Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adjusting Chris King Hubs

Caution: I'm not a mechanic or any kind of bike expert. I hardly know anything at all. But I will try to share what little I do know. What you read here is just based on my own personal experience and the research I've done. It might not be adequate or even accurate.

So don't blame me if you ruin your bike, get hurt, maimed, or die after following my instructions. If you have any corrections or thoughts please let me know - anything to make these instructions clearer or more accurate for others.

Many say that Chris King parts - especially the hubs - are the best you can buy for a bike. All the components within the hubs (bearings, races, etc) are said to be manufactured individually by Chris King in Portland, Oregon. One look at them, or any other King product, and the quality will be evident: beautifully machined stainless steel, titanium, and aluminum in a wide range of colors.

Furthermore, the performance and weight of Chris King hubs are among the best available. Sure, there are lighter hubs, but I doubt there are many lighter hubs with such incredible engagement. Engagement refers to the immediacy with which the hubs grab and rotate the cassette or cog after you move your crank. More engagement means faster and finer ratcheting.

Chris King hubs have 72 points of engagement. Other brands have 72 (such as Hadley) but many have only 48, 36, or 24.

This may sound trivial, but any mountainbike (or trials!) rider that has used them will tell you that in technical sections it sure is nice to have.

Chris King hubs are, however, fairly expensive, but you get what you pay for. You get almost a lifetime of use - that is IF you maintain and service them properly.

If the wheel wobbles left-right as indicated by the arrows,
the hub may need a simple adjustment
The Chris King documentation clearly states when and how to service their hubs, which includes a quick tune-up after a few hours or days of use. (Full Chris King hub and headset manual here - .pdf.) In this period they can become loose, which can be alarming for many first-time owners who spent so much money on them.

These owners don't need to worry as mostly all the servicing that the hubs need can be done at home. All that's needed is a few basic tools, some time, and a desire to learn.

If you lack any one of these things stop reading this now and head to your shop (bring $50-$100 at least)!

Adjustment of Bearing Pre-load - Front or Rear Hubs
Left: Axle end & adjusting cone from front hub
Right: From rear hub
This will be needed any time the wheel seems to move left-right while the skewer is firmly clamped in the drop-outs. This will happen during the initial break-in period. It can happen to the front or rear hub. If you notice this check to make sure your skewers are not simply loose.

If the hubs are brand new you'll just be running through the break-in period which will begin from when the hubs are brand new and may continue up to about 60 hours of riding.

Even on broken-in hubs, you may be able to notice some side-to-side play as you ride. It can be a very unsettling feeling, but don't worry, it can be fixed on the trail, very easily.

Tools needed: Two 5mm hex keys (you may need to borrow a friend's if you only have one)
Estimated time: 90 seconds for expert; 5 minutes for beginner

Step 1: Remove the wheel from the bike.

Step 2: Take the skewer out - be careful not to lose the threaded end cap or the little springs on the skewer.

Step 3: Insert a 5mm hex key in each side of the axle, where the skewer was, and twist each one counter-clockwise. A small aluminum assembly of a cone and a cylindrical knob will screw off (the axle end and adjusting cone).

Two 5mm hex keys counterclockwise

Step 4: Using just your hands, you should be able to separate the axle end and adjusting cone from each other. They are threaded too.

Step 5: Screw the adjusting cone back onto the axle again - without the axle end - and tighten it pretty tight with your fingers. You should be able to spin the wheel between your hand easily by holding onto the cone and the axle on the other side. If it doesn't spin you've threaded it on too tight.

Step 6: Thread the axle end into the adjusting cone by hand. Then really tighten down it using hex keys in both sides (same as in step 3, but tightening).

Step 7: Reinsert the skewers. (By the way, Chris King says not to use titanium skewers - only steel-shafted skewers.)

Step 8: Put the wheel back on the bike, and ensure the skewers are very tight - 1,100 lbs. of clamping force according to Chris King, however much that is! All wobble and play should now be gone, and the wheel should freely and easily spin. If there is still play, the cone is not tight enough. If the wheel doesn't spin easily the cone is too tight.

Step 9: Readjust if necessary.


Anonymous said...

Hi - Thanks for th simple instructions.....clear and concise. My only comment is that step 5 should read: "Screw the ADJUSTING CONE back onto the axle again..." There are some letters missing in your text. Thanks again!

Andrew Patterson said...

Thanks for your correction - fixed!

Anonymous said...

This is fucking awesome guide. Worked for my BMX-Hubs too. I had such a bad feeling when they were loose the next day after riding. :O
But now I'm in love again. <3

- Andrew

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