Hubs that run on sealed cartridge bearings can be neglected until they feel completely awful, then you replace the bearings and they’re like new again. The same can’t be said of cup and cone bearings, which utilise bearing surfaces fixed permanently inside the hub for the bearings to spin around. Once these surfaces are knackered then they need to be replaced for the hub to perform as intended, and that means buying a new wheel or a new hub and getting it built into a wheel.
This makes cup and cone hubs sound like second best, but Shimano still uses them in all its hubs and it certainly knows its onions. We’ll leave the debate as to what type is best to the forums, and just say that cup and cone bearings need regular maintenance to prevent damage. Thankfully the design of these hubs means that preventative maintenance can be carried out without the need for expensive tools.
This guide covers most Shimano hubs as they all use the same basic principles, as do pretty much all cup and cone hubs from other manufacturers. As a rough guide, aim to give your Shimano hubs a service once a year, but a more stringent service regime will be required if you’re a frequent visitor to the jetwash. It is important to replace any damaged parts during the service; pitted bearing surfaces, cracked cones, corroded bearings and flaky axles will never work properly, no matter how much grease you slap on them!
For a full step by step guide to servicing your Shimano hubs, see the June 2014 issue of MBR, out on Wednesday April 30
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