The Proper Care and Maintenance of the Bicycle’s Rear Wheel
At the end of the season in ’13, I believe August 23rd, I placed a stack of Hundred Dollar bills down on the bike shop’s counter and rolled out my brand new Specialized Venge Comp – the 105 version of what would prove to be the start of the “aero” road bike craze that’s completely changed the landscape – and even the weight war in cycling. Not too long ago, bike companies were falling all over themselves to put out the best ten pound bike. Today, aero bikes are pushing 16 to 18 pounds for the top end rigs and up to 21 for the low-end steeds. My entry-level Venge (which is, oddly enough, a mid-range road bike) was 18.8 pounds out of the box and they had to put on a set of 2,000 gram wheels to make it that heavy.
Roughly ten minutes after I wheeled that bike in the house I decided I needed an upgrade in the wheels. Even with DT Swiss internals, the wheels that came on my bike were clunky and heavy. I picked up a set of Vuelta Corsa SLR’s from Nashbar that dropped a full pound from the old wheels, were noticeably faster, and had sealed bearings in lieu of the loose bearing cone and race setup.
I’m still rolling them, though with upgraded Velocity Fusion rims that added a slight bit of weight but have proved vastly more reliable and true that the Vuelta rims. The hubs (and the spokes for that matter) are still original equipment and running smooth and fast.
The hubs, specifically the rear hub, are not without their maintenance needs, though. Even with sealed bearings. At least once a season, often twice with the rear because I beat the hell out of those wheels, I have to take the rear hub apart, clean everything, lube the pawls with Boeshield T-9 (it has to be a light lube or it gums up the pawls) and axle contact points with Park Tools lube (the green stuff – PPL-1 PolyLube 1000) and reassemble everything. While I’ve got the cassette off, I also completely clean every individual piece before putting it back on the hub body.
The whole process takes about a half-hour to do it right. If I don’t, or if I wait too long between services, the hub will make some gnarly noises that have no business coming from a hub (I haven’t a clue what the problem is, but if I take everything apart, clean the parts, lube the parts correctly, and put everything back together, the wheel is silent and fast again).
I’d love to give you a reason “why”, but I won’t invest the time to figure everything out as to why the wheel gets noisy… I know what to do to fix it and how to do it, so I really don’t care about the “why” of it. As you can see, the hubs are kept quite clean and the bearings are still amazingly fast with no noticeable operational issues after six years and (it’s gotta be at least 24,000+ miles on them).
So, if you want to keep those wheels clean and fast, check out a few YouTube videos on how to service them and hop to it.