Can cup & cone ever be as smooth as from factory?

moyesie Posts: 68
edited April 2014 in Workshop
I'm currently riding Fulcrum Racing 3's, I've had them since September and they have mostly seen dry only service unless having caught out. They are still running as silky smooth as the day I got them.

Of course the dilemma now is do I choose to get them serviced and potentially lose the silky feeling or keep going as long as possible; hopefully with out causing damage.

Does the type and quantity of grease help at all?

When I upgrade these wheels I think I will most certainly be looking at cartridge bearings!


  • cycleclinic
    cycleclinic Posts: 6,865
    Yes cup and cone can be silky smooth after service. You may need to replace the cones though depending on there condition. The grease does not affect how smoothly the bearing runs some greases though are more persistant than others. -wheel building and other stuff.
  • moyesie
    moyesie Posts: 68
    Interesting. Thanks.

    If you were to take a R500 and Dura Ace hub, both serviced by the same person, would you expect the same smoothness? Is it the bearings that give the smoothness? Or is it the finer tolerances of the DA hub or a combination of both?
  • mercia_man
    mercia_man Posts: 1,431
    Fulcrum/Campag adjustable cup and cone bearings are as good as you will get. Changing to a wheel with cartridge bearings would be a downgrade in my view. Cartridge bearings tend to have smaller and fewer balls, giving less load bearing capacity and shorter life than properly serviced high quality cup and cone bearings. Some cartridge bearings are adjustable, some or not. When they wear out, you knock them out of the wheel and fit some more. Some are well sealed against the elements, some are not. Some cartridge wheel bearings are so tiny and poorly sealed that they have a very short life. Some use larger well sealed balls and do have a long life.

    Adjusting the Fulcrum/Campag wheels is easy. There is plenty of information on the internet and YouTube. There is a locking collar on the axle on the non-freehub side of rear wheel. You undo it with a small Allen key, turn the collar clockwise until just a little bit of play is left (you can normally do this by hand or by using the Allen key as a lever), re-tighten and check again to ensure there is just a little play. That small amount of play is removed when the quick release is tightened. The same principle applies to the front wheel.

    Taking the bearings apart, cleaning the balls, cups and cones with solvent, packing again with grease and reassembling and readjusting is more tricky but does not require special mechanical skill. Again, there is plenty of information on the internet on how to do it.

    Servicing your bearings like this will make them just as smooth as when they left the factory. Damage can be caused by running the bearings too tight so the wheels do not spin smoothly or too loose so that there is noticeable play when the wheel is in the frame and the quick release is tightened up.

    I have used big tubs of car or motorcycle waterproof grease and tubes of cycle grease which screw onto small grease guns in my wheel bearings. All have worked fine. You need to use enough grease to cover the bearings. If you overfill, excess grease will escape out of the sides of the hub as the wheel spins. It won't do any harm. When you first try the wheels after replacing with grease, they will probably not spin quite as freely as before. But after a few minutes of riding, they will settle down and spin as freely as before.

    Of course, you may not be confident to try this yourself. But a reliable bike shop mechanic can service your cup and cone wheels to ensure the bearings have a long life. I've got cup and cone bearing hubs from the 90s still going strong.
  • moyesie
    moyesie Posts: 68
    Many thanks for the comprehensive reply :)

    I'm at the stage where I'm (mostly!) confident with adjusting Shimano R501 hubs, although obviously I'd much rather not mess it up if I do it's not quite as expensive a mistake as if it were the R3's.
  • mercia_man
    mercia_man Posts: 1,431
    Not familiar with R501 hubs but just done a quick Google and it would appear they are the standard easily adjustable and reliable Shimano cup and cone ones that adjust with a couple of cone spanners. Adjusting the Campag/Fulcrum ones with the locking collar is much easier as you don't need cone spanners but follows the same principle.

    Honestly, it's pretty simple to take hubs apart and give a full service. And it's very satisfying. It was one of the first bits of servicing I did when I took up serious cycling in the 80s. I just followed the instructions in a copy of Richard's Bicycle Book.
  • Semantik
    Semantik Posts: 537
    Anyone care to comment on how much grease the factory put in the mid to high range Campag/Fulcrum wheelsets from new?
    Only ask as I have a set of new Zondas and they certainly FEEL smooth but I have also had Shimano R500's and the hubs were pretty dry and tight from new and needed rescuing straight out of the box with more grease and some cup and cone adjustment.
  • mercia_man
    mercia_man Posts: 1,431
    I've had Record hubs in hand built wheels and Record standard hubs in factory built Neutrons and Nucleons. All had sufficient grease from new and were very smooth. Never had issues with Shimano hubs either although I've found that SPD pedals have occasionally needed adjusting from new as the bearings were tightened up a touch too much.
  • on-yer-bike
    on-yer-bike Posts: 2,974
    I have 2008 Neutrons that run smoother and longer than 2013 ones. They say campag stuff has to wear in. The downside is that the outer cartridge bearing in the freehub has to be changed due to moisture ingress.
  • Giraffoto
    Giraffoto Posts: 2,078
    Back in the dim and distant past, all bearings were cup-and-cone, and they all had to be adjusted just right and tightened up perfectly to get them suitably smooth. Bottom brackets were by far the worst, hubs are relatively straightforward by comparison. So to answer your question, yes, what do you imagine they do in the factory that's so special?
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  • DKay
    DKay Posts: 1,652
    Just to add, when servicing cup and cone bearings, you might as well buy new ball bearings at the same time. They only cost pennies.
  • cycleclinic
    cycleclinic Posts: 6,865
    For shimano hubs use grade 10 chrome ball. For campagnolo hubs the caged bearing that campag supply seem just fine.
    Yes the grade of the balls makes a difference. Shimano balls at grade 25 are good enough though. -wheel building and other stuff.