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Old 07-27-07, 09:19 AM   #1
jamesshuang
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My bike self-destructed...

Hey everyone, I was biking near Baltimore yesterday when my back wheel self-destructed. I'm a silly person myself - I've been hearing a strange crunching sound when going up hills, so I assumed it was something in the crankcase. It turns out that it was the bearings in the back wheel. Anyways, I was at least 5 miles from civilization in a nice wooded road when suddenly the resistance on my bike massively increased. I tried to bike further because I wanted to get closer to a town. Within about 200 feet, I realized that this was completely impossible since my back wheel was getting more and more wobbly. By the time I got off and tried to inspect it, the axle was far too hot to touch, there were metal filings everywhere, and there was about 1/8" of metal shaved off of one of the nuts. As it undid the nut, the ball bearings spilled out of the hub all over the road. I looked inside, and the track holding the ball bearings was completely bent out of shape. What a mess!

I admit that my bike is a cheap walmart bike. However, I didn't expect it to fail so spectacularly and without warning. Especially as I was about 20 miles away from home and in the middle of nowhere! I managed to call a friend to drive me home thankfully. However, now I'm sadly missing my bike, and wondering what I should do with it. Should I just buy a new one? I definitely don't have money for a nice one yet. Should I just buy a new rear wheel? Is there a way to fix the broken wheel, with a new set of ball bearings? What does everyone here think I should do?
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Old 07-27-07, 09:23 AM   #2
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Broken axle perhaps? You could replace that cheaply if that's the problem and the bearing cups on the hub are still OK. Hard to say for sure without looking at it. Take it to your LBS and let them take a look.

I wouldn't say it failed "without warning" you said yourself that it's been making noises!
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Old 07-27-07, 09:23 AM   #3
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Sounds like your hub is shot. You didn't say what type of bike it is, but if a mountain bike, you can probably buy a used wheel for it for less than $20. Had a similar thing happen to me on my Trek 520, but when it got noisy, I quit riding it. Good lesson to learn.
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Old 07-27-07, 09:25 AM   #4
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Look for a used one. I've seen old Trek antelopes or downtube shifted 7 speed road bikes go for as low as $80, not much more than a Walmart bike. Even though such a bike is old and a bit obsolete it will be infinitely more dependable than a Walmart bike.
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Old 07-27-07, 09:32 AM   #5
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Yeah, it's a cheap mountain bike, and the ball bearings were what came loose. The axle seems to be in good shape. I said "without warning" because the crunching noise didn't happen very frequently - only when I was going up hills. It also seemed to only happen as I was pushing down on the right pedal, which is why I assumed it was something up with the crankcase, not the rear wheel x_x.

That $80 road bike sounds very attractive. Where can I find one of those? I've been riding a horribly heavy and cheap mountain bike up and down hills and on long distance, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it got destroyed, haha.
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Old 07-27-07, 09:39 AM   #6
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Get a used wheel, and also spend the same amount on some tools (hex keys, cone wrenches, spoke wrench, tire levers and patch kit). Look on the Sheldon Brown or Park Tool websites on how to use the tools and you never need to have this sort of trouble happen again. Cheap Walmart bikes can give years of enjoyment if you keep them adjusted.
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Old 07-27-07, 09:45 AM   #7
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Option 1: Head to a thrift shop and buy either a) an older though higher end bike for cheap and fix it up if need be, or b) a similar bike as yours and use it for spare parts. You can also check yardsales, classifieds, craigslist, etc. The preferred candidate is a damaged bike like yours with at least a good rear wheel. Inspect and make sure the hub is set up good.

Option 2: Head to the local bike shop and invest in a good rear wheel. Spend a little more on something that can take a beating and last a while. As you get funds, start piecing a bike together (new frame, components, etc.) and transfer over all the parts you invested in from the prior bike.
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Old 07-27-07, 09:49 AM   #8
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Lesson: Don't ignore any unusual noise and check adjustments regularly even if you think there are not problems. It is VERY common for hubs to be adjusted too tight on new bikes, and adjusting the hub bearings is something you will not see done on a 15-20 min dept. store bike assembly.

When I owned a mobile bike repair business I also had a contract with the local Sears to do all their assembly and maintenance contract work. I insisted on a better quality assembly, which cost them a bit more, but their contract work went down to about 40% of what it was previously and parts costs were even lower. Any bike can benefit greatly by proper maintenance.
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Old 07-27-07, 12:32 PM   #9
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I know a guy that buys the $60 bikes at Target. He eats a rear wheel about every 6 months and gets a free replacement. The next time he gets another $60 bike. He figures he spends $5/month for bike expenses. He lives about 5 blocks from Target, else it would be xmart or??
Look at the thrift stores or Craigslist for a beater with a usable wheel (same size tire) with the same number of cogs. You don't want to spend a lot of money on a $50-100 bike.
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Old 07-27-07, 12:53 PM   #10
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A good replacement wheel will be worth more than that entire bike.

There's some cost-benefit stuff to be weighed here...but I'm no fan of x-mart bikes. Disposable toys, they are. A quality hub costs as little as $30 if you're not a weight weenie, and I have 5,000 miles on $30 Deore hubs with zero difficulties.

So just think of how cheap that wal-mart hub REALLY is, since they even managed to turn a profit on that POS.

Yours is not the first story I've read about disintegrating moving parts, either.
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Old 07-27-07, 01:54 PM   #11
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Common occurance;
People bring these bikes into the shop weekly to get the rear bearing or shifters fixed.
We quote the repair and they almost always say "I'll just go buy another one".
Then they leave the bike behind the shop in the charity donation pile.
Thus perpetuating the disposable lifestyle that makes this country what it is.
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Old 07-27-07, 02:18 PM   #12
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Check ebay or craig's list. Also garage sales for older road bikes. Craig's list is usually a waste of time in my opinion. People set the price and expect nearly full retail for 20 year old bikes and act as though you are trying to scam them when you offer them less.
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Old 07-27-07, 11:54 PM   #13
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Ahhh, thank you for all the suggestions! I wasn't expecting to be riding this bike as hard as I did - this is my first bike since I was a child. I originally bought it just to get around campus and for groceries, but when I did get it, I found that biking places was actually very possible and a lot of fun. Which is when I started racking up the mileage, haha. If I had known that I would enjoy biking so much, I probably would have saved up and bought a decent road bike.

The bike is SERIOUSLY cheap though. Almost immediately the rear suspension spring started squeaking like crazy. No amount of lubricant or oil would make the squeak go away for more than a day. That's kinda why I just grew an immunity to any and all noise the bike makes. I also didn't realize just how bad the hub was... I rode a 55 mile trail the weekend before it broke, and it felt kinda heavy along the way. When I came back and rode my friend's bike, it was so much easier pedaling!

Craigslist is a waste of time... even for very old bikes, they're listing well over my intended budget of around $100, maybe $200 if I wait a month. I haven't checked ebay yet. Are there any specific cheap old road bikes I should take a look at? I don't even know where to start!

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Old 07-28-07, 07:02 AM   #14
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Old Mieles ride nicely and go for decent prices usually
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Old 07-28-07, 11:38 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesshuang View Post
Hey everyone, I was biking near Baltimore yesterday when my back wheel self-destructed. I'm a silly person myself - I've been hearing a strange crunching sound when going up hills, so I assumed it was something in the crankcase. It turns out that it was the bearings in the back wheel.
Sounds like it didn't "self-destruct" but had LOTS of help in the process. How long has it been since you greased and checked the adjustment of the bearings? Sounds like it's been a long time if ever at all. Even the el-cheap-o bikes will last many years as long as the critical places are kept clean,lubricated and adjusted.(Which is NOT DONE at the el-cheap-o factory OR the dept. store.)
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Old 07-28-07, 11:49 AM   #16
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Mine did the same thing. I pitched it and bought a better bike for $300 and haven't looked back since.
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Old 07-28-07, 02:52 PM   #17
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Check your local classifieds and esp. look for garage sales listing bikes. Some bike shops sell used, also check local thrift shops. First talk to a knowledgable friend (or bring along) about what to look for (and look out for).
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Old 07-28-07, 05:06 PM   #18
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xxxx

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Old 07-28-07, 05:44 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by powers2b View Post
Common occurance;
People bring these bikes into the shop weekly to get the rear bearing or shifters fixed.
We quote the repair and they almost always say "I'll just go buy another one".
Then they leave the bike behind the shop in the charity donation pile.
Thus perpetuating the disposable lifestyle that makes this country what it is.
That's excellent, if they are leaving bikes that only need a minor repair. A bikeshare/community bike repair program could definitley use something like that. I know our campus could.
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