We service hubs all the time at the shop. Most of the time because it’s standard procedure as part of our complete overhaul or because someone has a broken axle or their hub seized up. This is a service that should probably be done as often as you have your oil changed in your car (especially if you have loose bearing hubs instead of sealed bearings) but most riders never think about it. It’s quite rare for a customer to bring their bike in specifically for hub service but they probably should do it more often.
Why do riders not think think about this?
Well let’s take a look. Each of the images below are the same hub. One before service and the other was taken after. It’s hard for the average person to tell, by looking at an assembled hub, whether or not it needs to be serviced. Out of site, out of mind.
Well let’s take a closer look at the inside of the hub.
Much like the engine in your car, bearing systems need lubrication to function properly and perform well. When dirt and other contaminates find their way in, the grease continues to do it’s job by protecting the bearing and race surfaces for awhile. As these contaminates build up, eventually the grease will lose most of it’s lubricating properties. All that dirt and grit in your hub bearings will at least be a gummy mess that can effect the performance of your hubs but can also scratch the cup and cone surfaces causing damage to your hub cones or bearing seat.
When we service any bearing systems (hubs, bottom bracket, headset) we remove and discard the old bearings, clean the the cones and bearing seats and inspect them for damage. Then we repack with all new bearings and fresh grease. This service should be performed AT LEAST once a year depending on how often you ride your bike and where. If you ride in dirty and wet conditions, you may want to consider having all your bearing systems serviced more often.
Many higher end hubs have sealed bearings. This means all the bearings and races are packed into a little cartridge that is pressed into the hub. Service intervals of these types of hubs are less frequent and typically involve discarding the old cartridge and installing new ones. When these are worn out, it typically results in side to side play in the bearing hub that can’t be adjusted out. Cartridge hub bearings aren’t very expensive (unless they are ceramic) and should probably be replaced once a year as preventative maintenance.
NOTE: Bearing system service is only included by default on our Complete Overhaul and must be requested separately when using any of our other tune-up packages. Hub overhauls are typically $20 labor plus parts which are usually around $5-12 per hub.