Tech Tip: Front Axle Alignment

Tech Tip: Front Axle Alignment

I constantly see incorrectly aligned front axles come through the shop. The biggest issue with incorrectly aligned front axles is that it can cause your forks to bind when riding which will provide a very harsh feeling. Beyond that, a poorly aligned axle can also cause side-to-side wheel play, inconsistent braking, premature wheel bearing failure, and damage to your fork lugs. Below are the steps I take to ensure every axle I touch in the shop is aligned properly:

  • Check Your Fork Height

    • Measure or visually inspect the height of your fork above the top triple clamps. Some forks have reference lines to help make this job easier.

    • If both of your forks are not installed at the exact same height, there’s no way to achieve proper alignment and none of the below is going to help.

  • Clean All Surfaces

    • Before reinstalling your front wheel, clean your axle, inside of your fork lugs, and the outside edges of your wheel spacers.

  • Slide the Axle Through

    • Once you’re all clean, go ahead and slide your axle through the fork lugs and wheel. Take your time and do this carefully.

    • I know its temping, but DON’T force or hammer your axle through. If you have to force the axle through, something is likely not right - check your fork height or cleanliness!

      • I’ve seen many axles where the end has been mushroomed out from someone pounding on it. Once the end of an axle is mushroomed out, its nearly impossible to get it to align correctly because it can no longer slide all the way into the fork lug.

  • Lightly Tighten Axle Nut

    • Once the axle is slid all the way through, lightly tighten the axle nut. Don’t crank on it and don’t torque it just yet. Just get it barely snug.

  • Spin and Brake

    • At this point, grab the front wheel and spin it as fast as you can. Then, immediately grab the front brake before the wheel has a chance to slow down.

    • This sudden stop will straighten out any misalignment between the fork lugs, axle, and front wheel.

  • (Optional) Pump the Forks

    • Its usually unnecessary, but if you want to be on the extra safe side, go ahead and compress your forks a few times to free up any additional misalignment.

      • A few inches of compression is fine - you don’t need to go full stroke.

    • For me, the brake grabbing trick mentioned above is easier and requires less effort than compressing the forks, so that’s usually all I do.

  • Torque Fork Pinch Bolts

    • At this point, your axle should be aligned correctly and you are ready to tighten and torque your fork pinch bolts to your MFG’s torque spec.

  • Torque Axle Nut

    • Now you can finally get back to your axle nut and torque it to your' MFG’s torque spec

How-To Video: How To Install Front Wheel Properly

NOTE: This video doesn’t show the brake grabbing alignment trick mentioned above, but everything else is the same.


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