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This is a massive cone, and I was under the mistaken belief that if it remains perfectly smooth, I can either overhaul it yearly, or grind it with a Dremel and repack the grease every two years, and it will basically last forever.

big cone, after grinding and adding a 1 mm washer

But all is not well. The fancier cones seem light, even flimsy by comparison. They have little to grind away. But after removing 1 mm and adding the correct washer to fill the gap to ensure that the O.L.D. remains a precise 130 mm, the cone moves inwards, and the cone wrench cannot reach it.

Does a z-shaped cone wrench exist?

I'm expecting that the answer is "no". I've replaced the wheels anyway, but it would still be nice to know whether these wheels can be ridden all the way, or at least hang around as an emergency spare part rather than go to landfill.

Incidentally, a pair of wheel have (obviously) four cones. This little issue doesn't arise with the three other cones, which makes it a bit more perplexing whether the (free)hub side cone can also be made to work. Thoughts? Adding the washer on the side opposite to the freehub means that the two wheels will no longer be aligned. How significant would that be?

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    "grind it with a Dremel" Are you trying to resurface the hardened race that bears on the balls?
    – Criggie
    May 15 at 9:14
  • 1
    @Criggie It's quite simple—at least in principle, since this remains an unfinished project. Grind with a dremmel; smooth with fine metal sandpaper; finish with an ordinary 3M "green, heavy duty" cleaning pad (the kind that would ruin the polish on your glossy kitchen stainless steel pots and pans).
    – Sam
    May 16 at 20:42
  • A bearing race is hardened to a small depth. Spalling is when that hard surface fails and chips break out leaving a tiny pit. There's a risk you've sanded through the hardened layer, and also left a non-flat track for the bearing balls to roll on. That said, I once cleaned up an irreplaceable race using a lathe and it worked nicely. Doing it by hand would leave an undulating track and exposed some softer metal which will wear faster.
    – Criggie
    May 16 at 21:14
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    @Criggie I don't have access to a lathe, and so I used a handheld drill. I'm not sure whether hardening some metals changes their density, but if that's the case, the cone is so heavy compared to an equivalent piece of steel that it may well be hardened through. In any case, it's an ongoing experiment.
    – Sam
    May 17 at 13:23

2 Answers 2

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No, its not not needed. Remove the cone from the non-drive side, and the axle slides out the drive side. Assembly means setting the position of the drive side cone and locking it with the lock nut, however this is not needed unless you remove the drive side cone form the axle. Use the non-drive side to set bearing preload

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  • This is true with some all-modern components as well - if you set the drive side cone position on my Deore XT hub, the cone spanner gets stuck. It's a pain when replacing/servicing the freehub, as that's the only reason to unlock the non-drive side.
    – Chris H
    May 15 at 14:22
  • That should do it. It's a road bike wheel, and it should be perfectly possible to start from either end. A quick note for future efforts: It may get more complicated with a fat bike rear wheel. There the hub is so much bigger than the axle that the ball bearings can fall inside between the two. There it's distinctly easier to start from one end than from the other, though I can't recall which end was easier.
    – Sam
    May 16 at 20:39
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Such a tool might be convenient. I wonder if you could cut one from a stout teaspoon or dessert-spoon. I've never seen one in person or for sale anywhere though.

I've come across rear wheels built like this before - generally its that the right-hand cone is too short for the freehub that is fitted. That might be a previous owner replacing things, but it seems more common "as-built".

Notice the stackup of washers - if that thickness was part of the cone nut you'd have less difficulty getting a cone spanner onto that nut, perhaps with a thinner outer locknut too. Perhaps someone's increased the OLD of this wheel, or chose to replace the freehub and had to re-space things.

My method for dealing with these is to remove the axle from the hub by undoing the left-side nuts, doing a good clean and regrease and replace bearing balls if needed, then fit the right-hand side cone and locknut together hard. I may even use threadlocker if its on a bike of mine. All bearing preload adjustment is done from the left hand side.
The only gotcha is to make sure the axle stickout on the righthand side is less than the dropout's thickness, presuming QR skewers.


If you're grinding the race to refinish it, consider making your own cone nuts? It's not a whole lot harder if you have access to the right taps, and can heat treat the bearing surface some.

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    Cutting from a spoon is beyond my toolset, not to mention my technical ability. I'm not sure what a cone "nut" is. If you mean to manufacture my own cones, that's way beyond what I can do.
    – Sam
    May 16 at 20:43

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