Wheel Bearing Maintenance

Living in Far North Queensland, while everyone is enjoying warmer weather down south, here in the tropics it is often wet, wet, wet.

This generally means that after a ride there is more than a little work to be done to get your pride and joy looking clean and prepped for your next ride.  Hopefully you give your bike some love which not only keeps it running smoothly but more specifically in relation to mountain biking, it dramatically reduces wear and tear on things such as the cassettes, derailleur, chain and brakes.  On modern bikes it is far cheaper to clean your bike more regularly than to prematurely replace expensive items such as cassettes and chain rings.

So after you have washed your bike and it sits there gleaming in the summer sun, is there anything maybe you have missed?

In my experience one area that is often forgotten is the actual hubs themselves.  For most manufacturers’ friction is the enemy so protective seals within the hubs are often limited to the actual sealed bearings themselves.  Each manufacturer has a different approach to talking the issue and some do it better than others.  I have had wheelsets where I have not had any issues until any wear in the bearing themselves has created play but others have failed prematurely because of water ingress into the bearings as the hub design is not as effective in preventing water getting inside the hub.

So, what to do?  The first thing is to find out the manufacturer of your hubs and get on their website to find out how to access the bearings to check for water ingress.  These days most manufacturers have great information available to assit with maintenance issues.  For a large number of modern mountain bike hubs this involves removal of an axle cap which exposes the sealed bearing assembly as has been the case with all my recent wheelsets.  From there have a close look for any moisture and absorb in with a lint free cloth if present.  You can also clean out any old grease at this time.

One this is completed some riders may take the step to remove the actual seal on the bearing to see that it is fully packed with a suitable low friction grease which can easily be sourced through Pushys Online; however not everyone is comfortable to do this.  For me, I simply absorb any moisture within the hub near the bearing, clean out any old grease and then place a protective layer of grease over the bearing face as added security and simply re-install the axle caps.  This will not necessarily stop water ingress which occurs with your hub design, but the discipline of performing this ten-minute activity regularly will go some way to extending the life of your bearings and keeping your bike running smooth.

If while performing this task you notice a larger problem such as too much play in your bearings then now is the time to replace them to avoid any more serious damage but again, not everyone is comfortable to do this.  As always if this all seems a little daunting, get some assistance and support from your local bike shop.

Schematic of rear hub showing axle caps

Image of cleaning out moisture and grease from your hub


Image of placing grease on the bearing face


By Toby Greenwood – Pushys Sponsored Athlete

Categories: Maintenance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s