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On spinning vintage hubs... How smooth is “smooth?”

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On spinning vintage hubs... How smooth is “smooth?”

Old 08-22-19, 04:42 PM
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deux jambes 
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On spinning vintage hubs... How smooth is “smooth?”

Take these early 80’s Record hubs for instance. Opened them up, cleaned ‘em, and observed beautiful surfaces inside. Repacked with grade 25 loose balls, and a liberal amount of Mobile 1 synthetic red. (NOTE: Previously & mistakenly mentioned Sta-Lube as that is being used in BB & HS but not the hubs)

Adjusting cones for a minor amount of axel play that disappears when the QR is closed, the hubs spin nicely, quietly, and they spin a long time.

Here’s my hang up though... Off the frame, spinning them in hand, I can sense less than “perfect” surface conditions within the hubs. Let’s call it the sensation of minor surface imperfections, or perhaps the evidence of a certain minor degree of friction. In other word’s they’re not what I would describe as “buttery smooth.”

So what are your thoughts when it comes to vintage cup, and cone hubs? With the likes of high end hubs such as Campy Record, in observably good condition, and assumed to be properly adjusted, is it reasonable to expect a bit of surface feedback when spun by hand? Or should the action of such a hub be held to a higher standard, and have an almost “invisible” feeling in the hand? Is that how smooth “buttery smooth is?

Last edited by deux jambes; 08-22-19 at 08:45 PM.
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Old 08-22-19, 04:56 PM
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The best test for hubs is how they roll on the road.
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Old 08-22-19, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by deux jambes View Post

Here’s my hang up though... Off the frame, spinning them in hand, I can sense less than “perfect” surface conditions within the hubs. Let’s call it the sensation of minor surface imperfections, or perhaps the evidence of a certain minor degree of friction. In other word’s they’re not what I would describe as “buttery smooth.”

So what are your thoughts when it comes to vintage cup, and cone hubs? With the likes of high end hubs such as Campy Record, in observably good condition, and assumed to be properly adjusted, is it reasonable to expect a bit of surface feedback when spun by hand? Or should the action of such a hub be held to a higher standard, and have an almost “invisible” feeling in the hand? Is that how smooth “buttery smooth is?
I get that. You spin them on the bike on the stand and they spin and spin til the cows come home. But you hold the wheel and spin it- and you can feel... "grinding."

The smoothest cup and cone hubs I have are the Maillard 700 hubs.

It's a hard call as to which sealed bearing hubs seem the smoothest...
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Old 08-22-19, 05:23 PM
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Hands down without comparison (in my experience), the smoothest hubs I have ever known are a NIB set of 1937 FB hubs. Still have them. Still quite surprised at their perfection.
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Old 08-22-19, 05:27 PM
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FWIW, I noticed back way back when that Campy hubs were never as glass smooth as new if they were rebuilt with aftermarket grade 25 bearings. As a result, I only used OEM campy bearings on my own hubs. If someone has an explanation for this, I'm all ears.

Most of the time I just cleaned everything and put it back in with fresh grease. There's no need to replace the balls every time you repack.

When Campy Record hubs were new they spun glass smooth, like a quality modern cartridge sealed bearing hub. If they are not like that now, could also be some subtle invisible wear or slightly bent axles. There's always the issue of getting grit in the grease.
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Old 08-22-19, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
FWIW, I noticed back way back when that Campy hubs were never as glass smooth as new if they were rebuilt with aftermarket grade 25 bearings. As a result, I only used OEM campy bearings on my own hubs. If someone has an explanation for this, I'm all ears.

Most of the time I just cleaned everything and put it back in with fresh grease. There's no need to replace the balls every time you repack.

When Campy Record hubs were new they spun glass smooth, like a quality modern cartridge sealed bearing hub. If they are not like that now, could also be some subtle invisible wear or slightly bent axles. There's always the issue of getting grit in the grease.
I always put new balls in everytime I repack. Why would you not? They are cheap. I use grade 10 balls only because I know somebody in the buisness.
The nicest Hubs I have now are a NOS set of Swiss Edco's.
But alot of Companies made great Hubs, Dura Ace 7400 and 7700 come to mind. And of course Campag Record.
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Old 08-22-19, 06:01 PM
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OP is saying his Record hub races look smooth, work fine, but don't spin smooth in hand. (Does he mention the cones?) I wouldn't say that's normal for the Record hubs I've owned. If a Record cone I'm gonna keep has wear, I try to replace it. It's usually the non-campy hubs that need a lot of attention. But I have had some trouble with bent Record dust caps that brush the cone...
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Old 08-22-19, 06:03 PM
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Well, that is a pretty good question. I’m not 100% sure I know the right answer myself, but I can speak from my experiences. I’ve rarely, if ever repacked a hub and felt absolute perfection. I’ve gotten pretty close on quality hubs, but I’ve always been able to feel the bearings when the axle is in my hand. I just work until I feel confident that I’ve hit the spot between tight and too loose. I err to the loose side.

The only Campy hubs that I can remember were a pair of tipo hubs. The weyless and Suntour sealed hubs have been pretty close to sublime.
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Old 08-22-19, 06:13 PM
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Install said wheels w/ proper closure of the OEM QRs and ride for a few dozens of miles letting the excess grease find it's way out, wipe off same.
Now, w/ the bike in the work stand give the Fr & Rr a good pull, if the wheels don't spin freely w/ zero perceptible vibration and if the Fr eventually swings back and forth oh so slowly balancing the slight valve weight vs the mfg rim sticker: Good to Go.
Otherwise not Perfect, like everything else in Life.

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Old 08-22-19, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Wileyone View Post
I always put new balls in everytime I repack. Why would you not? They are cheap. I use grade 10 balls only because I know somebody in the buisness.
The nicest Hubs I have now are a NOS set of Swiss Edco's.
But alot of Companies made great Hubs, Dura Ace 7400 and 7700 come to mind. And of course Campag Record.
I would now. And I would splurge for grade 10. I did what most people did then: clean and new grease. It was the practice of the day, the bearings were expensive, and generic replacements sucked. Also, I doubt many folks repack as often as regular riders used to circa 1979 or whatever.

BITD my hubs got new balls only for the yearly overhaul. Periodic repacks after riding in the rain or through a stream, no.
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Old 08-22-19, 07:06 PM
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When the bike is hamging, and the air currents in the room keep the wheel in motion, the hubs are good.

DA7400
DA7700
DA7900

All are ball bearing.

DA wheelsets, you get sealed bearings.
DA hubs, you get ball bearings.

I've had Record and Super Record, too. Properly packed and adjusted, there is no comparison to great ball bearing hubs.

I've ridden with C&V riders many times.
Once the road tilts downward, nothing else is even close.
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Old 08-22-19, 07:11 PM
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I've experienced the same thing. I wouldn't worry about it too much.
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Old 08-22-19, 07:13 PM
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I'm not sure what the differences are because the guts of loose bearing hubs all look the same, but there seems to be a difference between my various bikes with Shimano Exage and 600 hubs, and Suntour GPX hubs. The Shimano 600 hubs on a Wolber Alpine rim shouldn't be any different from the nearly identical GPX with Araya CTL-600 (the wheelsets look identical at a glance).

But the Wolbers with 600 hubs sure seem to roll more effortlessly. On group rides I often need to brake to avoid coasting past other folks. Even given differences in body weight, bikes, etc., those wheels sure seem to roll nicely. They were that way when I got 'em so I left the wheels alone.

With the Exage and GPX hubs, I redid them to eliminate felt dragging and grittiness. Too many low and mid priced wheelsets come from factories with the hubs set way too tightly. I suspect the assemblers don't spend much time on anything but the top tier wheels, so they crank down the cones tight and call it a day. Problem is, after awhile the bearings crunch through the thin surface hardening and pit the cones, while the stamped races are still good. So I'll redo the hubs. It takes a few tries to get the cones just right, where there's no slack but no gritty feeling either. I suspect that's why the factories don't bother -- it probably takes them two or three tries and isn't cost effective for mid priced hubs.
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Old 08-22-19, 07:28 PM
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Wheel truing machines back-when required Zero side-play at the hub w/o QR compression, mfgs provided that for OEM wheel builds at the factory SOP.
It was up to the mechanic at the shop on higher-end bikes to re-set for "just a touch" of side-play for proper QR compression and a smoothly spinning wheel.
Did that always happen?
Of course not, the results of running a slightly tight set of hubs out of the box and indifferent maintenance in the intervening time >40 years on are mixed at best.
Caveat Emptor.
On re-builds you have the chance to do it properly, which does take practice.
Does that "matter" in "performance"? You decide.

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Old 08-22-19, 07:39 PM
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I have three bikes with Campy Record LF hubs with the oil ports on them and they are the smoothest spinning hubs I ever had.
As described by many, they are as smooth as glass. I also never had the readjust them after servicing. Proves that Campy really took QA/QC seriously with those hubs very seriously and produced them to a very high stsndard. Only reason why they might develop any grinding would be either the bearings or races got damaged somehow.....
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Old 08-22-19, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Bandera View Post
Of course not, the results of running a slightly tight set of hubs out of the box and indifferent maintenance in the intervening time >40 years on are mixed at best.
That's the thing. 40+ years later, with mystery maintenance in the intervening time, and who knows what happened. New Campy hubs BITD were like magic, so smooth. But that was a long time ago. These days, treat it nicely and who cares. If it rolls smoothly enough, it's fine.
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Old 08-22-19, 07:46 PM
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I've always felt that 'glide' is important in bicycle wheels. I actually measure this on a known hill and measure how many MPH are increased between wheel sets without pedaling.

I also always use Phil grease. In my experience, it results in the best glide. And I seldom replace ball bearings. Perhaps my extensive experience with miniature bearings in the radio control racing business has given me a slight edge in setup feel. Who knows?

But if you want to see good glide in action, perhaps some day Robbie will post that video of him following me down the back side of Thunder Ridge last year on the Merckx Century with tricolor hubs. Actually, would not mind seeing that one myself...
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Old 08-22-19, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Chombi1 View Post
I also never had the readjust them after servicing.
Really?
And how exactly would one accomplish that feat w/ cup and cone hubs requiring disassembly/re-assembly on an overhaul?

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Old 08-22-19, 08:13 PM
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Of course it's nice to have smooth, spinning-for-minutes-in-the-air hubs, but I doubt that has any effect on actual riding, placebo aside.
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Old 08-22-19, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by deux jambes View Post
Take these early 80’s Record hubs for instance. Opened them up, cleaned ‘em, and observed beautiful surfaces inside. Repacked with grade 25 loose balls, and a liberal amount of Sta-Lube marine grease.

Adjusting cones for a minor amount of axel play that disappears when the QR is closed, the hubs spin nicely, quietly, and they spin a long time.

Here’s my hang up though... Off the frame, spinning them in hand, I can sense less than “perfect” surface conditions within the hubs. Let’s call it the sensation of minor surface imperfections, or perhaps the evidence of a certain minor degree of friction. In other word’s they’re not what I would describe as “buttery smooth.”

So what are your thoughts when it comes to vintage cup, and cone hubs? With the likes of high end hubs such as Campy Record, in observably good condition, and assumed to be properly adjusted, is it reasonable to expect a bit of surface feedback when spun by hand? Or should the action of such a hub be held to a higher standard, and have an almost “invisible” feeling in the hand? Is that how smooth “buttery smooth is?
I've noticed the same thing. Maybe it's the grease I use, Park or Sta-Lube, or Phils. I don't change the bearings everytime, and have never bought Campy balls or grease. It almost as if there's a minute piece of dirt or hardened grease that the balls hit almost randomly, and you can only feel it when turning the axle very lightly with your fingers. When you spin the wheel the inertia and the heavier grip you exert to support the wheel will obscure any minor irregularities in the resistance. I have felt "smooth as glass" bearings in Campy Victory and Nuovo Record hubs, and even Tipo hubs, and many Shimano hubs, but I don't think any hub I've rebuilt as been quite that smooth. I've certainly readjusted them several times if necessary and re-checked them in the frame to get them adjusted as good as I can, but other then that, I just ride them until the next time I rebuild them. So I chalk it up to thicker grease, or bearings not as good as the originals, or a speck of dirt... It would be interesting to recheck them after a week or so and see how they feel. But I usually forget about it.
If you figure out how to achieve consistently, butterly smooth hub rebuilds, please let us know how you did it.
Of course, in all of the above, I'm talking about races with no observable pitting or excessive wear, or bent axles.
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Old 08-22-19, 08:46 PM
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45 years ago it was mechanics tale that one could reuse bearing balls provided they looked bright.
AND you kept the bearings on that ONE hub on the same side.
otherwise one used Campagnolo bearings- they were by SKF and allegedly the top grade.
i got as a gift once way back “grade 10” bearings- I forget the precision difference but they did spin nicely.
today- I keep the same side tradition and use Finishline grease.
adjust with my loose dropouts- skewer tensioned to confirm adjustment.

when I feel ANY roughness- redo the job.
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Old 08-22-19, 08:48 PM
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The preload setting on some Campy hubs can be set while the wheel is on the bike and the QR closed. These are the best, IMO. Close the QR, loosen the clamp screw, set the preload, tighten the clamp screw. Perfection. It really doesn't get any better than that.
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Old 08-22-19, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
I get that. You spin them on the bike on the stand and they spin and spin til the cows come home. But you hold the wheel and spin it- and you can feel... "grinding."

The smoothest cup and cone hubs I have are the Maillard 700 hubs.

It's a hard call as to which sealed bearing hubs seem the smoothest...
I have an '86 Paramount that has Maillard 700 large flange hubs, and they are so smooth, I hate to touch them. Easily as smooth as any Campy hubs I've had. Beautiful, too.

And, believe it or not, I acquired an '83 Trek 720 recently, sure I was going to have to replace the Helicomatic hubs based on my past experience with them, but they too were unbelievably smooth. They were 700 series Helicomatics. Kinda blew my mind.
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Old 08-22-19, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
45 years ago it was mechanics tale that one could reuse bearing balls provided they looked bright.
AND you kept the bearings on that ONE hub on the same side.
otherwise one used Campagnolo bearings- they were by SKF and allegedly the top grade.
i got as a gift once way back “grade 10” bearings- I forget the precision difference but they did spin nicely.
today- I keep the same side tradition and use Finishline grease.
adjust with my loose dropouts- skewer tensioned to confirm adjustment.

when I feel ANY roughness- redo the job.
You mean you have a pair of dropouts not attatched to a frame, to facilitate adjustment with the skewer tight, correct?
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Old 08-22-19, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Wileyone View Post
The best test for hubs is how they roll on the road.
Not true at all. There is a lot of leverage over them, and there is a lot of inertia. If you can feel friction in the hubs while riding, they are pretty much useless hubs. There can be far too much friction in a hub even when you don't feel it.

Spinning the axle in your fingers, a small amount of perceptible friction is OK, and you won't possibly feel it on the road.
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