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Freewheels are a pox!

Old 07-08-11, 05:18 AM
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JonathanGennick 
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Freewheels are a pox!

I hate freewheels. I really, really, REALLY hate them. Why do they still get used on cheap bikes?

Yesterday I was rehabbing a bike for one of my son's classmates. I tried the vice-trick -- putting the remover tool into a bench vice and then turning the wheel with all my might and main. I broke the vice! Unbelievable. The freewheel did not budge, btw.

Obviously it was a cheap vice. It was a leftover from the previous owner that came w/the house. But still...it was big enough and heavy enough that I really didn't expect it to break.

On the good side of the ledger, I managed to replace the hub headings with the freewheel in place by using a bent-nose pliers to reach each bearing into the tunnel and set it into the race. So all is good in the end.
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Old 07-08-11, 06:10 AM
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The bigger problem was probably the vise. I once had a large cheap vise from one of those traveling "tool shows" fail the first time I clamped down on it. My main vise is an old Columbia brand (made in USA) and is one of the prized possessions in my shop. But I do have one of the Harbor Freight rotating head/swivel vises mounted on a pedestal that I use for welding heavy hammering and other "abusive" work, for some reason this one has held up for several years (it is the third or forth vise that I have put on that old pedestal though).

Glad to hear you got the job done in spite of the tool failure. And now you get to go out shopping for a new vise (careful, good ones are hard to find/afford these days).
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Old 07-08-11, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by larwyn View Post
And now you get to go out shopping for a new vise (careful, good ones are hard to find/afford these days).
Yes. It would help if I had a good workbench to mount it on. I don't, nor do I have the space for one. That side of the basement is a jumbled mess of possessions that no one uses much, but that I am not allowed to throw out. You know how that goes. I'd love to buy a really big, heavy, quality vice. Probably I'll go for a smallish quality vice to fit the available space.

I still hate freewheels though. Cassettes are much easier to deal with. Freewheels are a pox upon bicyclemanity.
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Old 07-08-11, 08:06 AM
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I once ran into a cassette lockring that neither man nor beast could get off. I broke two good quality chain whips in the attempt and wound up discarding the entire wheel. Freewheels aren't the only problem.
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Old 07-08-11, 08:19 AM
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when i encounter the stubborn FW - i put in the remover tool - put a large adjustable wrench on it - and then give a heavy whack with a large rubber mallet to the end of the wrench - works every tiime
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Old 07-08-11, 08:44 AM
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Title should be: Cheap bench vise fails !
since the issue was the Vise not the freewheel..

did you grease the threads on the hub before you put the freewheel on?
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Old 07-08-11, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
did you grease the threads on the hub before you put the freewheel on?
I am not the one who assembled the bike. However it came from the store, and I'm sure that was years ago, that's how it was.
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Old 07-08-11, 09:45 AM
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Humm, I kind of like freewheels.

Not to be rude but are you sure you were not turning it the wrong way?

When I ran a shop I had a Craftsman #5 vice (pretty big) and would break it every year. Sears kept honoring their warranty and replacing it until after the third one when they offered to give me the next size up if I would stop coming back.
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Old 07-08-11, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Ira B View Post
Not to be rude but are you sure you were not turning it the wrong way?
I am sure. Sometimes those things are tough to get loose. That's why there exists a so-called "destructive removal process," which I have been known to use.
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Old 07-08-11, 10:12 AM
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I used 6~7 'speed' freewheels on major camp-cycling tours, for decades,
all I needed was a Borrowed 12~14" adjustable wrench ,
and the freewheel removal tool to get those off..
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Old 07-08-11, 10:23 AM
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Freewheels are cool. Tried and true!

But I also like cassettes.

The only pox on humanity is lack of knowledge about proper bike maintenance.
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Old 07-08-11, 10:44 AM
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In March I bought a brand new Masi SS. When I did a teardown to check everything, I found the freewheel hadn't been greased before installation. It was a bear to pull off. Whether this was a Masi or LBS issue, I'm not sure and don't care, but it does happen. After years of use, they can get pretty well seized to the hub. Cassettes too, but I've had better luck dealing with them.

If the vise broke, I agree that it's the vise that's the problem. I've used much larger torque arms with my vise than a bike wheel and been able to release seized bolts without breaking the vise. I actually have a harder time keeping the bench where it is sometimes.

I have broken an adjustable wrench doing the same kind of work. Cheers to full lifetime warranties! I've found that getting a longer handle extension works better than beating a wrench and much more controllable too. Then again, that's what I was using when I broke the wrench.
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Old 07-08-11, 11:10 AM
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Chuckling a little here! But no offense intended. I am rehabbing a Bridgestone 600. It has an old 6 speed Shimano, and boy, the guy I bought if from said it's been in his garage for years. And the FW was stuck just like that. You know those old torchiere lamps? The cheap ones with steel tubes? I chucked a lot of them because they were cheap and 500Watt power hogs. But I kept the tubes because some of them were pretty solid steel. I dug out one of those segments (about 24 inches long), and bent it into an oval, stuck that over a fairly big crescent wrench, then I used a sacrificial QR skewer and clamped the FW remover tool on, and just put all my weight on that sucker. It came off. No grease. But I think I pinged a few spokes in the process and have a bruise on my chest from that event. But the FW is off, soaked in solvent and water and grease injected, and this time back on the wheel with lube on the threads.
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Old 07-08-11, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Ira B View Post
Humm, I kind of like freewheels.
+1. I prefer them on road bikes just because I like the way most hubs from the freewheel era look.

Gimme frehubs for MTBs tho.
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Old 07-08-11, 12:28 PM
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The moral of this story is that you need a better vise. Every now and then a nice 4" USA made vise appears on the local craigslist. Generally they are in need of a bit of TLC, but $20 instead of $300 makes it worth painting or oiling it if needed.
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Old 07-08-11, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
+1. I prefer them on road bikes just because I like the way most hubs from the freewheel era look.
I honestly had no idea that anyone actually preferred them. I will have to pay closer attention to hubs for awhile, to try and get a sense of what you're seeing.
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Old 07-08-11, 12:42 PM
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You know, I should just rejoice that for once I was strong enough to actually break something.
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Old 07-08-11, 12:55 PM
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I honestly had no idea that anyone actually preferred them.
Phil Wood Freewheel hubs have an un bendable axle, knocking down 1 advantage
a freehub with a 10mm QR axle , has over a Freewheel hub with also a 10mm QR axle.


I toured around a bunch of Europe , on my Phil Wood hub and 6 speed freewheel..
camping gear and all..
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Old 07-08-11, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
I honestly had no idea that anyone actually preferred them. I will have to pay closer attention to hubs for awhile, to try and get a sense of what you're seeing.
Here's an example of what I'm seeing: (new stuff just looks too bulky and not curvy or shiny enough for my taste)



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Old 07-08-11, 01:09 PM
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I guess I should add that I've only used the vise method a couple of times. Deep 1" Socket and breaker bar if needed gets the job done for me.
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Old 07-08-11, 01:18 PM
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I haven't removed a freewheel in a long time but I always used the vise method, it always seemed the easiest way. and felt like turning a truck steering wheel.
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Old 07-08-11, 01:19 PM
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The main problem I've seen with freewheels isn't exactly with the freewheel, but with the hub and the axle. More than half of the axles I find are bent, the problem is worse with 126mm spaced hubs than 120mm ones. This of course is because the cone is located inboard from dropout, and there is too much leverage on the axle.

I've replaced some bent axles with replacements from Wheels Mfg and hope they hold up better.

Except for the axle problem, freewheels are fine. I wish I could locate a 24 t Suntour Winner cog.
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Old 07-08-11, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
Here's an example of what I'm seeing: (new stuff just looks too bulky and not curvy or shiny enough for my taste)



I know what you mean, but with the Phil Woods they have gotten better looking over time. just too bad they don't make a campy compatible hub.
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Old 07-08-11, 02:11 PM
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I thought the original Phil Hub was Brilliant.
a sleeve tube of stainless steel fitted with 2 aluminum flanges.
so the freewheel thread was put into steel, the spokes bedded into aluminum.
Oversize axle, reduced just at the ends, to fit common frame dropouts,
pressed in , with bearings with a seal spec for submersible pumps.

A well chosen use of materials has its own beauty..
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Old 07-08-11, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I thought the original Phil Hub was Brilliant.
a sleeve tube of stainless steel fitted with 2 aluminum flanges.
so the freewheel thread was put into steel, the spokes bedded into aluminum.
Oversize axle, reduced just at the ends, to fit common frame dropouts,
pressed in , with bearings with a seal spec for submersible pumps.

A well chosen use of materials has its own beauty..
I whole heartedly agree, I still have and use my Phil's. I would just like to get them for my newer campy equiped bikes.
But I think the new ones look better.
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