I have a medium sized Trek Mountain Track/Antelope with a seven speed freewheel. When I tighten the rear quick release, I have to carefully back off on the tightness so that the wheel will actually turn. This is not a brakes issue, I'm dropping the wheel in while the bike is upside down, and I can spin it freely when the quick release is loose. I don't believe its has to do with lateral rim alignment, because that would hit a brake pad in one or a few distinct areas. I'm getting even friction when the q/r is too tight.

My first guess is that I have badly adjusted cones on the axle, and I'm guessing this because I don't know how else the dropouts would apply so much friction.

What should I look to next?

Update I adjusted the left hand cone looser and I was able to get it adjusted to take a normal amount of pressure on the q/r and it still rotates well. The cone races are kinda gravelly by the feel, I think I'll definitely keep this a light duty bike.

  • I think you've pretty much diagnosed it yourself. Try adjusting the cones. It might mean that the hub needs a service, but you may as well see if you can simply fix it by adjusting the cones first since it's quite simple. Jan 4, 2012 at 11:05
  • 1
    Yep, either the cones are too tight to begin with or you're wrenching the QR way too tight. Jan 4, 2012 at 12:30
  • Thanks, I'll give it a try. I'll have to dust off my cone wrenches. Jan 4, 2012 at 15:36
  • A "gravelly" bearing indicates that the bearings are adjusted a hair too tight. When properly adjusted you should just barely feel a hint of "gravelly" -- the QR makes it tighter, but vertical load (your weight) on the bearing has the opposite effect. Adjusting bearings is tricky, since they need to be a hair loose when you adjust the cone, as the lock nut tightens things up a fair amount. Jan 7, 2012 at 13:24
  • Get a set of Spin Doctor open end wrenches. Beats having to keep removing the wheel over and over to fine tune bearing tightness
    – user13981
    Oct 5, 2014 at 4:16

2 Answers 2


The hub is adjusted too tight, or there is damage to the bearing track which cause higher than normal friction when the bearings are compressed.

You're on the right track.


I'd put my money on a broken axle. If the cones were too tight then you'd get the friction even when the q/r was done up loosely.

If it is this, then replacing the axle isn't the hardest job in the world, just a bit time consuming if you've never done it before.

  • Yeah, it's vaguely possible. Easy enough to check -- take the wheel off, remove the skewer, and yank on one end of the axle. If it's broken it'll be loose and may pull all the way out. Jan 6, 2012 at 0:24
  • Well if the axle were broken, wouldn't one side of the threads rotate independently of the other? I took it out, and had to hold the axle bold under the freewheel with a crescent wrench and the opposite cone and bolt together. So, it didn't obviously feel broken. Interesting possibility, I hadn't considered it, thanks. Jan 7, 2012 at 5:22
  • Yeah, I've only seen a broken axle once (on a bike donated to a bikes for kids program), and it was obvious right away that it was broken. Jan 7, 2012 at 13:27
  • I've broken an axle, and yes, it was obvious as soon as the wheel came off the bike.
    – armb
    Mar 7, 2013 at 14:05

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