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Hi-E hub "maintenance" & Campy Skewer locknut resistance

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Hi-E hub "maintenance" & Campy Skewer locknut resistance

Old 06-20-16, 08:58 AM
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Hi-E hub "maintenance" & Campy Skewer locknut resistance

On a whim, I bought a wheelset with Hi-E hubs recently. The rear is a 36H hi-lo hub, the front is one of those extra-small flange 32H hubs. They came with Campy flat skewers. I have a couple questions:
  • The front hub doesn't spin well. It's quite stiff. I exchanged a couple emails with Jeff at First Flight Bikes who bought Harlan Myers' remaining stock from his estate a few years ago. He confirmed that to properly service/rebuild the hub, I'll need to remove the hub flanges, as they have a lip which prevents the bearing cartridge from being removed. That would necessitate a complete teardown of the wheel, something I'm not keen to do right now. For the moment, I've just dribbled a little oil into each side, letting it sit for awhile, in hopes that will soften up the grease a bit. Assuming that frees things up a bit, will that do anything bad other than perhaps shortening the life of the bearings somewhat?
  • The front skewer is a regular Campy flat skewer. In taking it off to dribble oil into the hub, I noticed there was no resistance in the nut, so vibration could potentially lead to loosening. It's one of those conical shaped quick release nuts with the D-ring. Can I just squeeze the D-ring with some pliers to push the softer material back in where it will engage with the threads on the skewer?
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Old 06-20-16, 09:03 AM
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Hi-E made some nice lightweight hubs, but their minimalist front skewers got recalled because folks were sustaining serious injuries when they failed. The person who sold you the hubs did the right thing in substituting Campagnolo skewers. I don't know if you'll be able to lubricate the sealed hub bearings from outside, but, for the skewers, your D-ring squeeze suggestion sounds about right.
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Old 06-20-16, 09:20 AM
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Use a vice fitted with copper jaws or hardwood to very slightly compress the D ring.
In reality though, it only is a bother when the skewer is NOT under load.
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Old 06-20-16, 09:38 AM
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While I've never done it on a Hi-E hub, I have been able to remove the seals on cartridge bearings using a fine, flat bladed, jeweller's screwdriver. This allowed me to flush and grease them. Once you have removed the axles, you may be able to remove the outside seal to regrease the bearings.

Refreshing oil depleted grease with a few drops of oil was standard practice in the old days and the one of prime reasons why old hubs and bottom brackets had lubrication ports. This should help revitalize the grease. Even running the hubs as they are should not cause any damage except to the bearing cartridges themselves.

As for the skewer, the D-ring should not contact the threads on the skewer. The nut body is threaded. The extra resistance you sometimes feel when threading on the nut is actually due to the skewer threads engaging the mitred ends of the the short pieces of tubing that separate the D-ring and nut body. In some cases, these tubes float within the nut and do not provide added resistance. Provided the threads on both the skewer and nut are in good condition, you will not have a problem. The nut cannot vibrate off. The cam action of engaging the quick release cause enough compression between the male and female threads to prevent this. The only case where vibration would be a concern would be if the threads were stripped and you would feel this in the lack of sufficient resistance when engaging the quick release lever.

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Old 06-20-16, 11:59 AM
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I was pretty into skating in the early '80's and used to treat the bearings as T-Mar described. With the skate wheels, it was a very simple matter to pop the cartridges out for service. Consequently it was done frequently and a very light lube was used. The inside seals were discarded as they did nothing to keep the bearings in place, and their removal allowed for an easy and thorough clean-out. Does any of this pertain to your Hi-E hubs? I don't know - probably not.
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Old 06-20-16, 12:11 PM
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Skip, I'm wondering if you're able to peal away the bearing outer shield, flush out the old grease with WD40 and compressed air. Then use a synthetic oil or even Tri-flow. Don't bother with the grease. Toss away the old bearing cover and simply use a felt washer, typically used in old electric motors. It'll pack down and take a bit of compression at first but eventually will mold itself in. Millions of electric motors running high RPM with an occasional squirt of oil has worked for decades.
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Old 06-20-16, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by smontanaro
On a whim, I bought a wheelset with Hi-E hubs recently. The rear is a 36H hi-lo hub, the front is one of those extra-small flange 32H hubs. They came with Campy flat skewers. I have a couple questions:
  • The front hub does spin well. It's quite stiff. I exchanged a couple emails with Jeff at First Flight Bikes who bought Harlan Myers' remaining stock from his estate a few years ago. He confirmed that to properly service/rebuild the hub, I'll need to remove the hub flanges, as they have a lip which prevents the bearing cartridge from being removed. That would necessitate a complete teardown of the wheel, something I'm not keen to do right now. For the moment, I've just dribbled a little oil into each side, letting it sit for awhile, in hopes that will soften up the grease a bit. Assuming that frees things up a bit, will that do anything bad other than perhaps shortening the life of the bearings somewhat?
  • The front skewer is a regular Campy flat skewer. In taking it off to dribble oil into the hub, I noticed there was no resistance in the nut, so vibration could potentially lead to loosening. It's one of those conical shaped quick release nuts with the D-ring. Can I just squeeze the D-ring with some pliers to push the softer material back in where it will engage with the threads on the skewer?
does Jeff Archer have any formal instructions on the overhaul or replacement of the bearings? I've got a wheel with a regular Hi-E front hub that is still doing fine, but if it should require some work, it'd be nice to have whatever instructions exist.

There have been discussions of the Hi-E skewer in the past. I've used them for decades without a problem, but other folks have had different experiences. In regards to suitable skewers, I've always heard that Harlan didn't intend for there to be an end load on the bearings, and the bearings wouldn't tolerate the clamping force generated by the typical QR skewer. I'd think that you'd want to use the minimal clamping force required to keep the QR lever from opening.

Good luck with the hub. They weren't designed for maintenance, so be prepared for possible failure.


Steve in Peoria
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Old 06-20-16, 12:31 PM
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I don't think there's any way I'll be able to pop the seals out, lubricate, then pop them back in. I do understand what people are suggesting. I watched Bill Lewis do exactly this many years ago on my Specialized hubs which had water driven into them during a downpour as we returned from a trip with the bike on the roof of the car. Unlike the typical press fit of those hubs and similar (like SunTour Superbe Pro), the flange on the Hi-E hub has a curved lip which covers up most of the cartridge face. Consequently, the bearing seal isn't really accessible without removing the flange (or grinding away the lip).

I suspect the lack of pictures from me has contributed to a bit of misunderstanding. I'll try to take a couple this evening.
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Old 06-20-16, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy
does Jeff Archer have any formal instructions on the overhaul or replacement of the bearings? I've got a wheel with a regular Hi-E front hub that is still doing fine, but if it should require some work, it'd be nice to have whatever instructions exist.
No real specific instructions. Here's a digest of our exchange:

me> The rear spins okay, but the front is pretty tight. Are these hubs serviceable by mere mortals, or are special tools required?

Jeff> Depending on style, they can be easy or a pain. Some of the bearings are removable easily while others have to have the hub flanges removed. Not a huge deal but it is easy to damage a flange.

me> I'm guessing these are the PITA type, as the hub flanges are curled over on the outer edge.

Jeff> Yep.
While reviewing that thread, I realized I do have a picture of a side view of the front hub:

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Old 06-20-16, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by crank_addict
Skip, I'm wondering if you're able to peal away the bearing outer shield, flush out the old grease with WD40 and compressed air. Then use a synthetic oil or even Tri-flow. Don't bother with the grease. Toss away the old bearing cover and simply use a felt washer, typically used in old electric motors. It'll pack down and take a bit of compression at first but eventually will mold itself in. Millions of electric motors running high RPM with an occasional squirt of oil has worked for decades.
I'm not sure exactly what model of hub Skip has... but with the standard hub, there's not a good way to get to the seal. The end cap blocks essentially all access to the cartridge bearing, unlike the Bullseye hub that I used to have.

Attached are a couple of shots of my front hub for reference....



or have I missed an easy way to get the seal out??

Steve in Peoria

edit: Skip sneaked his post in while I was working on mine. Skip has the time trial model, which is smaller than mine.
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Old 06-20-16, 12:54 PM
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Ah, now I see the dilemma. I don't really see any other way other than a complete wheel dismantle and then using a press to separate the flanges. At that point, replace the cartridge bearings. Then you have to be spot on to where the flanges originally were positioned. The interference fit, distorted aluminum shell... yikes.
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Old 06-20-16, 01:03 PM
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In a few days I will have a wheelset with Reg hi-low hubs, I will take a look and see what awaits me too. I plan on using the skewers I have had for awhile.

Looks like the one @steelbikeguy
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Old 06-20-16, 01:12 PM
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Decades ago, I got information from Hi-E. It even had a section drawing showing the assembly. To replace the flanges the hub will have to come apart completely. Everything is a press fit. With that in mind, due to the needle bearing nature of the bearings that may be inside, I would first look to take some possible side load out of the system by nudging an axle cap a bit outboard, possibly by tapping it out through the axle center.
If there is side load compression on the bearings that would certainly make the hub run rough.
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Old 06-20-16, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by 3speedslow
In a few days I will have a wheelset with Reg hi-low hubs, I will take a look and see what awaits me too. I plan on using the skewers I have had for awhile.

Looks like the one @steelbikeguy
Those look at least like the second generation, the first was ALL aluminum.
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Old 06-20-16, 01:23 PM
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@repechage everything is aluminium except the lever stuck into the end cap. WW indeed.
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Old 06-20-16, 01:30 PM
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FWIIW, I bought a pair of the plastic/nylon Hi-E Wing Nut skewers from First Flight for my Hi-E hubs. While cool looking, I don't recommend doing so. There was no way to make them tight enough, especially the rear wheel. Whenever I would climb hard up a hill the wheel would slip out alignment in the dropouts. Never any fun!

I ended up finding a decent pair of straight lever Simplex QR skewers on a trashed set of wheels at the dump. While not the lightest, they look good and get the job done on my '71 Paramount.



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Old 06-20-16, 01:46 PM
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^^ Sorry, but in the pics, which are these ? Which rims are the Hi-E laced to?

Thanks.
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Old 06-20-16, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh
FWIIW, I bought a pair of the plastic/nylon Hi-E Wing Nut skewers from First Flight for my Hi-E hubs. While cool looking, I don't recommend doing so. There was no way to make them tight enough, especially the rear wheel. Whenever I would climb hard up a hill the wheel would slip out alignment in the dropouts. Never any fun!

<....snip...>
my recollection regarding the first generation Hi-E skewers, it was recommended that a curved "notch" be filed into the upper face of the rear dropouts, so that the hub axle would largely be held in place by the notch. That never struck me as a great solution, but if you are determined to use a very light QR such as the single-sided wingnut type, I guess it was tolerable.

Harlan did update the QR design to a version with a protruding feature, and you were supposed to use a tool to create a mating recess in the dropout. Perhaps this is the type of QR that you had?
Here's the literature that I've got that briefly describes the QR and tool....




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Old 06-20-16, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
Decades ago, I got information from Hi-E. It even had a section drawing showing the assembly. To replace the flanges the hub will have to come apart completely. Everything is a press fit.
Skip, thanks for starting this thread! I've been sitting on a pair of Hi-E hubs (with plans to build a wheelset for my Speedwell) but the front hub needs servicing and I haven't been able to figure out how to do it. This thread is a revelation! I never thought the hub flanges were press fit onto the center shell. I figured they were bonded together and never would have thought to remove the flanges, though I think it makes sense now. So, in order to access the bearings, the flanges need to be removed from the center hub cylinder portion of the hub shell? Any suggestions for how to go about removing the press fit flanges?




If I can get to the bearings, I may just flush them and repack with new grease rather than attempt to replace with new cartridges. The front hub is used and feels gritty, though the hi-low rear is new and smooth.
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Old 06-20-16, 02:40 PM
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regarding the assembly of the hubs, one of Hi-E's product sheets has drawings that provide a few hints as to what is inside....




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Old 06-20-16, 03:04 PM
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Difficult to fully view the detail where the center / shell bottoms out. Perhaps the bearings are first pressed into the flange, then the center shell is pressed flush to the bearings race. Then they index drilled the flange spoke holes.

So now the first challenge is in dismantle.

Probably should lightly index mark each flange to the corresponding mark on the shell. Then a layer of tape around the shell body to protect it. You'll need a split collar for press work. Take it up right to the hub body. The collar to touch only the close edge of the flange - NOT the spoke hole area. For the other end and not to wreck that outer flange lip, need to place a thick cylinder or washer against that outer flange. A pilot punch or sacrificial socket head bolt to fit in the hollow axle and used for the press to bump against.

Aluminum is soft and would think with a decent hydraulic press, will easily come apart like a hot knife to butter. Might even be able to do it with a basic arbor press from Harbor Freight.

The tricky part will be in assembling and perfect alignment of the flange to shell for the spokes. Has to be square on perfect too.
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Old 06-20-16, 05:48 PM
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^^^ Sheeshhh! Thanks though for the info.
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Old 06-20-16, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by 3speedslow
I plan on using the skewers I have had for awhile.
ISTR that there was a tool to groove the fork ends and dropouts so the bits of the skewer had something to nestle into. (Sort of the first lawyer lips, if you will...) Without that, I can understand why all aluminum skewers wouldn't work so well. Before using those, I'd check with Jeff at First Flight Bikes or other knowledgeable Hi-E person.
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Old 06-20-16, 08:07 PM
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After a few drops of oil on each side and a bit of time, the front hub rotates much better. I'm going to call it good for now. The front and rear rims are mismatched anyway. Maybe someday I'll replace one or the other and make a proper matched set.

I think I'll put these on my Atala so I can see how it does with tubulars, and move the clincher wheels with Phil hubs it has to a frame I'm building up for Ellen as a city bike.
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Old 06-20-16, 08:37 PM
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-^^ Thanks for the advice, taken with respect.

These hubs are coming to me laced to a nice set of Araya tubular rims already. As for riding, probably not a daily occurrence. Would like to try them out on some of my nicer fast bikes but within limits.

i think first I will have to figure out what cap is missing from the rear hub and purchase it from Jeff, along with his advice.
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