Bike Rear Wheel Not Spinning Freely – What You Should Know

When the rear wheel of your bike does not spin freely as expected, the first-aid response most experts/enthusiasts would proffer would be to take the wheel off, loosen the nuts a little, and put it back on.

This is because the stiffness of the rear wheel of bikes is widely believed to be caused by the nuts being too tight, such that there is too much pressure on the bearings.

However, the truth is that there are many possible reasons why your bike’s rear-wheel is not giving the right spin duration as expected, and there is more than one possible approach to solving the problem

So, I have put together this article to clearly explain the possible causes of the bike’s rear-wheel not spinning freely, how freely a bicycle’s rear wheel should spin, and what you can do if your bike’s rear-wheel is not spinning freely.

Bike’s rear-wheel not spinning freely: Causes

If you noticed that your back wheel doesn’t freewheel very well, it might be that the hub is seized up from rust. Another idea is to examine the brake by loosening the caliper and spinning the wheel.

Generally speaking, the common reasons why rare wheels of bikes don’t spin as freely as they should (depending on the wheel make) revolves around the following issues:

  1. Poor alignment, resulting in dragging brake
  2. Improper bearing preload
  3. Dried, caked bearing grease
  4. A too-tight nut that is placing too much pressure on the bearings, as cited earlier

Due to these problems, people usually advise that bikers with this plight first loosen the caliper and spin the wheel to examine.

Should my rear wheel spin freely?

It is not out of place to want to know whether the smooth spinning of the rear wheel is a must for your bike. 

Yes, you should expect and ensure that the rear wheel spins freely, but keep in mind that it will never spin as freely as the bike’s front wheel. There is a freewheel and at least two additional bearings in the rear wheel, which drags.

In some cases, the rear wheel will spin freely until you set the quick-release skewer. While it is expected that they are free and not stiff, the rear wheel may not spin freely when new, but the front wheel is always much freer.

Why is my rear bike wheel stiff?

The two major causes of stiffed rear bike wheel are:

  • Bad bearing
  • Bad preload adjustment.

When your bike’s rear-wheel is stiff, it is synonymous with not spinning freely. And so, aside from the bad bearing and improper preload adjustment, you can be sure whether it is the break or not by loosening the caliper and spinning the wheel. 

In addition, stiff rear wheels of bikes could also be caused by over-tightening.

Why is the back wheel of my bike not moving?

When the back wheel of your bike is cocked and now rubbing against the frame, it will become stuck and stop moving. This is usually a result of the rear axle coming loose. 

I strongly believe that bikers who face this challenge are those who use bikes with “old-fashioned” nutted axles. The back wheel does not move in these models when the nut on one side comes loose.

In another line of thought, when the back wheel of your bike stops moving, you’d want to push your attention to the quick release or axle nuts. They may not be tight enough, and that could be the cause.

How freely should a bicycle rear wheel spin?

Remember that the freewheel ratchet mechanism of the bicycle’s rear wheel, and the added seals, will bring about added friction and cause drag when spinning. 

In other words, you should not expect the rear wheel to spin as freely and long as the front wheel of your bike.

With this understanding of how freely a rear wheel of a bike should spin, it is rational to say that the wheel should spin freely but cannot be judged on the loaded performance by the unloaded performance because when the rear wheel spins too freely (for a long time), then it has too loose bearings.

What to do if a bike’s rear wheel is not spinning freely?

As explained earlier, if your bike’s rear-wheel is not spinning as freely as expected, you should focus on the bearing preload, bearing break, and perhaps, how secured the nuts of the wheel mechanism are.

Generally, the rear wheel on your bike will not spin for as long as the front wheel does, even with the same effort.


The cause of the bike’s rear-wheel not spinning freely is not limited to the situation when the wheel touches the break. In some cases, there won’t even be any noticeable drag.

You should first be familiar with the difference between how long the rear wheel of your bike spin compared with that of the front. 

Bottom line, when you are faced with the challenge of the stiffed rear wheel on your bike, pay attention to the hub/bearings on the rear wheel as they may be too tight.

I hope you found this helpful.

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