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freewheel vs freehub in winter

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freewheel vs freehub in winter

Old 12-15-12, 01:22 PM
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jim hughes
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freewheel vs freehub in winter

I live in Minneapolis and cycle year-round. Some of you may think that means pretty snow like on a ski slope. That is so cute. 80% of the time it's various forms of WET CR@P mixed with lots of unnecessary sand and corrosive salt, demanded by drivers who imagine it prevents accidents.

I've always used freewheels and when one pulls in wet sand I can disassemble, clean and reassemble it - but it's a PITA. Now I am thinking about new wheels and wondering if a freehub is more resistant to the entrance of sand and grit, and if the freehub mechanism is easier to maintain.
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Old 12-15-12, 02:19 PM
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If you have a cheap Shimano compatible FW, why not consider it an expendable item on your WINTER WHEEL.
$15-20 or so and the pleasure of NOT having to mess with it.
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Old 12-15-12, 02:33 PM
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One way to avoid that problem on your winter bike:

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Old 12-15-12, 02:38 PM
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Use a freewheel and plan to spend $15 replacing it every year. I cycled through the winter for 2 years in Montreal, and actually one freewheel got me through the two years. It did require re-applying WD-40 periodically. I suspect niether a freehub nor a freewheel is better from the point of view of getting water/salt/ice inside in the first place
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Old 12-15-12, 03:31 PM
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Genuine Shimano freehub hubs are just a better design than freewheel hubs, so I'd recommend them by default.

I've had a few freewheels stop spinning well from grit or whatever inside, but I've never had a Shimano freehub go bad. I'm sure they fail eventually, but I've had the same one on my winter bike for many years and the bike sits outside just about all winter long. It's been submerged in a creek as well and having done no maintenance on it I'm happy.
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Old 12-15-12, 04:24 PM
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The beauty of using freewheels vs freehubs for a rough service bike is that freewheels are disposable. cutting your potential losses.

However, there's no need to go through the PITA disassembly ritual. If you keep a freewheel well oiled with an oil that stays put, like Chain-L (sorry for the cheap self-promotion) or Phil's, it should make it an entire season before needing service. When it does, you don't need to disassemble. Simply soak in petroleum solvent, (kerosene, diesel fuel, OMS, etc) then flush until it's clean. Shake out the last of the solvent, dry and re-oil.

I do this as needed on my commuter (about once a year) and it takes a few hours, but most of that is the passive soak, so my actual labor time is a few minutes.

BTW- the freewheel protects the right bearing from weather, and I use an improvised boot for the left, so my hub rarely needs service.
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Old 12-15-12, 04:34 PM
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I won't discard a $20 assembly like a freewheel if I can fix it. I could put on a new one and be unlucky the next day, be forced to ride through more wet sand and be right back where I started.

I've tried soaking in solvent and flushing with WD40 without success; the sand just didn't dissolve or find it's way out. So I have to disassemble. Using a heavier lube inside the freewheel - I don't know if that would help, or make things worse. How is a chain lube expected to repel sand?
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Old 12-15-12, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by jim hughes View Post
I won't discard a $20 assembly like a freewheel if I can fix it. I could put on a new one and be unlucky the next day, be forced to ride through more wet sand and be right back where I started.

I've tried soaking in solvent and flushing with WD40 without success; the sand just didn't dissolve or find it's way out. So I have to disassemble. Using a heavier lube inside the freewheel - I don't know if that would help, or make things worse. How is a chain lube expected to repel sand?
Chain lube doesn't repel sand. But sand doesn't magically enter a freewheel, it's carried in with water. A well lubed freewheel resists water entry, thereby resisting the sand it carries.

As for soaking and flushing, we don't expect sand to dissolve (it won't) but expect it to leave by the same method it used to enter, being carried along with liquid. I suspect that you're having problems because you're not letting the solvent enough time to break down the oils and greases sand may be adhering to. That's why I soak for hours with an occasional swish before making any effort to flush. Ask any homemaker how much easier greasy roasting pans are to clean if soaked first.

If you want an easier method to flush freewheels, here's what I do. Years ago I found a piece of plastic pipe with a close fit to the inside of the outer sprocket (only works with overhanging outer sprockets). I built up the end with electrical tape so I had to jam it in. Then I put a cork into the center hole and pour solvent down the pipe where the only exit is now through the freewheel. This ensures a fast and complete flush. When finished I remove the pipe, but leave in the cork, and pour oil into the center well and let it seep through the freewheel.
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Old 12-15-12, 04:52 PM
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I have never had a problem with semi-freehub designs or the frehubs from shimano. By semi-freehub I mean the kind where, as on my Coda hubs, the ratchet ring is in the hub body and the bearings are cartridge as with a freehweel but the cassette and pawls stay on it's own section held on with a lock ring and it's own bearings. Translates to 4 sealed cartridges and a couple seal rings. Good for muddy creeks, snow, rain and whatever else I've ever hit. When the pawls section needs to be cleaned/lubed its just a matter of taking the set screw lockring and it all slides off without a million bits.

The shimano freehubs have always worked well for me as well, but the main bearings of those hubs have required considerably more maintenance than the afore mentioned cartridge design. Sometime back I saw a device used for repacking the freehub mechanism just by squirting it with a certain type of grease gun like fitting. Could be a thing to consider rather than full dissasembly.

The other element to consider is the grade of grease. Most 'bike' grade greases are really for a lack of better term, low grade. An automotive grease such as Valvoline Moly sulphide(red, marine grade) will hold up much better under adversity.
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Old 12-15-12, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by cerewa View Post
It did require re-applying WD-40 periodically.
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Old 12-16-12, 12:51 AM
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My ice on the street bike has a 7speed freewheel, MN means using that kit for Months,
where I only need it for a few days..

might be 31F on Monday, so time to pump up the studded tires and charge the Battery pack.
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Old 12-16-12, 05:36 PM
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I have had a freehub go bad, but only one. It was on my cross bike after some particularly wet, muddy, and sandy conditions. A replacement Ultegra freehub was still only around $45 so if you wear one out after a few years, no big deal. When mine went bad though, I couldn't get it to loosen up and run smoothly no matter how much I flushed and relubed it.
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Old 12-17-12, 01:21 PM
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I've used a shimano 4 speed IGH all winter long for 6 yrs in Chicago winters. No hints of problems. (oops, not an answer to the original question. I always hate it when my wife does that to me. sorry for the spam)
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Old 12-17-12, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by jim hughes View Post
I won't discard a $20 assembly like a freewheel if I can fix it. I could put on a new one and be unlucky the next day, be forced to ride through more wet sand and be right back where I started.

I've tried soaking in solvent and flushing with WD40 without success; the sand just didn't dissolve or find it's way out. So I have to disassemble. Using a heavier lube inside the freewheel - I don't know if that would help, or make things worse. How is a chain lube expected to repel sand?
You won't spend $20 for a new FW IF you can fix it, but apparently, you CAN'T fix it without major disassembly.
However, you'll spend the money for a new wheel set to use on your salted roads.

Doesn't make sense to me......Time is worth something.
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Old 12-17-12, 03:06 PM
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They stopped selling Cog replacements for multiple gear freewheels long ago, so after wearing the chain,
and thus wearing the cog teeth .. you just get a new one .. and new chain..

strong axle freewheel hubs make that part reliable.. I used one of Phil's early steel tube aluminum flange
hubs for decades.. loaded for self contained touring..
the great thing by using a stainless steel tube, was the freewheel threads were in steel.
sealed bearings , and a axle that would not break.
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Old 12-17-12, 03:11 PM
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Looks like White Ind has seals on the out side of their Single or Dos Freewheels.

but they are close to a C note each..

seem to recall a Felt 1speed 29er coming with a single Cog cassette,
splined on like Shimano's BMX .

of course You can always go with the venerable AW3 IGH.. or S3X with a thread on FW.
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Old 12-17-12, 03:47 PM
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I've only lived as far north as temperate Vancouver, BC. So it hasn't been that cold. Phil Wood FW grease injector has kept my collection of Suntour FWs and some shimano FWs in great shape. I soak in solvent, spin, soak more, spin to remove stuff, then grease inject. Usually with Phil Wood grease. Stays in place and quiets down the FW. Some folks don't recommend it because it can prevent full engagement of dog/pawl due to grease getting inside. But it really keeps it clean and lubed and protected inside the FW. If you find a cold-weather grease that stays soft in cold temps, and can find a tube to put it in that fits onto the FW grease injector, then that's what I'd probably do. Inject until it oozes out the front, then spin to make sure it still freewheels, and then wipe exterior clean.
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Old 12-17-12, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
You won't spend $20 for a new FW IF you can fix it, but apparently, you CAN'T fix it without major disassembly.
However, you'll spend the money for a new wheel set to use on your salted roads.

Doesn't make sense to me......Time is worth something.
I didn't call it a "major" disassembly - just a PITA. The reason for the new wheels is to get wider rims that fit the snow tires. At this point I have a choice, I can stay with freewheels or go to a freehub. I would prefer whichever is less prone to sucking in sand.
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