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Old 06-22-08, 06:00 AM   #1
morten_beta
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Bearings Vs. Loose Balls

Hi All!

I am currently fixing up an older road bike. Doing a single speed conversion and giving it a full cleaning, lubrication, painting the frame and replacing worn our parts. It is a mid 80ies Peugeot. Currently the headset has a Ball Bearing on top and loose balls on the bottom, however I lost a couple of the loose balls, and now I need to replace them, but I am wondering if I could put a bearing on the bottom to?

I tried just placing the top one on the bottom and I thought it gave a smoother feeling, but I am wondering if the bearing can handle the pressure, or if that is why there are balls now? Any insights?

I read somewhere that bearings give a larger contact surface on each balls, which should be an advantage. But my logic tells me that balls will be able to hold mere weight!?

Anyway, help or advice wanted.

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Old 06-22-08, 06:36 AM   #2
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I think you're confusing loose balls and caged balls. Loose is better. (unless you're running a bike factory)
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Old 06-22-08, 07:00 AM   #3
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Yeah, replace all of the bearings, both loose and caged, with loose bearings. And don't just repack the old loose ones as they ovalize with use and once they are even slightly out of their original position, they'll never quite work right again. Don't skimp here, it's not an expensive investment.
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Old 06-22-08, 08:53 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turtle77 View Post
Yeah, replace all of the bearings, both loose and caged, with loose bearings. And don't just repack the old loose ones as they ovalize with use and once they are even slightly out of their original position, they'll never quite work right again. Don't skimp here, it's not an expensive investment.
More importantly is never to mix and match bearings. What the OP planned to do was replace the one he lost, bad idea.

Buy bearings in whole sets, install them in whole sets. NEVER mix them with old ones, or even new ones bought at a different time or place.
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Old 06-22-08, 01:15 PM   #5
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they both said everything before me, but I will just add to check out sheldon brown's site on bearing sizing, etc.

good stuff.
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Old 06-22-08, 01:24 PM   #6
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I was going to replace all the balls, with either all new balls or caged balls, was'nt planning on mix match. So as I understand, I replace both the top caged, and the bottom loose balls to be on the good side?

Does the same go for the crank bearings? Replace not just re-grease - they look fine except for old grease, but I am thinking if they tend to oval to.
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Old 06-22-08, 01:26 PM   #7
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Loose balls come in a bag or bottle and are very cheap compared to many of the other things we need to buy for our bikes. I got mine from my LBS but I know them well and they sold me a bag at their cost. If your LBS wants to sell you just what you need at some inflated price per ball then get around to a bearing supply outlet. They'll have the bags o' balls for cheaper. A bag of 100 1/8 sized balls (I think that's what headsets use) should not be more than somewhere around $5. While you're there you should buy similar bags for the two wheel bearing sizes.
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Old 06-22-08, 03:00 PM   #8
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One other thing: bearing balls come in different grades. I like to get the Grade 25 balls for the little extra money it costs-
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Old 06-22-08, 03:15 PM   #9
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Did a little searching and the grade number refers to the spherical tolerance of the balls. The grade is the number of millionth's of an inch that the ball in the pack is allowed to be out of round. So the lower the number the better the grade of ball.

Grade 25 does seem to be the best you can get generally. It's up to you to set the value based on your price vs desire for the "best for your baby". Grade 25 on one page was compared to Campy's best product and I'm sure that your average day to day mid line bike would use grade 100 or more. Certainly there were enough bicycle online dealers selling grade 300 loose balls to say this is the case. If 300 is an acceptable standard I'd probably look at the pricing for grades 100, 50 and 25 and choose the best bang for the buck unless the difference is truly just a little more as well biked suggests. I suspect prices may vary depending on your region and the presence of bigger bearing dealers.
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Old 06-22-08, 06:11 PM   #10
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I have known the cage in cage bearing to break up and make a mess of the cup and cone... so it is always loose bearings for me. As said above, when I service the BB I replace with new, they are not expensive so you may as well do the job right.
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Old 06-22-08, 06:32 PM   #11
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Depending upon where your LBS buys their bearings, availability may vary. Many distributors stock grade-3, grade-5 and grade-10 bearings as well. Nice thing about loose-bearings on headsets is spreading out the force among larger number of contact-points, leading to better wear and smoother operation. Also if the headset race is slightly pitted from previous retainer-bearings, using loose-balls will remove the gritty "index" action of the headset. The new contact points of the loose-bearings no longer line up with all of the positions of the bearings in the retainer.
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