I bought recently a second hand bike for my daily rides, and it seemed in good shape. I rode it for more than a month without any problems, but recently had issues with it and had to get it fixed (mostly about a twisted rear wheel)

Out from the shop everything was fine until this morning, when I heard a "clack" coming from the back wheel, and suddenly felt friction on it Upon inspection, it seems like the wheel is "wiggling" by like 1cm. Both screws on the side are well tightened and do not move. The axle is not moving in the rear dropouts.

What could cause a problem like this ?

(I'm fairly new to this, so if it is a common issue please let me know as well)

EDIT: The problem seems to be a broken axle, I'll close after checking the bike again.

EDIT 2 (SOLUTION) : Upon inspection (sorry, couldn't find the time earlier), it's definitely the axle. I looked carefully, and the ball-bearing seems busted, with some balls out of it. I guess I found the problem, thanks for all the answers

  • 2
    Did you check if all spokes are still in place and in one piece? (a broken spoke would untrue the wheel). Is the wiggling in the sense that the rim is not a perfect circle in the middle of the bike, but some part of it goes left, another goes right? OR is something loose like you can grab the rim and push it left and right and notice that it has some play (like something around the axle in the hub broke).
    – pseyfert
    Feb 18, 2019 at 9:49
  • I feel something is loose around the axle. The rim seems to be straight but would moving around the axle
    – stk
    Feb 18, 2019 at 10:00
  • 2
    OK we might need to iterate over this a bit while defining the problem. We'll be using terms from the glossary at bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/244/… You can edit the answers into your question.
    – Criggie
    Feb 18, 2019 at 10:15
  • Does the rear axle move in the dropouts, or does the rear hub move while the axle stays still? Note this is not the wheel rim's normal rotational movement, but when the rim moves side to side.
    – Criggie
    Feb 18, 2019 at 10:17
  • 5
    Sounds much like broken axle. These things happen, especially with threaded multi-speed freewheels.
    – ojs
    Feb 18, 2019 at 10:33

2 Answers 2


This could be due to the cones on the axle coming loose. The cones screw onto the axle and prevent play in the bearings. If they are too loose the hub will be able to move independently of the axle. If they are too tight the wheel may not turn freely and you may damage the bearings by crushing them. See here for more information on how to properly adjust the cones.

  • Loose cones might cause the wheel to move by a couple of millimetres either way but a centimetre seems a lot, to me. Or maybe I've never seen cones that loose. Jun 26, 2019 at 12:41
  • A few mm at the hub makes for a considerable shift at the rim.
    – T_Bacon
    Jun 26, 2019 at 14:09
  • I mean a couple of millimetres at the rim. Jun 26, 2019 at 14:10
  • 1
    To be fair, I haven't seen a case of a 1cm+ shift at the rim but that's not to say it couldn't be the cause here. The 1 cm of movement claimed didn't sound like it had been measured and it's easy to round these things up/down to a common unit. I just thought it might be something to add here as it is an issue I've experienced in the past and could be useful to someone else with a similar problem.
    – T_Bacon
    Jun 26, 2019 at 14:14

For older bikes, wiggling can also come from a broken spoke(s). For example, you might hear a "clack" when the spoke breaks if you hit a pothole or sudden transition in the road. At that point the wheel feels misaligned and sometimes rubs against the bicycle brakes.

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