Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Bikes: Rodriguez Shiftless street fixie with S&S couplers, Kuwahara tandem, Trek carbon, Dolan track
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I'm afraid I'm gonna have to differ on Phil Wood stuff, but I'm an ornery contrarian anyway.
Back in 1977, I used Phil Wood hubs and a Phil Wood bb on my fixed gear winter bike. I went to Simon Fraser University at that time, and every day I'd ride that bike up to the top of Burnaby Mountain where SFU was located to attend classes.This is a climb of 1,200' in 3 miles, about 6 to 8 percent grade, on a fixed gear of around 66 to 70 inches. Now Burnaby is located next to Vancouver, British Columbia, where it rains a lot. Also, in the winter, it will snow maybe once or twice, with the snow staying on the road for a few days, it goes below freezing periodically, so they tend to salt the roads on those days, and it rains the rest of the time. I remember coming home on dark evenings, the road covered in snow, the rear wheel locked and sliding most of the way down the hill. Not fun, but it develops great bike-handling.
So in the winter of 76-77 (give or take a year), I destroyed a set of Phil Wood hubs and bb. I sent them back to Phil, they returned with new bearings, I promptly rebuilt the wheels and reinstalled the bb, and a month later the bearings in the hubs were again shot. I could move the rim about an inch.
I got a note from Bern Smith saying he was perplexed; they test their hubs underwater without failure. All I could figure was that they used very clean water and they didn't put any load on the hubs. I developed a theory about US-made parts: Most of the companies are based in sunny California and they just didn't have any clue that people actually rode bikes in the rain and snow or on salted roads.
I think that even Shimano (sunny Japan) and Campanolo (sunny Italy) are somewhat ignorant of the demands placed on their equipment. Around that same time, I broke six cranks (both Shimano & Campag) from riding them in the typical Vancouver winter without washing them off after each ride. The road salt would impregnate the aluminum of the cranks, so a few months later, the cranks would become weakened enough to snap.
Now, for my part, I admit I wasn't helping matters. I didn't wash off the bike with dishwasher detergent after coming home each day, and my climbing style at that time involved rocking the bike side to side, which is not the kind of load radial bearings are designed for (I now climb and accelerate with the bike vertical - very little rocking).
Still, I was so turned off by Phil Wood stuff that I haven't bought anything of his since then, and I do what I can to dissuade others from buying Phil stuff. So take that, Phil and Bern!