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Should I adjust my Helicomatic Freewheel?

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Should I adjust my Helicomatic Freewheel?

Old 04-30-20, 01:23 PM
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Should I adjust my Helicomatic Freewheel?

My first one. I would have let it be but it was a bit loose on the hub. I got the tool and removed the FW. It turns out that the play was not between the hub and FW but within the FW body. I'm not prepared to get the Var tool to romove the lock ring. If it was a normal FW, I'd think that a spacer or two were missing. Is this normal for a Helicomatic?
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Old 04-30-20, 01:44 PM
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------

Forum members without the special tool for the lockring report being able to remove it without damage using pump pliers (channelock).

There is a web site just for the Helicomatic -

https://www.borgercompagnie.com/heli...c/history.html


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Old 04-30-20, 02:57 PM
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I combed through that site and there was nothing that I found regarding play between the cog carrier and the body. The lock ring that locks the FW to the hub was not a problem with the tool. There is a lock ring on the body that requires an additional tool. I might try again with a punch but if there is some play designed into the FW, I will leave it be.
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Old 04-30-20, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Classtime View Post
I combed through that site and there was nothing that I found regarding play between the cog carrier and the body. The lock ring that locks the FW to the hub was not a problem with the tool. There is a lock ring on the body that requires an additional tool. I might try again with a punch but if there is some play designed into the FW, I will leave it be.
nicee
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Old 04-30-20, 08:17 PM
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If it's a Heli with some miles on it, it will be good to check whether some of the bearings in it might be missing already. That was how I found out that my Heli was cracking up and grinding its bearings on my Peugeot in the 80's.
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Old 04-30-20, 08:44 PM
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Old 04-30-20, 09:52 PM
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Classtime , is it a 5-speed or 6? If it's a 5-speed, I have one that has no play in it that I can detect. Came off a Heinz-57 Trek I bought, another BF member sent me a 6-speed to replace it. I should pay it forward, so you can have this 5-speeder for the cost of shipping. PM me if interested.
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Old 04-30-20, 10:18 PM
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Aww, sharing the Helicomatic love. That’s what I want to see here.
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Old 05-01-20, 08:51 AM
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Very nice of you madpogue
pm sent. Having a better spinning FW For my Trek 420, gives me some freedom to use a bigger hammer on this one. At worst, I'll have spare cogs.

I did did just find this on eBay U.K. As a review of the Var tool used to disassemble (not remove)the freewheel:

Var Maillard Freewheel Remover
RL-41700



Here's one received by non-fixie


V'ger
3.0 out of 5 stars How this actually works - you need to buy some other things
Reviewed in the United States on 19 August 2017
Verified Purchase
Since this came with no directions and there are none on the net, this is how you use this product. As best as I can tell.

1. Use two chain whips to unscrew the top cog in the Helicomatic cluster. The cheap whips from Amazon will lose their plastic handles. No matter. Reconcile yourself to the idea that you may need to hit the threads on that first cog or two with penetrating oil.

2. If the rest of the cogs don't slide off, repeat with the next one.

3. Put the freewheel - without the cogs - back on the wheel (still off the bike)

4. Grab the VAR tool with a large crescent adjustable crescent wrench. A Craftsman 12" works. The nut on this tool is bigger than any fixed box wrench you can walk into a store and buy. Also, if you are going to spend $28 on a massive wrench, get one you can use for other things, since I would bet that you will probably not make a career out of rebuilding helicomatic freewheels.

5. While having a helper press straight down on the wrench and this tool, and both of you grabbing the rim/tire to prevent the wheel from rotating. turn the wrench CLOCKWISE. Be extremely careful because you can break a spoke very easily. Once the brass cone is loose enough to turn with your fingers, pull the freewheel off the hub.

6. The cone (the brass nut that fits this tool) needs to be unscrewed, again clockwise, until it comes off. Do all of this above a bowl, because you will soon see about a billion 1/8" ball bearings fall out. That's for a 700. Other hubs may have larger, easier to control bearings. Pro tip: buy more bearings of whatever size you will need. Your old ones might be worn, deformed, or rusted. This is a really cheap thing to replace.

7. Clean everything in a degreaser.

8. Using a tube of Phil Wood grease, grease only the lower flange of the inner tube (where the balls run). Replace the balls by sticking them to the grease.

9. Grease the outer tube.

10. Carefully slide the outer over the inner.

11. Drop the washers back in, and then a row of ball bearings, exactly as you did when you disassembled it (just in reverse). At least one washer has to go in first, especially with the tiny bearings; otherwise the balls will jam the pawls below. That washer will probably be pressed into a curve because it forms the lower race for the balls.

12. Flood the unit with light to mid-weight oil. Some people grease the top bearings.

13. Screw the brass cone on until finger tight.

14. Finish tightening the cone.

15. Reassemble the cluster.

16. Tighten the topmost cog(s) with the chain whip as tight as you can. Your pedaling will tighten it up the rest of the way.

17. Spline the cluster back onto the Helicomatic hub and reinstall the lock ring.

So when you get through this fantastic voyage, you will realize that you just spent $75 to rebuild a freewheel. What I observed is that you are no worse off flood-cleaning an assembled unit first with degreaser (naptha, WD-40, teflon oil) and then with dripping in heavier oil through the hub-side than you would be doing this massively expensive and frustrating process. The results were exactly the same.

If your freewheel is going both ways, your pawls are probably stuck down by grime. If a lot of oil doesn't loosen them, they might have broken springs (which is fatal). Either way, you probably don't need this tool. If your freewheel body is trashed, just buy another cluster off Ebay and switch out your cogs.

Look, I know VAR didn't invent the miracle/curse known as Helicomatic, but I am docking the product two stars for a couple of reasons for the way it is sold on Amazon.

1. It really needs to be clear what it is supposed to do. I see from the questions people are asking that it is being mistaken for the Helicomatic bottle-opener/lock nut remover. The product being sold here is not a "freewheel remover." It is a spline for removing bearing cones. The actual "freewheel remover" is the bottle-opener thingie. And your hand.

2. Somebody needs to disclose that the grip surface of this tool is huge. If someone knew that they would spend $30 on this tool and $30 on an exotic size of wrench, they might conclude (correctly) that it might be time to consider getting a new rear wheel with either a standard freewheel thread or modifying a bike to take modern equipment. This is not usable with the types of tools a person would have at home. Large vice-grips can't lock onto that nut, pipe wrenches - even if big enough, are not stable enough, and slip-joint pliers? Well, forget it.
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Old 05-01-20, 12:35 PM
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classtime, the Var tool IS a freewheel remover. it fits Maillard Normandy and Atom freewheels.
the fact that it also fits Maillard Helicomatic is just a plus.
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Old 05-01-20, 03:08 PM
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I was taught that the correct way to adjust them is to throw them away.
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Old 05-01-20, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
I was taught that the correct way to adjust them is to throw them away.
Adjusting a freewheel doesn't involve taking it apart, only removing the visibly splined or divoted steel bearing cone that doubles as a locknut of sorts (keeping the cone from spinning loose under hard usage).

There are shims under the "lockring" cone that control the bearing adjustment. Adding shims makes the bearing adjustment looser. Removing shims allows the cone to tighten down further, thus making the freewheel bearings tighter.
As Classtime mentioned, the shims are under the top row of balls and prevent balls from dropping into the crevices adjacent to each pawl, so remove the top row of balls first if you'll be wanting to lift the shims out, and then be sure to re-install the shims before putting any balls back in.

One can sometimes remove the thinnest shim to effect a tighter bearing adjustment, but often (usually?) this makes it too tight.
One can alternately sand the mating surface of the cone to make the bearing adjustment incrementally tighter, to whatever degree is needed, but be advised that once too much metal is sanded off the cone, it will take a shim of a certain very special size to then loosen the bearing adjustment.
So don't sand off too much from the cone's seating surface, since you can't put it back!
I've restored a proper bearing adjustment using this method to freewheels and to freehubs that have a Shimano-style freehub body secured with a hollow bolt. I've saved a few of the lower-level Fulcrum wheels from a needed replacement of an $80 freehub body, but of course the freehubs require a home-made cone remover that slots into the axle bearing cup that doubles as the freehub body cone.

I've removed the Helicomatic freewheel's cone using a nail and a hammer, tapping away (clockwise) at different positions around the cone until it breaks free.
Upon re-tightening the cone, I use the same approach only backwards (CCW), and I use LocTite blue on the cleaned threads before tightening it as tight as I can get it using the hammer and thick nail. I rest the wheel on the ground and step on the tire to prevent the wheel turning. I don't think I could break a spoke this way if I tried.

I once had to use a nail and a rock when my Helico freewheel cone came loose while 30 miles from home up in the hills above Los Angeles, but I had not used LocTite to secure that cone after I messed with it. I've had this issue with other brand's freewheels over the years, and I always found that a rock and a nail are never hard to find while out on the road!

Last edited by dddd; 05-01-20 at 07:02 PM.
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Old 05-03-20, 11:01 AM
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the "nut" portion of the Var tool is meant to be clamped in a vise.
the large size is not an issue.
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Old 05-03-20, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Chombi1 View Post
If it's a Heli with some miles on it, it will be good to check whether some of the bearings in it might be missing already. That was how I found out that my Heli was cracking up and grinding its bearings on my Peugeot in the 80's.
I got one on my 1984 Trek 610, the Maillard hubs F/R were standard on that bike. I thought the Helico had too much play when it was new. I would not disassemble it just for play. If you also have reasons to dig into it and are willing to reurbish, great. I was not. I ended up letting the wheelset go to a forum member in Connecticut for the cost of shipping. Never heard back, I guess he was happy.
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Old 05-03-20, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by dddd View Post
Adjusting a freewheel doesn't involve taking it apart, only removing the visibly splined or divoted steel bearing cone that doubles as a locknut of sorts (keeping the cone from spinning loose under hard usage).

There are shims under the "lockring" cone that control the bearing adjustment. Adding shims makes the bearing adjustment looser. Removing shims allows the cone to tighten down further, thus making the freewheel bearings tighter.
As Classtime mentioned, the shims are under the top row of balls and prevent balls from dropping into the crevices adjacent to each pawl, so remove the top row of balls first if you'll be wanting to lift the shims out, and then be sure to re-install the shims before putting any balls back in.

One can sometimes remove the thinnest shim to effect a tighter bearing adjustment, but often (usually?) this makes it too tight.
One can alternately sand the mating surface of the cone to make the bearing adjustment incrementally tighter, to whatever degree is needed, but be advised that once too much metal is sanded off the cone, it will take a shim of a certain very special size to then loosen the bearing adjustment.
So don't sand off too much from the cone's seating surface, since you can't put it back!
I've restored a proper bearing adjustment using this method to freewheels and to freehubs that have a Shimano-style freehub body secured with a hollow bolt. I've saved a few of the lower-level Fulcrum wheels from a needed replacement of an $80 freehub body, but of course the freehubs require a home-made cone remover that slots into the axle bearing cup that doubles as the freehub body cone.

I've removed the Helicomatic freewheel's cone using a nail and a hammer, tapping away (clockwise) at different positions around the cone until it breaks free.
Upon re-tightening the cone, I use the same approach only backwards (CCW), and I use LocTite blue on the cleaned threads before tightening it as tight as I can get it using the hammer and thick nail. I rest the wheel on the ground and step on the tire to prevent the wheel turning. I don't think I could break a spoke this way if I tried.

I once had to use a nail and a rock when my Helico freewheel cone came loose while 30 miles from home up in the hills above Los Angeles, but I had not used LocTite to secure that cone after I messed with it. I've had this issue with other brand's freewheels over the years, and I always found that a rock and a nail are never hard to find while out on the road!
I recommend reading this closely and then throwing it away.
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Old 05-03-20, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by nlerner View Post
I recommend reading this closely and then throwing it away.
Funny. But I have this nagging feeling that Helico naysayers are akin to Cup and Cone Naysayers or DT shifter naysayers. On a different level of course. But I suppose if Rivendell Or Velo Orange are not collaborating with some French company to make Helicomatic bits and Pieces...
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Old 05-03-20, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Classtime View Post
Funny. But I have this nagging feeling that Helico naysayers are akin to Cup and Cone Naysayers or DT shifter naysayers. On a different level of course. But I suppose if Rivendell Or Velo Orange are not collaborating with some French company to make Helicomatic bits and Pieces...
There's this:

Originally Posted by The Helicomatic Museum
I would suggest to all but the most fanatic about originality to stay away from Helicomatic or replace any Helicomatic hub with a model for which it is easier to source spare parts.
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Old 05-04-20, 04:05 AM
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If anyone really wants to get on the Helicomatic bandwagon, I've got one here that I'd be willing send off for the price of postage. It's a six-speed, probably 14-26 or so. I'll provide the actual tooth counts and a photo on request. I admit that "Helicomatic" is a nice name for a product.
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Old 05-04-20, 05:29 AM
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Back in my bike shop days in the mid 1980s, we affectionately called them “helicocrapmatic” hubs. We weren’t a Trek dealer, but there were a couple of large ones nearby, so we saw a lot of them in for service. Ugh.
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Old 05-04-20, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
I was taught that the correct way to adjust them is to throw them away.
I am regretting this earlier post, which I now see as a bit of unhelpful wise-assery. I would now say that the correct way to service a Helicomatic hub is to give it away to someone who wants to service it. Such people are a lot less common than Helicomatic hubs themselves. But this thread is proof that they do exist.
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Old 05-04-20, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
I am regretting this earlier post, which I now see as a bit of unhelpful wise-assery. I would now say that the correct way to service a Helicomatic hub is to give it away to someone who wants to service it. Such people are a lot less common than Helicomatic hubs themselves. But this thread is proof that they do exist.
There's also people who buy first generation Mountech rear derailleurs.

My guess is there's people who would intentionally look for Viscount forks with AVA stems and don't lock their QR skewers...

'All those sheeple, with their fancy teeth... I'll show em'
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Old 05-04-20, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
There's also people who buy first generation Mountech rear derailleurs.

My guess is there's people who would intentionally look for Viscount forks with AVA stems and don't lock their QR skewers...

'All those sheeple, with their fancy teeth... I'll show em'
Funnily enough, I actually do have a first-generation Mountech on my Miyata 1000. I even rode cross-country with it in 2017, and had no issues. My father, who was a great long-distance tourist, rode across the US with a Helicomatic freewheel at least twice. I'm pretty sure he was using the same setup on another tour from the west of Ireland to the Russian border. He never had problems, either. So what do I know?
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Old 05-04-20, 02:59 PM
  #23  
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I dunno, if I was riding cross country I wouldn't want to have to potentially worry about something like my derailleur or freewheel going bust on me because they have a history of unreliability. It's great that it worked out for you, but I wouldn't bother with the risk. There's just no upside to this situation.

For smaller rides I don't see a problem with the components (Mountech/Helicomatic) unless you're bombing down hills.
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Old 05-04-20, 03:05 PM
  #24  
jonwvara 
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Originally Posted by Piff View Post
I dunno, if I was riding cross country I wouldn't want to have to potentially worry about something like my derailleur or freewheel going bust on me because they have a history of unreliability. It's great that it worked out for you, but I wouldn't bother with the risk. There's just no upside to this situation.

For smaller rides I don't see a problem with the components (Mountech/Helicomatic) unless you're bombing down hills.
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Old 05-04-20, 05:29 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
I am regretting this earlier post, which I now see as a bit of unhelpful wise-assery. I would now say that the correct way to service a Helicomatic hub is to give it away to someone who wants to service it. Such people are a lot less common than Helicomatic hubs themselves. But this thread is proof that they do exist.
If I still had a Helico that I wanted to use for riding beyond JRA, I would first send an email to freewheelspa.com and ask about the feasibility of having him restore it so I would not have fo feel insecure about it. In other words, ask an expert.
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