Rear wheel backlash – how to fix it, nuances

The bicycle only at first glance seems to be a primitive vehicle, in the device of which there is nothing complicated. In fact, only the coordinated and flawless operation of all its mechanisms can guarantee the pleasure of riding. Therefore, it is so important to make timely diagnostics in a workshop or self-service bike to rule out such a common problem, as backlash rear wheel.

What is this?

bike wheel play

Technically speaking, the backlash of a bicycle wheel is the free movement of one element that does not drive the other component of the system.

It appears as a result of loosening of the locknuts and cones on the hub axle. As a rule, the backlash does not occur on its own. Most likely, the components were not adjusted correctly initially or the mechanism is heavily contaminated with sand, water and other particles, as a result of which the balls are broken and there are tracks on the cones, which eventually leads to the formation of back wheel hub backlash of the bicycle.

A loose wheel can spin freely and up to a certain point it does not cause any discomfort. The problem is that later any, even the slightest bump in the road rapidly destroys the surface of the cones and bowls inside the hub.

To determine the presence of a malfunction, it is enough to shake the wheel from side to side. Free movement can be felt immediately if there is a problem. If the element is stiff, there is no reason for concern. You can also try rocking the axle itself (not the eccentric). If you notice that the rear wheel on your bike is wobbly, it is better to take your bike to a bike repair shop. The sooner you find the problem, the better – it may be enough to clean, lubricate and adjust the hub. But if you ride with such a wheel for a long time – be prepared to replace the mechanism.

Read also Bicycle tire pressure – what it should be, recommendations

Why is the rear tire on your bike wobbly?

The occurrence of backlash can be caused by several reasons:

  • long service life (even the most wear-resistant material cannot resist time indefinitely);
  • destruction of the radius nuts (replacement only);
  • rubbing of the notches (heavy loads on the bike always lead to such failures);
  • appearance of a space between the locknut and the bike frame.

Simply put, the possible causes can be grouped into 4 groups:

  • contamination of the mechanism and, as a consequence, its erasure;
  • long service life;
  • The system is not properly adjustedfrom the beginning or low-quality parts are used;
  • Heavy load or aggressive driving style.

All this sooner or later leads to the occurrence of back wheel backlash. How to fix this problem? The issue is resolved in accordance with the reason for which the defect appeared: replacing the mechanism, loosening the compression or filling the gap. Let’s examine each situation in detail.

Necessary tool

wheel clearance tool

If you prefer to repair your bike yourself, everything you need is likely to be on hand. You will need wrenches of several sizes – that’s for sure. If the cause of the backlash lies in the wear of parts, then, accordingly, new spare parts will be useful. If you think that without disassembly of the wheel here can not do without, you will also need a special ratchet or cassette puller (the so-called whip).

How to fix rear wheel backlash on a bicycle

fix the back wheel backlash of the bicycle

A step-by-step guide:

  1. Remove the jacking nuts and take out the wheel.
  2. Remove the sprockets. Proceed as follows:
    1. Ratchet. Lock and turn in the opposite direction of the wheel. Force must be used here.
    2. Cassette. Also lock the whip, and then into the special hole in the cassette to put a puller and twist until the lock nut unscrewed.
    3. Sleeve on ball bearings. Remove the intermediate elements (watch the sequence of all components). Then lift and remove the dust cover, remove the balls, remove the old grease, and inspect the parts for defects.
  3. If serious damage is found (potholes, cracks, chips, etc.), it is best to have the bike repaired. If the parts are in good condition, they should be lubricated, but not with thick grease, and certainly not with solidol.
  4. Assemble the hub in reverse order. First put on the dust cap, and then screw on the cone nuts. Tighten them so that the bearings in the bushing can turn freely, but without “jamming”. It is important to allow a little play here.
  5. Put the cassette or ratchet back on.
Read also How to open a bicycle combination lock: methods

Front wheel backlash – how to remove it

how to remove the backlash of the front wheel

Sequence of actions:

  • remove the wheel;
  • Disassemble the hub and clean all parts;
  • Check condition of parts. If there are no defects – grease with clean grease and install the bearings;
  • screw in cone on one side of axle and lock nut;
  • Re-assemble the axle, screw on the cone and lock nut on the other side of the axle;
  • tension the bearings and secure them with locknuts. Make sure the tension is the same on both sides;
  • put the wheel back in place and tighten the nuts. If there is any, remove the backlash;
  • check the degree of bearing tension.

It remains only to check the rolling and the result of the work done. Rock the wheel: if there is no free play, you have done everything right.


Sometimes it is not possible to remove the backlash. The most common causes are:

  1. Lost bearing, ball, or any other small part.
  2. Difficult to find the optimum backlash when tightening cones or locknuts.
  3. Cannot remove the ratchet or cassette.

In this case, it is better to give the bike to a savvy craftsman, who will fix the problem in no time and return you a perfectly healthy bike.


Now you know what to do if the back wheel is loose. This problem is easy to fix, if you pay attention to it in time and do not make the same mistakes as before. Keep an eye on the condition of important nodes and mechanisms of the bike and try to treat your friend with care. Don’t ignore the recommendations of experienced craftsmen – regular maintenance before and after the season will help to quickly identify backlash and other malfunctions.

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Comments: 2
  1. Mary Wells

    This is a great post! It provides informative and helpful advice on addressing rear wheel backlash. I appreciate the attention to detail and nuances when it comes to fixing this issue. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  2. Crystal Wilson

    Thanks for the informative post about rear wheel backlash. It’s great to have such detailed information on how to fix it and understand its nuances. This will help anyone who encounters this issue in the future!

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