Almost all of the hubs we sell these days rotate on sealed cartridge bearings. These do what the name suggests: they package up all the rotating bits which wear-out into one part which is relatively easy and affordable to replace.
The main advantage is that replacing the sealed cartridge bearings (generally) brings that hub back to 100% as-new performance, prolonging the lifespan of the other more expensive, harder to replace parts of the hub.
How long your bearings last is a combination of factors:
- Quantity and quality of the bearings
- Quality (concentricity and tolerance) of the hub.
- How much flex is in the system (hard-tails have longer bearing lifespan than full suspension bikes)
- Conditions the hub is used in. Rotorua’s super fine pumice dust is much harder on bearings than Wainuiomata’s gluggy mud
- Rider weight and power (including whether you’re on an ebike).
There is a common misconception that wet winter riding is harder on bearings than summer riding, but in our experience servicing hubs, the dust of summer is able to sneak its way into the bearings and usually does more damage than the thick, clumpy mud of winter which can’t.
How do I know if my bearings need to be replaced?
Test 1: Side-to-side play
With the wheel in the bike, move the rim from side-to-side. If there is a clear knock then your bearings are truly ready for replacement. If you’re doing this on a full suspension bike you’ll need to verify whether this movement is coming from the hub bearings or the suspension pivots - the easiest way to do this is to pinch the area between the hub shell and axle with your fingers and feel for movement between them. Do the same pinch test on all the other bearing locations on your bike until you find the worn-out one.
Test 2: How do they feel and sound?
Lift one wheel off the ground and give the wheel a slow spin, and place a finger on the frame or fork where the wheel attaches. What do you feel and hear? Smooth and silent? Great - keep riding. Can you feel the roughness of the bearing through the frame? Time to think about a hub service. Can you hear the bearing grumbling as it rotates? You need to replace these bearings asap.