Hub service 101: greasing your bearings for a smooth ride

Did you know that your smooth rolling bike depends on dozens of tiny ball bearings that allow your wheels to turn smoothly, let your pedals rotate freely, and handlebars steer you effortlessly? These parts are especially vulnerable in bikes used for transportation because they're often exposed to the elements - rain, snow, freeze-thaw, dew, and fog: moisture is the enemy of smooth rolling. Even worse, if your bearings aren't well lubricated, you can do permanent damage to your hubs, resulting in a whole wheel replacement, or requiring expensive service to the frame of your bike. 

We recently serviced the wheel hubs of a bike that showed why you should clean and grease your hubs from time-to-time. It's a great example of a "worst case" scenario where hub/wheel replacement was recommended. 

How often should you get your hubs serviced? It depends on how much you ride, and the conditions in which you ride. Do you ride every day no matter what the conditions? Three times a year might be reasonable. If you're a fairweather rider, you can get away with once per year. We offer this service for $50, or as part of our "Full Service" tune up package. 

Here are the photos from the hub cleaning, with captions below the images.  

We start by removing the axles and cleaning inside the hubs. What's inside you ask?

We start by removing the axles and cleaning inside the hubs. What's inside you ask?

Gunk. Nasty black gunk. Road grime, dirt, sludge. Your hubs aren't supposed to look like this. Also Public Service Announcement: Q-tips are for bikes, not ears. 

Gunk. Nasty black gunk. Road grime, dirt, sludge. Your hubs aren't supposed to look like this. Also Public Service Announcement: Q-tips are for bikes, not ears. 

Ball bearings are the heart and soul of your wheels. The pictured bearings are worn out, and have lost all of their grease that allows them to spin smoothly. 

Ball bearings are the heart and soul of your wheels. The pictured bearings are worn out, and have lost all of their grease that allows them to spin smoothly. 

Here's the axle that was removed. It's rusted, and full of black sticky gunk. Usually the grease coating is smooth and clean. You can see the pitting on the shiny silver surface near my thumb, permanent damage that will result in the need for a new hub or wheel. Regular maintenance would prevent this damage. 

Here's the axle that was removed. It's rusted, and full of black sticky gunk. Usually the grease coating is smooth and clean. You can see the pitting on the shiny silver surface near my thumb, permanent damage that will result in the need for a new hub or wheel. Regular maintenance would prevent this damage. 

Bottom brackets need love too. Opening up a bike to a pile of rust means more grease is needed. 

Bottom brackets need love too. Opening up a bike to a pile of rust means more grease is needed. 

Bonus round! This is the quill stem that connects the handlebars to the fork / front wheel. It hasn't seen grease in a little while and needed serious scrubbing.  

Bonus round! This is the quill stem that connects the handlebars to the fork / front wheel. It hasn't seen grease in a little while and needed serious scrubbing.  

If you don't know when you last serviced your bike's internal parts, it's probably time for a full service. Cleaning your hubs regularly is a great way to keep you running smoothly and safely. We can help you get your bike on track for the winter, or for next spring.