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Freewheel brutality

Old 07-20-18, 05:04 AM
  #1  
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Freewheel brutality

All of my bikes have Suntour Perfect freewheels, either 5-speed or the narrow-spaced Ultra 6 version. I like them because they're cheap, readily available, work well, and are easy to customize. I'm also too lazy to want to learn about anything else, I suppose.

But every now and then, I run across one with a small cog that's threaded on so tightly that I can't get it off (although now that I have a Suntour freewheel vise this happens less often than it used to.) Up until now my solution has been to put those recalcitrant freewheels in a box, shove it under my workbench, and forget about them. But the other day, I came across one with the rare 27-tooth fourth cog, which I really wanted for a project. So after the usual unavailing PB Blaster application, I hung up the chain whip (I've now learned to stop just before the chain whip breaks rather than just after it breaks) and got out a 16-inch pipe wrench and a six-foot length of 2-inch galvanized pipe. I engaged the 14-tooth cog with the pipe wrench and cheater bar, and quickly sheared off a half-dozen of its teeth. The area where the teeth used to be gave a better purchase, and with the massive leverage I had to work with, the partially stripped cog came off easily. As is usual is such cases, the 17-tooth second cog came off easily with just the chain whip. The 6-speed body was fine.

I didn't really mind sacrificing the 14-tooth cog because my cog board is already stuffed with them--every Perfect (well, almost every Perfect) has one.

Ordinarily, I hate destroying things, but in this case I kind of enjoyed it. Does that make me a bad person?

Pastor Bob, what do you do in this situation?
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Old 07-20-18, 05:26 AM
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Have you tried putting the freewheel in a freezer overnight? We use to do that with the parts that had a slight interference fit between bearing and shaft. They just slid on together and soon were at an interference fit state.
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Old 07-20-18, 05:50 AM
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I have not taken a dive into the freewheel disassembly camp but I, too, have a box of freewheels that need a bit of internal TLC.

What does your suntour freewheel vise look like? Pictures online show some bolts into the second cog teeth grooves and some flats to put in a vise to get at the first cog.
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Old 07-20-18, 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Narhay View Post
I have not taken a dive into the freewheel disassembly camp but I, too, have a box of freewheels that need a bit of internal TLC.

What does your suntour freewheel vise look like? Pictures online show some bolts into the second cog teeth grooves and some flats to put in a vise to get at the first cog.
As far as I know, there's only one Suntour freewheel vise. Your description of the pictures you've seen sound correct. The freewheel vise has to be clamped into a big machinist's vise or similar in order to do its job. I have a 5" vise that's solidly bolted to a bench that's solidly bolted to the floor and wall, and have often been glad to have it.
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Old 07-20-18, 06:38 AM
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Old 07-20-18, 06:41 AM
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The alternative to a freewheel vise, which I do own, is to have a pair of chain whips. Wrap one anticlockwise around the outer cog, the other clockwise around the next cog, with the handles oriented such that you can squeeze them together.
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Old 07-20-18, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
..... So after the usual unavailing PB Blaster application, I hung up the chain whip (I've now learned to stop just before the chain whip breaks rather than just after it breaks) and got out a 16-inch pipe wrench and a six-foot length of 2-inch galvanized pipe. I engaged the 14-tooth cog with the pipe wrench and cheater bar, and quickly sheared off a half-dozen of its teeth. The area where the teeth used to be gave a better purchase, and with the massive leverage I had to work with, the partially stripped cog came off easily. As is usual is such cases, the 17-tooth second cog came off easily with just the chain whip. The 6-speed body was fine.
boy... any chance that you've got photos of that setup?? Sounds impressive!

I've had similar issues with a handful of 6 speed Winner freewheels, although they are all "corncobs". My technique involves two chainwhips with 3 foot extensions of the handles. The extensions aren't on the centerline of the whips, so there is some twisting motion as I really lean on them. Soaking in PB Blaster hasn't improved things, even after waiting weeks for it to soak in.

I don't use the freewheels, so I haven't pursued them further. If I get time and motivation, thermal shock is certainly an option, as is "percussive maintenance".
I've also pondered whether I could use a dremel to cut off the stuck cog. The fear of damaging the freewheel body is a concern, though.

Steve in Peoria
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Old 07-20-18, 07:31 AM
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Jon 1, freewheel 0?
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Old 07-20-18, 08:34 AM
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Old 07-20-18, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Narhay View Post
I have not taken a dive into the freewheel disassembly camp but I, too, have a box of freewheels that need a bit of internal TLC.

What does your suntour freewheel vise look like? Pictures online show some bolts into the second cog teeth grooves and some flats to put in a vise to get at the first cog.
Originally Posted by nlerner View Post
Jon 1, freewheel 0?
I wish. Given the chain whips I've broken to this point, it's more like Freewheels 3, Jon 1.

But I've got their number, now.

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Old 07-20-18, 09:19 AM
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The freewheels seem to be getting together to protest your rough treatment. I just tried switching freewheels between my Cooper and Miyata. Putting the freewheel remover tool in the bench vice and giving the wheel a hard left twist just as I have done many times before before yielded no results. So, I braced myself and gave it an extra hard twist and "BAM". I looked down and the front jaw of the vice had broken off and almost hit my sandal-clad foot, the freewheel remaining firmly affixed to the wheel. I eventually got it off after a lot of fiddling, hitting a cheater bar with a BFH, etc, but I'm amazed that the vice broke.
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Old 07-20-18, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
The freewheels seem to be getting together to protest your rough treatment. I just tried switching freewheels between my Cooper and Miyata. Putting the freewheel remover tool in the bench vice and giving the wheel a hard left twist just as I have done many times before before yielded no results. So, I braced myself and gave it an extra hard twist and "BAM". I looked down and the front jaw of the vice had broken off and almost hit my sandal-clad foot, the freewheel remaining firmly affixed to the wheel. I eventually got it off after a lot of fiddling, hitting a cheater bar with a BFH, etc, but I'm amazed that the vice broke.
Whoa! Harbor Freight is trying to kill you! I've broken a couple of freewheel removers using them as you described, but never the vise itself.

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Old 07-20-18, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
Whoa! Harbor Freight is trying to kill you! I've broken a couple of freewheel removers using them as you described, but never the vise itself.
Well, it wasn't the highest quality vise, but I've had it for probably 25 years from before the time that Harbor Freight appeared. I had been thinking that I'd like a heavier duty vise. The problem is that most of the ones available (even from high end brands like Wilton) are cheap chinese knock-offs. Perhaps I should look for an old one on craigslist.
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Old 07-20-18, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
So, I braced myself and gave it an extra hard twist and "BAM". I looked down and the front jaw of the vice had broken off and almost hit my sandal-clad foot, the freewheel remaining firmly affixed to the wheel. I eventually got it off after a lot of fiddling, hitting a cheater bar with a BFH, etc, but I'm amazed that the vice broke.

Thank You @davester - I needed that lol!

the difficulty getting it off couldn't have anything to do with riding something like 100,000 vertical feet in the last 2 months training for the Death Ride, could it?
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Old 07-20-18, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by jcb3 View Post



Thank You @davester - I needed that lol!

the difficulty getting it off couldn't have anything to do with riding something like 100,000 vertical feet in the last 2 months training for the Death Ride, could it?
Oh no, I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.
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Old 07-20-18, 04:55 PM
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Count me confused.The first half minute of this video shows how I have always removed a freewheel. I have never used a chainwhip. What am I missing?

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Old 07-20-18, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by seedsbelize View Post
Count me confused.The first half minute of this video shows how I have always removed a freewheel. I have never used a chainwhip. What am I missing?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdQE8-ea1uw
Chain whip is simply for removing individual cogs from the freewheel body, not for removing the freewheel body from the hub.
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Old 07-20-18, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
Well, it wasn't the highest quality vise, but I've had it for probably 25 years from before the time that Harbor Freight appeared. I had been thinking that I'd like a heavier duty vise. The problem is that most of the ones available (even from high end brands like Wilton) are cheap chinese knock-offs. Perhaps I should look for an old one on craigslist.
That's why I snagged my father-in-law's old Craftsman bench vise when he died, before anyone else in the family had a chance. There is no such thing as a cheap tool -- you pay in dollars up front, or you pay in pain, anguish, and broken parts later.
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Old 07-20-18, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
That's why I snagged my father-in-law's old Craftsman bench vise when he died, before anyone else in the family had a chance. There is no such thing as a cheap tool -- you pay in dollars up front, or you pay in pain, anguish, and broken parts later.
Yeah, solid old vises are the way to go. It's probably about my age (64), and looks a lot better than I do. I watched Craigslist for a few months and got it for, I think, $90--a little more than the Harbor Freight version but a much, much better product.

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Old 07-20-18, 08:25 PM
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OT. This isn't about removing the outer cog, it's about removing a freewheel.

Many years ago (late '70's), when Phil Wood, Inc. was new, and Phil was there, I needed to remove a Normandy freewheel from one of his hubs - the hub still laced into the rim. Me, a Normandy freewheel puller, an 18" Crescent wrench, and a 3' cheater couldn't do it, so I took it over to Phil (I lived in the area).

He and his machinists tried several "normal" methods of removal without success. They finally put it in a vise (I'd brought the puller with me - they're hell for stout), then three of them grabbed the rim and PULLED, and PULLED. The trailing spokes seemed to curve 1/2-inch out of their plane. They kept PULLING, 'till the freewheel finally came free. Phil told me he'd never seen such a stubborn freewheel. WHAT a group of fabulous guy's.

I still have the puller, though the freewheel is long gone, replaced by a Regina, then a SunTour Ultra 6. And the hubs are still rolling along.
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Old 07-21-18, 08:03 AM
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A few observations:

First, the Park Video: it seems unimaginable that the Park mechanic refers to the sprockets as cogs. That's not an unusual mistake and lots of people do it, but you'd think that a Park expert would name them correctly.

Second, like Jon, I have broken many a chainwhip on stubborn (mostly Suntour) threaded sprockets. I've also broken more teeth off Suntour sprockets then any other brand.

Third, Jon and his cheater bar and pipe wrench: Fantastic work! I've not attempted this approach, and will give it a try the next time I'm in the workshop. I have plenty of !@#$% stuck broken tooth threaded sprockets preventing removal of other perfectly usable ones.

Fourth, consider looking for a Bicycle Research or similar freewheel vise. They are far superior to the Suntour four prong model pictured above. They use a protrusion which fits into the threaded area of freewheel and then have chains which can engage the largest sprocket. Mine even has a threaded hole through the center of the protrusion and I was able to find the correct bolt at my local ACE and using washers and a wingnut, I can secure the freewheel even further.

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Old 07-22-18, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
...I've also pondered whether I could use a dremel to cut off the stuck cog. The fear of damaging the freewheel body is a concern, though.

Steve in Peoria
That's certainly doable. Assuming judicious work, damage to the body will be nil or at worst a slight nick on the threads for the smallest cog, with no impairment of their function.
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Old 07-22-18, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
...I've also pondered whether I could use a dremel to cut off the stuck cog. The fear of damaging the freewheel body is a concern, though.

Steve in Peoria
That's certainly doable. Assuming judicious work, damage to the body will be nil or at worst a slight nick on the threads for the smallest cog, with no impairment of their function.
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Old 07-22-18, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh View Post
A few observations:

First, the Park Video: it seems unimaginable that the Park mechanic refers to the sprockets as cogs. That's not an unusual mistake and lots of people do it, but you'd think that a Park expert would name them correctly.

Second, like Jon, I have broken many a chainwhip on stubborn (mostly Suntour) threaded sprockets. I've also broken more teeth off Suntour sprockets then any other brand.

Third, Jon and his cheater bar and pipe wrench: Fantastic work! I've not attempted this approach, and will give it a try the next time I'm in the workshop. I have plenty of !@#$% stuck broken tooth threaded sprockets preventing removal of other perfectly usable ones.

Fourth, consider looking for a Bicycle Research or similar freewheel vise. They are far superior to the Suntour four prong model pictured above. They use a protrusion which fits into the threaded area of freewheel and then have chains which can engage the largest sprocket. Mine even has a threaded hole through the center of the protrusion and I was able to find the correct bolt at my local ACE and using washers and a wingnut, I can secure the freewheel even further.

Thanks for the photo, Bob. I don't think I'd ever seen one of those tools. But it looks to me like the chain would be vulnerable to breaking at the pins if too much force is use, which is of course the way chain whips also fail. Maybe Bicycle Research used some kind of super-heavy-duty chain that's tougher than the stuff used on chain whips?

Of course, I don't know how the Suntour vise will stand up to the pipe-wrench-and-cheater-bar method over the long haul. I plan to employ it sparingly and hope for the best. In the meantime, I can only say that it didn't break on the first attempt.

By the way, I was kind of jolted by your use of the phrase "!@#$%." You haven't become a Unitarian, have you?
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Old 07-23-18, 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
Thanks for the photo, Bob. I don't think I'd ever seen one of those tools. But it looks to me like the chain would be vulnerable to breaking at the pins if too much force is use, which is of course the way chain whips also fail. Maybe Bicycle Research used some kind of super-heavy-duty chain that's tougher than the stuff used on chain whips?

Of course, I don't know how the Suntour vise will stand up to the pipe-wrench-and-cheater-bar method over the long haul. I plan to employ it sparingly and hope for the best. In the meantime, I can only say that it didn't break on the first attempt.

By the way, I was kind of jolted by your use of the phrase "!@#$%." You haven't become a Unitarian, have you?
Even a moonlighting Freewheel Medic/Presbyterian pastor can at times curse a particularly stubborn sprocket which refuses to be persuaded to unthread. But only after it has given up broken teeth, inflicted harm upon innocent chain whips, or refused to succumb to repeated applications of penetrating elixirs and/or blow torch heating and icebox cooling.

As far as the chains on the Bicycle Research Tool, I believe they and the securing pins are of a stronger gauge than the chains and pins on our modern day chain whips. After all, most chain whips are designed to simply hold a 7-11 speed cassette in place while the lock ring is removed. They really don't need to be as robust as we freewheel mechanics and modifiers would like.
__________________
Bob
Dreaming about riding in NH's summertime!

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Last edited by pastorbobnlnh; 07-23-18 at 06:38 AM.
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