Advertise on Bikeforums.net



User Tag List

Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. #1
    Senior Member peripatetic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    NYC
    My Bikes
    All 70s and 80s, only steel.
    Posts
    2,124
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    headset bearings-fixed retainer or loose balls?

    If I'm cleaning/greasing my headset bearings, should I swap out the retainer for loose bearings, or can I just leave it? Obviously, the retainer is easier to deal with, but is there a cost in terms of durability? Do retainers need to be monitored and re-greased more frequently?

  2. #2
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Southern NH
    Posts
    1,453
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by peripatetic
    If I'm cleaning/greasing my headset bearings, should I swap out the retainer for loose bearings, or can I just leave it? Obviously, the retainer is easier to deal with, but is there a cost in terms of durability? Do retainers need to be monitored and re-greased more frequently?
    Headsets are probably the best place to replace caged bearing with loose bearings. By using loose balls you virtually eliminate the chance that you'll get an indexing problem with your headset by introducing an element of randomness (as far as the distance between balls is concerned). If it's a 1" headset, you will probably need 50 5/32" bearings (25 for the top bearing and 25 for the bottom). This is a couple less than you could get in there, but 25 is the number you want to use. Make sure and get Grade 25 bearings. They are the hardest and have the closest tolerances. Always replace them as a set - never less. This is because bearings that are produced at the same time will be very close to each other in tolerance. If you replace just a couple of balls at one time, then you risk having a couple of smaller balls that do nothing in the bearing.

    Anyone who is serious about maintaining their bike gets rid of caged bearings and replaces them with loose balls - in all cases. This means the headset, the hubs, and the BB. It's easy to do it yourself and if you are taking the bike to the LBS for service make sure and specify that you want loose balls installed.

    Here is a list of the common ball bearing sizes and numbers required. This is taken from the BikeToolsEtc catalog :

    " Component Loose Bearing Sizes (Exceptions Exist)
    Components..................Size..........................Bearing Count
    Bottom brackets.............1/4".........................11 each side
    1" headset.....................5/32".......................25 per cup
    1 1/8" headset................5/32 or 3/16"............20-28 per cup
    1 1/4" headset................5/32 or 3/16"............26-31 per cup
    front hub........................3/16"......................10 per side
    rear hub.........................1/4"........................9 per side
    pedals............................5/32 or 1/8".............10-15 per side
    SPD pedals.....................3/32".......................lots
    If in doubt, fill space with bearings and remove one.
    It is possible to replace the balls in a bearing retainer that's in
    good shape. Just pop 'em out and pop in new ones of the same
    size. "

    As they say, "exceptions exist". I just worked on a Dutch bike
    that used 1/4" bearings in the hubs. So, measure and count.
    It's a pretty good list for the most part.
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
    - Oscar Wilde

  3. #3
    Senior Member peripatetic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    NYC
    My Bikes
    All 70s and 80s, only steel.
    Posts
    2,124
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Thanks a lot for the info. Exactly what I was wondering. Does it matter if I put in all but two balls? My Parktools repair books gives that number--fill the cup, then take out two.

  4. #4
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Southern NH
    Posts
    1,453
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by peripatetic
    Thanks a lot for the info. Exactly what I was wondering. Does it matter if I put in all but two balls? My Parktools repair books gives that number--fill the cup, then take out two.
    Yup, that sounds right. I think that, for a 1" cup, 25 is "all but two". Hubs and BB's should be "all but one". You can actually buy 5/32 balls in cards of 25. They are just a couple of bucks for that.
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
    - Oscar Wilde

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    2,013
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Any reason not to replace a cupped BB with a sealed?
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
    2006 Rowbike 720 Sport, I recommend it as an exercise bike.
    1996 Birdy, Recommend.
    Wieleder CARiBIKE (folding), decent frame.

  6. #6
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Southern NH
    Posts
    1,453
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by geo8rge
    Any reason not to replace a cupped BB with a sealed?
    I would not do it just for the sake of doing it. If the races are in good shape,
    the $20, or so, that you'd spend for a new cartridge BB will buy a lot of loose
    balls. If you get any pits in the bearing races then it's a no-brainer.
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
    - Oscar Wilde

  7. #7
    Senior Member peripatetic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    NYC
    My Bikes
    All 70s and 80s, only steel.
    Posts
    2,124
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by cascade168
    Yup, that sounds right. I think that, for a 1" cup, 25 is "all but two". Hubs and BB's should be "all but one". You can actually buy 5/32 balls in cards of 25. They are just a couple of bucks for that.

    Thanks for the quick rules-of-thumb, Cascade.

  8. #8
    Coyote!
    Guest
    Hey Cascade168, good response. Thanks. That said, I didn't follow this bit. . .

    >>>By using loose balls you virtually eliminate the chance that you'll get an indexing problem with your headset by introducing an element of randomness (as far as the distance between balls is concerned).

    Can you expand? What's an "indexing problem"?

    Thanks.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Pittsburgh, PA
    My Bikes
    '''96 Litespeed Catalyst, '05 Litespeed Firenze, '06 Litespeed Tuscany, '12 Surly Pacer, All are 3x8,9 or 10. It is hilly around here!
    Posts
    25,780
    Mentioned
    7 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    One front hub exception I know of is Dura Ace front hubs require 11 3/16" balls per side. All other Shimano hubs I've worked on use 10.

    As to "indexing problem" with headsets. Since headsets have very limited rotational movement in normal riding and the impacts are quite harsh, the balls in the lower race tend to "pock mark" the crown race and lower cup race. The mechanism of how they do it is complex but the end result is that there are depressions in the races spaced the same distance apart as the balls. The balls fall into these depressions and give a ratcheting action to the steering as the fork is turned. Hence, "index steering".

    Modern cartridge bearings are designed to prevent this and using loose balls instead of retainers delays the onset since the load is distributed over more balls. A loose ball headset will eventually fail this way even without retainers. It just takes longer.

    BTW, one way to get another season out of an Indexed headset is to replace the retainers with loose balls. That way the balls no longer line up with the pock marks and the steering is temporarily smoother.

  10. #10
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Southern NH
    Posts
    1,453
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote!
    Hey Cascade168, good response. Thanks. That said, I didn't follow this bit. . .

    >>>By using loose balls you virtually eliminate the chance that you'll get an indexing problem with your headset by introducing an element of randomness (as far as the distance between balls is concerned).

    Can you expand? What's an "indexing problem"?

    Thanks.
    Indexing is a common problem caused by balls being in the same place all the time. This is caused by caged bearings always returning to the same spot when you are going straight ahead. Eventually, this causes dents, or pits, in the bearing races and when you turn the wheel you can actually feel it clicking into place at certain intervals as you turn the wheel. This is called "indexing". A good headset should turn smoothly all the time. Indexing is usually caused by less than adequate maintenance. Caged bearings work, but they need regular inspection and maintenance. If you end up with an indexed headset you can sometimes fix the problem by installing loose balls in place of the caged bearings.
    When you install loose balls, this does two things. First, you will end up with more balls than with a caged set and this spreads out the load. This is a good thing. Second, the balls will move randomly with respect to each other and this will prevent indexing from occurring. All cage balls do is make it faster to install the headset. And, on the flip side, the only bad thing about loose balls is that it takes a little longer to install them. Trust me, it's worth the extra time.

    Here's a cool reference (complete with movie !) from Sheldon Brown and Damon Rinard:

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/rinard/index_steering.htm
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
    - Oscar Wilde

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •