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"Extreme" cold - Freewheel or cassette/freehub?

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"Extreme" cold - Freewheel or cassette/freehub?

Old 02-13-20, 01:24 PM
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madpogue 
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"Extreme" cold - Freewheel or cassette/freehub?

So it was single digits F this morning, wind chills below zero. Halfway (almost exactly) into my commute, my freehub spun free without engaging. It's a Shimano 7-speed on an early '90s Hard Rock. Fortunately only a three-block walk to grab a bus for the remainder of the commute. Brought the wheel inside, and of course, as soon as it warmed up it started working again. I'm guessing some water got in there, and froze.

Of course, what happened could happen with any ratcheting mechanism. That said, I have the option to run a wheel with an old-school thread-on freewheel. Just wondering if a freewheel would be any less likely to experience water intrusion and ice-up in the ratchet/pawl part of the works. Any thoughts / ideas / experiences either way?

Hmm, come to think of it, I might even have a 130-spaced hub with that "silent" mechanism that supposedly uses some kind of clutch mechanism internally. Blanking on the name at the moment. I wonder if that would be better (or perhaps worse) in these conditions.
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Old 02-13-20, 02:40 PM
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Depending on the freewheel, it might be more or less prone to water intrusion. Lots of classic ones had basically no seals, SunTour had a few with labyrinth seals that were supposed to be good.

I'm a freehub guy, so I'd suggest taking it off and flushing it with some oil. That should help displace any water that was in there and make sure it's lubed for the future. Depending on the model, maybe you could add O-rings at each end to help seal it from the outside.
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Old 02-13-20, 03:48 PM
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Good idea on the o-rings, thanks. I just realized this wheel doesn't even have a dork disc. Yeah, it obviously wouldn't be a seal, but it would certainly reduce the amount of water or snow hitting the inboard side of the freehub.
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Old 02-13-20, 03:51 PM
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Yet another reason to ride fix gear in the winter. Better control of the bike on slippery surfaces being number one and the reason I started. Other advantages: better fitness gains from limited miles/hours. No damage to derailleurs in right side crashes. (Again, those slippery surfaces.) Nothing to freeze and if the chain does suffer a frozen link or two, you just slide the wheel forward to get your chain slack back. Snow never disables the chain/cassette interface. No derailleurs to freeze up. And if you don't ride expensive parts, you can replace the entire drivetrain at the end of winter on a very modest budget.

I haven't ridden geared bikes in real winter for 45 years except a few fun rides (on those rare days when it snows in Portland). If I have to get there, it's always on the fix gear.

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Old 02-13-20, 04:17 PM
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Not sure how a fixie would do going up Capitol Hill every day. Here, snow is not rare, nor is it much fun. Fixie equipment rarely shows up on CL here, and when it does, it's $$$$$'y. Conventional '90s vintage geared stuff is cheap (or free) and abundant by comparison; of the MTBs we're riding this winter, my daily commuter is the exception; it's the only one that actuallly cost money (albeit only $25.00). My cycling is more about taking things out of the waste stream, not putting things into it.
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Old 02-13-20, 06:49 PM
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My preference for winter riding is fixed gear, it always works and there is nothing to go wrong, I trust it 100%....I also use singlespeed freewheels and other than being very noisy I never had one fail yet....I also have a shimano XT cassette hub converted to singlespeed with one sprocket and it will skip occasionally in extreme cold but never stranded me yet, it seems to work fine.
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Old 02-13-20, 07:32 PM
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If it happens again and you're 3 or 30 miles from a bus line, you can always piss on it.
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Old 02-14-20, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by sixer View Post
If it happens again and you're 3 or 30 miles from a bus line, you can always piss on it.
LOL, dude across the hall from me at work had the same idea. Not sure how well that would go over on the must travelled non-motor-vehicle commuter thoroughfare in the state, however....

But yeah, I was about ready to "piss on it".....

Update - per this page - https://www.icebike.org/winterizing-...nd-ice-biking/ - the old Shimano Silent Clutch style freehub is supposed to work down to -60. I happen to have an MTB wheel built from one of those, so I put studdie on it last night. I might get a chance to test it out this morning.
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Old 02-14-20, 08:50 AM
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While on the topic of "winterizing" freehubs, some members like @davidad will take apart their freehubs to add a stronger pawl spring. That is done so that the freehub can be lubricated with grease and not interfere with the pawls engaging. I bet it would help when a little ice forms in there, too.
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Old 02-14-20, 07:33 PM
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This is precisely why I rode a three-speed in Cleveland winters back in my youth... Nothing exposed to get frozen. Chain was re-oiled weekly.
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Old 02-26-20, 02:45 PM
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I prefer my Shimano Alfine 8 speed internally geared bike for the dead of Maine winters,

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Old 02-27-20, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by David in Maine View Post
I prefer my Shimano Alfine 8 speed internally geared bike for the dead of Maine winters,

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that and belt drive
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Old 02-27-20, 01:31 PM
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They all still have some ratchet freewheel mechanism. My problem wasn't with the external gearing (cassette, derailleur, chain), it was with the ratchet mechaism which is every bit as internal as any of the above (except, of course, fixed gear). They're all still vulnerable to water intrusion and eventual icing. Ironically (but off-topic), the trigger shifters, cables and derailleurs have all worked flawlessly all season.

I did have another NOS freehub body on hand, and the ratcheting mechanism on it has a more definitive sound and feel to it. I installed it a couple weeks ago, and it's seen a couple days of sub-zero service, trouble-free. Maybe along the lines of ThermionicScott 's idea, maybe the old freehub was just getting weak pawl springs.
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Old 03-07-20, 08:25 PM
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Frost
If I ride at zero,bringing the bike indoors it will get condensation which is moisture to freeze. Like your glasses when you come indoors. I replaced a freewheel and it was engaging when warm and not when cold.
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Old 03-14-20, 10:18 AM
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I used to commute in the teens, but then my minimum crept up to 21F until 5 years ago when I pushed it down to 10F and then down to the single digits two years ago. None of my 3 bikes has suffered from a frozen hub, but only one bike gets ridden on the snow, my 1997 Nishiki Blazer 21-speed. I had the hub apart 10 years ago by accident, so I cleaned and regreased it. Never had an issue with the hub...but that is probably a combination of good luck and our dry climate.

Having commuted on snow and ice regularly for 4 winters now, I don't know how I'd handle a fixed gear. There are a lot of hills here in Colorado Springs, and aside from not having low enough gears for the uphills with a fixed gear, I need to coast on the slick downhills. I have studded snow tires and on slick downhills I will put my left foot out for stability and lean slightly left with my right foot in the right toe clip as I feather the brakes. This may be bad form, but it's what I do.

That being said, I don't think my 58-year old knees are up to fixed gear riding anyways, so the point is mute. But since this is an internet forum, rinternational law dictates I must offer an opinion even if it is ill-informed, non-germane or adversarial.
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Old 03-14-20, 10:17 PM
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What do the riders on the Iditibike use?

I've thought that if another one of my freewheels or freehubs were to start constantly freewheeling in real cold weather that I'd open it up a bit and put is a bit of anti-freeze and light oild mixture.

I think the biggest reason that freewheels or freehubs spin in cold weather is condensation from going from a warm environment to a cold environment.

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