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Eliminating Bearing Retainers

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Eliminating Bearing Retainers

Old 03-02-11, 08:20 AM
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Eliminating Bearing Retainers

Do any of you sometimes use loose ball bearings in a traditional bottom bracket instead of the retainers? I'm guessing you fill the race in the cup with the same-sized bearings (usually 1/4"), leaving whatever space it comes out to when either you can't get another one in or another one would put them all into contact.
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Old 03-02-11, 08:28 AM
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Correct. I never use retainers. When they are present during a rebuild, I simply replace as you described. I would rather spread the load over a few more bearings. The retainers are there to ease assembly in a factory setting.
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Old 03-02-11, 11:25 AM
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The type of ball retainers typically used on bike bottom brackets and headsets, are for assembly convenience only.

Once the bearing is assembled they serve no purpose whatsoever. Most carry a full complement of balls so don't add one when removing the retainer unless you're absolutely sure there's room. If in doubt about the correct number of balls, assemble the spindle, balls and a cup without grease in your hand and add as many as fit down into an even circle, an extra ball will be obvious.
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Old 03-02-11, 02:26 PM
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Thanks, y'all! I had to replace the BB on my 1989 Bridgestone Comp MB2 project. I was fortunate in that I bought the correct spindle a few years ago and kept it with the other parts because it seems like a 3SB is hard to find now. Replacement cups just like the Sugino originals are still available and I bought those and some Grade 25 balls from Harris. This will be a casual rider only so I'm trying to keep it original as possible, hence no cassette for the BB. Plus, I don't mind cleaning and greasing it every so often which will make it easily outlast my riding days. I've also noticed that the bearing races in a sealed unit are much closer together than a 'standard' BB which would tend to increase the pressure on them. That is, each race is recessed closer to the center of the BB shell than the exterior cups.

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Old 03-02-11, 03:18 PM
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Only have to use retainers on OPC/Astabula cranks . cannot put them together without.
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Old 03-02-11, 03:34 PM
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Are we talking about ball cages?

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Old 03-02-11, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
Only have to use retainers on OPC/Astabula cranks . cannot put them together without.
It can be done (I've done it) but it is much easier with the cages.


Originally Posted by Looigi
Are we talking about ball cages?.....I don't know if this is an issue in bicycle bearings,...
It isn't an issue.
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Old 03-04-11, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
The type of ball retainers typically used on bike bottom brackets and headsets, are for assembly convenience only.

Once the bearing is assembled they serve no purpose whatsoever. Most carry a full complement of balls so don't add one when removing the retainer unless you're absolutely sure there's room. If in doubt about the correct number of balls, assemble the spindle, balls and a cup without grease in your hand and add as many as fit down into an even circle, an extra ball will be obvious.
Actually, the cage (retainer) has extra clearance between the balls, probably to hold grease and allow the use of fewer balls. In my case, the cages each held 9 balls but the cups each held 11 without the cages, with about a half-ball clearance after greasing heavily (same size balls of course). The job went perfectly, so that's one more item off the list. I expect to need to fine-tune the pre-load after a break-in, but for now it's set at the minimum torque to remove play. I sure am glad I saved my bicycle tools for the last 15 years! Everything was in a small tool box except some nice aluminum tire spoons I need to find.
Bottom line on this procedure is it's a good thing to do but you have to careful later when taking it apart to clean/grease that the balls don't get loose on you. If I had it to do over I probably would have either used the new bearings in cages supplied with the new cups or put the new hi-grade balls in the old cages - I used to do a lot of that. Using the cages takes all doubt out of assembly/disassembly, but I didn't know the new cups came with bearings, so I just went ahead with the original plan.
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