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  1. #1
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    Beware the Basement Mechanic!

    I have a 1960's vintage French bike that I have had since the late 60's, recently repurposed as an exercise bike on a trainer stand. The bike was used when I got it 45 years ago, and I paid one of the neighborhood kids (a "bike expert") a small sum back then to help rebuild it. There were no other options at the time - I could not afford to take it to a bike shop. Apparently I got what I paid for (not much)!

    Have had issues since I started using it again about a month ago with pedals, cranks, and most recently a "creak" in the bottom bracket. When I took the bottom bracket apart, I discovered 19 ball bearings - 15 that are 1/4" and 4 that are 3/16". Apparently he stuck in whatever he could find in his basement. Good thing he didn't own a BB ***, or there would have been some of those in there as well.

    I reassembled it with 22 bearings that are 1/4". Amazingly, there was no damage to the bearing cups, and the bike used to ride smoothly back in the day even with the mismatched bearings. I guess the headset is next - maybe I'll find BB's in there. Thank heaven for the internet - I was able to get parts (even cotter pins for the cranks) in a couple of days.

  2. #2
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    If the bike is dedicated to a trainer, the headset is a non issue as is the front hub. I'd definitely check the rear hub bearings though.

  3. #3
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    Headset is a non-issue until I try to ride it again - I don't dare until I see what's in there. Both wheels are new - old rear wheel bent by movers some years ago, and front one replaced more recently because the old one was rusty. Freewheel is NOS that I got cheap on EBay.

  4. #4
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    Frankly, given it's age and history, I'd leave it on the trainer permanently and get something newer and better as a user road bike.

  5. #5
    Gammal cyklist Reynolds's Avatar
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    What he did is not correct, but not so terrible either. Your BB had 11 bearings each side, that means loose balls, no cages. Caged bearings usually have 9, sometimes 7 and they work. Probably he used the 3/16"s as spacers.

  6. #6
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    Yes, I suppose I could dedicate it as a trainer, but sure would like to have it road worthy in case I want to take it out riding. My normal road bike is a newer Motobecane - much lighter, and the Suntour deraillers function better than the old Hurets. And no, I don't think the intention was to use the smaller bearings as spacers, that's just what he had available. Note that I replaced 15 large and 4 small bearings with 22 large. The purpose of the original post was to encourage folks to check out any bike that may have had work done by amateurs before doing much riding.
    Last edited by fritz1255; 01-16-13 at 10:04 AM. Reason: spelling

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by fritz1255 View Post
    Yes, I suppose I could dedicate it as a trainer, but sure would like to have it road worthy in case I want to take it out riding. My normal road bike is a newer Motobecane - much lighter, and the Suntour deraillers function better than the old Hurets.
    Your second sentence supports my recommendation to leave the old bike on the trainer permanantly.

  8. #8
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    I am not surprised that 15 large + 4 small did not ruin the bearing races - since there were far more large than small, there were likely enough to support the bearing and the small ones did not make contact with the races. Still not ideal, and I also would not believe the small ones were used as spacers.

  9. #9
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    But working on bicycles is easy and anyone can do it.

    Saying this because I hear the other side of it too often.

    Good to hear no serious damage was done.

    For the record, my shop is in a converted garage but I do have the experience and credentials to back up my work.


  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by fritz1255 View Post
    I have a 1960's vintage French bike that I have had since the late 60's, recently repurposed as an exercise bike on a trainer stand. The bike was used when I got it 45 years ago, and I paid one of the neighborhood kids (a "bike expert") a small sum back then to help rebuild it. There were no other options at the time - I could not afford to take it to a bike shop. Apparently I got what I paid for (not much)!

    Have had issues since I started using it again about a month ago with pedals, cranks, and most recently a "creak" in the bottom bracket. When I took the bottom bracket apart, I discovered 19 ball bearings - 15 that are 1/4" and 4 that are 3/16". Apparently he stuck in whatever he could find in his basement. Good thing he didn't own a BB ***, or there would have been some of those in there as well.

    I reassembled it with 22 bearings that are 1/4". Amazingly, there was no damage to the bearing cups, and the bike used to ride smoothly back in the day even with the mismatched bearings. I guess the headset is next - maybe I'll find BB's in there. Thank heaven for the internet - I was able to get parts (even cotter pins for the cranks) in a couple of days.
    Hold it!!

    If I read this right, you bought a used bike 45 years ago and had work done on it back then.

    Now 45 years later you have cause to issue a blanket indictment of "basement mechanics"?. It's been 45 years!!. Do you even remember for sure that the bottom bracket was overhauled? Possibly the prior owner messed up. In any case whatever was or wasn't done, made it 45 years without failing or causing secondary damage.

    Reading the post, my problem isn't with whoever worked on it 45 years ago, but with your expectations.

    As for "basement mechanics", they vary tremendously so caveat emptor is the rule of the day. OTOH, bike shop mechanics also vary tremendously, so while the odds may be better, and/or there may be more recourse, it's still no guaranty.
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    “Never argue with an idiot. He will only bring you down to his level and beat you with experience.”, George Carlin

    “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions” - Adm Grace Murray Hopper - USN

    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  11. #11
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    While I do not have a photographic memory, I do remember that the bottom bracket was overhauled, but I was not present when it was put back together. My "expectation" is that anyone who calls himself a "bike expert" would put the right amount of the same size bearings into the bottom bracket. On my main point, I think we are in violent agreement - don't assume that all is right and good with a used bike.

  12. #12
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    You keep repeating, with quotes, that this person was a "bike expert," but in the original post you also referred to this person as a neighborhood kid. It's forty five years later, and you bought the bike used in the first place.

    This is all pretty difficult to take seriously in terms of expectations, etc, there's nothing, really, to discuss.

    I can see this thread going several pages, however.

  13. #13
    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    Frankly since the work was done 45 years ago and judging by your post the bike has been idle much of that time, I fail to see why you are complaining. Did you pay this "Bike Expert" the going shop rate for his work or just slip him a few bucks because he was a kid? You get what you pay for.
    Last edited by Bianchigirll; 01-16-13 at 12:06 PM.
    Bianchis '87 Sport SX, '90 Proto (2), '91 Boarala 'cross, '93 Project 3, '88 Trofeo, '86 Volpe, '89 Axis, '79 Mixte SOLD, '99 Mega Pro XL Ti, '97 Ti Megatube, , '90 something Vento 603,

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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    But working on bicycles is easy....
    True.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    ....and anyone can do it.
    No.

  15. #15
    Gammal cyklist Reynolds's Avatar
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    I meant spacers as in he didn't have 22 1/4" bearings and rather than leaving an empty space (which would've been worse) used the smaller bearings as "fillers".

  16. #16
    Senior Member tanguy frame's Avatar
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    what was your question again?
    -Tanguy Frame

  17. #17
    slow as I ever was Ex Pres's Avatar
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    I think after 45 years some of the balls just wore down

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ex Pres View Post
    I think after 45 years some of the balls just wore down
    I know a guy that happened to!

  19. #19
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    Where is the love?

  20. #20
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    So ..... the kind of warranty offered by every professional shop I'm aware of is 30 days on labor and one year on parts. And the warranty on parts is actually the part manufacturers warranty.

    Apparenty you have am issue with work done 45 years ago and as a result - question the 'professionalism' of the guy that did the work. The only thing I'm taking away from this post is .......that you obviously don't ride that bike enough.

  21. #21
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    I am a basement mechanic lucky for most I usually only work on my own bike. So far I have never need to take it to the shop but it does sit next to all the guitar repair stuff I do, so maybe I get some strings caught in the bottom bracket?

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