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Old 03-28-11, 03:21 PM   #1
hobkirk
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Freewheel Hubs - How long do they last? Can they be swapped? Need special tools?

My freewheel hub (correct term?) failed.
  • Last week it wouldn't freewheel - I had to use some force and penetrating oil to free it up so the cassette would not turn with the rotation of the wheel when I wasn't pedaling. I did this without disassembling the wheel. Fixed - or at least it worked fine for several rides.
  • This week it started freewheeling forward (? - the driven cassette was not causing the wheel to turn). Later, with the wheel off the bike, it seemed to start working, but that's irrelevant - I can't trust it.
  • After I removed the cassette, the hub felt "notchy" at one point in a rotation
  • My LBS and the biggest BS in the area said I needed a new hub based on my words when I brought the wheel in to them.
  • The wheel is an Alex 280 (it came on a 2007 GT Carbon Series 2 bike). The wheel has about 4000 miles on it. FWIW, I've trued the wheel twice on rides - the wheel runs quite true, it's quite round, although I did have to tension several spokes very tight to get it true (that was a couple thousand miles ago).
Naturally this raises questions for me.
  1. Should I fix this wheel or pay lots of money for a new wheel set?
  2. If I fix it, does replacing the hub automatically mean I am replacing the bearings? Or do I need to make sure the BS does that?
  3. Is this something I should have the BS fix? I will probably sell these wheels soon (I am now running my original wheels on my 2007 Roubaix). It seems that hubs are much more varied than I had imagined and I suspect the tools might be unique to the hub.
Thanks, as always for your reactions.
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Old 03-28-11, 03:28 PM   #2
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The rims are Alex. I would guess that the hubs are either Joytech or Formula. Either way you should be able to replace the freehub body.
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Old 03-28-11, 03:31 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
My freewheel hub (correct term?) failed.
  • The wheel is an Alex 280 (it came on a 2007 GT Carbon Series 2 bike). The wheel has about 4000 miles on it. FWIW, I've trued the wheel twice on rides - the wheel runs quite true, it's quite round, although I did have to tension several spokes very tight to get it true (that was a couple thousand miles ago).
sounds like you have a hub that has a freehub instead of a freewheel. what model is this hub? if it is a shimano unit then parts can be sourced for it. generally the freehubs can be removed for "service" which is a solvent soak and oil. if you have broken pawls then such service is a waste of time. if you can get a freehub then it is a quick swap and hub overhaul. the uneven tensions dont inspire confidence either
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Old 03-28-11, 03:50 PM   #4
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The rims are Alex. I would guess that the hubs are either Joytech or Formula. Either way you should be able to replace the freehub body.
Good luck sourcing that.

The OP is riding a rear wheel worth about $50 wholesale. Unless those rims are in good shape and the OP hasn't heavily ridden those 4000 miles, there's no reason to 'swap hubs'.

What I would suggest the OP do is buy a shimano MTB hub, invest in a good rim and wheelbuilder.
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Old 03-28-11, 04:34 PM   #5
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From the bikepedia site

http://www.bikepedia.com/quickbike/B...es+2&Type=bike

Your bike has an Alex hub. If your shop happens to have an Alex freehub that will swap out with yours (highly unlikely) it should be an easy, inexpensive swap. If not, get a new rear wheel. It's not worth buying a new hub and building it up with a 4000 mile old rim.

Just an FYI on the difference between a freewheel and a cassette freehub (you have a cassette) http://www.sheldonbrown.com/free-k7.html
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Old 03-28-11, 04:41 PM   #6
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Freehubs are modular so (if you can source it) the freehub module (where the cassette attaches) can be replaced. But given the symptoms yours exhibits, I suspect it's just dirt or dried grease gumming the works so the pawls (which have light springs) aren't engaging reliably.

Go to one of the various tutorials covering hub service and learn how to remove your freehub body. Soak it in solvent - mineral spirits, naphtha, kerosene or diesel fuel - for a while then work it through and rinse out. Dry it and lube the ratchet with a sticky oil and see if it works. Then re-assemble the hub and you'll be fine.

If you can't solve the problem with a soak and lube, you may not find a replacement that easily or it's cost may be more than the wheel is worth. Then you can buy a better hub and have someone build you a wheel, or for less dough buy a factory built wheel but using a better hub.

BTW- freehubs can last almost forever but require some maintenance, otherwise dirt and weather will kill them off prematurely.
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Old 03-28-11, 04:54 PM   #7
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A proper freewheel hub has a screw on freewheel, entirely removable
the hubs 2 axle support bearings are separate.. both part of the hub,

Freehubs OTOH , have 1 axle bearing on the right end of the ratcheting driver
that holds the sprocket cassette,
and the left one on the other end of the hub.
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Old 03-28-11, 05:30 PM   #8
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OP here. Thanks for the lessons, all. Freehub vs Freewheel - thank you guys and for the link to Sheldon Brown.

Why the concern over 4,000 miles on the rim? You make me nervous. I weigh 222# and New England roads are not very smooth. I am almost a novice, but I had expected wheels were fine as long as I didn't get broken spokes (I had only one, 2-3K miles ago) or the rim went out of true (happened two times, pretty close together, around 2K miles) or out-of-round (never).

How do I know when my wheels are gone?
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Old 03-28-11, 05:59 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Freehubs OTOH , have 1 axle bearing on the right end of the ratcheting driver
that holds the sprocket cassette, and the left one on the other end of the hub.
Some do and some don't . Shimano hubs do, Campy hubs don't.
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Old 03-28-11, 06:12 PM   #10
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Why the concern over 4,000 miles on the rim?
I didn't mean to say that there's anything wrong with your rim, but more from a cost standpoint. You can probably buy a complete machine built wheel of comparable quality for the same money as getting a new hub + the cost of rebuild. In that case why go used when you can go new?
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Old 03-28-11, 09:17 PM   #11
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Don't worry about the age or number of miles on your rims. If they stay true, aren't bent, don't break spokes frequently and, after inspecting them (around the spoke holes and all along the sides-braking surfaces in particular) don't have any cracks, I'd say keep riding them. How long they last depends on many things - amount of use, quality, how well maintained, type of use, etc. Assuming the wheels are designed for someone your weight, that shouldn't matter either (think of the weight on the wheels of a tandem). I weigh about the same as you, have stuck with mostly 36 spokes wheels, some 32's, bought good quality and maintained them, and am still riding 20 and even one pair of 30 year old wheels without problems. I've always aimed for durability over light(est) weight and think I've achieved that.
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