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Tightening rear axle to cassette
I am new to bike repair, so I hope the title of my post is accurate. I removed my rear wheel today via the quick-release mechanism and noticed that the nut on the end of the axle was loose. This is the nut on the cassette side that I am assuming tightens the axle to the cassette. I began tightening the nut with a 5/8" wrench, but soon the nut was tightened so far that it dipped below the plane of the cassette. At that point, I could no longer reach the nut with the wrench. Do I need to buy a thin-walled socket wrench that gives me the reach I need to tighten the nut?
I have attached some pictures showing what I am talking about. IMG_1152 illustrates the nut being high enough above the cassette that I can tighten it with a wrench. IMG_1154 and IMG_1155 illustrate the nut falling below the plane of the cassette and my wrench no longer being able to reach it.

Something is going on with your axle and/or bearings. Unfortunately, I think you will need to remove the cassette to get at the axle and check your bearings. Note that the nut has to extend past the edge of the cassette or your cassette will rub on the frame. Also, you should end up with an equal amount of axle showing on each end, roughly 1 cm worth.
I would look at these two tutorials:<br />
http://bikeride.com/overhaul-wheel-bearings/<br />

In short, do you mean that the nut should be tightening up before it dips below the plane of the cassette? That is, it should be completely tight by the time it reaches the position in IMG_1152?

I might be totally wrong but that 'nut' looks like the hub cone to me. There should be an extra axle locknut (and maybe some spacers) on top of that. Does the non-cassette side have the same looking nut in the outermost position?

You'll have to forgive my inexperience, but I think spymaster is right. I believe I was mistakenly calling the hub cone the axle nut. My question is largely the same, however. I am trying to tighten the hub cone but eventually it gets tightened down so far that it dips below the plane of the cassette/lockring, at which point I can no longer reach the hub cone with the wrench.

I have attached some more pictures for illustration:

IMG_1161: Quick-release above, axle below. I believe the parts on the axle are as follows (from left): axle nut, washer, hub cone, dust cover, bearings.

IMG_1162: My cassette without the axle.

IMG_1165: The hub cone is being tightened onto the axle and all the bearings on both sides are in place. However, the hub cone has been tightened down so far that I can no longer reach it with any of my standard tools. I am guessing that once this hub cone is tight, I need to add back the dust cover and washer then tighten the axle nut.

Am I getting on the right track? If worse comes to worse, would I have to remove the cassette to have enough room to tighten the hub cone? Or is there a special tool for this?
You can see the bearing race for the wheel in your picture 1162. As far as the rest goes, there's usually the hub cone, which goes on top of the bearings, and then a locknut. For the drive side of a rear wheel, there might be a spacer, before the locknut. Of course if you had washers too, they would go before the locknut on either side. For a quick release skewer like you have in 1161, it would replace the function of the washers and lock nuts.
Picture 1165 is most telling to me, since it seems like I can see the bearings exposed in the picture, which definitely doesn't seem right. If that is the issue (you have a hub cone or "dust cover" not on there?), then you definitely will need to pull the cassette. DaveM gave you a link to Alex's tutor video on that. Pulling the cassette or freewheel to work on the rear wheel hubs is not uncommon, and that might be necessary for yours. In fact for mine you have to do that to get to the hub cone on that side of the wheel. But mine has a spacer on it so I can tighten or loosen the lock nut without removing the freewheel. But to get to the hub, the freewheel has to be gone.
Hope that helps some.

Why is it that they make adult bikes that'll generally work for 5'9" or above, yet when you pedal these same bikes they only work for someone who is 5'4" or so?
That makes more sense. It would be easier if you had the cassette off. But here's an alternative. With the axle out of the wheel, put the cone, spacers, and lock nut back on the axle and tighten them against each other. Put them in the spot where the same amount of axle sticks out as it does on the other side. Then work from the other side of the axle. The big rubber cover should pop off. Then you can remove cone and lock nut on the non-drive side, reinstall axle into hub, tighten and adjust. It is usually preferable to disassemble axles from the non-drive side for this and other reasons.

Note:-<br />
The bare thread sticking out after the locknut is finally tightened has to be less than the thickness of the dropout.<br />
If it is not then the quick-release will not secure the wheel in the frame no matter how tight it is.
In image 1161, if you look to the right end of spindle you can see the bare thread I'm referring too. Obviously this goes for the left side as well.
If there is too much thread then you will have to fit another washer to the unit.

Ride hard or ride home alone!

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