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Old 08-17-12, 05:45 AM   #1
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Leaving well enough alone

I'm not someone who rebuilds and flips a ton of bikes. In the last six or seven years, I've probably torn down and rebuilt maybe 15-20 of them at the most. I've always taken the approach of completely stripping the whole bike to the frame first, removing every nut bolt, and fitting, tearing down every bearing, then cleaning, greasing, and reassembling it from the ground up, usually with new bearing balls.
But I'm rethinking that a little now. At some point I'm going to start working on a nice 1988 Panasonic DX-3000 (though I have one other bike to get through first). In looking over it the other day, I studied the wheels--Shimano hubs, nice Araya rims (non-eyletted) that are pretty grimy but perfectly true with buttery-smooth hubs. I mean, they're mechanically immaculate as far as I can tell.
I could--and still might--tear them down and clean and regrease them, but a lazy part of me wonders why. In principle, I realize, a perfectly smooth and perfectly adjusted hub with fresh grease is better than a perfectly smooth and adjusted hub with 24 year-old grease, but how much difference does that really make? I'm thinking of just cleaning up the wheels, replacing cables and casings, cleaning and repacking the bottom bracket (going to change the spindle to a triple anyway)--then riding it for a while to see how I like it before I decide what else, if anything, I'm going to do to it. Am I going to C&V hell?
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Old 08-17-12, 05:58 AM   #2
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ive had moments like that, especially if its perfect, i usually end up riding it to see how great it really is... and if its ok then i leave it, im sure purists around here will scoff at you, but honestly if its still this good after 24 years then i doubt its gonna change much,
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Old 08-17-12, 06:00 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
I'm not someone who rebuilds and flips a ton of bikes. In the last six or seven years, I've probably torn down and rebuilt maybe 15-20 of them at the most. I've always taken the approach of completely stripping the whole bike to the frame first, removing every nut bolt, and fitting, tearing down every bearing, then cleaning, greasing, and reassembling it from the ground up, usually with new bearing balls.
But I'm rethinking that a little now. At some point I'm going to start working on a nice 1988 Panasonic DX-3000 (though I have one other bike to get through first). In looking over it the other day, I studied the wheels--Shimano hubs, nice Araya rims (non-eyletted) that are pretty grimy but perfectly true with buttery-smooth hubs. I mean, they're mechanically immaculate as far as I can tell.
I could--and still might--tear them down and clean and regrease them, but a lazy part of me wonders why. In principle, I realize, a perfectly smooth and perfectly adjusted hub with fresh grease is better than a perfectly smooth and adjusted hub with 24 year-old grease, but how much difference does that really make? I'm thinking of just cleaning up the wheels, replacing cables and casings, cleaning and repacking the bottom bracket (going to change the spindle to a triple anyway)--then riding it for a while to see how I like it before I decide what else, if anything, I'm going to do to it. Am I going to C&V hell?
It would be a shame to damage any components because of lack of lubrication if the bike is in good condition. You WILL go to C&V hell if you don't do it right.
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Old 08-17-12, 06:26 AM   #4
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I would go to the extent to identify the condition of the grease through inspection before letting it go. It may have been repacked not long ago, or not and it is running dry. Without checking, you don't know.
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Old 08-17-12, 06:46 AM   #5
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I think this varies depending on whether old bikes are your hobby or your business.

While low-volume me prefers to peel everything apart, my friend who has 40 years experience as a bike mechanic will spin the cranks and say "It's fine. Don't mess with it". Probably helps that he has piles of every conceivable bearing in case something breaks...
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Old 08-17-12, 07:38 AM   #6
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Hi: I was given a pristine UE-8 Pug from a old friend. He had it hanging from the wheels, upside down, from his garage rafters for 34 years. I put new rubber on it, adjusted the brakes, and cleaned it...no lube on the bottom bracket due to cottered cranks...I have since rode it 2500 miles...no bottom bracket bearing play, no noise and all very smooth. So, like you all I am a fussy lad when it comes to anything mechanical (I am a certified aircraft mechanic)...In my case I looked at the general condition of the bicycle and decided, in this case, that a total strip and rebuild was not needed...and, I hate like hell to remove cottered cranks, anyway!!!! IMO, I believe a zerk fitting will be in order in the BB housing...Take care, ride safe
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Old 08-17-12, 07:46 AM   #7
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It would be a shame to damage any components because of lack of lubrication if the bike is in good condition. You WILL go to C&V hell if you don't do it right.
Am I fooling myself in thinking that I can recognize a perfectly greased bearing by the way it feels? That's a real question--not trying to give you a hard time. Maybe it's harder than I think, but in my experience a dry or inadequately greased wheel bearing FEELS like adry or inadequately greased wheel bearing. As Duke Ellington said in another context, "If it sounds good, it is good."
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Old 08-17-12, 09:05 AM   #8
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I'd say you're fine letting it go. But when you overhaul the hubs, it might make the sale easier since you can advertise what's been done.
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Old 08-17-12, 09:10 AM   #9
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Am I fooling myself in thinking that I can recognize a perfectly greased bearing by the way it feels? That's a real question--not trying to give you a hard time. Maybe it's harder than I think, but in my experience a dry or inadequately greased wheel bearing FEELS like adry or inadequately greased wheel bearing. As Duke Ellington said in another context, "If it sounds good, it is good."
With the experience you obviously have restoring and flipping bikes I think it would be reasonable for you to make those type of judgment calls.
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Old 08-17-12, 09:25 AM   #10
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Am I fooling myself in thinking that I can recognize a perfectly greased bearing by the way it feels? That's a real question--not trying to give you a hard time. Maybe it's harder than I think, but in my experience a dry or inadequately greased wheel bearing FEELS like adry or inadequately greased wheel bearing. As Duke Ellington said in another context, "If it sounds good, it is good."
Maybe you're right. I wouldn't want to take a chance personally. It is your bike.
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Old 08-17-12, 10:13 AM   #11
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I had this dilemma recently. I was stripping a bike and everything looked good. Grease on the seatpost and stem, grease in the bottom bracket with good bearings. I got to the headset, and it felt fine, and I decided not to touch it, based on the fact that the rest of the bike had been cared for. I'm riding that bike almost every day now, and I don't think I made the wrong decision.
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Old 08-17-12, 10:28 AM   #12
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Am I going to C&V hell?
Why yes, you are. There's a special place reserved for people like you:

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Old 08-17-12, 10:29 AM   #13
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I too flip bikes. I prefer the term refurbish. In the past I have stripped all bikes down to the bare frame for a complete wash & wax. All bearings including pedals (when possible) are stripped, cleaned and greased. The bike is then test-ridden for about 20 miles or more and re-adjusted. 20 miles is a nice cruise down to the beach & back.

Last two bikes were horrible roaches. A Clear Creek, a Schwinn branded hybrid sold at Target and a Micargi beach cruiser that some guy threw in front of my dumpster because he was mad at me. These got minimal attention. Sold for minimal bucks, too. The Clear Creek got the ride down to the beach, but it was just awful. No amount of adjusting could ever make it comfortable for me. Factor in the asspillow seat and the result was misery.

I just picked up a Raleigh Gran Sport. It was a trash find. Looked like it hadn't been ridden since 1982, just stored & ignored. Pumped up the tires and test rode it. I thought it was acceptable. Tore it down and all the bearing grease was the consistency of cold butter. After cleaning and new grease, I couldn't believe the difference. My bikes go out of the garage with the expectation that I will run into the new owner on the bike trail.
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Old 08-17-12, 10:47 AM   #14
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I think replacing bearings is highly overrated. Sometimes things happen like Merkel's story, but as Dane says, it's a judgment call, and you're qualified to make it. I rarely repack my bearings, and keeping them adjusted properly means I can tell if I'm damaging them.

I once took a three month tour and added oil to my hubs and BB periodically. It's a decent strategy if you're prepared to continue to practice it.
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Old 08-17-12, 10:56 AM   #15
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I would at least inspect the bearings. Last winter, I was going to regrease a set of 15 yr old Ultegra hubs. They spun fine, but I figured they were due. As it turned out, both cones had significant wear grooves, requiring replacement. They felt fine and rode fine, but I'm glad I checked them.
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Old 08-17-12, 11:20 AM   #16
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Like this one? I predict you're going to like it.
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Old 08-17-12, 11:22 AM   #17
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Thanks for the info, everyone, not to mention the picture of Hell. One minor point: the opening sentence of my initial post was poorly worded. In fact, I don't flip ANY bikes*--my point was that there are others here who DO flip many bikes, and so may have more perspective on the repacking/non-repacking of wheel bearings than I do.

*That said, I HAVE sold a few bikes over the years--mostly because tall people have pleaded with me to do it--but I don't think that constitutes "flipping" as I understand it. No criticism if flippers, expressed or implied.
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Old 08-17-12, 11:29 AM   #18
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Like this one? I predict you're going to like it.
Yeah, that's it exactly, even the same color. It's a little small for me at 60 cm. I usually ride a 62-63, so I'll probably stick a Technomic stem on there. Going to replace the original drive train with half-step setup--a 48-44-28 Biopace, with a 14-17-20-24-28-32 freewheel.
My original brake hoods are white, and kind of beat up. Does anyone know where I can get a new set of Shimano 105 hoods that will work, preferably black? I assume that there have been many versions of 105 hoods over the years, and I'd like to get the right ones. My track record on buying replacement hoods is not very good.
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Old 08-17-12, 01:11 PM   #19
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In my relatively limited experience, it is possible for a hub spin very well on the stand but -- upon opening it up -- have grease that is dried up enough that I would be worried about putting much mileage on it.
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Old 08-17-12, 01:51 PM   #20
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Get some of that spray-white-lithium-grease and douse the thing. The dirt in the bearings will just disappear.
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Old 08-17-12, 02:00 PM   #21
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There are those.........pretty experienced mechanically, BTW......who advocate for just dripping in some oil
somehow to be on the safe side. Then just ride it, see if you like it, and if it's going some distance for you,
then disassemble, clean, relubricate........I think dddd is one from that school.

The problem with old grease is that most of the oil is gone, but the (soap) carrier remains.

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Old 08-17-12, 02:02 PM   #22
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I always loosen the cones and take a peek inside...if the grease retains it's original color and is soft I'll slip some new grease inside without taking it apart. If the grease is overly dirty or dry it'll get a full repack.

Sometimes its just alot easier and quicker to repack them. If a wheel is overly dirty I'll remove the axle and lay the wheel across the kitchen sink and scrub everything with dish soap and a tooth brush.
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Old 08-17-12, 02:18 PM   #23
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With hubs, unless the parts are really rare and expensive, or unless the balls won't move (axle turns on stationary balls), or unless the bike is about to be ridden many thousands of miles, I just drip a couple of drops of semi-diluted motor oil past the dust shield.
As long as the bearings are loose enough to run without play only after the quick-release pressure is applied to the axle, these scantily-lubed hubs have never failed me even after some pretty serious use. No pits, no play, no drag, perfect.

Bottom brackets, unless sealed, can usually be lubed with the bike laying on it's side and some Phil Tenacious Oil dripped in. This lasts a surprisingly long time, many thousands of miles with no ill effects. As with the hubs, it is perhaps more important to verify proper adjustment imo.

Most bearing failures fall into the following categories:

1) Very high mileage fatigues the metal rolling surfaces to the point of failure as the surface metal breaks free.
2) Over-tightened bearngs fail as the hard surfaces prematurely break free in chunks from the rolling surfaces.
3) Water gets in and rust-pits the rolling surfaces.
4) Hardened grease prevents the balls from rolling, so the spindle/axle cone rubs flat spots into the balls.
5) A ball breaks in half, typical of lesser-quality balls.

I make an exception where wet conditions may warrant the protection afforded by waterproof grease, especially the lower headset or any bearing such as pedals, hus or bb which may see immersion in a creek.

I am able to inject grease into most as-installed bearings using a applicator tube drawn into a capillary:
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Old 08-17-12, 03:09 PM   #24
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miamijim and dddd are two clever dudes! I learned a few things here.
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Old 08-17-12, 03:32 PM   #25
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I am able to inject grease into most as-installed bearings using a applicator tube drawn into a capillary:
Now that's useful.
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