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  1. #1
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    Failed wheel bearing

    My front wheel bearing just failed after only 8 months of riding. Is this to be expected? The bike lives outdoors and is used every day, but it seemed a little premature nonetheless.

    I've since become paranoid about putting weight on my handlebars. Is this ridiculous? I don't know how the mechanics works. It failed just two rides after I started riding with a much higher saddle. Just coincidence?

    Thanks in advance.

    Yours,

    -c

  2. #2
    Senior Member Proofide's Avatar
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    In what way did the bearing fail? If the balls disintegrated, there's a possibility that the bearing was over-tightened, or became excessively tight in use. Could have been a bad batch of ball bearings, or insuficient grease. Remember Sheldon's saying - that it's impossible to put too much grease in a cup and cone bearing. Any excess will extrude as you adjust the cones, but you'll be confident that the race is full without any air pockets. I don't pay a lot for tiny quantities of "special" bicycle grease. Regular lithium grease which will withstand the heat and friction of an automobile application will do just fine for bikes, and a decent-sized tub will last for ages. I'm just coming to the end of one I bought in the early eighties. Are the bearings ones with loose balls, caged or something else? Have you examined the ball tracks under high magnification to check they're not pitted? An old home movie projector lens gives you magnification like a microscope, but is small and you can use it in one hand. I think we can rule out any connection with the saddle height, and putting weight on the handlebars. If the wheel bearings are sound and correctly adjusted, they'll roll happily with the heaviest of riders.

    Edit to say: on no account would I leave a bicycle outdoors unless it were absolutely unavoidable. Modern machines, in particular, are simply not built and finished to withstand that sort of treatment.

  3. #3
    8speed DinoSORAs Ed Holland's Avatar
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    What is the bike & hub type / design.

    If it's an inexpensive hub, and has got moisture & dirt in it then yes, this can happen. I have killed unsealed hubs in less that 3 months (UK winter commuting).

    Weight on the handlebars is not a concern. Bearings on a bicycle fail because they were poorly adjusted (too tight) and/or they were subject to water/dirt.

    Do you have a warranty? It might be worth talking to your bike shop about this.
    Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live.

  4. #4
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    You might have overtightened your skewers or th axle was poorly adjusted.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Proofide's Avatar
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    Another thought which occurred to me later. Unless you buy your bike from a good, specialist bike shop, chances are it hasn't been set up properly. As they ship from the manufacturers, they're just put together, without any fine adjustment. A proper bike shop has the knowledge to do these adjustments, but a department or discount store is unlikely to have. I've seen a bike supplied from one of these sources which had the front wheel fitted the wrong way round (the quick-release levers were on opposite sides) and that front wheel bearing was very tight. Had it been ridden any distance, chances are it would have failed. When properly set up, the wheel should roll completely freely but without any play in the bearing. Spin it with the bike inverted, and it should come to rest with the valve in the same position every time. If it's quick-release, they say you should leave a little bit of play which will be taken up when you close the quick-release. This is one of the rare things on which I disagree with Sheldon - it doesn't always happen. Treat each case differently, and develop a "feel" for how to adjust bearings.

  6. #6
    8speed DinoSORAs Ed Holland's Avatar
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    I've certainly had both cases of bad bearing:

    1) Insufficient protection from the elements - resulting in corrosion, and abrasion and ultimately pitting and disintegration of the balls. This was a Sora hub set.

    2) Over tight adjustment on a new wheel set with Ultegra hubs - front wheel bearing started making strange ticking noises and on inspection, broken fragments of ball bearing were found in relatively clean grease.

    Ed
    Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live.

  7. #7
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    I haven't had a bearing "failure" in 30 years; but I have examined any number of bikes with poorly set-up or adjusted bearings.
    I just picked up a Chinese Schwinn that had the rear wheel knocking around something awful. I was sure the innards would be toast, but everything looked pristine; not even any wear lines on the cones.
    It had never been assembled properly. (and fortunately, apparently never ridden!)

  8. #8
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    I always check and readjust the wheel bearings on any new wheel or bike.

    I've found new Shimano hubs to be anywhere from nearly perfect to a bit too tight as received. Usually the adjustment is minor.

    To my surprise, my Campy Chorus 10-speed hubs were too tight when I first got them. Fortunately Campy hubs can be adjusted while installed on the bike with the only tool needed being a 2.5 mm hex wrench.

    Cheap bike hubs are almost universally terribly adjusted with kids bikes, like Huffy, being the absolute worst. My granddaughter's new 16" Huffy had the wheel bearings so tight you could barely turn the axle with your fingers.

  9. #9
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Battle-Axe cruisers and 3-speeds can be left outdoors until winter crawls in - if they are owned by a bike-mechanic. This gives us mechanics something to do during the winter snows.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  10. #10
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    Thank you Proofide. I'll have to examine the bike with diagrams to find out exactly what you're talking about. I have to admit the bike shop fixed it for me.

    The bike does really have to live outside. I'm allowing to replace it about once a year. Feels a bit disloyal but it's the only way I can really do it.

  11. #11
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    The whole bike was 800 Ed, so I imagine it's not a terribly high quality hub. How do I seal then next one? I'll see what I can do under the warranty. It was quite expensive to fix.

  12. #12
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    Thanks Proofide. Evans Cycles set it up but I'll check the next one myself as no longer trust. Can I ask how I would detect play in the wheel bearing (apologies, I'm not familiar with these terms).

  13. #13
    Senior Member Proofide's Avatar
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    If I'd ever paid 800 for a bike, I'd be looking for good-quality hubs! Problem is that modern hubs are fitted with dust seals to cover the bearing races, but these don't do a good job at keeping water and grit out. I believe you can get completely sealed and non-serviceable hubs now, like you can with a bottom bracket, and these may be a better option if it has to stay outside. To detect play in the hub - when you've assembled the bearing races, get the spindle centred and tighten up the cone and locknut on one side. Then turn in the cone on the other side with your fingers until you can no longer move the spindle from side to side relative to the wheel. Make sure all the balls are correctly seated, and that the spindle turns smoothly. Then it's just a case of holding the cone with the correct thin cone spanner while tightening the locknut against it with another spanner. This operation often alters the adjustment, and a small amount of play appears in the bearing when the nuts are tight. So go back and do it again, and this time turn the cone in a bit further than before, so that when you tighten the locknut again, it's just right. It's easy to say all this, but you need to develop a feel for it, which can take a while. You have an advantage over any bike shop, in that you can really care about what you're doing, and you're not paying for your time!

  14. #14
    8speed DinoSORAs Ed Holland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b1keness View Post
    The whole bike was 800 Ed, so I imagine it's not a terribly high quality hub. How do I seal then next one? I'll see what I can do under the warranty. It was quite expensive to fix.
    blast, I just typed a long reply, and it timed out.....

    here's the short version.

    1) can you cover the bike when not in use? That will keep the worst off

    2) be sure the new hubs are set right - as mentioned before there should be a small amount of play in the axle that is *just* eliminated when the QR is tight. You can do this off the bike if you can find spacers to simulate the bike's dropouts. A couple of large nuts or some washers will do this. That way you can feel the axle's play and friction with your fingers and get it just right.

    3) I tried sealing hubs and its not easy. One thing I experimented with was a boot made from a section of old inner tube. This was arranged to cover the gap between the axle and hub shell, with the tube section folded back over itself to create a rounded lip where it met the hub. A little silicone plumbing grease (not oil based grease, it attacks the rubber) made for a sliding seal.

    4) Mountain bike hubs are better constructed in this regard to road hubs. Eventually I had some wheels made on Deore Hubs. Though the hub shell was the same pattern as a Sora hub, the seal design was really superior and they lasted well, despite being of comparable price.

    Ed
    Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live.

  15. #15
    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    Get a folding bike and keep it innside the house.

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