Author Topic: Re-grease bike hubs  (Read 4802 times)

Cinder

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Re-grease bike hubs
« on: July 31, 2013, 02:25:30 PM »
Hey everyone!

My wife's bike has a lot of rolling resistance.  It's an old 10 speed 24" bike she's had for about 13 years (since highschool/middleschool).  She is very tiny, so we haven't really been able to find a good bike to replace it.  She occasionally rides ~10 miles to work. 

What kind of grease should I get to re-grease her bearings?  Anyone have any good howtos or guides to point to?  Advice on what to look for if something is wrong in there?

Most of the time, trying to look up the info online it is listed as mid to advanced maintence and they usually redirect you to your local bike shop for it.

Thanks!

destron

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2013, 03:33:51 PM »
I did this fairly recently when I replaced my quick release skewers with safety skewers.

Get some Park Tool Polylube.

Take your wheels off, then pull out the skewers. Make sure to take notes about how to put things back together. Smear some grease on the skewers. Replace them then put your wheels back on. I'm not really sure what signs of damage might look like but I imagine it would be uneven or ground down if there was a problem.
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R0GUER0B0T

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2013, 04:46:39 PM »
Kudos to you for wanting to take this on yourself.  I believe basic bicycle maintenance is something everyone should know.  I obtained several years of experience as a bike mechanic before and during university, and am a former mountain biker racer who went through a lot of parts - so I've serviced many different kinds of bicycles and associated parts, from basic to advanced.   

Which, unfortunately, is why I must say that you may find yourself past the basics here and more into the intermediate to advanced, depending on what kind of bike she has (i.e. how the rear cassette (coggs) are setup on the bicycle), and the actual problem of the rolling resistance.  This could potentially be a time consuming, expensive repair here - even if you have the right tools.

It isn't just because of the age, and the fact that you're starting to notice rolling resistance which will likely require replacing ball bearings along with the cleaning and regreasing of the front and rear wheel hubs, but also perhaps the replacement of an entire hub body (which means re-spoking the wheel with a new hub, or maybe even buying a new (or used) wheel if that is cheaper). 

Add to this that this requires special tools, such as cone wrenches to unlock and relock nuts that hold the cones to the bearings, as well as the cassette free-wheel removal tool and chain whip tool if necessary. 

First and foremost, make sure tire pressure is appropriate (as written on the side of the tire) and that the brake pads have not shifted somehow and are rubbing against the rims continually.  Both of these things lead to rolling resistance (though perhaps a good workout as well? :)

In any case, found an amateur video that might give you a sense of what you're getting into here.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrzlHjhckSU

As for the grease - and any of the parts/tools required - you will in fact need to head to your local bikeshop.  These are not automotive parts or tools, and bicycle greases and oils are generally made to shed dirt/moisture as they're exposed to the elements, unlike automotive grease/oil, which is meant to stick to everything (or have everything stick to it - not something you want on a bicycle).

Something to look out for, if and when you decide to do it yourself and get it apart: once you have cleaned the hub of all debris/old grease/dirt, verify that there are no cracks inside the hub where the bearings sit.  If there are, even if minor, you will have to replace the hub.  If you do not, then all your work will be for naught, as the bearings will begin to breakdown again soon from the grinding through the hub cracks, no matter how well greased. 

P.S.: Skewers do not typically interfere with rolling resistance, as they're not turning while the bike is in motion (the axle itself does not turn while the bike is in motion).  If they are interfering, it is because the wheel has fallen off due to someone not tightening the skewers enough before riding - kind of hard to roll well without wheels. ;)
« Last Edit: July 31, 2013, 04:53:48 PM by L.T. Smash »

napalminator

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2013, 07:59:02 PM »

Cinder

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2013, 08:11:15 PM »
The price at our local bike shop is $49.95 for the 'tune up', and for the hub overhaul it is $10 per hub. 

Her bike is this bike
http://www.localbiketrader.com/bike-ad-1135

I wouldn't even know what size cone wrench we would need to take the hubs apart.  At the very least, I was thinking of getting her another bike, and then I could 'try my hand' at some of the crazier maintenance tasks with her bike to get a feel for it before I would have to do it 'for real' on mine!

I was looking into the process needed, that is an excellent link napalminator!  I have a 'Bike repair for Dummies' book in pdf form, and I was reading over the section which detailed all of that.  It just doesn't have as nice of pictures. 

Our local craigslist doesn't have much available in terms of bikes, particularly 24" bikes. 

She is about 59" tall, very petite frame, and even with her current bike she has the seat in it's lowest position.  We have to have a long throw on the brake levers since her fingers are to short to get a good grip unless the levers are at least half way pulled in. 


kendallf

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2013, 08:46:49 PM »
Always consult Sheldon Brown (RIP, but his web site lives on):

http://sheldonbrown.com/tooltips/hubs.html
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destron

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2013, 09:04:51 PM »

P.S.: Skewers do not typically interfere with rolling resistance, as they're not turning while the bike is in motion (the axle itself does not turn while the bike is in motion).  If they are interfering, it is because the wheel has fallen off due to someone not tightening the skewers enough before riding - kind of hard to roll well without wheels. ;)

Interesting. The reason I did it is because:

1. The original quick release skewers did have grease on them
2. I did initially put any grease on them because I did not have any and the bike had noticeably more rolling resistance. I put a small amount of grease on and it rolled more smoothly again.

Am I crazy?
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chopperdave

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2013, 01:19:30 AM »
...
2. I did initially put any grease on them because I did not have any and the bike had noticeably more rolling resistance. I put a small amount of grease on and it rolled more smoothly again.

Am I crazy?

If the cone is not jammed against the locknut, then taking the wheel off or putting it back on can change the adjustment of the bearings, and this could account for the change you observed. Grease on the skewer may be there just to prevent rust, and it could not make the wheel roll more smoothly.

Your local bike shop should be happy to sell you some grease and the correct cone wrenches.  You would want to bring one of the wheels with you to make sure you get the right size wrenches.

From the sound of it, it is likely that the bearings are already damaged, so you don't have much to loose using this to learn how to rebuild bike hubs.  Even if there is some damage, cleaning and re-greasing the bearings is likely to get them rolling better for a little while, and you will gain the valuable experience of rebuilding them yourself.

Russ

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2013, 09:40:31 AM »
Am I crazy?

Skewers don't touch anything that rotates, so the grease is only for corrosion resistance.

Posthumane

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2013, 10:08:22 AM »
Another shoutout for sheldonbrown.com for learning almost everything there is to know about basic bike maintenance. If you don't want the bother of rebuilding old hubs, you have a couple of other options besides replacing the whole bike. You could buy new hubs, which almost all come with cartridge bearings nowadays instead of loose-ball cup and cone bearings. The good ones tend to seal better and keep the dirt/water out. Lacing a wheel yourself is intimidating at first, but if you're handy you could probably pick it up fairly quickly with some youtube videos. Another option is to buy a complete set of wheels. This way you can keep the same bike with everything set up on it the way your wife likes it.

First things first though, get the bike up on a stand (or just turn it upside down onto the seat and bars, being careful not to put it on anything sharp) and find out exactly where your resistance is coming from. Spin the front wheel. If it keeps turning for a while and doesn't make much noise, then you generally don't have to worry about it. If it stops fairly quickly, check if it's touching the brake pads somewhere along its travel. You can re-check with the brakes disconnected and spread apart from the wheel. It could be that either the brakes are not releasing fully (too much cable friction) or the wheel is out of true and rubbing against one side as it wobbles. If the brakes are not the issue, then your front hub bearings are likely done.

Repeat this check with the rear wheel, though here there are a few other possible culprits. If it doesn't spin properly, again check that it's not touching either brake pad at any time. If that is fine, try taking the chain off the rear cassette completely to make sure there isn't an issue with the ratcheting mechanism (you didn't mention if the resistance is only when pedalling, only when coasting, or both). If the rear wheel seems to spin okay, another thing to check for is resistance in the drive line. See if the pedals turn freely, and if not, check if it's the chain, rear dérailleur, or bottom bracket bearings.


Cinder

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2013, 07:10:53 AM »
We took the bike into the local bikeshop to get their opinion, and they said that the wheels didn't appear to need the hubs overhauled.  It is probably a combination of a lot of little other things (Spokes are a bit loose/uneven, brakes need adjusted/positioned a little differently/ tire inflation/pressure had gotten a little lower). 

It also has the original tires, which are starting to show a little cracking on the sidewalls.  We'll look into getting a lower profile tire (she doesn't really ride on anything other then the road anyways) which may help. 

I may look into any free/super cheap bikes on craigs list that need lots of love and use that to get some firsthand experience with some of the repair items that way I don't 'mess up' either of our regular bikes while learning.  That will help give my wife more confidence in my ability to work on things as well as actually getting experience.   

Thanks for all of the great references !


Posthumane

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2013, 03:05:31 PM »
Good idea on the cheap/free bikes to work on. If you do a good job of it then you can make yourself custom bikes out of "found" parts that are perfectly suited to your riding style. I've made a recumbent bike out of two mountain bike frames, a tadpole trike, and have done a few customizations on my road bike all using parts from bikes that I got for free because people were throwing them away. It's amazing how many bikes you can find lying around in or by dumpsters to be taken away by the garbage collectors.

Cinder

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2013, 07:17:46 AM »
If you do a good job of it then you can make yourself custom bikes out of "found" parts that are perfectly suited to your riding style. I've made a recumbent bike out of two mountain bike frames, a tadpole trike

I saw an Indestructibles where someone made a recumbent bike out of a child's bike and part of an old bike frame. It involved some welding, but my dad has a pallet recycling shop and all manner of tools to do just about everything, they even built their own building, as his foreman was an industrial (and occasionally underwater) welder in his past life.  It is about 2 hours away from where I live, but most of the stuff should fit in the back of the ol' prius no problem. 

Posthumane

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Re: Re-grease bike hubs
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2013, 04:15:08 PM »
The first one I made was a "recycled recumbent" as per the instructions on this site:
https://sites.google.com/site/recycledrecumbents/home
If you want to get fancier, there are plans for many cool bikes/trikes/quads available at atomic zombie:
http://www.atomiczombie.com/