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Ball bearings: caged or loose?

Old 11-10-08, 12:04 PM
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Ball bearings: caged or loose?

I am reassembling a Paramount which has been boxed for a many years, and I have observed that the balls in the BB and head set are caged. In discussing this project with my LBS, who will be fine tuning the bike after assembly, I was advised to remove the balls from the cages and to add one more loose ball to each race before assembly. In other words, don't use the cages. Are the cages necessary, or should I follow this suggestion? I would appreciate the comments of any of you whom, I'm sure, have considerably more knowledge and experience than I.

Thanks you for your help.
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Old 11-10-08, 12:09 PM
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The owner of the lbs around here tells me that the loose bearings turn smoother. The caged are easier to handle.
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Old 11-10-08, 12:23 PM
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i don't have any problems with caged bearings unless the races are worn out. then caged might cause bumps or friction in the assembly. this is where adding the same number plus one of loose bearings will help.
all of the sudden your headset isn't indexed anymore or you BB might turn a little smoother.

they can be a pain to deal with though, use a thick grease so that the bearings stay where you put them while you're re-assembling everything.
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Old 11-10-08, 12:23 PM
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Caging is just a convenience for assembly and maintenance. More bearings = smoother operation.
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Old 11-10-08, 02:55 PM
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Loose headset bearings will not rotate in one position. It is more durable. An already indexed hs can often be fixed by putting loose balls in. It will be a little more time consuming, but undoing a cage properly from all dirt and other particles when servicing also takes time (unless you use a new assembly)
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Old 11-10-08, 04:02 PM
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The cage can scrape grease off, too.
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Old 11-10-08, 04:25 PM
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If you have a couple of bikes (or more), or if you do regular complete maintenance to your heavily ridden bike, it just makes sense to buy a bag of each size ball on hubs/BB/headset. I am far too impatient to strip a bearing down and then run out to get the right balls. I will just clean it up and send it on its way. But, if the ball are right there, it is not very hard to go loose. The grease acts like denture-cream (not that a younster like me would know about this stuff. USAZorro told me about it...) and keeps them in place when you put it back together.

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Old 11-10-08, 07:12 PM
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+1 Loose is better.

+1 Loose is easier for the do-it-yourselfer as you just buy bags of 100 to 144 in a variety of sizes and you have all of the bearings you will need.
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Old 11-10-08, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by jgedwa
If you have a couple of bikes (or more), or if you do regular complete maintenance to your heavily ridden bike, it just makes sense to buy a bag of each size ball on hubs/BB/headset. I am far too impatient to strip a bearing down and then run out to get the right balls. I will just clean it up and send it on its way. But, if the ball are right there, it is not very hard to go loose. The grease acts like denture-cream (not that a younster like me would know about this stuff. USAZorro told me about it...) and keeps them in place when you put it back together.

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Hey there Jim. I still have all my own choppers - see? .

I learned from a retired LBS owner. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Cool idea about the bags of balls. I already went bulk on ferrules and cable crimps.
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Old 11-10-08, 08:16 PM
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And they are cheap too. Actually, its sort of fun to go to a bearing store and have the people there upsell you from the standard ones that cost 6 cents to the very best ones in the world for 8 cents. Its not often I walk out of a store with the finest product the place sells.

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p.s., maybe its me who has the false teeth. If my memory was still any good I could remember which one of us is the old goomer.
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Old 11-10-08, 08:28 PM
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Another vote for loose. Much smoother operation in the bearing-sets/races. Whenever I see a bike with the cages, I suggest the removal of same. Most go along with that. And I agree with getting a bag of the different size bearings you'll be needing. Get a jar/container with a tight lid for each size. If they get loose - you're in for a fall. LOL.
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Old 11-10-08, 08:36 PM
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I don't have trouble installing the loose balls, but I don't like having them all over the floor when I'm taking things apart, especially the bottom bearing of the headset -- of course, that's where loose balls will do the most good.
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Old 11-10-08, 08:39 PM
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Thanks for all of your help; loose sounds like the way to go. I am pleased and impressed with your responses, and I hope you won't mind my occasional dip into the trough of knowledge.

laddie

Last edited by laddie; 11-11-08 at 03:57 PM.
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Old 11-11-08, 12:38 AM
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The caged bearing must have been invented by an accountant: it installs a lot faster than loose balls, so it reduces assembly costs.

Accountants have no idea about service and maintenance.
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