:

1.) Cones

2.) Lock nuts

3.) Spacer

4.) Axle


  •  Place your bicycle spanner on the cone on the non drive side of the wheel. This will be the side that doesn’t have the cassette. Hold the cone steady while you turn the lock-nut anti-clockwise until is is removed. This can be quite difficult if the thread has been damaged over time or if there is excess gunk on the thread.

remove locknut

  •  Now that the lock-nut has been removed, you can remove the cone using the bicycle spanner while holding the other side of the axle still. Keep note of any spacers that may have been between the lock-nut and the cone. Depending on the age and style of the bike this could vary.

remove cone

  • Now that the cone is removed you will be able to pull the axle out. Keep the wheel horizontal while you do this so you can see the placement of the balls that make up the bearing.

removing axle

  •  Remove the bearings (the magnet is helpful here) and inspect them for wear, if there is any scarring on the bearing surface or flat spots these will need to be replaced. Be sure to clean the inside of the cup that houses the bearings. It won’t be necessary to remove the dust covers unless they are damaged.


  • Line up your new axle with your old one and screw the cone on your new axle to match the cone on the drive side of your old axle. In these pics it won’t be identical because we changed the rear axle from a solid type (longer) to a hollow type (shorter) so a quick release could be used.


  •  After greasing up the cups on the hub as well as all the balls you can start putting the bearing back together by holding the wheel in a horizontal position and replacing the balls. If you can’t do this with your fingers then here is where the long-nose pliers come into action.  You can now add any spacers that may have been on the old axle followed by the lock-nut. Gently tighten the lock-nut and cone before inserting the axle back into the drive side. Be sure no balls fall out the hub in the process. Note: If they are falling out repeatedly you probably haven’t greased them enough.

drive side

  •  You can now fit the cone, spacers and lock-nut. Hand tighten and place your wheel into the drop-outs. If your wheel is in the centre, PERFECT! If you are out of alignment, remove your wheel and unscrew the cone and lock-nut on the non-drive side. You will need to remove the axle and adjust your drive-side cone to the left or right depending on which side you need to adjust the wheel towards.


Now that all parts have been replaced its time to tighten the assembly. After gently hand tightening the cone on the drive side, hold the axle on the ends and spin the wheel. There should be no resistance or any movement from left to right.

  • If there is resistance you will need to loosen the cone slightly and retest.
  • If there is movement from left to right you will need to tighten the cone and retest.

Once you are happy with your adjustments, hold the cone firmly with the bicycle spanner and tighten the lock-nut with the shifting spanner. Fit the wheel to the bicycle and spin, there should be no obstructions and the wheel should be rotating smoothly.

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