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the old pipe cleaner trick, thoughts?

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the old pipe cleaner trick, thoughts?

Old 10-06-15, 07:06 AM
  #1  
djb
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the old pipe cleaner trick, thoughts?

someone showed me this probably 25 years ago, of putting a pipe cleaner section around a hub to help reduce grit and stuff from getting in the hub as the little strands of the pipe cleaner "collect" gunge.
I havent done this in donkeys years, and going from my experience with various levels of hub qualities, and seal effectiveness, its not really something that needs to be done, but someone asked on the forum about what stuff to do to help his bike riding in really yucky conditions during the winter.

This made me recall this trick, on my old mtn bike commuter a bunch of years ago when replacing the star nut in the fork steerer, I saw that the bottom rubber seal on the lower bearing area was disformed and falling apart, so when I put the fork back in, I dug out my pipe cleaners from my "old stuff" box and put one on the lower section of the fork--figured it wouldnt harm anything and might collect some gunge that wouldnt contaminate the grease, given that this outer seal was no longer there.

so coming back to this guy on the forum who wants suggestions of how to help his bike with winter/rainy/gritty riding-- what do you think of this old trick to help reduce grit access to various bearing pts on a bike?

worth doing, any downsides? I do recall seeing how the pipe cleaner bit certainly accumulated grit, but then grit is always going to be around those areas, so the question is, do any of you think it actually helps reduce the amount of stuff being in close contact with the entry point area of hubs or a freehub?

I wonder if pipe cleaners are even sold anymore, probably only in speciality shops.
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Old 10-06-15, 07:27 AM
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Don't know where you could find them these days, but they sound like they could protect hubs, FWs, etc. I also recall reading that a seal of heavy grease works for hubs. That was in some car repair manuals back when wheel bearings were not sealed as they are today. My FW (and probably everyone else's) has a tiny gap where the body rotates around the center part. A smear of grease along that gap could do no harm, and would keep both water and dirt out, whereas the pipe cleaner might actually wick water in. Grit would accumulate on the surface of the grease and could then be easily scraped off. Maybe first apply grease and then the pipe cleaner?
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Old 10-06-15, 07:29 AM
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Don't know where you could find them these days, but they sound like they could protect hubs, FWs, etc. I also recall reading that a seal of heavy grease works for hubs. That was in some car repair manuals back when wheel bearings were not sealed as they are today. My FW (and probably everyone else's) has a tiny gap where the body rotates around the center part. A smear of grease along that gap could do no harm, and would keep both water and dirt out, whereas the pipe cleaner might actually wick water in. Grit would accumulate on the surface of the grease and could then be easily scraped off. Maybe first apply grease and then the pipe cleaner?

MTBs come with rubber seals on their hubs, whereas other bikes don't seem to have any. Even so, the only rear wheel bearing I've seen that had a pitted wheel bearing was on a salvaged MTB. The rubber dust shield evidently is not a perfect solution.

Last edited by habilis; 10-06-15 at 07:33 AM.
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Old 10-06-15, 07:30 AM
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I've only actually seen this done once before but do remember reading about it back when. Another method was to add tiny "O" rings to the axle/spacers/cones such that they butt up against the dust cap. The Stein BB grease injection and sealing kit used this method. We also did this to our hubs after using the Morningstar Hub Buddy injection system. Then there's the section of inner tube over the lower headset stack to make a seal trick.

Some of there methods did reduce the amount of grit getting into the bearings but 40+ years of doing the wrench thing has taught me that there's not much that replaces the good that periodic clean and greasing does. Andy.
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Old 10-06-15, 07:38 AM
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when I was shown this trick, it was so long ago, I don't remember what bike I did it on, or if it was a friends bike, but I do recall that the hubs were pretty low end ones, and the grease inside would get contaminated fairly quickly.
Forward a few decades and I certainly see that better quality hubs have much better rubber seals and or design in that stuff just doesnt get in compared to cheap hubs. My old mtn bike commuter went years and years without hub overhauls, I would regularly turn the axels by hand they would feel fine, and sure enough when I finally got around to opening up the hubs, lo and behold the grease was 1-in good quantity, and 2-was still very clean.

So with hubs, the quality level certainly seems to be a big factor.

really though, my question is, have any of you experienced mechanics ever used the pipe cleaner thing, or was this tip shown to me all those years ago by someone who really didnt know what they were talking about?
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Old 10-06-15, 07:45 AM
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Andrew--didnt see your post while writing the last one--thanks, your experienced view is what I was looking for. I will mention this to the fellow in the touring forum asking about winter riding, but as you say, in the end you just have to redo your hubs regularly. I suspect this fellow has never done this, the vast majority of people never do or have the awareness or interest (heck, bike store guys tell me all the time that "noone replaces grease in their hubs, whaddya talkin about buddy?") Who knows, maybe I can get the guy to think about doing it after his winter riding.


Ya, I remember the old inner tube bit trick, although never did it.

thanks again.
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Old 10-06-15, 07:58 AM
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It's very true that there are more well-sealed options than previously, but I'll share the tricks I used with success. To deal with year-round commuting in Lansing, MI I used O-rings at the BB, a section of inner tube over the lower headset bearing, and fashioned nice, removable seals for the front hub with silicone seal around the cone and locknut.
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Old 10-06-15, 08:00 AM
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Well, you can buy them at any smoking store. That's what they're for after all! ;-) Go to a cigarette store or one of those glass shops all the young folks go to (where they sell smoking utensils).

This is an interesting idea... I don't think I'd actually use a pipe cleaner for anything permanent or dependable but I'd use them to clean areas that otherwise would be difficult to reach. Being able to mold those guys into different shapes certainly makes them extra-useful. Thanks!
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Old 10-06-15, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by habilis View Post
Don't know where you could find them these days, but they sound like they could protect hubs, FWs, etc. I also recall reading that a seal of heavy grease works for hubs. That was in some car repair manuals back when wheel bearings were not sealed as they are today. My FW (and probably everyone else's) has a tiny gap where the body rotates around the center part. A smear of grease along that gap could do no harm, and would keep both water and dirt out, whereas the pipe cleaner might actually wick water in. Grit would accumulate on the surface of the grease and could then be easily scraped off. Maybe first apply grease and then the pipe cleaner?
It's usually referred to as chenille (French for caterpillar) although that is also a type of yarn. As for chenille pipe cleaners and you can find whole aisles of it at just about any hobby store.

It is, however, a bandaid approach that worked well in the days before hubs with the kinds of seals we have now. The seals on loose bearing hubs like Shimano's are actually quite good at keeping crap out of the hub. The ideal all-weather hub is cartridge bearing hub. Most all bottom brackets are now cartridge bearing as well. That's the way to go.
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Old 10-06-15, 08:23 AM
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cny--thanks for those tips, it makes sense, any sort of method that reduces the gunge being right up against any place where stuff can work its way into bearing areas is going to help.

and yes, Stuart, the cartridge bearings are going to be better. I dont know what sort of hubs the guy in question has, but I figure any little obstacle for winter gritty riding will help even with cartridge bearings. The old pipe cleaner idea was simply something that is easy to put on, and might help a bit, but cny's ideas seem to be more effective if someone really is going to ride a lot in yucky conditions all the time.

and just so its clear, I still have some pipe cleaners in my old stuff box, I brought this up to get some insight here about this before going back to the fellow in touring who asked about winter riding. I should just refer him to this thread.

tks for the responses.
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Old 10-06-15, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
It's usually referred to as chenille (French for caterpillar) although that is also a type of yarn. As for chenille pipe cleaners and you can find whole aisles of it at just about any hobby store.
+1 on the hobby/crafts store. I think I've seen them in the hobby section of Wally World here in the States as well.

Take this with a grain of salt (no pun intended... winter weather thread), but I found that there's no quick fix better than a sacrificial grease layer for sealing up close-fit assemblies in auto mechanics. I've packed areas with thick synthetic greases with low susceptibility to wash-out with success (ex. green grease). Of course, this will require you to go back and clean out/re-grease on occasion.
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Old 10-06-15, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by NCSUMike View Post
+1 on the hobby/crafts store. I think I've seen them in the hobby section of Wally World here in the States as well.

Take this with a grain of salt (no pun intended... winter weather thread), but I found that there's no quick fix better than a sacrificial grease layer for sealing up close-fit assemblies in auto mechanics. I've packed areas with thick synthetic greases with low susceptibility to wash-out with success (ex. green grease). Of course, this will require you to go back and clean out/re-grease on occasion.
makes sense, and would only take a few minutes. Wipe out dirty stuff, apply new.
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Old 10-06-15, 10:10 AM
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greasy pipe cleaners worked fine for me in the 70's , O rings are excellent,

but you have to remove the crankarms to fit them on BB spindles..
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Old 10-06-15, 10:41 AM
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I remember as a child in the 1960s attaching a small strand of rope around the wheel hubs to keep them clean. Good idea. I use pipe cleaners to clean the chain - works well for that.
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Old 10-06-15, 07:47 PM
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Any hobby/craft store has them in various sizes and colors. I use them all the time for cleaning gas ports on gas operated semi-auto shotguns, on barrel ports, and muzzle brakes.
I've used O rings for spindle to BB cup sealing and for headsets.

While not exactly what you're talking about as kids we wrapped a piece of rope and wired it shut on hubs to keep them clean. The rich kids bought straps that used a reflector like these.

http://www.amazon.com/Shiner-Black-R.../dp/B00B9FB7AC
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Old 10-06-15, 09:14 PM
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I can remember as a very young kid in the late 60s/early 70s my dad (RIP) putting short strips from an old leather belt on my Schwinn stingray hubs. He'd say "It'll keep the axle clean, son." (obviously dad wasn't a cyclist). But to this day I put something around the hubs on all my bikes for the same reason. Plus, I look down at them when I'm riding and it brings back fond memories of the old guy.

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Old 10-06-15, 09:43 PM
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Hub Shiners! Often a strap of leather with a button reflector as the connector. Andy. (who long ago sold hundreds of button reflectors in green, red, blue and yellows.)
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Old 10-06-15, 10:10 PM
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Sounds like fun, but I'm going to keep using my pipe cleaners for the purpose they were created.
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Old 10-06-15, 11:28 PM
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Unless one has an infinite supply of cup/cones and loose balls I'd suggest avoiding old school hubs like the plague for crappy weather riding and cyclocross. The beauty of sealed bearings is that you return them to "new" every time you replace the super cheap sealed bearings. Cup/Cone and loose ball hubs are like tubulars, they really only make sense for someone looking to experience "pro's pro" riding conditions. For the rest of us clinchers and sealed bearing hubs make sense, and really nothing else is worth the expense or headaches.

Now there will be adherents that have always ridden tubies and don't mind the additional expense. If you blow a tube on clinchers it costs you about $6 not $60. If you replace sealed bearings on a hub, it costs about $6. Trying to match, machine, or source cups and cones just makes no sense to me. Especially considering how often they need replaced before performance is affected and they enter the accelerating "death cycle" of doom.

You can sometimes find cheap sealed bearing hubs for next to nothing when the bearings get gritty. Heck you can buy a bearing puller set with a slide hammer and a cheapo bearing press kit for less than the cost of just sourcing the matching two Campagnolo cups, two Campagnolo cones, and Campagnolo loose ball bearings. After that, every sealed hub you own more or less becomes a lifetime hub even in the winter and grit, slush and grime.
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Old 10-06-15, 11:54 PM
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You can pack loose bearings in boat trailer hub grease, available for $8/can or grease gun tube at any auto parts store. The stuff is intended to be driven under load at highway speed and while still warm, submerged several feet in salt water, then the reverse. There is nothing that a bike sees that will touch it or degrade it. Pack the bearings with so much it oozes out. Clean it up gently and keep your eyes away for a year or two. \When you can't stand the mess, clean it out. You will see the insides are the same blue they were when you packed the bearings.

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Old 10-07-15, 07:34 AM
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Mtnbike-- so it's clear, I was asking about this topic about someone else asking about winter riding and because all the bikes in our household have loose bearing hubs, I went with the assumption that the other guys bike does, you know, as generally bikes up to mid cost range have loose bearing hubs still.
Not by choice necessarily, but I've yet to own a sealed cartridge bearing hub, but certainly can see the advantages.
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Old 10-07-15, 12:18 PM
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I had just repacked the bearings on some Shimano RS-10 wheels a couple of months ago with waterproof marine grease. With it being rainy as of late I've had a few wet rides on my commute home from work. Last week after one of those wet rides, I put my bike in the work stand and heard a slight clicking from the rear wheel
I wasn't sure where it was coming from until I removed the wheel and gave it a spin. Took it apart and found that all of the grease had been washed out of the bearings (loose ball).

So, I cleaned and repacked both wheels. The front wasn't too bad and it seemed like the rear wheel was more susceptable to water infiltration around the cassette area.

I was also considering filling some of that void area with more grease and/or pipe cleaners.

So, even a good waterproof grease can get washed away in the right conditions.

All this said, I still prefer loose ball bearings for their smoothness in operation and their serviceability.
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Old 10-07-15, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by IrishBrewer View Post
I had just repacked the bearings on some Shimano RS-10 wheels a couple of months ago with waterproof marine grease. With it being rainy as of late I've had a few wet rides on my commute home from work. Last week after one of those wet rides, I put my bike in the work stand and heard a slight clicking from the rear wheel
I wasn't sure where it was coming from until I removed the wheel and gave it a spin. Took it apart and found that all of the grease had been washed out of the bearings (loose ball).

So, I cleaned and repacked both wheels. The front wasn't too bad and it seemed like the rear wheel was more susceptable to water infiltration around the cassette area.

I was also considering filling some of that void area with more grease and/or pipe cleaners.

So, even a good waterproof grease can get washed away in the right conditions.

All this said, I still prefer loose ball bearings for their smoothness in operation and their serviceability.
Ive mucked about with repacking hubs for about 25 years, but not with the experience of the mechanics who post here--that said, the grease being washed out in that short a time seems to me more of the specific hub and the design of the seals. Ive seen low range hubs with very poor sealing protection, while Ive seen higher end ones go years and years and years of commuting and retain the grease and with little contamination--so to me its the specific design of the hub, how it keeps outside stuff outside to what extent., or not.
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Old 10-07-15, 04:09 PM
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When I build a wheel, I put a rubber band around the hub before I lace the spokes in. That way, I have a hub shiner, but not only that, people scratch their heads and ask how I got the rubber band in there, and I tell them what wheel building involves.
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