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Old 05-09-08, 01:22 PM   #1
andre nickatina
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Looseball vs. Phils for hubs and BB

We were having a debate over this in the SSFG forum and I was curious to know what some of the track guys thought. There has been a debate whether the differences between the smoothness of looseball hubs like Dura Ace, Campy, Suntour, etc. and high quality cartridge hubs (and BB's as well) like Phil Wood are noticeable only when spinning the wheel around in your hands, or also on the streets. Now obviously Phils have a good deal of drag right out of the box, but when they're broken in they spin pretty damn smooth, although not nearly as nice as a looseball BB or hub. There was one camp saying the difference is so negligable when you're actually riding that it would be more of a placebo to say they Dura Ace or something similar "makes" you faster, and another camp saying there was definitely a difference.

What do you track racers think? Experiences one way or the other?
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Old 05-09-08, 02:09 PM   #2
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Bearing friction or drag is definitely going to work against you and so on some level is going to affect your performance. I don't think it's going to be enough to make a difference in anything but timed events and even then it would be the last thing I would change.

There's a market for ceramic bearings though, so at the very least there is a perception of bearing performance.

I guess I haven't really answered your question.
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Old 05-09-08, 03:49 PM   #3
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Most of the Phils I see on the track have the low-drag seal bearings in them. The rest are running the stock seals. As for ceramic bearings, there are several studies showing the number of watts saved on ceramic vs regular, so there is some empirical evidence.

At the local racing level, it might not make much of a difference. When you start getting to the national level of competition, every little bit probably helps.

It's probably akin to running an EAI Superstar and Izumi Model V vs a DuraAce cog and SRAM PC1 chain. Switching to a deeper-section rim like the Reynolds DV46 or Zipp 404 from a box-section rim will save you somewhere in the neighborhood of the same amount of watts.
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Old 05-10-08, 01:28 PM   #4
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Bearing friction or drag is definitely going to work against you and so on some level is going to affect your performance. I don't think it's going to be enough to make a difference in anything but timed events and even then it would be the last thing I would change.

There's a market for ceramic bearings though, so at the very least there is a perception of bearing performance.

I guess I haven't really answered your question.
Nah you answered the question for sure.

Like my sig says, I was in the camp that thought looseball makes a distinguishable difference when actually on the bike. I figured that my nicer bike (http://velospace.org/node/7098) was easier/faster to get up to speed than my other bike (http://www.velospace.org/node/7099) despite being geared 2 inches higher due to the former being looseball BB and hubs and the latter being Formula and Shimano UN53.

Now that I think about it though, it could be that the nice one weighs a couple pounds less and there's less rotational mass on the wheels...
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Old 05-11-08, 06:03 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by andre nickatina View Post
We were having a debate over this in the SSFG forum and I was curious to know what some of the track guys thought. There has been a debate whether the differences between the smoothness of looseball hubs like Dura Ace, Campy, Suntour, etc. and high quality cartridge hubs (and BB's as well) like Phil Wood are noticeable only when spinning the wheel around in your hands, or also on the streets. Now obviously Phils have a good deal of drag right out of the box, but when they're broken in they spin pretty damn smooth, although not nearly as nice as a looseball BB or hub. There was one camp saying the difference is so negligable when you're actually riding that it would be more of a placebo to say they Dura Ace or something similar "makes" you faster, and another camp saying there was definitely a difference.

What do you track racers think? Experiences one way or the other?
A lot of bearing friction is a looseball setup comes from being looseball--adjacent balls are presenting surfaces moving in the opposite direction, with at least one pair under significant load at any time. All cartridge bearings I've seen in bicycle service have cages within keeping the balls away from each other. If you were to remove the seals entirely from the Phils and retry against the looseballs, (particularly with both hubs clamped into dropouts--looseballs tighten up a tiny bit when mounted) you'd probably notice no difference in your hands and a barely measurable difference (favoring the Phils) with a load on them. Figure something like tenths of a Watt at most.
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Old 05-12-08, 11:32 AM   #6
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If you look at what racers in the old days ran it wasnt fast disc aero wheels. It was high flange hubs with box section tubular rims and 36 spokes. Not a very fast wheel on its own. When the differance in a 200m is down to .05 of a second you have to do whatever you can to make what you have that much faster. The reason people say loose ball hubs are faster is because if you "treat" them right you can make them much faster than a stock loose ball hub, or any cartridge hub today. The problem is you have to take super care of them or expect a short life.

Strait from my coaches mouth:

-Tie and Solder the wheel. With spokes that long tieing the wheel properly made more differance than it does today.

- no seals on the hubs

- remove a bearing each side. This reduces the amount of bearing scrub.

- flush grease and use a couple drops of light oil.
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Old 05-12-08, 06:15 PM   #7
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Hmm, thanks for putting that into perspective CafeRacer. Yeah the old track bikes looked a lot more of the same vs. now... pretty similar geometries, pretty close to the same diameter of steel tubings, similar everything really. Definitely nowhere near as much variety as there is now, for better or worse. So that makes a lot of sense how they focused a lot more on the bearings back in the day...
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Old 05-14-08, 11:48 PM   #8
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You can save yourself alot of money and build up a set of very nice spoked wheels that can be as fast or faster than a set of discs for normal human beings. Considering riders would go 10.4 on spokes way back there is no reason that every racer needs a disc and four spoke. Untill recently my race wheels are 32 spoke tubulars that I just spent the extra bit of time make sure they spun very freely and are very stiff. To the best of my knowelege I hold the 3rd or 4th fastest 200m time at the local track on them.
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