Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wheelsport Rear Hub Maintenance Guide

Recently, I have seen many people upgrading their wheelset on their folding bikes. From 16" to 18" to 20" (406) and 20" (451), there are more upgrade choices than ever. Speaking in only the local context, there used to be only Kinetix Comp and Kinetix Pro 20" wheels for upgrade. Even then, it mainly fits Dahon bikes due to the narrower front hub OverLocknut Distance (OLD) of 74mm.

There was also the PZ Racing wheels, which are excellent wheels that roll very smoothly and makes a loud clicking sound which I like. The pair of PZ Racing wheels that I have are now on the Dahon Vitesse X20-TT.

When the Tyrell bikes were introduced in Singapore. they came with their own AM-3,5,7,9 wheels. However these were limited to front forks of standard 100mm OLD, and so could not be fitted onto Dahon folding bikes.

The lack of wheelset choices available locally was why I went to Taiwan last year to look for a new wheelset for my Dahon Boardwalk. When I was at Stripe Magic, I chanced upon the Wheelsport wheelset. It looked really well built with a 30mm rim profile, slightly taller than normal. It also came in a nice gold colour, which would really suit my Boardwalk! That was why I bought the wheelset there and brought it back to Singapore.

Barely one month after that, I found that MyBikeShop was also going to bring in those wheels! Me and Kian Lim also exchanged some tips on how to maintain the Wheelsport free hub. Seems like great minds think alike, we both found those wheels really attractive with a good performance.

So far, I have used those wheels extensively for over a year, and there has been no problems at all. The wheels have remained true so far, but that could have been helped by the mechanic in Taipei, who kindly tuned the spokes before packing it into a box for me.

Nowadays, there are many more wheelset choices available for small wheeled bikes. The Wheelsport wheels come in a variety of sizes, with different front hub widths to fit different forks. They also come in a few exciting colours to match your bike. The most common colours I have seen are Red and Black.

Other brands include LitePro wheels and Joseph Kuosac Carbon wheels, both brought in by Cyclopedia. I have not tried those wheels personally, but I know of quite a few people who have upgraded to those wheels and the feedback has been positive.

In view of the growing numbers of Wheelsport wheel users, I will share how to take apart the rear hub for maintenance, and most importantly, how to put it back!

The Wheelsport wheels use sealed bearing cartridges, and thus these sealed bearings will hardly ever need to be serviced. If for some reason the bearings are worn out, it will be best to just change out the whole bearing cartridge. For this maintenance guide, I will limit the maintenance to tasks that we can do with just normal tools, and thus we will not be removing any of the sealed bearings, which are press fitted.

Tools and Spares Required:
Size 5 Allen Key X 2
Special Grease for Freehub Body
Chain Whip (For removing cassette)
Cassette Tool + Large Wrench (For removing cassette)

Note: This only applies for the older version of Wheelsport rear hubs. For newer Wheelsport rear hubs, the construction is slightly different. Skip to the bottom of the page for more info about newer rear hub.

Step 1: Remove rear wheel from bike and remove cassette
I will not go into details on how to remove the cassette, this info is pretty much available on the Internet, a simple search on rear hub cassette removal will tell you all that you need to know and the tools you need.

Step 2: Loosen the axle nut on the non drive side of the rear hub
This is done by inserting a size 5 Allen key on either side of the axle. A slight torque should be enough to loosen the axle nut on the non drive side.

Step 3: Remove the axle nut on the non drive side
This should come out easily just by unscrewing the nut. Note the large hollow axle for good stiffness without excessive weight.

Step 4: Remove the locknut on the non drive side
The locknut comes with a rubber seal to seal against dirt and water ingression. Unscrew it to remove.

Step 5: Pull out freehub body plus axle
Once the 2 nuts on the non drive side has been removed, the freehub body plus axle should come out from the drive side easily.

Step 6: Clean ratchet and sealed bearing cover on rear hub
Clean the ratchet and the sealed bearing cover on the rear hub shell. There is no need to use degreaser, just use some toilet paper/rag and wipe the old dirty grease off. Degreaser might seep past the seals and remove the grease inside the bearing cartridge. Be careful not to leave bits of paper at the ratchet area. If all is well, the bearings should be smooth rolling.

Step 7: Remove spring and pawls from freehub body
Now, this part can be quite tricky. You may choose to skip this part if you are not sure how the pawls work.

The pawls are held in place by the circular spring as shown at the bottom left of the picture. It is actually a very long and slim coil spring that looks very much like a rubber band.

To remove the spring, just use a sharp object and gently lift it off one of the pawls. Be sure not to stretch it excessively. Slowly pull off the spring around the whole circumference. With this construction, the pawls are quite unlikely to fly away, but be careful in any case, as you don't want to lose any parts!

Clean all the parts by wiping the old grease off. If you obsess with cleanliness, you can use degreaser to clean them, but be sure to leave them to dry for a few hours to ensure that all the degreaser evaporates.

Step 8: Grease the freehub body at the area where the pawl seats, and reinstall the pawls
Dab some of the special grease for freehub body, and place the pawls back into place. Do not use the normal grease as it is too viscous and will cause the pawls to stick and not work properly. Oil is too light and will not last, although it will give you a very loud freewheeling clicking sound.

The pawls will stay in place as it is held there by the grease.

Step 9: Reinstall the spring
Carefully stretch and pull the spring over the pawls, making sure it seats properly in the slots. Make sure that the spring does not launch itself through the air! You may never see it again.

When done properly, all the pawls will then point outwards as shown. Ensure that each pawl is working properly by pressing the pawls down. The pawls should flick outwards smoothly.

Step 10: Grease the ratchet
Coat the ratchet area with the special grease for freehub body. Don't worry about the grease not being even, when the pawls move around the ratchet the grease will naturally be distributed evenly.

Step 11: Reinsert the freehub body plus axle
Insert the axle and make the freehub body sit into the ratchet. You may have to turn the freehub body a few times before it sits into the ratchet properly. Do not force it in, be gentle.

Step 12: Reinstall rubber seal on freehub body
This step is very important, do not miss this step! When the freehub body is inserted into the hub shell, the seal will naturally rest on the outside. This seal needs to be pushed in to rest under a lip on the hub shell.

Use a small flat tool to gently push the rubber seal under the lip as shown. If the seal is not seated properly, the hub sealing will be poor and there will be excessive friction.

Step 13: Reinstall the locknut and the axle nut
The locknut and axle nut should be screwed on the non drive side, hand tighten is sufficient. When the wheel is installed on the bike, the QR skewer will compress everything together and the parts will fit snugly.

Check that the wheel is spinning smoothly by holding up the wheel and spinning it. Also check that the freewheel mechanism is working smoothly. You will notice that the clicking sound will be softer due to the fresh grease cushioning the pawls. As the grease thins out and gets distributed, the clicking sound will regain its original level.

Step 14: Reinstall the cassette and put the wheel back on the bike

After the QR skewer has been tightened, the wheel should still spin smoothly.

That's all! It is actually quite simple and straight forward, without using any special jigs or tools to take apart the rear hub. Most rear hubs have a slightly different construction that differs from brand to brand, but the basic working principle is similar.

For newer Wheelsport rear hubs, the construction is slightly different. Most assembly and disassembly steps are the same, except for certain parts which cannot be removed like the older rear hubs.

If the freehub body comes off without the axle, that means that it is probably the newer rear hub.

If you want to remove the non-drive side axle caps, you can insert a Size 10 Allen Key into the axle, and then loosen the axle cap and locknut on the non-drive side with a Size 5 Allen Key and Size 17 Cone Wrench respectively.

After removing the axle cap and locknut on the non-drive side. I found that the axle is fixed to the sealed bearings and cannot be removed easily.

 Another difference is the construction of the pawls. There are now only 3 pawls instead of 6, and each of the 3 pawls have their own leaf spring, instead of one large coil spring for all 6 pawls in the older design.

This new pawl design can actually be more reliable, despite having only 3 pawls instead of 6. The reason is that although the old design has 6 pawls, they will all fail to work if the pawl spring breaks. On the other hand, for the new design, where the 3 pawls have individual springs, even if one of the pawl or spring breaks, the other 2 will still work.

I hope this guide has been useful, thank you for reading!


  1. wow. very cool. I will try that some day! thank you very much for sharing!

  2. I wished I had read your article earlier so that I knew about OLDs before buying a set of Wheelsports. It was 74mm and couldn't fit my 100m fork. So I had to scour for a front hub adapter before installing it. Do you know whether adapters cause wheelset performance to degrade? Thanks!

    1. nah don't worry about that. the adaptor will not cause any harm to the wheelset or fork when installed properly.

      for your fork, the Tyrell wheels would fit nicely since the front hubs are 100mm.

  3. Bro, your knowledge on upgrading may come in useful to me. Can sms me at 81005575. Have a project in mind that I would need to seek your advice. Appreciate if you would drop me an sms. Thanks..

    1. you can contact me if you need to know anything.

    2. how do i contact you? do you have an email? or?

  4. Great. I've been looking for good bike shops in Taipei. Do you know if Stripe Magic carries Bromptons?

    1. no Bromptons there. you can find their facebook page and see what they have.

  5. Is it ok to install different Hub with 36 holes in 20 inch Tire?

    1. as long as number of spoke holes on hub and rim match it will be OK

  6. Hi,

    Do you know whether a Kinetix Pro Wheelset will fit a Dahon d7? I check the front hub is 74mm but dont know about the rear. Will it fit a 7-speed cassette? Thanks.

  7. Yes both the front and rear wheel will fit in the D7 frame. You can fit a 7 speed cassette but you will need a spacer. Might as well take the chance to upgrade to 8, 9 or 10 speed.

  8. Do u have any comment regarding wheelsport wheels vs litepro wheels? I am thinking of getting the litepro kpro with the kojak tires.


  9. I have no experience with LitePro wheels, so I can't comment on this. But the wheelsport wheels with more spokes will be more durable than the kpro wheels

  10. Hi Steve, I have a Dahon S18 with disc brake version. I am wondering Wheelsport wheelset would fit this model? I am going to Taiwan next month and thought I would get it there.

    1. For the Dahon S18 with disc brakes, you will need a compatible disc brake front and rear hub. Not sure if it is available in Taiwan.

      You will need a wheelset with a front 74mm disc brake hub, and a rear 130mm disc brake hub. The Wheelsport wheels that I am using are not compatible with disc brakes as there is nowhere to mount the brake rotor on the hub.

  11. I have a Dahon Helios SL with a Kinetix Comp on the back, the freewheel was waggling about a bit and occasionally binding, which would throw off the chain.
    I took it to my LBS to service and tighten, apparently they did that and packed it with grease, however it is now much worse. Is the freehub body replaceable? Am I in 'new wheel' territory? Should it be serviceable?

    1. It seems that the freehub body is spoilt, since the bike shop cannot fix it. Take the chance to upgrade to a lighter and smoother wheelset.

  12. Can I pawl spring If it breaks one day. I am now using a wheelsport super wheelset.

    1. You can get the replacement parts from MyBikeshop, they have the spare parts for Wheelsport wheels.

  13. What type of grease do you use when replacing the pawls and spring?

  14. What are the size of the seal bearing for the typical 406 & 451 wheelsets?

  15. how to open kinetix aero pro x front hub, thanx


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