Overhauling cup & cone bicycle hubs

by Raymond Parker on April 3, 2012

in Technical

Img description

Shimano XT Cup & Cone Hub

Restoring or maintaining a vintage bicycle? It likely runs on “Cup & cone” hubs, invented circa 1878 by Daniel Rudge. Keeping them running smoothly is the foundation of efficiency and longevity. Maintained and adjusted carefully, these classic hubs are unsurpassed for low rolling-resistance. Here’s a video-illustrated tutorial to help get your bearings. 

Tools and Supplies

  • Cone wrenches
  • Wrenches to fit, or adjustable “crescent” wrench
  • Magnet
  • Grease
  • Zip ties
  • Solvent (citrus degreaser)
  • Rags
  • Disassembly

    • For rear hubs, begin by removing rear sprockets. Remove quick-release skewer. If it is a solid axle, remove nuts.
    • Rear axle spacing is usually asymmetrical, with more axle on the cog side. Note number of threads extending beyond lock-nuts.
    • Use a cone wrench (usually 13mm) to hold cone in place. Use a crescent or appropriately sized spanner to free the lock-nut. Turn counter-clockwise.
    • Remove lock-nut and spacers. (You may choose to remove only one side) Note the order of the spacers. Left and right cones and spacers may be different. Tip: thread them in order on a zip-tie.
    • Slide the axle out of the hub body.
    • Inspect axle to make sure it’s straight. Replace axle if bent.
    • Examine cones for pitting. If they show obvious wear, replace.
    • Remove bearings from cup (a pen magnet helps). Are they dull? If so, replace as well.


    • Clean all components thoroughly, using degreaser.
    • Leave dust caps in place; they bend easily.
    • Scrub inside the hub body, paying special attention to the cup, where the bearings run.
    • Buff with clean cloth.
    • Examine the inside of the cup carefully. Run a ball-point pen around the cup, checking for pitting. If there is significant wear, your job ends here; the hub needs replacing.


    • Pack new grease into the cups.
    • Press bearings into place, in the grease (9 X  ¼ rear, 10 X 3/16 front)
    • Goop more grease over the bearings
    • With one cone in place,  slide axle through the hub body, careful not to dislodge any bearings.
    • Install second cone and snug up.
    • If both cones were removed from axle, install right side parts. Install in original orientation. Return axle protrusion to original measurement (see above)
    • Replace spacers and lock nuts, finger tight.


    • Make sure that axle is equally spaced, either side of lock-nuts (For safety sake, the axle MUST NOT interfere with final tightening of the hub in frame dropouts).
    • Hold cones in place with cone wrench while tightening down the lock nut (clockwise).
    • Test to see if the axle runs smoothly; neither too tight or loose. You will no doubt move the cone and lock-nut back and forth several times before attaining perfection. However
    • Consideration must be given to the pressure the frame/quick-release/bolt will exert on the hub. It’s likely you’ll need to factor in a bit of slack.
    • Mount the wheel. Test. Repeat as necessary.


    Go to VeloGarage

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