Our wheels are high performance products and to keep them rolling at their best, periodically they will need some care and maintenance. Fortunately, due to our hub designs, keeping your wheels in great condition will not take you long. Below are some tips and direction on how we think it should be done.
When choosing a cleaner, you’ll want to look for something pH-neutral, where possible, as pH-neutral cleaning materials are much better at inhibiting the corrosive effects of riding your bike through inclement conditions. Sandy regions, coastal roads, and roads gritted against ice are the worst culprits, although any riding through poor weather is likely to accelerate the rate of wear on your bike and components – especially any parts made of aluminium.
In the case of your wheels, this means axles, end caps, freehub, hub shell and spoke nipples. Additionally, because you have steel bearings on aluminium axles, freehubs and hub shells, galvanic corrosion can take place, and this is when wheels ‘seize’. Take care when cleaning these areas and remember, generally, less is more when it comes to cleaning product.
Try to wash your wheels below the hubs to prevent the ingress of water/suds to the bearings. Clean the spokes, rim and tyre and then wring out the mitt/sponge so it is not dripping wet, before carefully wiping the hub clean. Then rotate the wheel and continue.
Degreasers are usually not pH-neutral, and so be sure to take care when cleaning your drivetrain to try to keep any degreaser away from your wheels. In an ideal world, removing the cassette from the rear wheel will enable you to use harsher cleaning products on the cassette without risking accelerating wear on any of your wheel components.
Servicing & Maintenance
Every 6 months or few thousand kilometres (or just before a big trip/important ride), it’s worth considering a freehub service. If racing cyclocross or cross-country mountain biking, consider servicing more often (in poor conditions, as often as after every race, to ensure maximum performance).
A freehub service involves removing the axle adapters and pulling the freehub out from the hub shell and cleaning the hub’s internals before reassembling.
First, remove the drive side end cap of your axle adapter. Depending on the model of your wheels, the end cap will either just pull off, or require unscrewing (with either a 17mm cone spanner for disc-brake hubs or a 5mm Allen key for rim brake hubs). Once the end cap is off you should be able to slide the freehub from the axle adapter. Take care when removing the freehub to ensure you don’t leave any of the freehub pawls in the hub shell. Dropping these at this point can (and often does) entail a lengthy search around on the floor for where they escaped to!
It’s very possible that if you’ve ridden in good conditions and/or been careful with your maintenance, you’ll find at this point all looks fine, in which case just reassemble and continue riding. However, if you find the area looks grubby and like some water/dirt ingress has occurred, it’s worth cleaning the area and re-greasing.
Using a clean microfibre or similar, wipe any excess grime or dirty grease out from the hub shell, taking particular care to ensure you leave the bearing face free of any contaminants. With the freehub away from the axle assembly, using a small amount of degreaser, wipe the pawls and their hinges. This would also be a good time to check how smooth the freehub and hub bearings feel. For more info on bearing care, please check out this page.
Note, replacing bearings is best done by an LBS or professional mechanic. It can be done at home, but we only recommend this if you have the correct tools and are confident with the process. The long-term benefit of properly fitted bearings outweighs the short-term financial saving of doing it yourself. If in doubt, unsure or not confident, speak to your local bike shop or mechanic.
Once the freehub is dry and clean, add a small amount of lithium grease to the teeth of the pawls, and sometimes we’ll add a tiny drop of cycle oil to the hinge of each pawl to ensure minimum friction. Shimano, Park Tool and Finish Line grease are all good options on the market – but whichever brand you choose, ensure you apply a small layer, as a little goes a long way. Reassemble the rear hub and tighten up the endcap, and you’ve completed a freehub service.
Under the Technical section of our Knowledge Base there are links which show you how your hubs are assembled. Be aware there is more than one type of hub. If in doubt, please contact us and we can talk you through the assembly procedure for your hubs. Additionally, spare parts for all our wheels (including replacement freehubs and bearings) are available to purchase on our Spares page.
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