I have an 85 Raleigh that until yesterday had never had its rear tire replaced over the life of the bicycle. Before I replaced it, the wheel seemed fairly stiff. I don't know if the old tire was so dried out it ed lending support or what.

I'm wondering if I need to get something adjusted or if a bit if flex is ok. Is this normal?

Edit: by flex, I mean I tightened down the bolts, so the axle is tightly locked to the frame. However, when I first took the bike off the rack, the tire stayed in the same place on the ground, but if I shook the seat side to side, it would hit a frequency where the axle would move side to side, but the rim would sort of flex backwards and forwards.

Also, by stiff I meant it didn't do this before, not that the brakes were rubbing or anything.

Edit 2: There were questions about how well maintained this bike was, the previous owner said it was used as an indoor exercise bike, and when I bought it it it was on the bike exercise stand. It didn't have a front wheel, and based on the wear on the rear tire, I don't think it was used much, so as far as I can tell, it just sat in someone's basement for 30 or so years.

  • 1
    With the bike upside down, go completely around the wheel squeezing each pair of spokes together gently. They should all have about the same amount of tension. It's probably not this, but it does not hurt to check.
    – goldilocks
    Aug 2, 2014 at 13:18

2 Answers 2


There should be no flex.

It's possible you haven't reinstalled the wheel correctly; and the axle is sliding around in the dropouts. If that's not the case, I assume you're talking about lateral wobble when you hold the bike frame still and wiggle the wheel rim. That indicates hub bearings in dire need of replacement.

You say the wheel felt stiff before replacing the tyre; the chances are the tyre/rim was rubbing against the brake pads. In changing the tyre you most likely knocked things about a bit and nudged the brakes so that they no longer rub on the tyre/rim, exposing the play in the hub bearings that was already present.

Much less likely: If you're talking about a different kind of flex (i.e. the wheel rim is actually deforming under moderate force), you've probably cracked the rim while replacing the tyre.

It sounds like a trip to your LBS to me. Wheels should not flex in any of the ways described above, and a bike which hasn't had a tyre change in 29 years will almost certainly have been neglected in other ways too. You don't seem to have a great deal of experience, and most likely won't be able to spot potentially dangerous problems. Take it in and ask for a full service.

  • Or, if you're DIY-minded, check out Sheldon, or the Park Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair. Both are pretty good resources for learning how to wrench. Aug 2, 2014 at 7:57
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    Good advice. Another possibility is that the tire is not seated correctly all the the way round, it would then wobble, making the wheel look like it was wobbling.
    – andy256
    Aug 2, 2014 at 10:51
  • @headeronly I've basically read every single Sheldon article multiple times. Check out my edit to see if that is clearer.
    – jfa
    Aug 2, 2014 at 15:41
  • @JFA Sorry if pointing you to Sheldon was patronising. I've read your edits but I'm still not in the clear. Take the wheel off the bike and wiggle the axle - it shouldn't move in any direction; only rotate. If there is play, your bearings need attention. I know you said the bearings are sealed, but this doesn't necessarily mean they are cartridge bearings. There may still be adjustable cones behind the seal. Cartridge bearings on a 1985 Raleigh sounds unusual to me. Aug 2, 2014 at 17:02
  • What does sealed mean? It has that label stamped on the side, but I thought that meant they were cartridge. As I told Daniel, it does make an odd whirring noise when I spin the wheel and make a weird vibration pattern, but now that I think about it that could just be related to freewheel.
    – jfa
    Aug 7, 2014 at 5:41

Four possibilities (that I can think of off-hand):

  1. The tire itself is not properly seated on the rim. Let most of the air out and work the tire sideways back and forth with your hands to make sure it's well seated. Reinflate and spin the wheel and look at the junction between tire and rim. The tire should not appear to wobble up and down relative to the rim.
  2. The tube is twisted inside the tire. If this is the case you will not be able to get the tire properly seated -- there will be "bumps" and it will seem uneven. Remove the tube, inflate it until it "fills out" and limply holds its shape, then reinstall.
  3. Some of the spokes have broken or come loose. They might have been ready to go and mucking around with the wheel "pushed them over the edge". "Pluck" each spoke. On an older, unmaintained wheel they will not likely all have the exact same tension, but none should feel loose, and one is really loose you will likely notice that it has broken, probably at the hub. If you have loose or broken spokes you probably need to take the wheel to a bike shop to get them fixed.
  4. The hub bearings are loose. This can happen when you are unscrewing the nuts to remove the wheel. The symptom will be that, when you push the wheel back and forth from the side of the rim, you can see that the hub is wobbling relative to the axle. If you're mechanically inclined you can adjust this yourself, but if not it's best to take it to a shop.
  • See my edit, I think my usage of the word "flex" was extremely unclear. 1 and 2 are probably not the problem, as I see the issue when I'm stopped. As for 3, I checked the spokes, some of them do seem looser than others, but not terrible, I think. 4 is not an issue because it's sealed bearing, and I think I would hear rattling if some of the bearing were broken.
    – jfa
    Aug 2, 2014 at 15:49
  • Actually, I lifted the rear wheel to see if it was tire wobble, as so many people suggested, and I noticed a regular vibration, like a "ka-thunk whirr ka-thunk" whirr". The whirring sound was audible. How would I know if the bearings were broken?
    – jfa
    Aug 2, 2014 at 16:10
  • @JFA - I'd first look for something rubbing, especially the brakes. Aug 2, 2014 at 20:12
  • That was the first thing I checked, and I had just set up the brakes, so that's not the issue. It must just be unevenly tightened spokes.
    – jfa
    Aug 7, 2014 at 5:43

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