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Thread: Heliomatic hub

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    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Heliomatic hub

    My husband just bought a Trek 420. By the serial number it should be an '84 but the color (silvery gray with red lettering) seems consistent with an '85. Anyway, my question has to do with the rear hub. Before buying the bike I read just enough about the Helicomatic hub to know that it is problematic and that parts are hard to come by. The wheel does not spin nice and freely. Clearly the hub needs servicing.

    Is this something I can do myself? I assume the cassette needs a special tool to remove it. Can I lube the bearings from one side and skip removing the cassette? Should I? The chain has some wear so the cassette likely does as well.

    Or, should I just replace the wheel? The wheels look to be 700s not a 27 inch.

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    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    You can replace the bearings without removing the cassette, although it's a bit more of a pain-
    NOTE!!!
    These bearing balls are a smaller diameter than the typical 1/4" size found in rear hubs. You also need more of them.

    French Bicycles

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    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    You can replace the bearings without removing the cassette, although it's a bit more of a pain-
    NOTE!!!
    These bearing balls are a smaller diameter than the typical 1/4" size found in rear hubs. You also need more of them.

    French Bicycles
    So, according to your linked article if the cones are shot it looks like the hub is shot, yes?

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    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    As far as I know....Who am I to argue with Sheldon?

    I might add- I've only dealt with one of these a couple years ago and the cones were OK.
    The bike did appear to have spent most its life in the garage though.
    And I honestly can't remember if both sides took the same dia. balls.

  5. #5
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    As far as I know....Who am I to argue with Sheldon?

    I might add- I've only dealt with one of these a couple years ago and the cones were OK.
    The bike did appear to have spent most its life in the garage though.
    And I honestly can't remember if both sides took the same dia. balls.
    It is hard to tell how used the bike is. The chain shows some wear. A jockey wheel is cracked. But the paint is pristine and the derailleurs show no scrapes, though the drive train was covered with crusty dirty grease that was hard to remove. I think it probably was ridden quite a bit and then put away for 20 years.

    I suppose there is nothing to lose by looking at the hub, replacing bearings, and greasing it up.

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    Wrench Savant balindamood's Avatar
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    If the cones are good, and you service them a little more than normal. You should be dine for a while. You will need a tool to remove the freewheel which you can find on Ebay. Ride it until it wears out, then worry about replacing it.
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    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Just found the tool on eBay. All are very pricey. I'll keep my eye out for one.
    Last edited by goldfinch; 03-15-14 at 07:53 PM.

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    Is this something I can do myself? YES

    I assume the cassette needs a special tool to remove it. YES. The flat wrench is normally $15-$20 on ebay. Borrow one at your LBS or Coop or use a rag and channel lock pliers. Apply a little WD40 or PB Blaster first.

    Can I lube the bearings from one side and skip removing the cassette? NO AND YES. Remove the axle and you can access the bearings without pulling the cassette.

    Should I? WHAT?

    The chain has some wear so the cassette likely does as well. DID YOU MEASURE FOR STRETCH?

    Or, should I just replace the wheel? MAYBE, although I haven't had to yet and I have several Treks and Peugeot with Helicomatics.
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    I read just enough about the Helicomatic hub to know that it is problematic and that parts are hard to come by. The wheel does not spin nice and freely. Clearly the hub needs servicing. Is this something I can do myself? I assume the cassette needs a special tool to remove it. Can I lube the bearings from one side and skip removing the cassette?
    The problem with the Helicomatic hub is that it uses smaller than standard bearings, which require more frequent than standard service. You can service the bearings without removing the cogs. If the cones are not pitted or otherwise damaged, simply replace the balls with new 5/32" balls and clean grease. If they are damaged, you will need to source usable replacements (i.e. eBay) or replace the entire wheel and cluster. If you are careful, you can remove the cluster lockring with a Channelock pliers instead of the official tool, if this becomes necessary.

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    You'll need 3/16" bearings for the front hub, pretty much an industry standard size. Amazon link below.
    Robot Check
    You want chrome steel, Grade 25. And some guys here buy them by the boxful.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Albert Einstein
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    Senior Member Lascauxcaveman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    Just found the tool on eBay. All are very pricey. I'll keep my eye out for one.
    I think forumite Randyjawa has a bunch of these. He sold me one pretty cheap when I bought a rear derailleur from him last summer. you might PM him for a better deal than you see on the auction site.

    If you're careful, you can usually get the retaining ring off with big Channel Lock type pliers. I did this once on one that had already been slightly deformed by such an operation and I didn't do any more damage to it.

    +1 on the warning about the rear bearings, they are tres petit and therefore not as long lived as on other hubs. If kept clean and lubed, they last long enough to not just toss the hubs otherwise.
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    My husband just bought a Trek 420. By the serial number it should be an '84 but the color (silvery gray with red lettering) seems consistent with an '85. Anyway, my question has to do with the rear hub. Before buying the bike I read just enough about the Helicomatic hub to know that it is problematic and that parts are hard to come by. The wheel does not spin nice and freely. Clearly the hub needs servicing.

    Is this something I can do myself? I assume the cassette needs a special tool to remove it. Can I lube the bearings from one side and skip removing the cassette? Should I? The chain has some wear so the cassette likely does as well.

    Or, should I just replace the wheel? The wheels look to be 700s not a 27 inch.
    Does the downtube say "TREK" or "TREK420"? Pewter was a 1984 color...

    However, you can have a bike that was built in 84 as a 1985 model bike. Kind of like automobile model years. "The new Oldsmobiles are out early this year."

    That would be cool having a total "in-between" model year.

    Are you sure they're 700C with Helicomatics? I can imagine swapping out the Helicomatic. I can imagine swapping out to 700C. I can't imagine swapping out a 27" rim and relacing the Helicomatic...

    I can imagine someone swapping out
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    Senior Member Chombi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
    Does the downtube say "TREK" or "TREK420"? Pewter was a 1984 color...

    However, you can have a bike that was built in 84 as a 1985 model bike. Kind of like automobile model years. "The new Oldsmobiles are out early this year."

    That would be cool having a total "in-between" model year.

    Are you sure they're 700C with Helicomatics? I can imagine swapping out the Helicomatic. I can imagine swapping out to 700C. I can't imagine swapping out a 27" rim and relacing the Helicomatic...

    I can imagine someone swapping out
    I think the bulk of Helicomatic hubs were sold and came on bikes mostly after the 27x 1 1/4" rim size era. From the early to the end of the 80's.....
    So most of them were laced on to 700C rims.

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    Wrench Savant balindamood's Avatar
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    All of the Heliocromatics I have pulled from Treks were 27's. They seemed to have run out of them by 1986, and the world was a better place for it.
    "Where you come from is gone;
    where you are headed weren't never there;
    and where you are ain't no good unless you can get away from it."

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    Senior Member Chombi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by balindamood View Post
    All of the Heliocromatics I have pulled from Treks were 27's. They seemed to have run out of them by 1986, and the world was a better place for it.
    Majority of Peugeots that had it had 700C rims, except for the lowest models in the early 80's. I suspect it was a similar situation with the Treks...

  16. #16
    Wrench Savant balindamood's Avatar
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    My recollection is that Trek moved away from 27's for all but the 300's and the 400 on 1986, and then all to 700 on '87. Peugeot was pretty much the same, though I think the P4 (Corbair) has 27's through 1987.
    "Where you come from is gone;
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chombi View Post
    I think the bulk of Helicomatic hubs were sold and came on bikes mostly after the 27x 1 1/4" rim size era. From the early to the end of the 80's.....
    So most of them were laced on to 700C rims.
    Both the 84 and 85 Trek 420s were specced with 27s. I had an 84- it had a Helicomatic and 27s.

    I mentioned this one in the "bikes you shouldn't have sold" thread.


    Last edited by The Golden Boy; 03-16-14 at 05:45 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by balindamood View Post
    My recollection is that Trek moved away from 27's for all but the 300's and the 400 on 1986, and then all to 700 on '87. Peugeot was pretty much the same, though I think the P4 (Corbair) has 27's through 1987.
    It may be the 420 was considered a "tourer" and got 27s. For whatever reason- Tourers got 27s- Trek specced the 520 with 27s until 1989 and Schwinn specced the Voyageur with 27s to 1991. I think the reasoning was that 27" tires would be EVERYWHERE.

    The 85 620 and 720 had 27s. My 86 400 Elance had 700C.
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    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Sorry, I had a typo in my first post. It is a 520, not a 420. (Though he also has a 1990s 420. ) As noted above, the specs match the 1985. It does have 700 wheels with the helicomatic hub. The cassette is a five speed. The paint job is a 1985, with the model number on the chainstays, not the downtube. But the serial number is an '84 number. The manual for the 1985 520 does show it spec'd out with 700 wheels.

    Anyway, I'll try to work on the hub when I get back north. Though, tomorrow I'll be in the Tucson bike coop and I'll ask if they have the tool to remove the cassette.

  20. #20
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    I assume the cassette needs a special tool to remove it.
    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    Just found the tool on eBay. All are very pricey.
    I've had no problem turning these off with a standard pair of slip joint pliers. Last time I advised this, a return post warned that the ring could be damaged this way - you know, as if there were bicycle components that couldn't be damaged by being ham handed.

    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    Or, should I just replace the wheel?
    Well, you've yet to say what your objective is with this 30 year old touring bike. Flip it? Ride it across the country? Sit it in the garage on the off chance your husband will have a bike to ride with you if he ever wanted to? Restore it for the local classic bikes show?
    "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.

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  21. #21
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    I've had no problem turning these off with a standard pair of slip joint pliers. Last time I advised this, a return post warned that the ring could be damaged this way - you know, as if there were bicycle components that couldn't be damaged by being ham handed.



    Well, you've yet to say what your objective is with this 30 year old touring bike. Flip it? Ride it across the country? Sit it in the garage on the off chance your husband will have a bike to ride with you if he ever wanted to? Restore it for the local classic bikes show?
    I ride about 500 miles a month. Spouse rides about 200 miles. I think what will happen is that he will ride it for a while and then probably sell it or give it to a relative. Either way, we want it in good order. If that means a new wheel makes the most sense then a new wheel it is. But it looks like the first thing to do is to try to get it going as is, but with new bearings.

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