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Replacing bearings when rebuilding a bike, do you do it or are you like me?

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Replacing bearings when rebuilding a bike, do you do it or are you like me?

Old 03-04-11, 09:25 AM
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Replacing bearings when rebuilding a bike, do you do it or are you like me?

So how many of you replace the bearings in the headset, bottom bracket and wheels when you repack them?

I usually just clean, regrease and reassemble, because I never have the foresight to have bearings on hand or the patience to go to the LBS for new bearings after I tear a bike down.

Going to replace bearings on the rebuild I am working on now, at least on the wheels, as I have already but the HS and BB back together.
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Originally Posted by colorider
Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 03-04-11, 09:31 AM
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I don't replace anything unless there's pitting
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Old 03-04-11, 09:32 AM
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I never reuse bearing balls.
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Old 03-04-11, 09:41 AM
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Follow up question for the replacers and the non replacers.

I understand that the theory is that bearings are inexpensive and most of us cannot tell if they have become ovalized, so just replace.

I have never had problems with a hub, BB or HS that I have reused bearings on, such as having the hubs get loose and need constant adjustment etc.

So my follow up question is: Has anyone ever had a problem arise from not replacing bearings that led you to begin replacing bearings when you repack something?
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Originally Posted by colorider
Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 03-04-11, 10:10 AM
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I thought the base rule was that if the bearings had lost their shine, then replace them.

I just keep extra bearings on hand, and replace whenever I tear something down. Bearings are cheap, and offer peace of mind with a bit of preventative maintenance.
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Old 03-04-11, 10:18 AM
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Clean and replace those that are not shiny. The cups and cones have poorer surface finish and hardness, so it's foolish to replace all the BBs. I have more than 40K miles on a set of wheels with a mix of new and used BBs over the last 9 years.

Last edited by furballi; 03-04-11 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 03-04-11, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by furballi
Clean and replace those that are not shiny. The cups and cones have poorer surface finish and hardness, so it's foolish to replace all the BBs. I have more than 40K miles on a set of wheels with a mix of new and used BBs over the last 9 years.
Agree completely! I have a bin full of different bearings in a variety of sizes and don`t routinely relace anything that doesn`t show an issue.

Maybe another question might be: How often do your bearings get greased? Some people only do maintenaince when things start to fall apart. The bearings in my personal bikes get cleaned and greased every 1,000 miles or so. A little obcessive but two bikes are over 20 years old and still have the original bearings. Probably more because neither has 25,000 miles on them rather than because bearings can last indefinately. But grease on the other hand tends to dry up (thats the lubricating part that disappears) with time weither you drive or not. And well packed bearings keep water and corrosion out - the main reason most bearings fail.
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Old 03-04-11, 10:43 AM
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Here at the shop, if the shine is gone, I replace the bearings on that side. We only stock Grade 25 since there isn't that much difference in price. Grade 300 is what is found in most bikes, and frankly only hubs in Campy's upper line and Dura Ace can really get the most benefit from the higher grade bearings, but it's impossible to tell grades from looking, and by only stocking the nicer grade, there's no uncertainty about what's going in.

The grease is more important anyway, since the grease floats the balls. Grease quits, the hub quits. Since bike hubs don't have much room for extra grease, I prefer a tacky grease like Dumondtech MR grease. The tack means it is constantly pulled into the ball track, not pushed out and away.
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Old 03-04-11, 11:22 AM
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I replace bearing balls at each annual or bi-annual overhaul (about 6000 mile intervals) only because I keep a stock of the appropriate sizes in Grade 25 and they are cheap when you buy them in bags of 100.

That said, what I do is undoubtedly overkill and the bearing I discard are always in great shape with no apparent roughness or pitting.

Finally, I'd like to put an old myth to rest. Bearing balls do not "ovalize" with use. They remain as spherical as when new.

Years ago Bicycling (Buycycling?) Magazine's tech editor used to recommend replacing the bearings at every overhaul because he claimed the used ones would be ovalized and would not permit a proper cone adjustment. Finally an engineer from one of the big bearing makers (Timken or SKF?) wrote in to tell him that was wrong and he stopped giving that erroneous advice.

So, replace bearings if they are obviously damaged, rough or pitted. Otherwise reuse them with confidence or waste a small amount of money like I do.
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Old 03-04-11, 11:29 AM
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If everything is OK, It's strictly up to you. There's no need to replace the balls (they don't wear or ovalize), but you might as well, saving you the worry about losing one or having to wash them.

But, since there's always the risk that you'll need to replace because of loss or damage, you should have replacements on hand before starting. Otherwise there's a decent chance that you'll have to the job twice, or leave it half done, and risk something else getting lost.
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Old 03-04-11, 11:41 AM
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Many years ago, when I got my first maintenance manual, (the one put out by Bicycling magazine) they said that you never re-use bearings. The idea being that even if they appeared fine, they would be invisibly ovalized and would never adjust properly.
Since bearings are so cheap, I've never done it any other way. I always toss 'em and buy new.
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Old 03-04-11, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Bikewer
Many years ago, when I got my first maintenance manual, (the one put out by Bicycling magazine) they said that you never re-use bearings. The idea being that even if they appeared fine, they would be invisibly ovalized and would never adjust properly.
Since bearings are so cheap, I've never done it any other way. I always toss 'em and buy new.
Read my posting above about that misconception. But you are correct and even good bearings are cheap.
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Old 03-04-11, 11:58 AM
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+100 the bearing ovalizing myth has been around and has no basis in fact. If anything, the extremely slight wear that balls suffer in use would actually serve to improve the matching of the set, since the bigger balls would wear the most until all were identical.
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Old 03-04-11, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider
I replace bearing balls at each annual or bi-annual overhaul (about 6000 mile intervals) only because I keep a stock of the appropriate sizes in Grade 25 and they are cheap when you buy them in bags of 100.

That said, what I do is undoubtedly overkill and the bearing I discard are always in great shape with no apparent roughness or pitting.

Finally, I'd like to put an old myth to rest. Bearing balls do not "ovalize" with use. They remain as spherical as when new.

Years ago Bicycling (Buycycling?) Magazine's tech editor used to recommend replacing the bearings at every overhaul because he claimed the used ones would be ovalized and would not permit a proper cone adjustment. Finally an engineer from one of the big bearing makers (Timken or SKF?) wrote in to tell him that was wrong and he stopped giving that erroneous advice.

So, replace bearings if they are obviously damaged, rough or pitted. Otherwise reuse them with confidence or waste a small amount of money like I do.
So should I take my maintenance book from the editors of Bicycling magazine along on the campout this weekend and burn it? I started this thread after reading in that book time after time that bearings get ovalized and should be replaced at each rebuild.
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Originally Posted by colorider
Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 03-04-11, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by jsharr
So how many of you replace the bearings in the headset, bottom bracket and wheels when you repack them?

I usually just clean, regrease and reassemble, because I never have the foresight to have bearings on hand or the patience to go to the LBS for new bearings after I tear a bike down.

Going to replace bearings on the rebuild I am working on now, at least on the wheels, as I have already but the HS and BB back together.
Bearrings are so cheap, spotting pitting of scarring on a small ball is so tough, and repacking is so infrequent....
might as well automatically put in new balls, no questions, no hesitation, no ambiguity.
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Old 03-04-11, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by vredstein
Bearrings are so cheap, spotting pitting of scarring on a small ball is so tough, and repacking is so infrequent....
might as well automatically put in new balls, no questions, no hesitation, no ambiguity.
Exactly!
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Old 03-04-11, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by jsharr
So should I take my maintenance book from the editors of Bicycling magazine along on the campout this weekend and burn it? I started this thread after reading in that book time after time that bearings get ovalized and should be replaced at each rebuild.
There's no need to burn the book. It has lot's of useful information, but you might want to read it with a few grains of salt handy. The folks who write for bicycling tend to be bike folks, net necessarily absolute experts in Bearings, or arcane sub topics. The fact checking is also fairly weak, so what theynpublish is the conventional wisdom de Jour.

You generally won't go far wrong following the advice, but it shouldn't be considered the last word. For example, some time back, the magazine did one of their regular "how to lube a chain" articles. In it they warned against using motor oil because it contained fine metal particles which would grind in the chain.

I wrote them and asked if Enzo Ferrari knew about this, since it would be of serious concern to him and his clients. (my letter wasn't published, maybe my tone had too many of those fine abrasive particles).

Anyway, replacing the balls is like taking aspirin for your heart (for males over 50). It's debatable whether it really helps, but since it doesn't hurt you might as well. I and many others do, because new 1st quality balls are so inexpensive that it simply isn't worth worrying about the condition of the originals. So it isn't that one is right or wrong, but a question of time and convenience vs. money.
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Old 03-04-11, 03:30 PM
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It is a matter of practice to replace bearings when you overhaul assemblies but in reality, if they do not exhibit any pitting or other damage they will work just fine.

I keep a small jar handy that I can fill with a little solvent to clean bearings before they go back into an assembly with clean grease and also have a good stock of grade 25 bearings here when replacement is warranted.

Regular service and making sure there is no contamination will extend the life of bearing assemblies into the tens of thousands of miles...the well sealed cartridge bearings we use in our hubs have been run for 30,000 plus miles in all kinds of conditions and continue to run smoothly.
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Old 03-04-11, 04:46 PM
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While I will clean and reuse caged headset bearings, I always replace bb and wheel bearings. I buy them in bulk, they cost me less than 2 cents each.
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Old 03-04-11, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by wrk101
While I will clean and reuse caged headset bearings...
I used to do that too since headsets used so many tiny bearings that dealing with loose ones was a PITA. The only exception was after the lower cup and/or crown race developed pits and "indexing". Using loose bearings allowed me to add a couple of more balls to the race keep the headset going for another year or so.

Cartridge bearing headsets have made that a non-issue for many years.
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Old 03-04-11, 06:40 PM
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They don't become ovalized. They lose their finish when they are worn.
I clean and reuse the balls and I have a supply on hand.
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Old 03-04-11, 07:08 PM
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I think I remember Sheldon saying that it's not worth rebuilding bearings without replacing the balls, but I don't usually follow that. If the balls look ok to me I just clean everything up and put in fresh grease.

Originally Posted by HillRider
Years ago Bicycling (Buycycling?) Magazine's...
Yes! I think that was the magazine I picked up once to page through. All I found were articles on new stuff that I should be buying. The whole thing felt like reading a big ad.
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Old 03-05-11, 10:02 AM
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Buy in bulk. My bike replace.
Flipper or the neighbor's Magna that may go 100 m a year - If they look good, reuse.
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Old 04-04-11, 08:35 AM
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I just did a total rebuild on a Trek Elance. The bearings in the bottom bracket had come out of their race and looked like pebbles. Oval, pitted ect. The past owner totally neglected this fine bike. I ordered up a pack of 10 bearing races for $5.95 plus shipping. I will regrease everything in this bike yearly or more, if I ride more. I will reuse bearings on a bike if they look shining and clean. Helps to look closely with an eye loop to examine condition. I pay attention to cleaning very well when regreasing. Any dirt or debris mixed with the bearings and grease can rapidly deteriorate the bearings like sandpaper.
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