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I was recently helping a friend build a bike from scratch, and one of the first things he did was to inspect the hub to check that the wheel was rotating smoothly. He was adjusting the cone and lock nuts.

How large (or small) of an efficiency boost do you see from such adjustments? I'm a commuter using a single-speed daily -- if I were to rebuild my hub and do the same adjustments, would I see a significant improvement?

Sorry for the newbie question! Thanks in advance.

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A standard loose-bearing hub needs to be "rebuilt" every 10-30k miles or so, to clean out the dirt and install fresh grease. This has no significant effect on efficiency, until the un-maintained bearings go out completely and start grinding. Cone adjustment generally needs to be done every 5-10K miles to take up the "play" due to bearing wear. Loose cones can lead to poor handling. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 24 '13 at 15:18
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A few clarifications from the "friend" mentioned above: this was a new bike from a source well know to not properly set up the hubs before shipping. The wheel could barely spin on the axle the cones were so tight, it was like having the brakes always engaged. When I pulled the cones there was very little grease packed in the hubs. rdeshpande's bike comes from the same source, and I'm fairly confident an overhaul is in order. –  seth Sep 26 '13 at 8:14
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For a typical rebuild the increase in efficiency is negligible. Think about the leverage you have over the bearings on a rotating wheel- it's pretty substantial compared to the friction of the bearings, even if they're not in perfect shape. The bearings would have to be destroyed for it to make a significant difference, and if the bearings are destroyed it's likely that the hub would be too, at which point a rebuild is moot.

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