Cartridge hub bearing play

I’ve been riding cup and cone hubs for over 10 years so I’ve always adjusted ‘em to have no detectable play at the rim when installed on bike with QR skewers tight. Now I’m riding disc/through-axle with cartridge bearings (EZO bearing) hubs and notice the teeniest bit of play at the rims when checking over this new bike.
Is it the case that many cartridge bearing wheel sets have a minute amount of lateral play at the rim just based on the architecture of the cartridge bearing itself? They spin awesome and feel smooth out on the road, but having just spent years on Dura Ace wheels that can be adjusted to 0 bearing ‘slop’ this tiny bit of play is kinda’ alien to me.
Is it normal?

No, it isn’t. The hubs should have a preload adjustment to remove this.

preload adjustment on cartridge bearing hubs? where?
I had some Mavic Ksyrium SL’s that weren’t cup/cone back in the day that had some kind of preload adjustment, but that seemed like an anomaly.

the kind of lateral play I’m talking about on my current cartridge bearing wheels is absolutely minimal, you can’t measure it, only feel it if you’re paying attention.
is it normal?

I had this play in a DT240s hub which was only minimal (but annoying) for a while. Eventually the the bearing under the star ratchet needled replacing so I took it to my mechanic as I didn’t have the appropriate tool. He replaced the bearing and the lateral play disappeared. This was a QR hub but I assumed it was a worn bearing causing it.

That Mavic system was a great design - capable of very fine adjustments on the bike with the supplied plastic ‘C’ spanner.

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It depends on the brand and make of hub if the cartridge bearings have a manual preload system or not. Pre-loading really should only be required for angular contact or cup and cone bearings.

Most modern, good quality wheels that use non angular contact cartridge bearings in their hubs are manufactured to very high tolerances and, provided you don’t use shit bearings and you assemble and install them correctly, there shouldn’t be any lateral play of significance. Any minute amount of play you can detect is probably meant to be there, or within the intended design parameters.

You haven’t said what hubs they are so I can’t answer that.

On my White Industries CLDs, as an example, each hub has a preload collar with two tiny hex grubscrews accessed through a hole in the axle end on one side.

BTW I said the hubs should have bearing preload, not will. I guessed that given you are experiencing perceptible play they don’t qualify as “modern good quality wheels using non angular contact bearings”

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yeah, it was a great system all around.

I was thinking the same thing re. acceptable level of play. It is so tiny that I can’t help but wonder if it is in fact totally acceptable. Hell, I don’t even feel the play all the time when I check for it.
Hubs are part of a Parcours Ronde wheelset ($1400 USD), house branded, EZO bearings. Overall, very decent quality wheels.


In the article about Heinrich Haussler’s custom Reacto for the race today, half way down the page there is a nice close up shot of the front hub of the Vision Metron 60s and the preload collar is clearly visible. Just shows that each manufacturer has their take on how to achieve the desired outcome.

My older Fulcrum Racing DB 5s, which use sealed, angular contact bearings, have the same threaded collar + grub screw system, which does need to be adjusted. My new Hunt Aerodynamcist 44s, which use just plain, sealed, radial bearings, are self-preloading by design, so no manual adjustment, yet they have no lateral movement that I can discern.


there should be no slop. when detected in dt swiss it’s usually due to one of the bearings not pressed in enough/poor quality aftermarket bearings. some hubs (every tune hub in my experience) require the use of thin metal shims to get rid of the play because the suction fit endcaps just can’t “preload” the bearings. not sure if bug or feature but seems weird to me. one of the less common cause is poor machining of the hub so the bearing fits loosely in the hub (seen one tune hub with this issue so far, you could press the bearing in and out with your bare fingers). on the other side I also encoutered customers who are bit ocd about play everywhere and feel it where it is not. either inspect the hub if you are capable of doing that or wait how long will the bearings last and if it dies quickly, there is some problem.

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On the subject of preloading bearings the biggest challenge for me recently is my front hubs with one piece axle. Without access to the back of bearings while assembling (with a press kit) it is tricky to insert them far enough - but not too much that it causes a ‘notchy’ feel when testing rotation after assembly. Eventually the best solution was using the end caps (robust enough to do this). They were perfect for supporting the full face of the bearings and went it easily.

There’s a tiny bit of debate on this topic, but no, I don’t believe there should be any detectable play at all.

In my opinion, companies started moving to cartridge bearings em masse a number of years ago not because they’re superior, but because it’s far easier to design hubs around them since you only have to account for a cylindrical bore, not a threaded axle, and cones, and cups, and bearing balls, and seals. However, it’s also tricky to design cartridge bearing hubs properly because the bore tolerances have to be perfect, and you also have to account for things like spoke tension. It’s a delicate balancing act.

Personally, I still prefer cup-and-cone bearings if I have the option, but if go with a cartridge bearing hub, I try as much as possible to use ones that feature adjustable preload. If your front hub has a bit of play in it, some might argue that it makes for less bearing friction and a faster hub (which is sort of true if I understand correctly). But it’s also annoying. Personally, I’d contact Parcours to ask about a potential solution.


at this point, I’m gonna’ sit on it and see how things develop after more miles and go from there. the wheels don’t even have 300 miles on them.
like I said, as far as ‘play’ goes, it’s literally pretty minimal, I’m just anal about the condition of bikes I own.

Had this with my Zipp 404 firecrests and was told by Zipp/SRAM that a little play was normal whilst in the stand and shouldn’t impact tire clearance on my tighter frames I was also cautioned to not to bottom out the preload. Didn’t create an issue in my race only application and the hubs are still rolling fine on my wife’s bike where they’re used as daily drivers.


if I had to say, that’s most likely the deal with my Parcours wheels here. if I’m looking for the very, very small amount of play off the bike, it’s not hard to find, but they roll really well and I sure can’t feel it when riding.
has the play on those 404’s remained about the same up to this point?

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Yeah I’ve had them 7 years or so and they’re the same as they were when they were new. Was sort of expecting the hubs to fail for other reasons since they’re Zipps but still holding strong.