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Coaster brake hubs: the Velosteel hub

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Coaster brake hubs: the Velosteel hub

Old 10-04-04, 01:17 AM
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Coaster brake hubs: the Velosteel hub

I'm a regular and enthusiastic user of SS coaster brake bikes. They're simple, reliable, and cheap. Unfortunately, there is little choice on the market if you're looking for a new coaster brake hub. In the U.S. Shimano is probably the most common, along with some hubs of basically the same design by KT and a few other obscure Asian mfgrs.

I was able to procure a couple Velosteel coaster brake hubs recently, a nice alternative to the Asian hubs. The Velosteel is made in the Czech Republic, and seems a knock-off of the old Fitchel & Sachs Torpedo coaster brake hub of the 20th century.

Comparing the Velosteel with a new Shimano CB-110 hub, the differences are quite noticable. Visually, the Velosteel is much more handsome, the hub shell having smooth one piece construction with a brilliant polished chrome finish. The Shimano has flanges pressed onto the shell with a rougher looking chrome finish. The flanges on the Velosteel hub are thicker with recessed holes for the spoke heads, while the Shimano has thinner, plain flanges.

Holding the hubs in the hand, more differences are noticed. The Velosteel hub spins smoothly and freely by hand, both freewheeling and when turned by sprocket. The Shimano in contrast is much stiffer and more "draggy" feeling, and will not spin freely. Both hubs are adjusted correctly. This difference is understandable when viewing the innards. The Velosteel uses a roller clutch, several rollers which can roll freely when coasting, and sprung brake shoes (a "brake drum unit") which retract from the brake surface when not in use. The Shimano has free brake shoes which can loosely drag against the hub shell when coasting, and a friction spring which drags when pedalling. The clutch can also drag if not completely disengaged when coasting,

Both hubs accept the same size three spline cogs, held on by circlip. The Shimano cog will accept a 3/32" chain, the Velosteel, 1/8" only.

The Velosteel hub (at about 2.25 lbs. according to my less than accurate scale) weighs about a half pound more than the Shimano. The Velosteel hub also has many more parts inside, mostly due to the roller clutch and the brake shoe "drum", which is a unit unto itself and probably best left alone. The Shimano is a much simpler beast.

When laced up to a rim and tire, the differences in friction are less noticable. Both hubs were tested with 27" wheels. In less than scientific testing, the Velosteel spins longer with the bike suspended in the air than the Shimano. But neither is too shabby. Riding the bike, the differences are difficult to detect. With the weight and momentum of a adult on the bike, I found it difficult to tell which was which.

The Shimano seems a cruder, less refined hub. In some ways it is. But I find it's quite servicable. The Velosteel is nice, but I have some quibbles with it. One, it's significantly heavier and more complex. Two, the grease from the factory seemed a bit light to me. Three, perhaps related to the last point, the hub rather quickly developed a medium-pitched squeal when braking any more than moderately. Stopping power was decent, with OK modulation, a bit better than the Shimano, but not by a earth-shaking amount. Four, there was a little bit of unusual "locking-up" action observed when resting on the pedals in reverse while stopped. And it was a little alarming if I were to roll back a couple inches at the same time, feeling like perhaps something was gonna seize. Lastly, Velosteel hubs and parts are generally still unavailable in the U.S. They're looking for distributors, but I think it's a hard sell as a "high performance" coaster brake, since they're heavier than the competition. Not to mention possible squealing (though this may have been a fluke). Cost difference is unknown as of yet. If it's more than twice the price of the Shimano, I doubt anyone will go for it, as the performance advantage doesn't really justify the extra money.

Any other observations? Questions? Comments?
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Old 10-04-04, 06:08 AM
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Any ideas about longevity? Will the velosteel design last longer before servicing? How about down hill longevity? I know I shouldn't be hitting any big hills with a coaster but do you think that either design would be safer?
Thanks none the less for the experiment.
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Old 10-04-04, 06:30 AM
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I am still thinking about building up another rear wheel for my SS, coaster brake is something that occured to me, how hard would it be to space one of the shimano hubs to a 126mm rear spacing-- is the stock axle long enough?

Thx.
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Old 10-04-04, 08:42 AM
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there was a little bit of unusual "locking-up" action observed when resting on the pedals in reverse while stopped. And it was a little alarming if I were to roll back a couple inches at the same time, feeling like perhaps something was gonna seize.
?? if you are resting your foot on the pedal, your hub is braking even if the wheel is not moving..so ofcourse you cant roll back without, letting the brake off..

Lastly, Velosteel hubs and parts are generally still unavailable in the U.S. They're looking for distributors, but I think it's a hard sell as a "high performance" coaster brake, since they're heavier than the competition. Not to mention possible squealing (though this may have been a fluke). Cost difference is unknown as of yet. If it's more than twice the price of the Shimano, I doubt anyone will go for it, as the performance advantage doesn't really justify the extra money.
hmm.. shimanos coaster brakes basically doesnt work. the importer here ,when really grilled on the issue,actually said that it was not intended for real bikes , but for kidsbikes! the shop i was in, installed them on some couriers bikes..ha -they lasted less than a month. the sachs is a different thing ..we ofcourse couldnt get new ones, so we fixed these hubs that had maybe 20 years on the road..they work and some of those wheels are still rolling..so get a cheap hub that doesnt work, or get a functioning thing that cost double? pretty easy choice if you ask me .. how long does your hubs last normally??

and to all the undecided.. get a trackbike
/m
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Old 10-04-04, 09:47 AM
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Regarding the Velosteel hub, longevity is a unknown. On the upside, it seems they are the type of company that will supply spare parts. The brake shoes are offered as a drum-like unit, which appears to have some kind of clutch mechanism inside it as well. and clutch rollers are available in three sizes which get slightly progressively larger, the idea being that as the hub wears, you simply drop in the next size up.

If the hub is reasonably inexpensive, however, all this seems kinda moot. I've known Shimano hubs that have worked well for decades. If they ever failed, I'd probably not bother with replacing the innards, but rather the whole hub or wheel.

My coaster brake bikes generally have a front caliper brake fitted. In normal use, it gets almost all the braking work done. I've been curious, however, and recently took my old coaster brake fitted MTB up a couple mile long road up the local mountains. Coming down, I used only the coaster brake, and found it worked quite well. It got pretty hot to the touch, but no smoke/burning grease. Nor did the chrome turn blue. This particular hub was a Shimano-like no name. I'll have to put the Velosteel on that road.

The Shimano and Velosteel are both available with axles long enough to fit a 135mm spaced frame. The hub in my MTB uses extra nuts as spacers, works fine. The Velosteel is available in widths from 108mm to 120mm. The difference is made up only in the drive side cone and extra washers. The Velosteel is also available with axle lengths up to 180mm.
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Old 10-04-04, 10:02 AM
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This particular hub was a Shimano-like no name.

righty that..
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Old 10-04-04, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by cphfxt
hmm.. shimanos coaster brakes basically doesnt work.
That hasn't been my experience.

Originally Posted by cphfxt
the importer here ,when really grilled on the issue,actually said that it was not intended for real bikes , but for kidsbikes! the shop i was in, installed them on some couriers bikes..ha -they lasted less than a month. the sachs is a different thing ..we ofcourse couldnt get new ones, so we fixed these hubs that had maybe 20 years on the road..they work and some of those wheels are still rolling..so get a cheap hub that doesnt work, or get a functioning thing that cost double? pretty easy choice if you ask me .. how long does your hubs last normally??
I have a Shimano hub that's lasted for two decades. Several other brands such as Bendix that have also survived decades. Some without servicing ever. I'm not sure what your courier bikes go through, but I've never had a coaster brake of any kind ever really fail. I've had some that just didn't work very well (a Sturmey Archer TCW). Some do seem touchier than others. But the Velosteel has a couple of clear problems with the sample I have. While it functions well, I find the squealing and odd locking-up behavior unacceptable. The extra weight I could live with, but when added to the other negatives, makes the deal less sweet. This hub was laced straight from the factory, without any adjustments or being opened up. Perhaps there's a break-in period I'm unaware of?

The old Sachs hubs were pretty nice. I have a Fitchel & Sachs made hub on my old Murray Meteor Flight cruiser from the late 50s-early60s, and it functions quite well. The wheel spins as easily as any freewheel and I suspect it'll outlast the rest of the bike.
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Old 10-04-04, 10:08 AM
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they really look like a sachs unit eh?
i would like to hear how it fares on your little test range..
and thx for sharing..
/m
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Old 10-04-04, 10:16 AM
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well a courier bike just ages about 10 times faster than any other bike, in my experince.
and the seizing up thing.. well . some do, some dont.. but i find it a minor.. just step on the bike,as to go forward, and youre good to go , or you really have a problem...
did you try grinding the brakesurface on the sturmey archer.. if its totally flush the brake will perform..shall we say: less well?
/m
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Old 10-04-04, 10:20 AM
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a break in period on a hub break should take about 10 sec. as the forces developed in that little chamber are huge..

also . the shop i was in : as in worked in.. kinda..
/m
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Old 10-04-04, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by cphfxt
This particular hub was a Shimano-like no name.

righty that..
Yup. A Asian made clone. The torque arm has a small symbol stamped on it that I don't recognize. It's been on my workbike for a couple years. Never a problem with it. On the outside, it appears identical to a Shimano. A few months ago i took it apart to find that most of the innards are not directly drop-in interchangable with the Shimano hub, though the functional design is exactly the same.
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Old 10-04-04, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by cphfxt
well a courier bike just ages about 10 times faster than any other bike, in my experince.
and the seizing up thing.. well . some do, some dont.. but i find it a minor.. just step on the bike,as to go forward, and youre good to go , or you really have a problem...
did you try grinding the brakesurface on the sturmey archer.. if its totally flush the brake will perform..shall we say: less well?
/m
I think the Sturmey Archer was a lost cause. Apparently, the TCW hub was known for poor braking, and progressively worse when braking in higher gears due to the the way the brake was engaged. It was easier to just use a rear caliper brake than messing with the insides of the TCW.
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Old 10-04-04, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by shecky
I was able to procure a couple Velosteel coaster brake hubs recently, a nice alternative to the Asian hubs. The Velosteel is made in the Czech Republic, and seems a knock-off of the old Fitchel & Sachs Torpedo coaster brake hub of the 20th century.
I have 2 Velosteels as well. I believe the history of the Velosteel hub is a s follows.

1. After WWII, Sachs wanted to maintain a presence in the eastern European market.
2. Sachs licensed a comapny in Czechoslovakia named Renak to manufacture them.
3. Renak either became Velosteel or more likely, Velosteel purchased Renaks assets.

The Velosteel hub (at about 2.25 lbs. according to my less than accurate scale) weighs about a half pound more than the Shimano. The Velosteel hub also has many more parts inside, mostly due to the roller clutch and the brake shoe "drum", which is a unit unto itself and probably best left alone. The Shimano is a much simpler beast.
The roller clutch design was patented in 1904 by Sachs and has a long history of reliability. An individual hub, with reasonable maintenace was expected to last hundreds of thousands of kilometers! The Shimano (which is made by KT) uses the simpler but still effective cone clutch.

......Two, the grease from the factory seemed a bit light to me. Three, perhaps related to the last point, the hub rather quickly developed a medium-pitched squeal when braking any more than moderately.
Did you clean and repack with good grease? The hubs I received didn't have enough grease to start with. After repacking (and don't spare the grease .... even on the brake shoes) my velosteels have performed quietly and smoothly.

........Four, there was a little bit of unusual "locking-up" action observed when resting on the pedals in reverse while stopped. And it was a little alarming if I were to roll back a couple inches at the same time, feeling like perhaps something was gonna seize.
Yes my hubs do this as well. I've got about a 400 miles on them without any 'real world' problems.

Lastly, Velosteel hubs and parts are generally still unavailable in the U.S. They're looking for distributors,
Funny thing is they were very excited about the prospect of US distribution early on in our correspondence. But I guess they're looking for someone to import them by the thousands. After I mentioned my desire to order a single case (55 hubs), they stopped talking....never replied to my emails. .... Oh well.


.....If it's more than twice the price of the Shimano,.....
How much did the hubs cost you?

Any other observations? Questions? Comments?
I think they are excellent hubs. They are heavier but it's a fair trade off for their superior quality....not to mention they're just plain pretty ;-) I would recommend to anyone planning to use a coaster brake in hilly terrain to fit a front brake to their bike as well.

Jim
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Old 10-04-04, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by jimv
The roller clutch design was patented in 1904 by Sachs and has a long history of reliability. An individual hub, with reasonable maintenace was expected to last hundreds of thousands of kilometers! The Shimano (which is made by KT) uses the simpler but still effective cone clutch.
That's a bit of a surprise. I never realized Shimano Hubs were made by KT. Maybe not such a surprise really.


Originally Posted by jimv
Did you clean and repack with good grease? The hubs I received didn't have enough grease to start with. After repacking (and don't spare the grease .... even on the brake shoes) my velosteels have performed quietly and smoothly.
The hub I laced up was unmolested. I wanted to test the hub straight from the factory. I've planned on repacking the hub since I first heard the thing squeal. The second hub I did disassemble to view the innards.

Originally Posted by jimv
Yes my hubs do this as well. I've got about a 400 miles on them without any 'real world' problems.
The locking-up thing i could probably live with. I never realized how often I do this until ai came across this hub. Interestingly, my Fitchel&Sachs coaster on my cruiser doesn't behave the same as the Velosteel in this respect.

Originally Posted by jimv
Funny thing is they were very excited about the prospect of US distribution early on in our correspondence. But I guess they're looking for someone to import them by the thousands. After I mentioned my desire to order a single case (55 hubs), they stopped talking....never replied to my emails. .... Oh well.

How much did the hubs cost you?
I got them for the asking. I was interested in some tech specs, and they were quite interested in sending me a couple samples. Who am I to say no? I got both with 120mm spacing. I should have gotten 110 with a long axle and just used spacers, since that's basically all they do to make a 120mm spaced hub.

Originally Posted by jimv
I think they are excellent hubs. They are heavier but it's a fair trade off for their superior quality....not to mention they're just plain pretty ;-) I would recommend to anyone planning to use a coaster brake in hilly terrain to fit a front brake to their bike as well.
They certainly are prettier than any Shimano/KT. But to be honest, I'm a little bit disappointed. Off-the-shelf performance was less than stellar. I really wanted to like this hub more. It does spin well. I've emailed Velosteel, but they haven't replied. Hopefully, a repack will make it into a useful hub.

There's some mystery about the durability of Shimano hubs. I wonder what kind of failure rates companies like Worksman (which equips really heavy duty work bikes/trikes with them) and Kronan (which offers a durable utility bike with either Shimano OR Velosteel hubs, according to their website) have?
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Old 10-04-04, 11:41 PM
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They are located here.
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Old 10-05-04, 12:47 AM
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Originally Posted by shecky
That's a bit of a surprise. I never realized Shimano Hubs were made by KT. Maybe not such a surprise really.
Well they weren't always made by KT so if you had one from 2 decades ago it was probably much more robust. I have an old Shimano that looks like a cone-clutched Sachs on the inside, with the split-cylinder/spring-clipped brake shoes. I suspect that brake would last for decades.


The hub I laced up was unmolested. I wanted to test the hub straight from the factory. I've planned on repacking the hub since I first heard the thing squeal. The second hub I did disassemble to view the innards.
I think you'll be much happier once you repack it. It is unfortunate that they arrive needing work.

The locking-up thing i could probably live with. I never realized how often I do this until ai came across this hub. Interestingly, my Fitchel&Sachs coaster on my cruiser doesn't behave the same as the Velosteel in this respect.
I rode a 1954 Sachs (cone-clutch) all winter/spring/summer without a hitch. I still have it laced up to a Deep Vee rim and will probably find something to put it on. It's still my favorite. So simple, so elegant.

I got them for the asking. I was interested in some tech specs, and they were quite interested in sending me a couple samples. Who am I to say no? I got both with 120mm spacing......
Hmmm .... Same here.

Anyway, I'm glad you started this thread. Coaster Brakes are a borderline obsession for me. BTW, I now own a slew of coaster brakes dating back to 1900. If you or anyone else need photos of the guts of some obscure brake, let me know, there's a good chance I have it.

Jim
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Old 10-06-04, 01:06 PM
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I repacked the Velosteel hub last night and took it for a spin. This hub hadn't been opened before lacing up, and it looksa like it had even less grease than the other hub. The grease it did have was rather light, looked more like Vaseline. The rollers on the clutch didn't seem to have any lube at all. I can only assume this was a oversight.

I repacked with ample amounts of molygrease. Every groove on the braking surface of the shoes was filled. And I admired the nicely machined surfaces and tight tolerances. Bolted the thing back together. Took her for a spin.

The brake chattering/squeal is completely gone. Much better. Braking was about the same. Honestly, i don't find the braking between the Velosteel and the Shimano very much different. The Velosteel is a much prettier device to behold. And it spins easier when unloaded. It's a shame they aren't commonly available here in the U.S.
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Old 10-06-04, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by shecky
I repacked the Velosteel hub last night and took it for a spin. This hub hadn't been opened before lacing up, and it looksa like it had even less grease than the other hub. The grease it did have was rather light, looked more like Vaseline. The rollers on the clutch didn't seem to have any lube at all. I can only assume this was a oversight.
Both of my hubs had very little of the vaseline type grease in them. It's too bad because if used like that, the hub would have a very short life.

The brake chattering/squeal is completely gone. Much better. Braking was about the same. Honestly, i don't find the braking between the Velosteel and the Shimano very much different. The Velosteel is a much prettier device to behold. And it spins easier when unloaded. It's a shame they aren't commonly available here in the U.S.
I think any well maintained, decent hub will provide similar braking, I just think the Velosteel, older Sachs, and Morrows etc. will do it longer.

Jim
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Old 10-07-04, 10:25 AM
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Im happy to here people out there using coaster hubs. My first SS was a coaster that I beat the piss out of. Had a shimano hub and while it stopped well if felt it didn't coast as well as it could of. Oh well. BTW I have an old hub that I have never used, it has a Schwinn arm on it but the hub is stamped Made in Germany. It also has a little oil nipple in the center of the hub. Any Ideas???
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Old 10-07-04, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Boss Hogg
Im happy to here people out there using coaster hubs. My first SS was a coaster that I beat the piss out of. Had a shimano hub and while it stopped well if felt it didn't coast as well as it could of. Oh well. BTW I have an old hub that I have never used, it has a Schwinn arm on it but the hub is stamped Made in Germany. It also has a little oil nipple in the center of the hub. Any Ideas???
Very Cool. It's almost certainly a Fichtel & Sachs. Schwinn used them for a number of years. It's a one-piece hub shell (ie not pressed on flanges) and states "Schwinn Approved" on the brake arm? Nice hub if so. It's a cone-clutch type and should last forever. Are you planning to use it?

Jim
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Old 11-06-10, 05:40 AM
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I don't know if you are still interested in Velosteel hubs.
I just got one ... essentially new.
After coasting it takes about a half revolution of the crank for it to kick in. My Shimano takes about an inch of crank movement.
Is that something that can be adjusted?Thank you for your interest.
Please respond via email to jim@321mail.us
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Old 11-06-10, 06:55 AM
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I'm not sure light weight is an asset in coaster hubs the way it is in nearly every other bicycle component. The brake turns kinetic energy (forward motion) into heat energy, and the mass of the hub acts as the heat sink.

Anyway, roller actuated coaster brakes are also found in the SRAM iMotion3 hub and the Sturmey-Archer S2C/B2C hubs.
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Old 11-06-10, 11:59 AM
  #23  
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I've been running one of these for about 2 months now and like it.

I ended up picking up one off ebay. The guy I got it from custom builds wheels too so I got a wheel built from him and it's very well built.

I can agree with the OP that it has a slight squealing under moderate braking right out of the box. Other than that it rides super smooth and I enjoy it a lot. I like it much better than the stock Alex/Formula combo I had before.
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Old 11-07-10, 10:43 AM
  #24  
Henry III
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I going with a Bendix two speed kickback on my next build. I have the hub already but these things have been around since the 60's and still work great so I'm sold on that. The only down fall on them is once they stop changing gears they're toast since parts are long gone. But I like them since they give a clean appearance without the need for a shifter and cables.
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Old 12-24-10, 11:18 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Henry III View Post
I going with a Bendix two speed kickback on my next build. I have the hub already but these things have been around since the 60's and still work great so I'm sold on that. The only down fall on them is once they stop changing gears they're toast since parts are long gone. But I like them since they give a clean appearance without the need for a shifter and cables.
You can get a new index spring for the Bendix two speed hub on Ebay sometimes. They are super expensive for what they are, but that is usually the only part that fails in that hub.

On the Velosteel hub, if you use a light grease, and do not go crazy with it. you can get the hub to work quitely. I have ridden several of them and have not experienced the squealing thing. These hubs do not need to be packed with grease like a shimano or Bendix. The roller clutch is sensitive to over packing with grease. You can tell a hub that has too much grease, or maybe too sticky and thick grease, because it will do that long engagement thing described above. You need light grease, like the grease that they come with. The older hubs came with an oil port, so they were desgned to be run with oil, not grease. I am working on finding a good grease to use in these hubs, in the meantime, look for something that is not too thick or sticky. Check out my web site for rebuild instructions, and please contact me if you need any help with your velosteel hub. I am really sold on the superior design of these hubs and I want to be sure everyone has a positive experience using them. Guy
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