A friend of mine had a problem with his Ican rear wheel hub a few weeks ago. When he would coast, the hub would make a high-pitched whirring sound it shouldn’t. Now, there are six contact points in the Ican hub so it makes a distinct free-wheel sound when coasting. I happen to think it sounds awesome, personally. I have a set of the standard wheels on my rain bike – and they recently started making the same sound when free-wheeling. Now, it should be clear from “rain” bike that the Icans get the worst of the riding conditions. If there’s more than a 15% chance of rain I won’t take my good bike. The Trek, my rain bike, has been through a lot since I put those wheels on the bike a year or two ago. I’m happily surprised that they lasted this long without a servicing.
Now, when you pull the hub apart, if you want to go hole hog, you can pull the dust caps on the bearings and install new balls, but mine were nowhere near needing that yet. The hub did require a thorough cleaning, though.
This level of cleaning and servicing is so astoundingly easy, it’s almost not worthy of a post, but it will help some, and it’s an excellent start into bicycle maintenance that’s fairly difficult to do wrong. So let’s begin.
For tools, you’ll need the following:
A chain whip, cassette removal nut, a big wrench, two 5 mm Allen wrenches, heavy lube, light lube.
First, we remove the wheel and the cassette from the wheel. With the wheel standing upright, insert one 5 mm Allen wrench in either side of the axle hole (where the quick release runs through the axle) and loosen the dust cap (it threads into the cassette body). Once the dust cap nut is removed, the cassette body simply slides out of the hub, exposing the sealed bearings. Give the bearings a quick spin to make sure there’s no “grinding” feel to them. If so, the ball bearings will need to be replaced (at which point I march the wheel straight to the shop and pay them to deal with it). If the bearings are good, all that’s left is to clean everything, lube the moving pieces and put it back together.
I like to use a light spray lube on the pawls (the spring-loaded teeth that grab onto the hub when the pedals are turned). I find heavy and dry lubes tend to gum up the cassette body. So I hit each pawl (6 total for Ican standard wheels) with a quick blast of the light lube. This will clean and lube the inner working surfaces. Wipe off the excess. Then I’ll turn my attention to the inner teeth of the hub. I wipe the surfaces clean with a paper towel being sure not to press any dirt into the bearing cover plate. Heavy lube goes on the bearing surfaces that the axle goes through.
Once that’s done we’re going to install the cassette body back onto the axle. Now, this gets a little tricky because there’s a floating washer inside the cassette body, behind the bearing, that can get in the way and make it seem like the body won’t slide back onto the axle. Center that washer with your pinky finger, a q-tip, or a piece of wire/cable and slide the cassette body over the axle. With the body on the axle, it’ll stop shy of entering the hub body because the pawls are sticking out. Finagle them into position so the cassette body fully seats in the hub.
NOW, before you go and put the dust cap back on, give the cassette body a little spin to make sure it operates smoothly as it sits. If there’s some resistance to it, it’s likely not seated properly. Remove the cassette body and reinsert it. Now you can thread on the dust cap and tighten it down. Put the cassette back on, tighten it down and Bob’s your uncle.
Give it a quick test-spin to make sure the funky whirring sound is gone.
With the proper tools handy, this should take ten or fifteen minutes – and it’s worth it to keep your rear wheel running smoothly. Especially if you’re riding the bike in gnarly conditions.