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  1. #1
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    Grease, bearings, hub, etc. not working in cold weather.

    I have heard the rear hub and bearings can be affected by cold weather. I think when it gets too cold the grease is not effective at lubricating the bearings and the hub tends to spin freely and not catch when you pedal. Is this not correct? If not then please correct me and explain what does happen. At what temps. does this happen or has happened to you? I understand there are lot of variable. Things like actual tempp. wind speed, wind chill, area of the country, humidity, etc. I just need to know at what temps. has this happened? Also is there a grease or method that would work and prevent this? Would this grease work in warmer weather as well?

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    Some persons use regular petroleum based grease in cranks. This topic arrises on a regular basis here. An idividual who chooses to use standard grease for cranks & brgs. most often realizes that such lubes suffice, they do.. most of the time. The abilty of the grease to protect & lubricate is more than adequate. If it's good enough for a taxi cab, it'll suffice for a bicycle. I use it, it's cheap. I also use Pedro's and other more bike specific branks on account o' their being synthetic for my more "precious" bikes. Cold is not a problem for me though.

    Your circumstances are extraordinary; a synthetic grease is in order. Amsoil and other Co.s are used by farmers who need it for trailers, conveyors..etc..

    Synthetic lubes are not so aptly named; in addition to being vegatable based, they often have some amout of teflon so essentially, these Syn. lubes are more organic than they are anything else. Ester based lubes = veg. based.

    www.pedros.com

  3. #3
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    I use regular lithium auto grease on headset/hub/cranks and my cheap winter beater (freewheel) made it through Minnesota winter without a single problem. Windchill got down to about -45F one night.

  4. #4
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    FWIW, I've had no problems with this on three different wheelsets in three winters of daily commuting. All with whatever the factory lube was in each wheel. Two are Trek wheels with Bontrager hubs and the other was whatever came on my old Giant comfort hybrid.

    Then again, the coldest it's gotten these past three years is near zero F.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  5. #5
    Senior Member JasonC's Avatar
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    my theory on the rear hub is that if you keep pedaling you have nothing to worry about!

  6. #6
    Happy old man al-wagner's Avatar
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    I don't have a problem with thick grease until it gets about -10 deg. F.
    And my limit to riding to work is in the single digits.
    http://www.thegmbc.com/
    http://www.gmaa.net/

    In New England we have nine months of winter and three months of damned poor sledding.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I've ridden down to -40C/F in Winnipeg without grease/bearings/hub problems. The wind might be blowing at those temps, but the humidity level is usually quite low.

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    It happens to me at about minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The pawls inside the freehub on my bike don't catch, or don't catch reliably. Hence the freehub just spins and spins and I can't pedal.

    So far, I've been able to make due by pounding the wheel on the ground to loosen the pawls and spinning the cranks fast to generate a bit of friction heat. Then they catch and I can proceed, but the same thing can just happen again at the next stoplight. What I need to do is overhaul the freehub with a low temperature grease. I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Fortunately we only hit minus 5 F here once or twice a winter.

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    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaska joe View Post
    It happens to me at about minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The pawls inside the freehub on my bike don't catch, or don't catch reliably. Hence the freehub just spins and spins and I can't pedal.

    So far, I've been able to make due by pounding the wheel on the ground to loosen the pawls and spinning the cranks fast to generate a bit of friction heat. Then they catch and I can proceed, but the same thing can just happen again at the next stoplight. What I need to do is overhaul the freehub with a low temperature grease. I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Fortunately we only hit minus 5 F here once or twice a winter.
    Yes , this has happened to me with one freehub at somewhat less extreme temperatures, about -15C. It was made worse by the fact the bike had been outside all night. The grease becomes too thick and holds the freehub pawls out of engagement. What temperature this happens at varies from hub to hub. You can stop it by replacing the grease with an oil or light, low temperature grease. it is a little tricky to service freehubs, Morningstar makes a tool that makes it a bit easier.

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    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    I've had freezing problems at about -10C, or 14F with my shimano freehub(deore)... The related problem is that you can ruin your freehub pawls if they don't engage properly. Chip a tooth off and it floats around in the grease causing more trouble. If you're leaving your bike outside in -10C i'd recommend having a shop prepare it for you or ordering stuff from morningstar.

    Has anybody found a good way to prepare a freehub without the fancy grease and flushing tool?

    Oh yeah, here is a tip.. if you're way out there and she freezes up, urinate onto the cassette to warm up the freehub a little bit!

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    Middle-aged freehubs work best for me... old enough that most of the grease is gone, but not too worn yet. Maybe around 3,000 mi for MTB hubs, 6,000 mi for road hubs.

    Otherwise I start to have issues around -20C.

  12. #12
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    The coldest I will likely be ridding in is 25 degrees F. Colder then that or when the snow and ice start coming I am done riding and hang the bike up until next year.

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    The coldest I will likely be ridding in is 25 degrees F. Colder then that or when the snow and ice start coming I am done riding and hang the bike up until next year.
    You shouldn't have any trouble with the bicycle in temps that warm .... but you know you can ride when it gets colder. You don't have to hang the bicycle up.

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    Never had any problems with the hub bearings or freewheels in temperatures down to -40 (windchill doesn't matter for mechanical systems, so these are real temperatures). And any issues with particularly thick grease are easily remedied by adding a bit of oil to thin it out.

    By the time freehubs were available I had relocated to more hospitable climates. Not because of any consideration for the bicycle's mechanical parts, but because the bike motor's specifications had been established for sub-tropical Africa a few million years ago and preferred temperatures that stayed positive.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    You shouldn't have any trouble with the bicycle in temps that warm .... but you know you can ride when it gets colder. You don't have to hang the bicycle up.
    What do you do to keep your head and face warm while wearing a helmet? Do you wear glasses, prescription or otherwise? If you do what do you do to keep them from fogging over? I have gotten some pretty good suggestions when I have asked this before. Just wondering what your solution is.

    I can not ride in snow and ice. I ride a recumbent, they are sometimes squirrly on dry pavement they are a lot worse on a slippery surface.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    I have heard the rear hub and bearings can be affected by cold weather. I think when it gets too cold the grease is not effective at lubricating the bearings and the hub tends to spin freely and not catch when you pedal. Is this not correct? If not then please correct me and explain what does happen. At what temps. does this happen or has happened to you? I understand there are lot of variable. Things like actual tempp. wind speed, wind chill, area of the country, humidity, etc. I just need to know at what temps. has this happened? Also is there a grease or method that would work and prevent this? Would this grease work in warmer weather as well?
    I sense an analogy here with questions, in the past, on sailing on far-away seas and expectations of sea-serpents and other dragons. The paradox is that, in part at least, the question pertains to stepping outside.

    In any case, a while ago there had been a report on the web of someone winterizing a bicycle for riding on the South Pole. I recall that the grease has been there a real problem and I recall that the solution was to use Dow Corning Molykote 33, that works down to -77C. Unfortunately, recently I could not locate that particular report anymore. However, there is some discussion of winterizing freehubs with Lubriplate Mag-1 at Ice-Bike. Myself, I've been riding down to -30C and, as others, I have not had any grease related problems, no matter what grease I employed.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by electrik View Post
    :Oh yeah, here is a tip.. if you're way out there and she freezes up, urinate onto the cassette to warm up the freehub a little bit!
    Great tip! But I'd be worried that it would freeze up all the worse in a few more minutes and then I'd be out of "de-icing" fluid.

  18. #18
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    What do you do to keep your head and face warm while wearing a helmet? Do you wear glasses, prescription or otherwise? If you do what do you do to keep them from fogging over? I have gotten some pretty good suggestions when I have asked this before. Just wondering what your solution is.

    I can not ride in snow and ice. I ride a recumbent, they are sometimes squirrly on dry pavement they are a lot worse on a slippery surface.
    See Post #8 ... photos included:
    Keeping my ears warm?

    I just keep the neck gaiter down below my nose to prevent my glasses from fogging up.

    And when it gets really cold, I add a balaclava underneath.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    I can not ride in snow and ice. I ride a recumbent, they are sometimes squirrly on dry pavement they are a lot worse on a slippery surface.
    I've ridden thousands of [units of choice] in midwinter with a recumbent. Granted, they tend to get into trouble more easily than an upright selected with winter riding in mind, but it's by no means impossible. By the time you sink into snow halfway to your hubs, you are no longer going anywhere on a bicycle. So if you use smaller wheels, you'll stop moving earlier.

    These days I own a Pugsley, so it's a rare winter day I'm taking a recumbent out...

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    What do you do to keep your head and face warm while wearing a helmet? Do you wear glasses, prescription or otherwise? If you do what do you do to keep them from fogging over? I have gotten some pretty good suggestions when I have asked this before. Just wondering what your solution is.
    Sounds like further sea-serpent questions. Searching over the forums, as mentioned, can bring plenty of materials including many sea-serpent answers. Let us see how exotic the practice could be. Somewhere around -5 to -10C, I might put a scarf and more recently I started using a neck gaitor, like Machka. When I rode without a helmet, I would put a hat around -20C. With a helmet, I never felt the need for any extra protection for the head against cold. In fact, I bought a motorcycle helmet liner once, but the cold never justified its use. However, around winter, I started wearing a ski helmet, rather than a cycle helmet, because it sits better and generally feels of better quality than a cycling helmet. Thus, when I need no ventilation, I prefer to wear the ski helmet.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    See Post #8 ... photos included:
    Keeping my ears warm?

    I just keep the neck gaiter down below my nose to prevent my glasses from fogging up.

    And when it gets really cold, I add a balaclava underneath.

    What about the areas of exposed skin? Or are you able to tolerate it pretty well? I have a solution that works for a another forum member that I will keep in reserve. Not too crazy about the idea of using safety glasses over my eye glasses and the way I'd have to attach everything together. I am going to try a 3-hole "ski mask" over my Under Armour hood. Between the 2 my had and face ought to stay warm enough and most of the bare skin will be covered to prevent frost bite, etc.

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    Have to scratch my head here. The temperatures in most of the Australia barely ever go down below 0C, maybe sometime during the night in July. The southmost tip of the mainland Australia contains Wilson Promontory with pristine forest full of ferns and otherwise of the type where dinosaurs thrived. Quite a way to learn about frostbites...

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaska joe View Post
    Great tip! But I'd be worried that it would freeze up all the worse in a few more minutes and then I'd be out of "de-icing" fluid.
    Ok, well if it freezes up again and you're fresh outta de-icing fluid, you can take some zip ties and use a few to bind the tallest rear cog right to the wheel spokes...

    Instant fixed gear bicycle. Just don't try to braking with the pedals!

  24. #24
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    What about the areas of exposed skin? Or are you able to tolerate it pretty well? I have a solution that works for a another forum member that I will keep in reserve. Not too crazy about the idea of using safety glasses over my eye glasses and the way I'd have to attach everything together. I am going to try a 3-hole "ski mask" over my Under Armour hood. Between the 2 my had and face ought to stay warm enough and most of the bare skin will be covered to prevent frost bite, etc.
    I will ride with my skin exposed all the way down to -40C/F, although I will say I've only ridden for about 30 minutes at a time at those temps on a commute. But here ... read my story of my coldest century ... a 100 mile ride in late February 2003: http://www.machka.net/brevet/Coldest_Century.htm



    Quote Originally Posted by 2_i View Post
    Have to scratch my head here. The temperatures in most of the Australia barely ever go down below 0C, maybe sometime during the night in July. The southmost tip of the mainland Australia contains Wilson Promontory with pristine forest full of ferns and otherwise of the type where dinosaurs thrived. Quite a way to learn about frostbites...
    I've only been living in Australia since June 2009 ... 4 months. Prior to that I spent 42 years living in the Canadian Prairies. I spent 11 of those years living in the far north of Alberta where I experienced temps down to -50C, and I spent 13 of those years living in Winnipeg where the -40C/F is combined with a wind to drop the windchills down to as low as about -60C. And the remainder of those years have been in various other ever-so-slightly warmer areas of the prairies ... like Central Alberta and Regina. Quite a way to learn about frostbites ...



    BTW, we took this photo from partway up a mountain about 10 km from where I currently live in Victoria, about 10 days ago. Australia in late September!!


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7621677201030/

  25. #25
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Square & Compas View Post
    The coldest I will likely be ridding in is 25 degrees F. Colder then that or when the snow and ice start coming I am done riding and hang the bike up until next year.
    That will be no problem at all. I've found that at -25c grease hardens and it take about 5 or 10 minutes of riding until it warms up enough for trouble free riding.

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