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  1. #1
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    What to do with these helicomatics

    I just bought a mid-80's peugeot (not sure the exact model) that had been left by someone at the lbs. The bike rides great, but it clunks terribly. I know they are awful, but what can I do to make the helicomatic hubs last until I can find a decent replacement? This is my first real dive into bike mechanics, so what tools should I have on hand to keep this thing on the road?

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    I am not sure but I think that unless you have the deluxe 7 speed helicomatic, they should use the same cones as standard Maillard hubs. Of course, if you keep riding it without fixing it, you can ruin the cups which will mean you need a new hub.

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    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    What is causing the clunking? If it's the freewheel, flush it out and re-lubricate. If the noise persists you'll have to hunt down a replacement. If it's the hub bearings, open it up and check the bearings and cones. If they're OK, clean it out, repack with fresh grease and bearing and ride on. If the cones are shot, you'll have to find a donor hub for replacements. The biggest problem with Helicomatic hubs was that the bearings were too small and tended to wear out quickly. If you don't catch this soon enough, the cones get ruined as well. The higher end Helicomatics were actually quite nice apart from that design flaw -- lovely ground and polished cones and races as smooth-running as anything from Campagnolo. They just didn't last as long.

  4. #4
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    I am not sure but I think that unless you have the deluxe 7 speed helicomatic, they should use the same cones as standard Maillard hubs.
    No, Helicomatic hubs used 5/32" balls instead of 1/4" balls, which means the cones are unique to the Helicomatic models.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    No, Helicomatic hubs used 5/32" balls instead of 1/4" balls, which means the cones are unique to the Helicomatic models.
    My source claims the axle and cones are the same except for the "luxe compe oddity" which I assume is a subspecies of helicomatic. Maybe they mean the cup and bearings but not the cone is different. You can source bearing quality 5/32 balls online.

    http://www.yellowjersey.org/helico.html

    You have to read a ways before you get past the blurb about Maillard freewheels. Also, if you attempt an axle service, KEEP THE DUSTCAPS. They are likely to be different than the ones with new cones but there's a chance the ID is the standard 17mm.

    Tj, not sure what you meant by clunking. If the axle seems good and the chain seems to skip a tooth when mashing the pedals hard, then in order of decreasing likelihood you have a worn chain, cassette, or chainrings.

    Measure your chain. Each link should be one half inch. Or, just get a new chain. parktool.com may list acceptable limits of wear. Not sure where to find them now. I think the procedure is to measure several links so the inaccuracy adds up and you don't need to read a super fine measurement to tell if it's worn.

    If it still clunks then I would guess that a good tactic would be the one which is recommended for Shimano Uniglide, a broadly similar system: Take the cogs off the freehub and flip them over so your chain engages the other side of the tooth.
    Last edited by garage sale GT; 01-03-10 at 03:25 PM.

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    Senior Member Chombi's Avatar
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    Never did figure out what the advantage was with Helicomatic hubs. You still need to use a special wrench to remove it's lockring and access the freewheel and gears. It was a solution searching for a problem that found more problems along the way. I do remember the less than impressive Helicomatic bearing and cones on the hubs of my Peugeots in the 80's and they never seem ro roll as smoothly as other hubs despite all the adjusting I did on them (lots of rumbling). For some reason, Helicomatic gears are being sold at eBay for too much money these days.
    Fortunately, there are many other Mailliard hubs out there to choose from if you want to stay with them. Even the most basic model can give you long good service as long as you keep them adjusted right and properly lubricated.

    Chombi
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post

    Tj, not sure what you meant by clunking. If the axle seems good and the chain seems to skip a tooth when mashing the pedals hard, then in order of decreasing likelihood you have a worn chain, cassette, or chainrings.
    The clunking is definately the hub. I took the wheel off and spun the axle by itself and it sounds like its just rolling on bearings with no grease, plus there is a little bit of play (not sure if thats normal).

    But I am bidding on a shimano 105 7 speed rear hub on ebay. Has the same amount of holes as my rim, so Im hoping this is a cheap-ish fix.

    btw I just found out this bike is a pgn 10

  8. #8
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chombi View Post
    Never did figure out what the advantage was with Helicomatic hubs. You still need to use a special wrench to remove it's lockring and access the freewheel and gears. It was a solution searching for a problem that found more problems along the way.
    While you do need a special wrench to remove the helicomatic freewheel, the advantage is that the wrench is very small and light (and includes a bottle opener!) and can easily remove the freewheel even with only the small torque possible from the 3" handle and hand pressure. If you were, say, on a long tour and broke a drive-side spoke far from any access to a large wrench or bench vise, you would still be able to remove the freewheel, replace the spoke and be on your merry way. And the design moved the drive-side bearing outboard, reducing the propensity to bend the axle that typical freewheel hubs suffered (Shimano copied this feature for their "Freehub" design, which later morphed into the modern cassette-type hubs). The fatal flaw of the helicomatic was the small bearing size (5/32" vs 1/4"), which proved inadequate for typical real-world bicycle loads and maintenance regimes.

  9. #9
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    While you do need a special wrench to remove the helicomatic freewheel...
    Ordinary slip join pliers work fine.

    tcs
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  10. #10
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    Originally Posted by JohnDThompson
    While you do need a special wrench to remove the helicomatic freewheel...

    Ordinary slip join pliers work fine.
    They do work, but you have to be careful not to crush the lockring. Bit the official helicomatic tool is smaller and lighter -- and includes a bottle opener for your congratulatory refreshment.

  11. #11
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    A wheel with a quick release axle should have a bit of looseness when removed because the quick release compresses the axle a bit.

    I find it hard to tell if the axle's a bit loose when it's in the bike so I remove the wheel and clamp a stack of washers to each end of the hub with the quick release, so the axle has the same compression on it as when it's in the bike. I readjust the quick release so it tightens the same amount despite the slightly different thickness of the washers vs. the bike's dropout. There should be no play but no drag. Most times you can feel a bit of lumpiness in the bearing but I had a Spidel hub (which may have been made by Maillard) which had no roughnes at all.

    I think your lube is dry. Grease is thickened oil. Sometimes the oil can creep out and leave nothing but the thickener which is kind of like soap or beeswax. It squeezes out of the way and does no lubrication.

    Maybe you are running your quick release too loose also. That's no substitute for proper adjustment but if you are running it too loose it can lead to a loose running axle.

    Both of those conditions would contribute to greatly accelerated wear so I would overhaul and check if the cones are pitted.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Chombi's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=garage sale GT;10225660] I had a Spidel hub (which may have been made by Maillard) which had no roughnes at all.
    QUOTE]
    Spidel hubs are usually the top line versions of the Malliard hubs, re-branded as Spidels, so there should be no surprise with their being much smoother running than most Malliard hub models.
    My experiance has been that you cannot adjust out 100% of the roughness on most lower model Maillard/Atom/Normandy hubs but they seem to do just fine with that bit of roughness for many many miles. Almost like how you can dip the crude AK47 automatic submachinegun into mud, sand and water and it will keep on firing for you.
    These French hubs may be crude compared to Italian Campys, but they are tough and reliable, although as mentioned, the smaller bearings on the Helis had been a bit of a problem.

    Chombi
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  13. #13
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    My point was that when you tighten the skewer, the axle should have neither looseness or much drag, but you should definitely feel that slightly lumpy feeling of the balls rolling in firm contact with the cups and cones. It's what indicates that there is no clearance and a slight, slight preload. But you need to have the skewer tightened. The axle should feel loose with no skewer.

    Make sure you tighten the skewer correctly. The advice I heard was that it should start to engage when the handle is at the midpoint of its swing. If the axle still knocks or binds with the skewer tightened this way, then you need to readjust the cones. It sure sounds like you ought to break it down and grease it anyway, though.

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