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  1. #1
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    Suntour Superbe Pro Hubs: a brief pictoral history

    Suntour was a very innovative and brilliant company, at least in terms of product development and manufacturing (the business and marketing side of things may have been their downfall). I thought there might be some interest in seeing two different designs suntour used for their superbe pro track hubs, in the form of pictures.



    Both hubs are rear hubs. The left, a 24H drilling, is an early model with loose-ball/ cone bearings and chromed dustcaps with grease ports. The rear uses larger balls (9 per side) than the matching front.
    The right one is the later generation suberbe pro, with a very clever bearing system that is a hybrid cartridge/ cone system, as I'll describe below. If you have non-njs superbe pro hubs, then you almost certainly have the later model pictured on the RHS, as the early left model is quite rare.
    Note the differences in font size and type, as well as the fact that the left one does not say "pro", even though it is a superbe pro model.

    The forgings for both models are undoubtedly the same (though there are subtle differences in the after-machining, due to the different bearing systems, and in the anodising).



    The later model has laser type in the middle of the hub-shell, while the older model used a sticker and had "SUNTOUR" engraved, much like many NJS models:




    Here the hubs are with the cones removed from one side:




    Note the rubber seal on the later model. This seal indicates that the bearing is a 6001 series cartridge bearing! In fact, these later model hubs have the following amazing feature: if the bearing cups wear out, they may be extracted and the entire bearing may be replaced with a *standard* 6001 series cartridge, provided that the corresponding cone is replaced with a standard bearing sleeve. Suntour undoubtedly took standard 6001's and cut out the inner bearing race, then machined their own "cone" to make the system like a cup-cone system, but based around a cartridge bearing. You should appreciate how brilliant this is: this hybrid system has all the advantages of a cartridge system (easily replaced, much higher tolerances, very smooth) AND all the advantages of a cup-cone system (easily serviced, regreased, angular contact). Note in particular that these bearings are angular contact (because of the cone); in essence, Suntour converted inexpensive 6001 bearings to angular contact cartridge bearings, which cost about $100 *per bearing* if you can find them (PW offers them for time trial/olympic events).

    Here's a closeup of the innards of Suntour's modified 6001, with the steel-backed rubber seal removed:



    Here is a closeup of the bearings/ cup of the old gen. hub:



    Here are the axels with cones/ spacers/locknuts etc.



    Finally, here is a closeup of the cones, with the one on the left coming from the late generation hub using modified 6001's:



    At one point, I called Yellow Jersey to ask if they had replacement axels for late-gen suntour hubs (EAI used to carry them), and had a very long conversation with Andrew Muzi about Suntour hub bearings which involved several emails and a lot of closeup pics of bearings and cones. He refused to believe me that Suntour modified 6001's as I've described! I guess that speaks to how brilliant the idea is.

    I should point out the obvious: neither one of these hubs is NJS certified, being sub 36H. I am curious about what the NJS version looks like inside, especially the 8mm rear axel version. By regulation, NJS hubs have to be loose ball/cone, but I wonder if Suntour's modified 6001/ cone system qualifies (it does use a cone, afterall).

    For those of you wondering, the later generation hubs are a lot smoother, and this may be where Suntour's legendary reputation for smooth hubs comes from. I've never seen anything like this system on other manufacturer's hubs; the only thing that comes close is custom PW's with ancon bearings, but good luck affording those.

    Of course, Suntour hubs are no longer made, and although there's a rumor out there that Suzue got all the old Suntour forgings, legend has it that Maeda in fact sold all the tooling for scrap, and that it was subsequently melted down.

  2. #2
    aka mattio queerpunk's Avatar
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    nice. thanks for the writeup. that's a clever bit of engineering - an almost modular ability for the cup-and-cone system, which can wear to the point of no longer being useful, to be replaced by a replaceable cartridge system. smooth.
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  3. #3
    dork delicious's Avatar
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    thank you! i (well, my gf actually) has a pair of the later gen hubs and i was totally confused by the bearing design! they roll beautifully though!

    so, if my understanding is correct if these ever wear out all you need to do is pull the cups and put in a normal cartridge bearing? how do you go about doing that?

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    Tiocfáidh ár Lá jfmckenna's Avatar
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    Well done etale

  5. #5
    Live without dead time
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    I normally don't take much interest in vintage bike stuff but that's a pretty interesting writeup. Cool
    Rich

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    this is a great write up. awhile back i repacked the bearings in a pair of the later generation hubs. good to know the cup/cones are a replaceable unit as well. i've read conflicting info on BF about these being cartridge bearings or not so its good to have it definitely cleared up - thanks!

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    Senior Member jet sanchEz's Avatar
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    A useful and informative thread in BFSSFG?

    Nice post, thanks.

  8. #8
    not actually Nickatina andre nickatina's Avatar
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    Great thread.

  9. #9
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    Did Suntour ever make cheaper track hubs than Superbe Pro? How do they relate to similar Sanshin/Sunshine models?
    Great info!

  10. #10
    not actually Nickatina andre nickatina's Avatar
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    Suntour Sprints.

  11. #11
    shaken, not stirred. gnome's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info.
    Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live. ~Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle"
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  12. #12
    dmg
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    Quote Originally Posted by andre nickatina View Post
    Suntour Sprints.
    I have sprints, and they're pretty great. They're less polished and embellished than the superbes, but still pretty and smooth....and they have campy-esque cutouts in the flanges, so they're definitely the lightest hubs I own. Haven't had to rebuild them yet, so I only know about the outside.

  13. #13
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    delicious: to replace superbe pro bearings (assuming your hubs are the later modified 6001 version), you will need a bearing puller/extractor. I wouldn't really recommend DIY unless you have some experience with pulling/ pressing bearings, as it is very easy to ruin the hubshells in the process. In any case, first remove the cones and axels, then the rubber seals (put the tip of a flathead screwdriver underneath the seal, just above the bearing retainer--it just pops out with the tiniest of force). Remove a few balls from the retainer (maybe 4) and you should be able to deform the entire retainer and remove it. This completely exposes the bearing cup:



    To remove the cup, you really need either a proper extractor/ puller
    (there are many different types; this is the kind I have in mind, though you'd have to get the right size: http://www.scooterworks.com/Bearing_...r_P796C224.cfm). These have a small hardened steel lip that catches the lip of the bearing cup (less that 1mm!), and you screw down to push in the plunger against a hard surface. You'd need something with a plunger having a smaller than 9mm diameter so it could go through the hub-shell and out to the other side.

    You could also try using a punch; they often look like this:

    http://www.parktool.com/products/det...t=10&item=RT-1

    but the difficulty is that you'd need a <9mm shaft and a spread of 28mm (to accommodate the outer dimensions of the 6001's), so I'm not sure this is so do-able.

    Definitely *DO NOT* run a screwdriver through the hub and use it as a punch against the bottom surface of the cup. This surface is just a metal shield, so it's really flimsy. You'll only bang up the shield and the bearing will almost certainly stay put. It is likewise not a great idea to try and punch the bearing out with a punch whose tip is placed asymmetrically against the bearing cup lip, as this will very likely wreck the tolerances of the hub shell; the bearings really need to be pulled/ punched out with (radially) symmetrical force.

    It may be useful to use the fact that aluminum expands/contracts about twice as much as steel (around room temperature) per change in unit temperature. Thus, heating your hub/ bearing interface (soldering iron, oven) should make the cups much looser in the hub shells, and they may even just fall out then. Probably 300F is plenty hot enough. Though you may want to be careful about scorching/ melting other hub components (like the stickers) in the process.

    acorn_user: there are old model superbe hubs (as opposed to superbe pro) and suntour sprints. Both, as far as I know, used different forgings than the superbe pro's. The superbe's are a late '70's copy of campy record track hubs (like the entire superbe gruppo). Both models are very nice, and use loose ball/ cone bearings. As for the comparison to Sanshin hubs, you might want to have a look at:

    http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/in.../t-177643.html

    I can't confirm/deny or add to the "information" in this thread.

  14. #14
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    I forgot to say: once you have the old cups out, you can heat up the hubshells around the where the bearing goes and just press in new 6001 cartridge bearings. You'll need to replace the cones on the original setup with 10x1 (rear) or 9x1 (front) threaded sleeves with the right diameter for the inner bore of 6001's (12mm, I think). At some point in time (maybe still) Wheels MFG made these sleeves...

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