If you usually fix your bike at home, you probably know what bike cone wrenches are. Bicycle assembly and adjustment are usually manageable using one standard tool, such as an open-ended wrench. However, some parts require special tools to adjust or fix them.
A cone wrench is an open end wrench used to tighten or loosen the cone nuts on a bike’s hub. It measures 2 millimeters in thickness, allowing it to be used in the narrow space between the hub and bike frame. Cone wrenches come in different sizes.
This article explains what exactly a cone wrench is and why it is essential for bikers to have it in their toolboxes. We’ll also recommend where you can get a high-quality tool, so make sure to stick around.
Biking on rough terrains tends to cause a bike’s wheels to wobble side to side. This issue happens because the ruggedness of the trail loosens the bike hub’s cones. You cannot adjust your cones using the standard open-ended wrench if this problem occurs. Instead, it would be best if you had a special cone wrench to fix the problem.
Bike cone wrenches are used to adjust the bearings of your bike. It is a thin metal tool that resembles an open-ended wrench. But unlike most wrenches with a thickness of 7 millimeters, cone wrenches are only 2 millimeters thick.
The need for a special adjustment tool boils down to the cone’s location in the hub. A bike’s cone sits between the spacer and dust cap, so your adjustment tool needs to be thin enough to pass through narrow clearances.
Unlike other wrenches you can use for multiple parts of your bike, you should only use a cone wrench to adjust the bike hub’s cones. A cone wrench is also a “consumable” tool. Its thinness makes it susceptible to minor damage during use. For this reason, you will need to replace it after many uses, unlike open-ended wrenches that offer lifetime use. (source)
DIY MTB Pro Tip: If you’re reading about cone wrenches, you might want to read about axles. Check out this article 👉 A Complete Guide to Bike Axle Thread Sizes
There are two types of hubs in a bike:
- open bearing
The open bearing hub requires regular maintenance as you need to clean and regrease them frequently. For this reason, having a good set of cone wrenches is essential.
As mentioned, the purpose of a cone wrench is to adjust the cones of a bike’s hub. Biking in harsh conditions causes your bike’s open bearing to have a bit of play. However, this looseness can damage the bearings when not adjusted promptly.
You can use your bike cone wrenches to eliminate the bearing play. Simply twist the axel locknut loose until there is a slight gap between it and the cones. Then, use your cone wrench to tighten the cones. Finally, retighten the axle and check if the bearing play is gone.
You can also use a cone wrench during a maintenance checkup on the bike’s hub. If you go to a rugged trail and suspect something got caught on your hub, you can use your cone wrench to check and clean it.
However, never use the said tool in adjustment projects other than the cones. Cone wrenches are thin, so they can quickly acquire damage if used in bike parts they are not intended for use. (source)
DIY MTB Tip: Quick Release and Thru Axles, what’s the diff? Let me explain in this article 👉 What’s The Difference Between QR and Thru Axles
Bike cone wrenches make getting into your bike hub’s hard-to-reach slots easier. While regular wrenches are too wide to reach the cones, special cone wrenches can do the job quickly. These tools are available online and in many local bike shops, so you can quickly get one when needed.
However, cone wrenches come in different sizes. So, you must know where to use it before going to a bike shop and purchasing a cone wrench. Instead, the location of the locknuts and cones you need to adjust determines the con wrench size you need.
- 15 -Millimeter Cone Wrench – When adjusting your bike’s hub cones, you need bike cone wrenches that measure 15 x 16 millimeters. Some rear hub cones fit on a 14-millimeter cone wrench, so you must know what works with your bike’s cones before making any adjustments.
- 17 -Millimeter Cone Wrench – With the 15-millimeter wrenches are for the cones of the rear hub. On the other hand, the front and rear hub’s locknuts require wrenches of 17 to 18-millimeter sizes. (source)
There may need to be more than a single cone wrench to make hub adjustments. You need at least two wrenches to perform your regular bike maintenance yourself. For instance, you need a 17-millimeter cone wrench to hold your bike’ rear locknut while you use either a 14, 15, or 16-millimeter wrench to adjust the cone.
Moreover, some cone wrenches measure up to 28 millimeters. So, the best way to get the correct bike cone wrenches is to bring your bike to a local bike shop. If you are still determining the sizes you need, you can ask the shop’s staff to help you check the fit of the cone wrenches you are getting.
MTB Tools I Love and Recommend
I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.
- Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand. Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential. I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it. This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur. Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
- A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit. Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained. The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider. Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
- Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure. A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not. Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use. An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
- Carry a multitool with you on every ride. I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool. I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works. Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19
A cone wrench and pedal wrench are different tools. While a pedal wrench is thin and can fit narrow gaps, a cone wrench is still much thinner. A pedal wrench is also longer than the latter as it needs to provide leverage when loosening or tightening the pedals.
Additionally, pedal wrenches are less durable than bike cone wrenches. The latter aims to remove a bike’s pedals from the crank arms. On the other hand, a cone wrench’s purpose is to adjust the tightness of a bike’s hub. (source)
Every biker must have their own toolkit. You never know when your bike will need maintenance, so having a set of tools is helpful, especially during unforeseen circumstances. And because the most common part that needs adjustment when cycling is the bike’s hub, your kit needs to include bike cone wrenches.
This bike maintenance and repair kit contain all the tools a biker needs for their bike. The home mechanic set includes 23 tools, including a torque wrench that you can adjust based on the bike manufacturer’s recommendations. With these tools, you can perform maintenance checks and repairs on your bike without damaging its components.
Each tool on the set consists of high-quality, tough heat-treated steel that allows it to withstand abuse and harsh conditions. From wrenches to levers and cutters, the Bikehand Bicycle Repair Tool Kit has everything a home mechanic needs.
In addition, this toolkit saves you from having to bring your bike to repair shops regularly. This way, you can save some costs from costly maintenance and repair work and just do the job at home. (source)
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There is no tool you can use as an alternative for bike cone wrenches. Standard bike wrenches are too thick to grip a bike hub’s cones, so they do not help bear adjustments.
An adjustment tool that does not fit your bike cones can lead to incorrect adjustment. As a result, your hub may acquire damage and require professional repair, which is more expensive than buying a cone wrench.
You can create a homemade cone wrench with an angle grinder and a box wrench. Use the angle grinder to thin out the end of an old box wrench until it can grip the cones. However, this process can be time-consuming. So, buying a cone wrench at your local bike shop is more beneficial.
While bike cone wrenches can be expensive, using them instead of a homemade tool ensures that you adjust your bike’ cone appropriately.
Park Tool has one of the best bike cone wrenches that you can purchase. This cone wrench set includes 13, 14, 26, and 28-millimeter sizes. Each wrench has a polished and vinyl-dipped handle, making it comfortable to grip even when you need to put pressure on it during bike adjustment.
The cone wrenches’ heads consist of high-quality materials with a military-grade industrial phosphate finish. For this reason, they can withstand pressure without easily bending, regardless of how thin they are. (source)
Bike cone wrenches are vital tools every biker must have. You cannot use a regular wrench to adjust your hub’s cones as they will not fit the narrow clearances around the cones. Therefore, cone wrenches are the only tools thin enough to make the necessary adjustments on the cones.
We hope that this article helped you understand the importance of cone wrenches. Suppose you are planning to purchase a set. In that case, Park Tool Cone Wrench Set is the best wrenches in terms of ergonomic design and durability.
- Singh, Dheeraj & Srivastava, Ashish & Verma, Gaurav & Chauhan, Manasi & Gupta, Amit. Innovative Design of Multi Jaw Wrench and its Analysis. Noida, India. 2013. 10.13140/2.1.2404.7686. Accessed November 17, 2022.
- Sheldon Brown. “Cone Wrenches.” Cone Adjustment (blog). https://www.sheldonbrown.com/cone-adjustment.html. Accessed November 17, 2022.
- Charles Haine. The Urban Biking Handbook: The DIY Guide to Building, Rebuilding, Tinkering With, and Repairing Your Bicycle for City Living. Quarry Books, 2011. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=w3tKOxCURl4C&pg=PA57&dq=pedal+wrench+and+cone+wrench&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi-gvWnw7T7AhXIaN4KHVAkAAkQ6AF6BAgQEAI#v=onepage&q=pedal%20wrench%20and%20cone%20wrench&f=false .Accessed November 17, 2022.
- DIY Mountain Bike. Bikehand Bike Repair Tool Kit. YouTube Video, 1:48. Posted By “DIY Mountain Bike,” January 17, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRTgpx7BIUk. Accessed November 17, 2022.
- Park Tool Shop Cone Wrench Set (14 Piece). Amazon. https://amzn.to/3VvjvAo . Accessed November 17, 2022.