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Anyone out there with first hand opinion on using new freewheels?

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Anyone out there with first hand opinion on using new freewheels?

Old 03-30-20, 01:23 PM
  #1  
uncle uncle
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Anyone out there with first hand opinion on using new freewheels?

So, like many of you, I've been doing some major sorting of my bicycle parts hoard while trying to physically distance myself from society. I'd like to get a bicycle going for some gravel road riding, and I've had this 80's Fuji bicycle stuffed in the back of the shed for quite some time, all the while thinking someday I would refurb it for just this type of riding. The only gravel riding I've done so far is when I've taken a wrong turn and found myself facing either going down a mile or so of gravel road, or turning back.
Anyways... back on topic. This particular Fuji's only original parts, as far as I can tell, are the derailleurs (Suntour Compe-V up front, a Suntour branded "Fuji" Road Vx-S doing duty in the rear). Though Disraeligears says the max cog this rear derailluer can handle is 28 teeth, the original Fuji catalog quotes the rear 6 speed cog as having a 30 as the largest cog... so, some differences of opinions, right from the start. The current freewheel is much smaller in range, so I'm going to pull that one and store it away, maybe for another assignment. I could probably find a 14-28 six speed freewheel in my stash, but apparently a new Shimano-ish (twist tooth + ramps) one could be had for around $15. I don't think I'm going to find anything in my box with Shimano twist tooth + ramps features, because most of what I've had in the past is pre-index stuff. I'm just wondering if anyone has any experience with using a new freewheel like this (keeping the derailleurs old and non-indexed), or absent that, at least opinions on it? Thanks for the response, in advance....
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Old 03-30-20, 01:32 PM
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In my experience, newer freewheels as you describe coupled with new chains like a KMC Z or X series make for noticeable improvement in shifting. I run a setup like that with a Campy NR and it shifts like butter, actually a tad nicer than my Suntour Cyclone over a Suntour freewheel, if I'm splitting hairs. Comparatively, I have a Shimano Altus LT derailleur shifting an old Sedis chain with flat side plates across a vintage TDC freewheel and the system is finicky about chain/tooth position, not as slick, etc.
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Old 03-30-20, 01:49 PM
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I have been running a Sunrace 13-28 7-speed on my Campy NR bike for about 5 years (wore one out and on second), but as BFisher noted it shifts so smooth compared to any vintage freewheel and they are cheap.

On the exploratory end, I did add a Sunrace 11-36 10-speed freewheel to a Suntour VX long cage and the RD handles it quite well. Friction shift with Suntour bar end shifters makes gear changes tight, but this was my setup for commuting and details here in this thread. Weight is the tradeoff.

Vintage on Modern 11-36 Freewheel
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Old 03-30-20, 01:52 PM
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SunRace offer a very inexpensive 5 or 6 sp freewheel. 3 of 4 purchased over the years were OK, the other had an issue threading on the hub, i set it aside without determining if it is really a reject.

IRD offer freewheels, $69.95 on their website.
My experience when buying used - is to buy from someone I know, or a bike store or co-op that sells used bikes and has a service reputation. edit after seeing other replies = yes on new chain. I generally use an 8sp SRAM or KMC.

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Old 03-30-20, 02:06 PM
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I have modern tooth profiles on two freewheels (a 6-speed Shimano and a 7-speed Sunrace) and one 7-speed Sunrace cassette, all running friction with Suntour long cage derailleurs. All of these are much smoother than when I ran a vintage Suntour freewheel on a different bike.
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Old 03-30-20, 02:15 PM
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For friction shifting, many of us have found that using modern freewheel and chain results in occasional or frequent "ghost" shifting.

The reason is that there is little-to-no noise-producing buffer between one gear's chain position "window" and the next.

So where the old-fashioned cogs would clatter if the chain position was anywhere near the onset of a shift to a larger cog, these new-style chains and sprockets can allow one to position the lever and thus chain such that a silent, sudden change of gear can occur. I've had this occur and it can disrupt one's control of the bicycle as the chain hunts between engagement with two different cogs.

One cure for the ghost-shifting problem is to use a less-modern chain. The ideal chain for this would be the early HG-compatible Sachs chains, as these do not grab the teeth of an adjacent cog very aggressively, yet still run quiet and smooth like modern chain. Even the older SRAM 7-8 and 9s chains, up until about 2002 or so, had flat outer plates so would usually tend not to ghost-shift without making continuous noise beforehand (following a previous shift).
The cheapest KMC chains still have flat plates and are compatible with 7s freewheels. These are low quality but actually work ok and tend not to break unless subjected to power-shifting under heavy loads. As such they are perhaps not truly HyperGlide-compatible like most chains are, but quite a few vintage-bike riders use these because of their very-lowest cost (well under $10).

One last thing that can make a modern freewheel more suitable for friction shifting would be to apply beveling to the drive side of the teeth, perhaps done quickly to an assembled freewheel using a bench-grinder(?). No, I haven't done that, I but have adjusted tooth bevels to make the shifting MORE aggressive, with beveling applied to the non-driveside of teeth or to the driveside of every third tooth so as to enhance shifting towards smaller cogs when using a "weak" vintage derailer that is being used with too wide of a freewheel (too many cogs). The beveling effects a lot of control over shifting behavior is what I'm saying.

Many riders use modern freewheels with modern chain and seem to have no complaints, so there's that.
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Old 03-30-20, 02:31 PM
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I primarily use chromed Sunrace now. Their chromed 7-speeds seem to be the nicest ones, followed by the chromed 6-speeds (if you can find them). Never had a Sunrace fail. I have one IRD left. And I bought a new Shimano 5-speed recently, primarily for the color/look. Like the IRD, I'll replace it with Sunrace if/when it fails.
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Old 03-30-20, 02:34 PM
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I've used modern Shimano and Sunrace freewheels and as others have said they work well, are cheap, and shift better than old freewheels because of the ramps and shaped teeth. I have had problems with modern freewheels, but the common factor in every case was that I only had issues after the freewheels were used for an extended period of time for winter commuting duty - I'm not sure whether the issue is with the factory grease or something in the design, but whatever it is doesn't seem to matter unless you plan to do a lot of riding in sub-freezing conditions through snow and ice.
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Old 03-30-20, 03:25 PM
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I have found there to be three basic eras of cog tooth profiles throughout much of the derailleur history, or at least from the '60s onward, each an improvement on the former style:

1) "Block tooth" - like you straight up used a ban saw to cut the cogs/teeth - no ramps or shift aid, caveman tech compared to UG and HG
2) Uniglide - Shimano, 1980's, twist tooth, no ramps/cutouts in the cogs, pleasant shifting with sturdy looking cogs that wore well
3) Hyperglide - Shimano, 1990+ (the modern era), with ramps/cutouts, with everyone following suit soon after

Campagnolo and Suntour used block tooth cogs for the longest time, well into/through the '80s. There was some very mild concession to UG-type teeth where I've seen some Suntour FWs essentially chip the outer edge of the corner of the teeth. Maybe a sliiiiight bevel to the teeth as well. So as good as Accushift/Accu**** Plus was, it wasn't as good as it could be. Using Shimano cog sets solved that problem. I also use more modern 6/7/8 speed chains on those systems, which helps. Lighter, reduced width, more shift-friendly.
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Old 03-30-20, 03:59 PM
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The first type, "block tooth" is really a sweeping generalization.

Very early freewheels were near this, but even those had a bevel on the face side much of the time.

Then, one must recognize Regina and the Atom, dimension equal to them.
bevel and a divit along the top of the tooth, probably to assist the chain or prevent the chain from shifting, your choice
These were decades in the manufacture.

Shimano then arrived at the twist tooth to work with its Uniglide chain. Circa 1979.
Did not really catch on, chains had a bad rep for stretching.
I tested one for Shimano, and it lasted a mere month. I stretched it out, about 1,500 miles.
Their engineers were not happy.

So it goes.
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Old 03-30-20, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
I primarily use chromed Sunrace now. Their chromed 7-speeds seem to be the nicest ones, followed by the chromed 6-speeds (if you can find them). Never had a Sunrace fail. I have one IRD left. And I bought a new Shimano 5-speed recently, primarily for the color/look. Like the IRD, I'll replace it with Sunrace if/when it fails.
So SurferRosa, or others who mentioned 7 speed freewheels... I think the spacing of the rear dropouts are 125 millimeters apart (give or take). Does that mean I could pop a new 7 speed Sunrace freewheel in there? Would it mean respacing or truing the rear wheel?
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Old 03-30-20, 07:21 PM
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I've jumped from freewheels to mostly cassettes, but will still do friction shifting on some bikes.

Nonetheless, I've also used newer freewheels.

Pros of newer freewheels and cassettes:
  • They shift very nicely, even with with friction shifting more speeds.
  • More speed choices are available. 5s, 6s, 7s, and even 8s, 9s, 10s, (in both freewheels and cassettes).
  • I'm a fan of 11T, which is widely available in cassettes, and available in some freewheels.
  • I hated the vintage 2-prong freewheels. The new spline freewheels are much better, and for the most part now are standardized.
  • The new feewheels and cassettes should work much better with various types of indexed shifting.
.
Cons of newer freewheels (and cassettes to some extent).
  • I'm used to my old freewheels being absolutely bombproof. I think many of the new freewheels and cassettes wear much faster.
  • Limited choice in freewheels. 11T, 7s has horrible shifting gaps. One gets 11T, but misses 12T & 14T, and gains low-end sprockets that I don't need.
  • No interest in producing new "corncob" freewheels. Are any available with 21T or 23T?
.
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Old 03-30-20, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
So SurferRosa, or others who mentioned 7 speed freewheels... I think the spacing of the rear dropouts are 125 millimeters apart (give or take). Does that mean I could pop a new 7 speed Sunrace freewheel in there? Would it mean respacing or truing the rear wheel?
You can probably fit on a 7s freewheel. It would depend on the hub, but may need the axle respaced, and the truing redished.

There is some variability in freewheels. I found the DNP EPOCH (11T, 7s) freewheel I bought a few years ago was somewhat wider than other brands which were moderately undercut, thus taking less space. I don't know if they've updated freehubs since then to make them narrower.
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Old 03-30-20, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Revracer View Post
I have been running a Sunrace 13-28 7-speed on my Campy NR bike for about 5 years ...

Vintage on Modern 11-36 Freewheel
Thanks for the link Revracer... I'm trying to digest all the info in it now.
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Old 03-30-20, 07:51 PM
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Probably better to stick with a 6 speed with that spacing but there are plenty of options. SunRace has been mentioned a lot but I just bought a 7 speed IRD Cyclone I.
They make 5 and 6 speeds too.

The first one was faulty with horrible noises when freewheeling. The supplier, Soma/Merry Sales sent me a replacement and all is fine. Used with a modern KMC chain I have had a little "ghost shifting" but maybe that will go away with slight wear and my adapting to the set up.

Always loved buying NOS Sachs-Maillard and still have one but the notched teeth wear the chain plates. Always a trade-off.
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Old 03-30-20, 08:12 PM
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I used to run 7-speed Shimano 13 14-28s on my International using a narrow KMC chain and NR derailleurs with no problem. Cheap and more reliable than the Regina days of yore. Never had a ghost shifting problem with them using barcons or DT levers. I played around with a Taiwanese knockoff of a Wolf Tooth hanger extender and found I could probably support a 30 or 32 tooth low if I wanted one.

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Old 03-30-20, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
So SurferRosa, or others who mentioned 7 speed freewheels... I think the spacing of the rear dropouts are 125 millimeters apart (give or take). Does that mean I could pop a new 7 speed Sunrace freewheel in there? Would it mean respacing or truing the rear wheel?
126mm rear hubs sometimes need a little more room for a Sunrace 7-speed, just depends on the hub. The difference maker for me can be axle length. I like a little more axle showing on each side of the locknut (4mm) than Sheldon does (1-2mm). If I have that much room and the freewheel/chain will clear the frame, use of a 7-speed is feasible. If the bike is going to be loaded down in the rear with groceries or whatever, a 6-speed may provide a more sturdy axle. And yes, you usually have to redish when changing hub spacing.
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Old 03-30-20, 08:59 PM
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I have put that Shimano freewheel on all my vintage rides, combined with a KMC chain. Big improvement in shifting, saved all the old freewheels for posterity, or if I need a wall hanger.
Tim
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Old 03-30-20, 09:35 PM
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I'll be a naysayer here. I've run both older freewheels (almost exclusively suntour winners, new winners, and suntour indexing freewheels), somewhat more modern freewheels (I've used a lot of sachs maillards 7s) and newer freewheels (shimano mainly). I've run them all with newer chains and I don't find there is a heck of a lot of difference. The suntour winners and new winners shift fine and last a long time in my experience. Plus the new 7s have limited gearing choices other than the uber expensive ones from IRD and those have very mixed reviews. I'm not a fan of the older maillard and atom freewheels, though.

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Old 03-30-20, 10:08 PM
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I agree the late SunTour freewheels shift fine, and they are well built. However, the OP does not have one of those, and certainly wouldn’t find one for 15 bucks.
Not gonna find anything that shifts better then that modern Shimano, and I’ve yet to have one fail. And in the remote chance that one does, it’s only 15bucks!
I bought 6 of them, not worth cleaning when I overhaul my bikes. Actually, I will clean them, they are that good, I just wanted spares for future projects.
Tim

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Old 03-30-20, 10:33 PM
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I currently run just one freewheel - a Shimano 14-28 6sp that cost less than $15 new. I'd tried the SunRace chrome version in 6sp but it made clunking noises while pedaling; tried to "break it in" but gave up. The Shimano is not pretty but works fine. Funny how I can go from my 14-28 6sp bike to my only 10sp and the main difference is that I shift more on the 10sp!
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Old 03-30-20, 10:58 PM
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I run freewheels sometimes and for modern ones i would say shimano and sunrace both shift great but like others i have noticed sunrace ones being dry or nearly so. Also in the 7 speed ones, sunrace is wider than shimano.
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Old 03-30-20, 11:34 PM
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I've switched 2 uniglide freewheels to hyperglide . Both shift smoother and quieter with the new freewheels.
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Old 03-31-20, 06:49 AM
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I tried twice with modern Shimano freewheels. There is no connection at all between vintage and modern freewheels. Last time was about a year ago with fresh inventory. Does not work. I’ve no idea what those on this board who say it does work might be doing. Sunrace quality was so low so long there’s no reason to offer them the benefit of the doubt.

Is there a shortage of NOS freewheels? Price paid varies a lot but I’ve never encountered difficulty finding them?
Vintage derailleurs and vintage chain work best with vintage freewheels.
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Old 04-01-20, 07:43 AM
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Hey, I wanted to thank everyone who provided input. Whenever I find myself re-employed, and hopefully the world settles down into something closer to our formal "normal", I'll probably search out a new freewheel setup. For now, I'm going to dig thru what I have, and try to parcel something together. I'm not even really sure what would be an appropriate gearing range for the gravel (mostly well crushed local limestone) roads around here.
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