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Too much drag

Old 10-01-12, 06:16 PM
  #1  
eric1514
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Too much drag

I took my wife's bike in to have the wheel bearings cleaned and packed and to have them grease the freewheel. The bike is a '79 Miyata 710 with a Suntour freewheel. There was nothing wrong with the bike; I just wanted it serviced because she wanted to start riding it again.

When I got the bike back, the mechanic told me to keep an eye on the freewheel as he said it needed replacing. His evidence was that the pedals rotated when the bike was rolled forward instead of just freewheeling. I just chalked it up to him packing too much grease in the mechanism as it didn't do this before I brought it in.

However, today I was oiling the chain on her bike and it was much harder to hand-pedal her bike backwards (to move the chain) than it is on my bike. I also have a freewheel on my bike. I can throw my crank backwards and it will spin about 2 revolutions. Hers will move maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn.

The wheel, when lifted of the ground, seems to coast OK, but not as well as mine.

Question. Is this freewheel toast, is it over-packed and in need of cleaning or should I just ignore it.

TIA,
Eric
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Old 10-01-12, 06:24 PM
  #2  
rhenning
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Usually you use oil on freewheels not grease but he may have done what you asked him to do. Clean the grease out and add some oil and you should be good to go. Cassettes are a different and the shop may be more familiar with them. Roger
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Old 10-01-12, 06:27 PM
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Generally it's a bad idea to use grease in a freewheel or freehub body as the viscosity can make them drag a bit and can lock the pawls in very cold weather. Was your freewheel running freely before the "tuneup"? If so, the grease is probably the culprit and diluting it with a flush of light oil will probably make it run better.
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Old 10-01-12, 06:39 PM
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Truthfully, I don't know whether he used grease or oil, but as nice a kid as the mechanic was, this may also have been the first freewheel he ever saw and the bike is older than he is. I'll flush it with some kerosene tomorrow, blow it dry and oil it up.

Thanks for your help, folks,
Eric
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Old 10-01-12, 07:51 PM
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Back in the days of freewheels, someone came up with the bright idea of greasing them. And as another example of how stupidity tends to proliferate, suddenly more and more people were doing just that.

Someone (Morningstar) even came up with a tool to pack grease into freewheels so suddenly it became common practice. The problem is that there's absolutely no reason to grease freewheels, and a few good ones not to. Ultimately SunTour and Shimano started saying that greasing their freewheels would void the warranty, but by then the cassette/freehub systems were taking over, so the discussion ended.

Freewheels are an almost perfect mechanical system. There are never moving parts under load. When you're coasting, there's no load, when you're pedaling there's load, but the freewheel is engaged and turns as a unit.

You can restore your freewheel to good function by simply soaking it in mineral spirits, and working/flushing all the grease out. Then lubricate it with oil. Phil Tenacious and Chain-L (I make the stuff, so consider my bias) both have tacking agents to help keep it in place so you'll have a free spinning freewheel, that will stay that way for a long time.
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Old 10-02-12, 09:22 PM
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Don't overlook the friction from the der pulleys or the chain. Freewheel friction is easy to discern, remove the chain and spin the wheel then touch the cog and feel the freedom (or not) of the freewheel's spin. With the chain installed spin the cranks backwards and note the time/revs it takes for the cranks to stop. Then try it again with a little pressure on the rear der cage (meaning the chain has a LITTLE bit of droop). Many times I'll see a major difference of back spin between these two chain tensions. Check your pulleys but don't be surprised if the chain itself is the main cause of friction. Andy.
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Old 10-03-12, 06:28 AM
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Eric, I used WD40 to flush my son's 6S freewheel and then used motorcycle chain lube. So far this seems to be the best lubricant I've used in a freewheel as it is slightly heavier than oil and has a bit of tackyness.

Brad
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Old 10-03-12, 09:43 AM
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It will thin out with use, too, so there will be a bit of lag, coasting .
but not really much of an issue ..
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Old 10-03-12, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by eric1514 View Post
There was nothing wrong with the bike;
Would this be a good place to say "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."?
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Old 10-03-12, 06:09 PM
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After noting Andrew's post, I will second his recommendation to consider other (and all!) possible sources of this friction. This should be a simple diagnosis!

Lift the chain off the crank and check that the cranks turn with little effort, then lift the chain clear of each derailer pulley, one at a time, and check for free rotation of each pulley.

Do note that having the bike in different gears, both front and rear, can really affect the amount of rotational drag felt at the cranks!

Of course, removing the wheel and spinning the freewheel is also a critical diagnostic imo, and might verify if perhaps the bearing adjustment is perhaps somehow too tight.
The freewheel might also be rubbing on the spoke protector if a spacer was omitted or if the protector became distorted or if grass or string, etc., has gotten into the space behind the freewheel.
Sometimes a freewheel will rub against a derailer hanger bolt when the axle position is changed even slightly during installation.

There are lubes that thicken as they dry (such as aerosol greases and motorcycle chain lubes), and possibly these may have been fed into the freewheel.

Grease in a freewheel has definite advantages, but only if strategically placed during assembly. Many freewheels (especially cheaper ones, or those that for whatever reason have more than an average amount of freeplay), will creak under power if the bearings aren't kept lubed, so of course greased bearings would extend the lubrication interval greatly, while the grease gets pushed aside just enough to allow totally free rotation. Too much grease (or a webby grease) otoh, can create a lot of churning for some time, and can even cause the chain to sag onto the chainstay while coasting as the reverse torque overpowers the derailer's tensioning spring(s).

Even if the mechanic's work is not suspect (and while the wheel is removed) I would of course also verify that some freeplay exists at the rear axle before the QR lever is clamped down.
If the axle is solid/nutted, otoh, there should be no freeplay.

Last edited by dddd; 10-03-12 at 06:12 PM.
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Old 10-07-12, 06:30 PM
  #11  
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I took the wheel off this weekend and the freewheel took considerable effort to rotate. If I spun it hard it would only spin about 3/4 of a revolution.

I sprayed some WD-40 into it and it broke free almost immediately. I kept douching it for a while, blew it out with compressed air and oiled it with CLP. It really spins now! I'll keep an eye on it, but it feels good with no undue noises.

Thank you all for your help,
Eric

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Old 10-07-12, 08:22 PM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
there's absolutely no reason to grease freewheels
I like to grease my freehubs; they run quieter that way. It almost never freezes where I live, so the viscosity isn't an issue.

I guess using a suitable grease prolly has something to do with it, too. Finish Line 'Teflon Fortified' is what I've been using the last fifteen years or so.
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