Working on someone else's bike…


A chap in the office – let’s call him by his preferred handle of the “Duke” – last year bought a Blue RC8. Over the past 18 months the machine, while giving good service, has taken the kind of pounding only a retired rugby player of the Duke’s stamp can inflict, as a result of which he began to suspect the rear wheel bearings were on their way out.

The wheels are American Classic’s Victory clinchers; a mid-priced road  model designed for the larger rider and featuring “sturdier bearings and hub for increased durability”. Despite this reassuring specification, the Duke convinced himself that imminent rear wheel bearing failure was the reason the bike was becoming increasingly hard to pedal fast and asked me to help replace them with new ones supplied by American Classic distributor Eurobike

Why not? Off came the wheel, which last saw degreaser the day it left the American Classic factory. Now for the cassette, which was filthy in that old cack-covered transmission way. It was also jammed on the freehub body, which I hadn’t expected. American Classic wheels mostly use an aluminium body with splines reinforced by steel strips  that prevent individual sprockets indenting the soft metal of the body – the “steel-faced cassette body”. Not the Victory, which has a simpler, less costly plain aluminium body.

The damage caused by the Duke’s considerable power output is clearly visible in the form of indents gouged in the faces of the splines. As the sprocket rotates so it sits in the indents, it becomes locked in place and for removal must be rotated backwards to disengage the notch. Worse, however, is the bulge caused by the displacement of the gouged metal; this makes the body’s spline diameter larger than that of the inside of the cassette, further hindering removal.

Eventually, and using more than a little  brutality, I got them off. Time to check the bearings. Perfect. Damn; why didn’t I check them first? Oh, well, there must be another reason – apart from the Duke’s relatively weedy legs – for the poor performance. One spin of the wheel was enough to reveal it; a decent-sized “fred” or lateral bump, which was rubbing just lightly on one brake block. A couple of turns of the spoke key restored the wheel to close to manufacturer’s tolerances, leaving the task of getting the cassette back on.

No file, second-cut, bastard or otherwise, was to hand, so out came the pen knife. A file is simply a collection of thousands of small cutting teeth, so why not, since the freehub body was in soft aluminium, do the job with one big one? The blade did it well enough to get the cassette back on with ease, leaving the work of a few moments to get the wheel back in the bike.

Getting my fingers clean took a lot longer, but their state earned me yet another beer on top of those earned for a: agreeing to swap bearings; b: reaching the point where it became clear that the swap would not be needed; c: remodelling the freehub body splines ( that one may be on American Classic’s Bill Shook); d: refitting a filthy cassette; e: truing the wheel and f: putting the wheel back. The last is easy if you know how; if not… 

That’s a lot of beer and I think a pork pie may have been mentioned…

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