My only remaining hub with loose ball bearings.

In Memoriam: Loose Ball Bearings

In Memoriam: Loose Ball Bearings

by / / 113 posts

The darker months bring out the macabre in each of us; for Gianni it was the extinction of his beloved Park Tool adjustable clamp. For me, I found myself mourning the fact that I recently purchased a headset press. Ignoring the fact that a Velominatus of my stature didn’t already own one, the mourn behind the mourn is where the interest lies.

What could possibly compel anyone to grieve over buying one of the most remarkable tools a person could own? I once installed a headset using only a wooden staircase, a two-by-four, and a hammer. My dad was surprised I managed to get the cups installed properly; my mother was surprised at the state of the steps. Using a press to install a headset is a beautiful process but it also doesn’t surprise anyone the way installing a headset with a hammer and a block of wood does.

In my life as a Cyclist, I have rarely required my own headset press; my dad owned a press when I was growing up and by the time I lived far enough from my dad’s workshop to merrit buying my own tool, headsets had evolved to the modern sealed cartridge bearing which only requires opposable thumbs to install. The headset press was running down the same trail upon which the whippoorwill was last seen right until some bright spark decided that screw-in bottom-bracket cups were too expensive to manufacture and that it would be a good idea to seat them directly into the frame. At which point the headset press made a surprising re-entry into the Velominatus’ toolbox on the same terms that my former headset installation technique impressed my mother.

I mourn this for two reasons. First, BB30 (and its relatives) are based on a sound principle where one increases the support to the fulcrum to keep it from flexing under load while simultaneously increasing the diameter of the crank’s axle to reduce flex there as well. The result is pretty obvious to anyone who has ridden a bike using this system; it’s like riding without a chain the first time you use one. The point missed is that the BB shell is made generically to a loose standard instead of specifically to a manufacturer’s requirements, and the tolerances aren’t nearly tight enough to keep the system from creaking without the application of Loctite or the like, which is an abomination in itself. A bicycle should not require Loctite, ever.

Second – and more concerningly – it brings into mind the point that we have strayed far from The Path.

There was a time when the adjustment of a bearing against its races was an art mastered by the great artisans of our sport. Bearings are designed to reduce the friction between two surfaces that need to rotate around one another and consist of a system of two races (a cup and a cone) and a set of metal or ceramic balls which sit between the races. Each of the races are attached to the rotating surfaces, and the chief business of the balls is to facilitate expedient movement between the two, mostly because balls are good at rolling, and not much else besides chasing if you ask my dog. How effective the bearing is (how much it reduces the friction) is a function of how smooth the surfaces of the races are, how round the balls are, and how little tension exists between the three.

Art is about expressing perfection in a world of flaws; within this definition, adjusting a set of bearings is perhaps the most perfect example of art. No surface is perfectly smooth and no ball is perfectly round, which means that all bearings are flawed. To combat this, we add lubrication which helps smooth out the imperfections but also increases resistance. The master artisan balances these flaws to achieve the state closest to perfection.

The first time I rebuilt a hub, I spent hours adjusting the system; first teh bearings would be so loose that the axle would rattle. Then I’d tighten it to where the bearings felt rough. Back and forth the pendulum swung until the bearings spun smoothly. My pride brimmed over at my own success. The Master takes that as a starting point and works from there until they find perfection. This is the sort of skill that, in the past century, not only demanded the highest pay among mechanics, but secured their reputation and fixed their place in the industry.

Today, we adjust bearings with an allen key. We press them in with a headset press if our opposable thumbs can’t do the trick, and then we use a hex key to tighten the sucker just enough that we can stand how it functions. Its no way to live, although I admit it is a practical way to live.

But we aren’t professionals; we are disciples. I don’t care about practical, I care about the experience. My Campa Record hubs still have loose bearings, but that’s the only bicycle I own which still holds this relic. And I don’t even own the tools to properly adjust them. So for 2015, I set for myself the following goal: I endeavor to rebuild at least one of my bikes with a full compliment of adjustable, loose ball-bearings – the headset, the wheels, the bottom bracket. That is my mission, that is my rite. I shall embrace the cartridge bearing as part of the modern bicycle, but I will journey down the path to maintain my skill in adjusting a true bearing.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

 

// Accessories and Gear // In Memoriam // La Vie Velominatus

  1. @Beers

    Get a cheap rug or towel in a contrasting colour, I always work over one for this very reason, it stops those runaway fuckers dead in their tracks! And keeps chain spooge off the lounge carpet..

    I do usually aim at an oily rag but sometimes the darned things have a mind of their own. The funniest one recently was the bright idea to use a tin so they couldn’t roll away from the rag. It’s surprising how much bounce a ball bearing can get from the bottom of a tin………..




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  2. @Teocalli

    @pistard

    I don’t even bother trying to clean and reuse them. New balls are cheap and you don’t risk putting grit back into the bearing. Just make sure to get Grade 25 or better and more than you need (so when you drop one in reassembly you can grab a clean one).

    I work on the principle that a god set of old balls beats a young set every time…..

    or even a “good” set…




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  3. I have a mismatched wheelset that came on a bike I picked up used. Too good of a deal to pass on the complete bike. Open Pro rims to black Record hubs with silver DT spokes. The problem is one rim is black, one silver. Such a nice wheelset that I’ve never been able to bring myself to break them down and do it right. Life can be rough! But, one day, maybe soon I’ll have matching rims.




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  4. @Nate

    @frank a clip of that scene used to be on youtoob. Couldn’t find it on my phone so I punted. Now the narration is stuck in my head: “a quiet garden. Along toward noon…”

    I have the same memory kicking around in my noggin somewhere and had the same experience looking for it, albeit from the desktop.

    @Chris

    @Teocalli My Speedplays were never quite the same* after the London Cogal. Fortunately, for my patience and skill levels, the cartridge bearings are fairly easy to replace.

    *never quite the same can be translated from the Queen’s English to murican as “completely fucked”.

    That’s a classic!

    @Oli

    I love it when you have your bike in the stand and you put a wheel with a perfectly adjusted Record or DA hub in the fork and the wheel just slowly rolls around of it’s own accord to have the heaviest part eventually settle at the bottom.

    I had to look at the URL to see if I hadn’t accidentally bounced over to the development site with old data when I saw your name. Good to see you back around these here parts.

    @Marko rode my steel with the Record hubs (’98) when he was here last and he kept coasting by everyone in the group on the descents with a shit-eatin’ grin because the wheels rolled so fast.

    I can get my CK and Alchemy hubs to spin in the stand until the valve is at the bottom, but I adjust them so loose there is play in the axle. Doesn’t bother me but its certainly less glorious than the Records.




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  5. Hmmm – Testing Testing @frank weird things happening there with icons.




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  6. @Jay

    As for me, I will stay with modern sealed/cartridge bearings and focus my attention on my pedal stroke and making deposits in the V bank.

    I think this is where I’m at. I remember, as a younger person, working in the high school auto shop and pressing bearings for various automotive applications. Much larger than those on a bike, yet still a giant pain in the ass. I am certain that there is a measure of manliness in possessing the know-how to replace my own bearings, but I’d personally rather ride my bike than press bearings into position. Also, someone mentioned in another thread that the capability of the average human to accurately feel small differences in performance (such as would be the case with free bearings vs. cartridge) is entirely negligible. So maybe I’ll be OK.




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  7. @rfreese888

    2 / 2

    This reminds me, does anyone know where to get a replacement aluminum dust cover, as seen here on the Record rear hub? I have a set of Chorus/Open Pros, and one of the covers is missing from the front hub so it exposes the black donut, as seen in the second pic above. It really annoys me every time I see my wheel with one side silver and the other side black. I’ve searched the interwebs for the piece with no luck.

    Slideshow:

    Fullscreen:

    Download:




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  8. Grrr! Above post got all jacked up. Retry:

    @all Does anyone know where to get that aluminum dust cap, as seen in the above Record hub? I lost one on the front of my Chorus hub, so one side looks silver and shiny, the other side has the black donut exposed like the second pic above. It annoys me every time I see my wheel mismatched. I’ve searched the interwebs for the piece but can’t find one.




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  9. @MangoDave Find the same decent hub used. Hard to isolate that piece.




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  10. Also have the same hub available new. Chorus.




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  11. @MangoDave US? try Branford bike in Seattle or vecchios in boulder.




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  12. I know what you guys mean about loose balls and winter projects. I rebuilt this Deore DX hub last winter as part of my “Love Your ’92 Rocky Mountain Hammer Project.” I spent hours fiddling with little metal balls, grease and cone wrenches in my basement shop as the December days grew darker and darker. Therapeutic. Spiritual even.




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  13. @Rom

    @Oli

    I love it when you have your bike in the stand and you put a wheel with a perfectly adjusted Record or DA hub in the fork and the wheel just slowly rolls around of it’s own accord to have the heaviest part eventually settle at the bottom.

    Even my Circa 1980 Nuovo Record, high flange hubs do that, and that’s with slightly pitted races.

    I wish I never said anything.




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  14. They required some break-in, but my DA C24 7850’s, properly tuned, equal butter fried in lard and served on an oil slick. Smoov…

    @MangoDave and, in particular, @freddy: nice photos! @Frank: nice article!




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  15. @Oli

    @Rom

    @Oli

    I love it when you have your bike in the stand and you put a wheel with a perfectly adjusted Record or DA hub in the fork and the wheel just slowly rolls around of it’s own accord to have the heaviest part eventually settle at the bottom.

    Even my Circa 1980 Nuovo Record, high flange hubs do that, and that’s with slightly pitted races.

    I wish I never said anything.

    Oli my Friend! Don’t let the Bastardos get you down!

    Quick, who are these three gentlemen???




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  16. @Buck Rogers

    @Oli

    @Rom

    @Oli

    I love it when you have your bike in the stand and you put a wheel with a perfectly adjusted Record or DA hub in the fork and the wheel just slowly rolls around of it’s own accord to have the heaviest part eventually settle at the bottom.

    Even my Circa 1980 Nuovo Record, high flange hubs do that, and that’s with slightly pitted races.

    I wish I never said anything.

    Oli my Friend! Don’t let the Bastardos get you down!

    Quick, who are these three gentlemen???

    Left to right: Gino Bartali, Jean Robic and . . . not sure. Doesn’t look like Coppi and I can’t get a look-see on the jersey. Bartali’s says Bartali on it. Robic’s a funny-looking wee bugger so he’s easy to spot. That some Rule #9 riding going on for sure!




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  17. @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    @Oli

    @Rom

    @Oli

    I love it when you have your bike in the stand and you put a wheel with a perfectly adjusted Record or DA hub in the fork and the wheel just slowly rolls around of it’s own accord to have the heaviest part eventually settle at the bottom.

    Even my Circa 1980 Nuovo Record, high flange hubs do that, and that’s with slightly pitted races.

    I wish I never said anything.

    Oli my Friend! Don’t let the Bastardos get you down!

    Quick, who are these three gentlemen???

    Left to right: Gino Bartali, Jean Robic and . . . not sure. Doesn’t look like Coppi and I can’t get a look-see on the jersey. Bartali’s says Bartali on it. Robic’s a funny-looking wee bugger so he’s easy to spot. That some Rule #9 riding going on for sure!

    Fuck’in STRONG work, Brother! I did not know all of them. I just searched on google images for a cool old photo–fortunately for me, the subpage had them all identified and you are correct on the two you have named. Robic was a funny looking little bastard so I knew him but the other two I would not have guessed. Let’s see if anyone (Oli) can get the third!

    Had to try to offset the bullshit, completely non-contributory, comment to Oli’s earlier comment.




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  18. @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    @Oli

    @Rom

    @Oli

    I love it when you have your bike in the stand and you put a wheel with a perfectly adjusted Record or DA hub in the fork and the wheel just slowly rolls around of it’s own accord to have the heaviest part eventually settle at the bottom.

    Even my Circa 1980 Nuovo Record, high flange hubs do that, and that’s with slightly pitted races.

    I wish I never said anything.

    Oli my Friend! Don’t let the Bastardos get you down!

    Quick, who are these three gentlemen???

    Left to right: Gino Bartali, Jean Robic and . . . not sure. Doesn’t look like Coppi and I can’t get a look-see on the jersey. Bartali’s says Bartali on it. Robic’s a funny-looking wee bugger so he’s easy to spot. That some Rule #9 riding going on for sure!

    Raphael Geminiani?




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  19. @pistard Nope!

    I will tell later (not that I knew without looking at the subtitled page it came from) but I want to see if Oli can tell us (or I will confirm it if someone else gets it right beforehand).

    I love these old photos and trying to guess who is in them and what year/race they are from. Frahnk ought to have a subpage just for this type of thing to have fun with!




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  20. @freddy

    I know what you guys mean about loose balls and winter projects. I rebuilt this Deore DX hub last winter as part of my “Love Your ’92 Rocky Mountain Hammer Project.” I spent hours fiddling with little metal balls, grease and cone wrenches in my basement shop as the December days grew darker and darker. Therapeutic. Spiritual even.

    Bearings are the final frontier of wrenching for me. Short of cutting carbon bits (which I let the LBS do purely for replacement reasons, I figure they break it they buy it) I have become competent at just about everything but loose ball bearing work.

    Last year, partly based off Frank’s lust for campy record hubs, and partly based off a hair brained notion to race cross on an Italian steel (well Italian branded) / campy adorned machine, I built up a set of cross wheels with record 10 hubs. This winter they will require a rebuild, so I guess I’m in for the pound now.




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  21. @unversio

    @MangoDave Find the same decent hub used. Hard to isolate that piece.

    I’ll go that route if I have to, but it would be better if I could just find the part.

    @Nate

    Thanks. I didn’t see anything on Brandford’s website, an obscure thing like the hub piece probably requires a phone call.

    And to be more on topic, my Chorus hubs are 14 years old and still magnificently smooth.




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  22. @Buck Rogers The light bulb went on about 30 seconds after I posted that. Once you realize why Coppi’s nowhere in sight, it’s obvious.




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  23. @Buck Rogers is that Bartali’s team mate, Jomaux?




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  24. @MangoDave

    @unversio

    @MangoDave Find the same decent hub used. Hard to isolate that piece.

    I’ll go that route if I have to, but it would be better if I could just find the part.

    @Nate

    Thanks. I didn’t see anything on Brandford’s website, an obscure thing like the hub piece probably requires a phone call.

    And to be more on topic, my Chorus hubs are 14 years old and still magnificently smooth.

    I agree — find the piece. My rationale was to secure a replacement [ bargain ] hub for the unforeseen future and rob the small piece in the meantime.




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  25. Checking the toolbox though, I’ve confirmed that that hub is actually pre-black Record — silver.




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  26. @Nate

    @Buck Rogers is that Bartali’s team mate, Jomaux?

    Nope.

    @pistard

    @Buck Rogers The light bulb went on about 30 seconds after I posted that. Once you realize why Coppi’s nowhere in sight, it’s obvious.

    So your guess is?




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  27. @Haldy

    Opinions being what they are, everyone to their own. That’s the beauty of the sport. I love my old Campy hubs, for sure. But are Campy wheels fast? Sort of. Zipp is recognized as having some of the fastest wheels available, used by tons of pros, many with the Zipp logo blacked out. The bearings? Cartridge.

    Zipp wheel bearings




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  28. @Bruce Lee

    @Haldy

    Opinions being what they are, everyone to their own. That’s the beauty of the sport. I love my old Campy hubs, for sure. But are Campy wheels fast? Sort of. Zipp is recognized as having some of the fastest wheels available, used by tons of pros, many with the Zipp logo blacked out. The bearings? Cartridge.

    Zipp wheel bearings

    Agreed…cartridge bearings that are replaced almost every other race. Why?..they empty out the grease and run them on oil. I have done the same thing for my track wheels for big events. But that’s not something the average guy can do on a regular basis. And let’s talk top level fast…the guys that do the most to find marginal gains…every extra little ounce of speed..yeah..Team Sky. The wheels they use…Shimano…with loose ball bearings…




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  29. @pistard

    @Buck Rogers The light bulb went on about 30 seconds after I posted that. Once you realize why Coppi’s nowhere in sight, it’s obvious.

    Pretty sure you’ve got it but want to make sure! Not trying to be an ass or anything (but, in my defense, I have been told that I cannot help being an ass at most times)!




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  30. @Buck Rogers

    @pistard

    @Buck Rogers The light bulb went on about 30 seconds after I posted that. Once you realize why Coppi’s nowhere in sight, it’s obvious.

    Pretty sure you’ve got it but want to make sure! Not trying to be an ass or anything (but, in my defense, I have been told that I cannot help being an ass at most times)!

    I’m thinking Koblet.




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  31. @Buck Rogers

    @Oli

    @Rom

    @Oli

    I love it when you have your bike in the stand and you put a wheel with a perfectly adjusted Record or DA hub in the fork and the wheel just slowly rolls around of it’s own accord to have the heaviest part eventually settle at the bottom.

    Even my Circa 1980 Nuovo Record, high flange hubs do that, and that’s with slightly pitted races.

    I wish I never said anything.

    Oli my Friend! Don’t let the Bastardos get you down!

    Quick, who are these three gentlemen???

    Dammit – it’s the ever-stylin Hugo Koblet.




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  32. @pistard

    @Buck Rogers

    @pistard

    @Buck Rogers The light bulb went on about 30 seconds after I posted that. Once you realize why Coppi’s nowhere in sight, it’s obvious.

    Pretty sure you’ve got it but want to make sure! Not trying to be an ass or anything (but, in my defense, I have been told that I cannot help being an ass at most times)!

    I’m thinking Koblet.

    @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    @Oli

    @Rom

    @Oli

    I love it when you have your bike in the stand and you put a wheel with a perfectly adjusted Record or DA hub in the fork and the wheel just slowly rolls around of it’s own accord to have the heaviest part eventually settle at the bottom.

    Even my Circa 1980 Nuovo Record, high flange hubs do that, and that’s with slightly pitted races.

    I wish I never said anything.

    Oli my Friend! Don’t let the Bastardos get you down!

    Quick, who are these three gentlemen???

    Dammit – it’s the ever-stylin Hugo Koblet.

    DING, DING, DING!!! We have winners!!! Well done, Lads!!!




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  33. Photo is from the Giro 1950. Alright @pistard, since you guessed it, your turn to throw up an old photo and see if we can figure it out!




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  34. One other thing about that photo: Koblet was the “pedaller of charm.” Bartali always looked good and stylish. Alas, poor Robic made Michel Pollentier look good on a bike and that’s saying something. Later in his career Robic wore an old school leather helmet. Trust me, don’t google it – he looked awful. Great rider – sartorially terrible.




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  35. @wiscot

    One other thing about that photo: Koblet was the “pedaller of charm.” Bartali always looked good and stylish. Alas, poor Robic made Michel Pollentier look good on a bike and that’s saying something. Later in his career Robic wore an old school leather helmet. Trust me, don’t google it – he looked awful. Great rider – sartorially terrible.

    YES! He supposedly kept a comb in his jersey pocket and would comb his hair before the finish, if at all possible, and after the line if he could not manage it before.




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  36. @wiscot

    One other thing about that photo: Koblet was the “pedaller of charm.” Bartali always looked good and stylish. Alas, poor Robic made Michel Pollentier look good on a bike and that’s saying something. Later in his career Robic wore an old school leather helmet. Trust me, don’t google it – he looked awful. Great rider – sartorially terrible.

    Pretty sure that Robic’s son went into cinema




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  37. @Buck Rogers

    Photo is from the Giro 1950. Alright @pistard, since you guessed it, your turn to throw up an old photo and see if we can figure it out!

    This should be easy, Bartali on the left and you know it’s the 1952 Tour:




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  38. @pistard

    @Buck Rogers

    Photo is from the Giro 1950. Alright @pistard, since you guessed it, your turn to throw up an old photo and see if we can figure it out!

    This should be easy, Bartali on the left and you know it’s the 1952 Tour:

    This is open to all! I’ll wait until tomorrow as I am retiring form the internet for the night. Catch you tomorrow!!!




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  39. @pistard

    @Buck Rogers

    Photo is from the Giro 1950. Alright @pistard, since you guessed it, your turn to throw up an old photo and see if we can figure it out!

    This should be easy, Bartali on the left and you know it’s the 1952 Tour:

    Great Shot!




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  40. @pistard

    @Buck Rogers

    Photo is from the Giro 1950. Alright @pistard, since you guessed it, your turn to throw up an old photo and see if we can figure it out!

    This should be easy, Bartali on the left and you know it’s the 1952 Tour:

    Man! I suck at these old photos. Is it Geminiani lower center in the photo (although it looks like a young Paul Newman as well!). No idea on this stuff!




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  41. Since he has such cool shades…just thought I’d mention that I picked out some new eyeglasses last night. My twelve year old pair, that I loved, were slipped off my face by my buddy’s two year old. We were having a bonfire, I was hoisting one kid, the other stole my glasses and by the time I got them back they were in two pieces.

    Pretty excited to get some new eyeglasses, been a few years. Not as exciting as white cyclo shades, but still fun.




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  42. @Buck Rogers

    Man! I suck at these old photos. Is it Geminiani lower center in the photo (although it looks like a young Paul Newman as well!). No idea on this stuff!

    No, but like Geminiani he went on to be a DS and coached a slew of champions. Here’s the same trio cracking up Orson Welles at the start of the 1950 tour:




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  43. @frank. I have a 4 inch scar on my head from the dark night when I was rebuilding a hub and a couple of BB’s decided that they didnt like what I had planned and made for an escape. In attempting to stop them rolling under the bench I caught my head squarely on the edge of my vice. It spurted a jet of blood before I even registered any pain. I appreciate all of your sentiments but I’ll take sealed every time.




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  44. @gilly




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  45. This thread a good reminder I have these just waiting for a suitable pair of 28h tubular rims to surface and a rainy day to build them… Photographed on a Formica table top of similar vintage to the hubs…




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  46. @osbk67

    @osbk67

    @gilly

    They are beautiful though!




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  47. @osbk67

    I have those laced to lightweight Fiamme rims. Beautiful.




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  48. Spot the hub time. The giveaway bit is not visible. I have a pair of these and they roll superbly.

    Wondering whether it’s possible to re-chrome them as the flanges are aluminium. So not sure whether it would be possible to protect that part in the process.




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  49. @osbk67

    This thread a good reminder I have these just waiting for a suitable pair of 28h tubular rims to surface and a rainy day to build them… Photographed on a Formica table top of similar vintage to the hubs…

    There’s an ebay seller in the Netherlands who seems to have a large supply of new old stock Mavic Championnat du Monde tubular rims in 28 hole. Free shipping, so pretty reasonable. I got a pair from them to lace up to the aforementioned pista hubs. Not super light, just under 400 grams, but I wouldn’t go much lighter with only 28 spokes anyway.




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  50. @rfreese888

    1 / 2

    Record Hub Rear

    Slideshow:

    Fullscreen:

    Download:

    I have total Bearing-bone for my classic Record hubs and would only trust my LBS to work on them as I am a total neophyte in these matters.

    These have been rolling for about 8 months on weekend spins. How often should I get them checked out and adjusted?

    Get a grease injector (like this http://goo.gl/VRA5Oe) and repack the bearings every so often – perhaps 3-6 months. You’ll only need to have them adjusted if you can feel play between the wheel and axle. To repack, slide the metal ribbon in the center of the hub around until you expose the grease port in the hub then shoot grease into the port. Don’t need too much, but ok if some grease leaks out the sides of the axle.

    On your second photo (front hub), to the right of center of the hub, you can see the indentation in the metal ribbon that covers the grease port. After you’ve shot the grease into the port, slide the metal ribbon back into position until you see the indentation pop back into the port.

    Unbelievably helpful that Campy includes grease ports in their (upper range) hubs…




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