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  1. #1
    Senior Member bellweatherman's Avatar
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    Loose Balls vs Caged Balls

    I was wondering which is better. Loose balls or caged balls? If I have a bottom bracket (old-school) that uses a retainer to hold the ball bearings, should I ditch the retainer and just run loose balls?

    And what about this n-1 business? What I mean by that is, let's say that after I take out the retainer, I can put more balls into the assembly. Should I fill up as many balls as will ride on the race and then take out 1 ball, hence n-1? Or should I just fit as many balls as possible that will sit evenly on the race?
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  2. #2
    cab horn
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    1) Cages speed assembly and wear over loose ball
    2) n-1 balls
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  3. #3
    Your mom
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    Loose is better - more bearing surface to bear weight. They are, however, more work.

    Definitely n-1. Don't know why. Someone on the forum is actually of an n-2 persuasion, after having a problem with n-1.

  4. #4
    Senior Member bellweatherman's Avatar
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    What's so great about n-1? Isn't the idea to spread the load as best you can? So, therefore n minus anything is going to spread the load alot worse than n minus nothing. And if your goal is to use less ball bearings, then why even through away the retainer?
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  5. #5
    Your mom
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    Just stole a decent explanation from the C&V forum:

    Each time 2 bearings touch, the friction between them is an issue since the speed of the contact point is in direct opposition direction wise... If they are held in so closely that they can't float away from each other friction between the bearings is an issue.


    Not sure if it's true, but it sure does sound good!

  6. #6
    pedal head
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    I thought this thread was about cycling shorts!
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  7. #7
    Seņor Miembro JustBrowsing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by probable556
    I thought this thread was about cycling shorts!
    Same here. Although, I have to admit that I was scared of finding out what the "cage" was...

  8. #8
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tellyho
    Definitely n-1. Don't know why. Someone on the forum is actually of an n-2 persuasion, after having a problem with n-1.
    "n-1" is correct for hubs and BBs. "n-2" is for headsets - taken directly from Barnett's Manual. So, it's not just "someone on the forum".

    Hubs and BBs have, pretty much, a constant rotating motion, whereas headset bearings are not moving around much at all. "n-2" introduces a randomness to where the balls position themselves to reduce the occurence of brinnelling.
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  9. #9
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellweatherman
    What's so great about n-1? Isn't the idea to spread the load as best you can? So, therefore n minus anything is going to spread the load alot worse than n minus nothing. And if your goal is to use less ball bearings, then why even through away the retainer?
    I think something that's being misunderstood in this thread is what "n" means. "n" is the number of bearings it takes for the first occurence of the bearing set to jumble. "Jumble" means that when the bearing set is test seated the loose balls do not lie in a perfect circle, because there are too many bearings to allow it. So, you eliminate one bearing until you can get the loose balls to line up in a perfect circle. This will almost always end up with the number of loose bearings at least one more than you would have in a caged bearing set. The goal is to use more bearings and distribute the load more widely. Not less, as you stated.

    In other words, another way of looking at what "n-1" means is that "[(first occurence of jumble) - 1]" would be optimum for hubs and BBs.
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  10. #10
    Your mom
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    Interesting; I'm glad you explained that, as my understanding of "n" was the number of balls to sit in a perfect circle.

  11. #11
    cab horn
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    Quote Originally Posted by cascade168
    "n-1" is correct for hubs and BBs. "n-2" is for headsets - taken directly from Barnett's Manual. So, it's not just "someone on the forum".
    .
    Cascade is correct - it's n-2 for headsets.

    N, is the amount that you can put in before you have to stack the bearings vertically.
    Last edited by operator; 05-12-07 at 02:47 PM.
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  12. #12
    Gone, but not forgotten Sheldon Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellweatherman
    I was wondering which is better. Loose balls or caged balls? If I have a bottom bracket (old-school) that uses a retainer to hold the ball bearings, should I ditch the retainer and just run loose balls?
    Loose is definitely better. In most cases it permits you to fit more balls in.

    Standard bottom brackets use 11 1/4" balls on each side, but most of the retainers have fewer. Saves a teeny bit of money for the manufacturer, but won't roll as smoothly nor last as long.

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  13. #13
    Senior Member bellweatherman's Avatar
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    OK, thanks. So ditching the retainer will, sometimes, allow me to sit more balls in. And that is good to distribute the weight more evenly.

    I think people are confused about what "n" actually means. I did a search and some people are saying that "n" is the number of balls that fits in a perfect circle. Others say otherwise. So, this controversy about the n, n-1, and n-2 maybe relates to nobody really having a standard definition of what "n" actually is.
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  14. #14
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheldon Brown
    Sheldon "It Goes To Eleven!" Brown
    Sheldon, your amps or your hubs???? ;-)))
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  15. #15
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Unless there is some bicycle-specific tool that I don't know about, a hemostat is your best friend for dealing with loose bearings.

  16. #16
    Senior Member bellweatherman's Avatar
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    What's "n"? Link please. And what is a hemostat?
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  17. #17
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellweatherman
    What's "n"? Link please. And what is a hemostat?
    Google hemostat. Or, here's one link: http://www2.northerntool.com/product-1/478861.htm

  18. #18
    Senior Member barba's Avatar
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    A hemostat is a medical instrument that looks a tad like a pair of scissors with pincers instead on blades.

    Edit: JanMM beat me to it.

  19. #19
    Senior Member bellweatherman's Avatar
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    That's cool and all, but what does a hemostat have to do with any of this? I still can't find a reliable link for what "n" is.
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  20. #20
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    You can pick up a ball with a hemostat and put it where it needs to go with the hemostat. You can fill a race and then remove one, if need be.

  21. #21
    Senior Member bellweatherman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JanMM
    You can pick up a ball with a hemostat and put it where it needs to go with the hemostat. You can fill a race and then remove one, if need be.
    Uh, gee that's really cool. Next time I'm messing around with some loose ball bearings I'm remember that nugget and run on down to the local hospital and ask for one of these things from the surgeon. Yeah, just so I can pick up some ball bearings.

    What is "n"? Link?
    Livestrong. The personal fundmaker of Lance Armstrong. The company who are in business to not donate to cancer research, but only to inform people that cancer is bad.

    Armstrong. The man without integrity, no care for the sport, and no problem with testing positive for EPO and making donations to cover it up.

    01101010101010001010

  22. #22
    Since 1938... JunkYardBike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellweatherman
    What's "n"? Link please. And what is a hemostat?
    It helps stop the bleeding when the veins in your forehead burst after an hour of attempting to adjust loose bearing balls in a cheap headset.
    Last edited by JunkYardBike; 05-13-07 at 07:36 AM.

  23. #23
    cab horn
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    Replace 'n' with the amount of balls you can fit into a race completley without having to start stacking them vertically? K.?
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

  24. #24
    mousse de chocolat Moose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellweatherman
    What is "n"? Link?
    Here's a link

  25. #25
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moose
    Excellent !!!
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
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