I bought this 1990 Raleigh cheap on eBay. It had been sitting in a garage for decades and it was barely running when I picked it up. Surprisingly, given its age, most components were fine. But there was an awful clicking and grinding in the rear hub, so I took it apart and the axle and cones were coated in dirt and grime. (And being fairly new at this, I might have lost some ball bearings...)

More to the point: during a thorough clean and degrease, I found that the axle is heavily pitted and the threading has been badly chewed up. I can't even remove the drive-side cone – it keeps getting stuck on the last few threads and no amount of GT85 is shifting it.

The axle is beyond rescuing. But I've never bought an axle before and the measurements I've taken don't match up with what I've found online. It measures 162mm with a diameter of about 8.5mm.

Is it the case that I can't find this because it's some legacy axle size? Will a replacement axle of, say, 175mm x 9.5mm do the trick, like this one here? And will the 'default' nine 1/4" ball bearings be compatible with that?

Sorry for any stupid questions. I am fairly inexperienced with hubs.

UPDATE: It is now fixed. I removed the Shimano freewheel, and it turned out the metal shavings were from the dust cap itself. The ball bearings were apparently scraping against it. I've installed a new slightly longer axle, regreased and reassembled the hub with new ball bearings, adjusted the cones and it seems to be running very smoothly, no clicks or grinding.

2 Answers 2


Start by checking the hardened bearing surfaces on the inside of the wheel's hub. If they're not smooth under all the grime then its generally not economic to proceed.

Otherwise, you can do this.

Tools you will need to buy or borrow:

  • a freehub removal tool
  • two cone spanners of a size to fit your new cones so probably 15mm but other sizes are possible. You can get away with one, but it can be fiddly.
  • A medium sized spanner, between 200mm and 300mm
  • Degreaser - I've taken to using the citrus stuff
  • Grease, rags, hand cleaner, etc

And you'll need a replacement axle kit that will have some cone nuts, lock nuts and a bunch of spacers. Should come with axle nuts. Avoid the ones designed for cartridge bearings, you need cones to support the bearing balls.

Also you want a rear axle, which will have extra spacer for inside the freewheel.

If you choose a hollow axle intended to be used with a quick release skewer, then the overall length measurement has to be just less than your frame's OLD plus the thickness of the dropout on either side. Personally I'd suggest you stick with a solid axle, so it should be long enough to support two axle nuts on the outside of your dropouts.

Do consider buying new bearing balls too - should only be a few bucks for a full set of 18x 1/4" balls and its worth doing. You can use loose balls or get caged ones, either's fine.

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  • 2
    As this is your first attempt at hub service I would suggest picking up 20 ball bearings. 18 to use and 2 to loose. Inevitably you will drop at least one and not be able to find it.
    – mikes
    Apr 16, 2021 at 20:05
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    Thanks for the detailed response. I cleaned the inside of the hub and it looks smooth enough. I think the issue was primarily the axle. I have all the tools above except for a freehub removal tool. I'm trying to avoid buying tools I only plan to use once so I'll see if I can do without. I found a rear solid axle with almost exactly the same dimensions for cheap on eBay, though in imperial (3/8" X 6 1/2"). So maybe the bike shipped with imperial parts or the last owner replaced the axle once already. Anyway, I'm planning to try this tomorrow so will post with feedback!
    – Sputnik
    Apr 20, 2021 at 15:21
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    My whole question probably could have been summarised as me panicking about how much leeway there was in replacement axles. I just didn't know whether the bike would run with an axle that was +/- 2mm in diameter, +/- 10mm in length.
    – Sputnik
    Apr 20, 2021 at 15:23
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    This is going to be one of those 'educational' repairs... Got set up this morning with all the parts – after 5 minutes of cleaning and investigating pitting I found the cause of the grinding. There was lots of swarf in the drive-side cup, and it looks like the ball bearings have been scraping at an exposed thread. I'm not sure exactly where it is in this picture, but it's the conjunction of the two circled bits: pasteboard.co/JYkB6UU.png. It turns out I have a freewheel, not a cassette. So in order to investigate further I've had to order a freewheel remover. To be continued...
    – Sputnik
    Apr 21, 2021 at 9:03
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    @Sputnik you can do this - do add progress photos to your question to help show how its going. For a less structured discussion you might also join Bicycles Chat
    – Criggie
    Apr 21, 2021 at 12:12

If the cones are pitted, the bearing surfaces inside the hub shell may well also be damaged. As the rim is not particularly valuable, your local bike shop may be able to sell you a complete replacement rear wheel to suit the screw-on 6-speed block you have.

If you really wanted to only replace the axle, by 1990 I would expect a non-vintage hub to be using metric dimensions, so it's very likely it uses the most common size.

  • Thanks for this response. I've summarised my repair attempts in the comments above.
    – Sputnik
    Apr 20, 2021 at 15:25
  • the cones are repairable, simply with a drill and a Dremel: youtube.com/watch?v=2DZjs1BHgdI
    – JinSnow
    Oct 17, 2022 at 20:18

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