Why Does Shimano Use Cup and Cone?

The reasons why Shimano continues to use cup and cone bearings are:

  • Simplicity

Cup and cone bearings are as simple as it gets. The simplified mechanism reduces the chances of malfunctions and keeps the hub fairly light.

  • Simplified Service Process

Cup and cone bearings are easily serviceable. All you need is a couple of cone wrenches, grease, and new ball bearings if the old ones are worn.

The procedure is not very complicated and can be done fairly quickly even by non-professional mechanics.

  • Long Lifespan

If looked after, cup and cone bearings can last a great number of years.

  • Tiny Adjustments

The cup and cone system allows the user to make fine adjustments to the bearings by tightening or untightening the cone a tiny amount.

Subsequently, the user can come up with a setting that has non-perceivable axle play and a wheel that spins forever.

On some higher-end Shimano models (e.g., Dura-Ace), the user can do the aforementioned adjustment without tools.

  • Better Lateral Loading

One of the main reasons why Shimano continues to use cup and cone is the ability of the bearing to “displace axial and radial loads effectively”.

Subsequently, there’s less stress on the bearing system when the bike moves from side to side.


FAQ: Are cup and cone bearings better than cartridge bearings?

It depends. When it comes to performance, a quality hub of either type will suffice for most people.

Having said that, cup and cone bearings have some advantages over cartridge bearings, namely:

  • Cheaper
  • Easily Serviceable.

There are three degrees of cup and cone service depending on the bearings’ state:

Degree 1: Degreasing and Re-greasing the hub (routine maintenance)

Degree 2: Degreasing, re-greasing the hub and replacing the bearings

Degree 3: Degreasing, re-greasing, replacing the cones and the bearings

Conversely, cartridge bearings are not subject to service. When they fail, the user is expected to just pull them out and press-in new ones.

In both cases, the procedure is not very complicated, but cartridge bearings require entirely new units.


That said, cartridge bearings have the following advantages over the cup and cone system:

  • Set and forget

A cartridge bearing does not require any maintenance. The user can occasionally clean the hub, but since the actual bearings are sealed in a cartridge, you can’t get to them.

Consequently, the hubs last longer without needing a service.

  • No Need To Play With Adjustments

Finding the right setting when a cup and cone bearing rotates freely with no axle play is fairly easy when you have experience, but some people would classify the procedure as annoying.

A sealed bearing does not come with this requirement because it’s already pre-loaded and thus the user doesn’t have to finetune it.

FAQ: Why aren’t Shimano’s hubs more popular?

Shimano’s hubs are less popular for the following reasons:

  • Cup and cone

At the moment, people consider the cup and cone system old-school whereas cartridge bearings are seen as a fresh solution.

  • Not flashy

Shimano’s hubs aren’t flashy, and some bike enthusiasts do not like that.

  • Have to be adjusted

As already mentioned, cup and cone bearings have to be carefully adjusted to operate as intended. Some users consider the procedure annoying.

FAQ: What will happen if I don’t adjust a cup and cone bearing correctly?

There are two possibilities:

A. A Loose Axle

If the cone isn’t sufficiently tightened, the axle around which the wheel rotates will have some play.

As a result, the wheel feels unstable, the axle may bend, and the bearings could get damaged.

B. Overly-compressed axle

Conversely, if the cone is tightened too much, the bearings will drag against the races of the cups and the cones. If the ball bearings get damaged, it’s not a big deal as they’re easily replaceable. However, replacing the cups is often not worth the trouble hence why it’s best to keep them scratch-free.

FAQ: Can you replace Shimano’s hub cups?

In theory, it’s possible to replace the cups of a Shimano hub. However, it’s difficult to pry out the old ones and find new ones to install.

The most common method is to get a donor hub and transplant its cups onto the old one.

Unless you already have the needed parts, it will be wiser to just replace the entire hub.

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