Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
Bice
Posts: 30
Joined: 18 May 2020, 7:33pm

Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby Bice » 19 Nov 2020, 10:16am

... Like, whether it will break?
Image

I have done up this MTB bike as a budget tourer and intend to ride it loaded, camping and with front panniers, too. Ultimate ambition is to ride through France, Corsica and Sardinia to southern Italy.

It has a seven-speed freewheel.

I am 70 kilos (11 stone). The bike is 13.8 kilos. I will take another 20 kilos in the panniers, and possibly a bit more at times.

I have never had an issue with freewheels and their offset, non-symmetrical bearing arrangement on the axle. I used them for years commuting and occasionally very much overloaded my 700c bike: both Ortlieb rear panniers stuffed with 16 bottles of champagne after one office Christmas party.

I actually quite like freewheels, but appreciate that the axle bearings of a freehub would be better placed and stronger.

Should I worry about this, or just risk it and carry another axle and cone spanners if I am still nervy?

Also, if I do choose to replace the rear wheel with a freehub, it looks like I will have to buy an eight speed. I do not particularly want this as I use indexed downtube shifters with 7 speed and they work perfectly. I suppose I could set them to friction and use an eight-gear hub, but that would probably irritate.

(I have specifically chosen not to do this on two 700c steel road bikes as I absolutely won't "cold set", or bend, my frames to space out the axle and get an 8-speed upgrade in gearing that I don't particularly want. So, I have a seven speed 3x Carlton Courette mixte frame commuter and a seven speed 2x Ciocc, and they are staying that way.)

I am much less experienced in MTB and 26-inch wheels. My guess was that the dishing of an 8-speed rear wheel would be virtually identical to a 7-speed 26 inch wheel. But some of these 8 speed wheels and hubs are also for 9 and 10 speed. So maybe there is an issue with dishing. (I am happy making up wheels and re-dishing, though I have never done a 26-inch.)

I suppose if eight speed fits the axle spacing perfectly, I might as well buy some 8sp indexed downtube shifters and appreciate the upgrade. Any thoughts?
Daily: Carlton Courette 1982 mixte frame, 42, 32, 22 7-speed on Tiagra
Favourite: Lazzaretti steel 1996 10-speed 48/34
Trek 1.7 10-speed triple 2010;
Ciocc steel 1984 50/34 7-speed used for Eroica in Italy
Marin Bolinas Ridge MTB c1995, 7-speed triple

hamster
Posts: 3652
Joined: 2 Feb 2007, 12:42pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby hamster » 19 Nov 2020, 11:08am

I would put the question slightly differently - you are going to heavily load that rear wheel, is it robust enough?

My view (and I've toured for 25 years on 26" wheels) is that a decent 36 spoked MTB wheel is plenty strong enough. However it needs to be hand built with a double-wall eyeletted rim and double-butted stainless spokes (ideally 36). I think your wheels, which are fine for pottering, are likely to bring trouble. A decent Shimano 7 speed freehub will be around £10-15 on ebay. Alivio is fine - the finish isn't beautiful but the innards are the same as fancier ones. Build it onto a solid MTB rim (say a Ryde Sputnik from Spa Cycles) and you will be able to forget about the thing for your tour.

I even have a 36H 7s Shimano RM20 freehub rebuilt with new bearings for £10 posted UK. PM if interested.

Marin MTB frames make fab tourers (it's what I've ridden for the past 25 years), and it sounds like a great trip.

PT1029
Posts: 923
Joined: 16 Apr 2012, 9:20pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby PT1029 » 19 Nov 2020, 11:48am

I repair bikes for a living.
Over 20+ years I have replaced countless broken rear axles on bikes with screw on freewheels - most for not over weight people who use their bikes for commuting only.
I have NEVER seen a broken cassette hub rear axle (or even bend).
Better design, and probably better metal too.

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NATURAL ANKLING
Posts: 12345
Joined: 24 Oct 2012, 10:43pm
Location: English Riviera

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby NATURAL ANKLING » 19 Nov 2020, 12:06pm

Hi,
I would go for a seven or eight speed, seven speed will be more robust, cassette rear wheel.
then add some seven or eight speed STI flat or mtb shifters, Eight speed shifters work on seven speed no problem.
Eight speed shifters are probably easier to get hold of even secondhand nowadays and there is a lot of 7 speed stuff knocking around still.
Any cold setting is only going to be minor isn't it you're going from 130 to 135?
I think Brucey Suggest a seven speed relished And possibly converted to an eight speed free hub/cassette.
I went over to 8 speed from seven speed hubs because I thought it might be a good idea but I'll be honest that extra eight speed if it's an 11 tooth is it really worth the bother.
So 7×3 is going to get you anywhere.
ST I MTB shifters Means you can keep both hands on the bars when you're changing gear, just makes life feel a bit easier when the going gets tough.

edited-
I gave up on freewheels about forty years ago, but recently broke a solid axle after just 1000 heavy miles.
I convert it to a cassette hollow axle and broke that too, but it was probably a cheap one.
I think there are good and bad quality solid Free Wheel axles going around, But very unlikely you will break a hollow Shimano free hub axle.
NA Thinks Just End 2 End Return + Bivvy
You'll Still Find Me At The Top Of A Hill
Please forgive the poor Grammar I blame it on my mobile and phat thinkers.

nsew
Posts: 520
Joined: 14 Dec 2017, 12:38pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby nsew » 19 Nov 2020, 12:22pm

UK to Sicily loaded will stress a rear axle more than transporting 16 bottles of bubbly to an office party. What is the OLN distance of that frame? P Clipping low rider panniers to the front is asking for trouble along the way. Better to fix a front platform rack and strap sleeping bag and mattress (2kg) on top. Tent strapped on rear platform. 20kg is at least 5kg too much for such a mild to hot weather journey. You’ll hate lugging all the unnecessary kit around in the heat and hills of those islands. Building up a strong rear wheel will cost about £75 - what’s the OLN?

nsew
Posts: 520
Joined: 14 Dec 2017, 12:38pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby nsew » 19 Nov 2020, 2:02pm

I’d also seek to replace the rear rack with a steel one. Front platform can be a cheap alloy supporting 2-3kg.

Bice
Posts: 30
Joined: 18 May 2020, 7:33pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby Bice » 19 Nov 2020, 3:06pm

hamster wrote:I would put the question slightly differently - you are going to heavily load that rear wheel, is it robust enough? ...


Good points and kind offer. I will be in touch

PT1029 wrote:I repair bikes for a living.
Over 20+ years I have replaced countless broken rear axles on bikes with screw on freewheels - most for not over weight people who use their bikes for commuting only.
I have NEVER seen a broken cassette hub rear axle (or even bend). ...


I don't doubt you and I recognise the defect, but personally I have never encountered a broken one: I have a freewheel on my Ciocc, and I'm not changing it. But then it is not a tourer (although I did 230kms of white roads of the Eroica with it, but then a broken axle is probably all part of the fun in that world).

NATURAL ANKLING wrote:Hi, I would go for a seven or eight speed, seven speed will be more robust, cassette rear wheel.
then add some seven or eight speed STI flat or mtb shifters, Eight speed shifters work on seven speed no problem ...


Got to disagree on the shifters. Most MTB / hybrid shifters are cheap, weak and bulky. I went to considerable expense to put downtube shifters on this bike (the mount band on the oversize tube is handmade in Wisconsin) because: 1/ I want the handlebars free of stuff; the former MTB shifters were part of the brake unit, and rubbish; 2/ I find shifting onto the large chainring using a thumb very uncomfortable and a bad design; 3/ The best handlebar shifters for MTB / hybrids I have encountered are twist-grip, but while comfortable and practical, they are cheaply made, bulky, vulnerable and break. I am not sure whether there are any decent quality models; 4/ Downtube shifters get the shifters out of the way, tend not to break if a laden bike falls, are very simple and robust. I do not find many downsides on tarmac with downtube shifters on this bike: if my Campagnolo ErgoPower shifters break on my 10-speed road bike, I might be tempted to replace them with downtubes as well: it would look cool, but it would be a step backwards too far even for me. The real downside is on rough tracks, as you do have to remove a hand to shift. I will live with that, given the pluses.

nsew wrote:What is the OLN distance of that frame? P Clipping low rider panniers to the front is asking for trouble along the way. Better to fix a front platform rack and strap sleeping bag and mattress (2kg) on top. Tent strapped on rear platform. 20kg is at least 5kg too much for such a mild to hot weather journey. You’ll hate lugging all the unnecessary kit around in the heat and hills of those islands. Building up a strong rear wheel will cost about £75 - what’s the OLN?


You are almost certainly right. I have since the fitted a Rixen Kaul handlebar bag, so a platform rack might not fit. I am sure you are right about P-clips. I have had the same pair for years on my commuter, but a breakage on the commute is a minor concern. Re the 20 kilos, I have not started thinking seriously about weights yet, but they could be way less: tent, sleeping bag, inflatable mat, tarpaulin ground sheet, rule of 3 on clothes, warm jacket, waterproof nylon thing, toiletries, large heavy SLR, trangria and meths, battery pack, minimum tools, perhaps a laptop. Odds and ends and plenty of empty space for food purchases ...

The OLN of the rear is 135mm.

nsew wrote:I’d also seek to replace the rear rack with a steel one. Front platform can be a cheap alloy supporting 2-3kg.


Really useful. I actually have a steel rack on my Carlton Courette, but it is pretty thin, tired, sways a bit and is of the same vintage as the bike (1982). Not sure it would be an improvement on the rather more sturdy alloy one on this bike. So I guess I should consider a proper, new touring rack.

Image
Daily: Carlton Courette 1982 mixte frame, 42, 32, 22 7-speed on Tiagra
Favourite: Lazzaretti steel 1996 10-speed 48/34
Trek 1.7 10-speed triple 2010;
Ciocc steel 1984 50/34 7-speed used for Eroica in Italy
Marin Bolinas Ridge MTB c1995, 7-speed triple

hamster
Posts: 3652
Joined: 2 Feb 2007, 12:42pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby hamster » 19 Nov 2020, 3:10pm

Hmm, the reason why the rack sways on that Carlton is down to the twin-lat frame, a notoriously poor design for being flexy.

hamster
Posts: 3652
Joined: 2 Feb 2007, 12:42pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby hamster » 19 Nov 2020, 3:10pm

NATURAL ANKLING wrote:Hi,
then add some seven or eight speed STI flat or mtb shifters, Eight speed shifters work on seven speed no problem.
Eight speed shifters are probably easier to get hold of even secondhand nowadays and there is a lot of 7 speed stuff knocking around still.
Any cold setting is only going to be minor isn't it you're going from 130 to 135?


Not so fast on 7/8 compatibility. 7 speed is 5.0mm spacing, 8 is 4.8mm.
It sort-of works, with clean cables and new outers. Then it gets rattly in a couple of gears. Some people tolerate it, personally I think it's too fussy.

It's a late 90s MTB so it will be 135mm already so no cold setting required.

Bice
Posts: 30
Joined: 18 May 2020, 7:33pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby Bice » 19 Nov 2020, 3:42pm

hamster wrote:It's a late 90s MTB so it will be 135mm already so no cold setting required.


So I could use an 8-speed, re-space the axle for chain line and be good to go (with or without a bit of re-dishing and new set of indexed 8-speed shifters)?
Daily: Carlton Courette 1982 mixte frame, 42, 32, 22 7-speed on Tiagra
Favourite: Lazzaretti steel 1996 10-speed 48/34
Trek 1.7 10-speed triple 2010;
Ciocc steel 1984 50/34 7-speed used for Eroica in Italy
Marin Bolinas Ridge MTB c1995, 7-speed triple

nsew
Posts: 520
Joined: 14 Dec 2017, 12:38pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby nsew » 19 Nov 2020, 3:56pm

The Shimano STX 7 speed is considered a good strong hub with decent seals, judging by reviews. You may be able to use your current spokes - this site may give spoke lengths https://leonard.io/edd/

The seller has more than 10 available and they’ll be sealed packaging as it’s distributor stock.

Search Shimano STX 7 speed on eBay. They’re 135 / 36h.
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nsew
Posts: 520
Joined: 14 Dec 2017, 12:38pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby nsew » 19 Nov 2020, 4:11pm

What you have. 7 speed downtube shifters are a great set up for touring. I see only downsides of moving to 8. Dish makes for a considerably weaker wheel plus the cost of new shifters, new spokes and potentially a bb change for chainline.

Bice
Posts: 30
Joined: 18 May 2020, 7:33pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby Bice » 19 Nov 2020, 4:56pm

hamster wrote:Hmm, the reason why the rack sways on that Carlton is down to the twin-lat frame, a notoriously poor design for being flexy.


Yes, the frame is not brilliant under load - ie shopping - and I would not consider it for heavy touring. But the rack sways as well, even under my hand. I might worry about it, if I ever go great distance.
Daily: Carlton Courette 1982 mixte frame, 42, 32, 22 7-speed on Tiagra
Favourite: Lazzaretti steel 1996 10-speed 48/34
Trek 1.7 10-speed triple 2010;
Ciocc steel 1984 50/34 7-speed used for Eroica in Italy
Marin Bolinas Ridge MTB c1995, 7-speed triple

hamster
Posts: 3652
Joined: 2 Feb 2007, 12:42pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby hamster » 19 Nov 2020, 5:00pm

Bice wrote:
hamster wrote:It's a late 90s MTB so it will be 135mm already so no cold setting required.


So I could use an 8-speed, re-space the axle for chain line and be good to go (with or without a bit of re-dishing and new set of indexed 8-speed shifters)?


No, the freehub body for 8 speed is longer. I agree with the STX hub recommended above - they are bombproof. I've run one on a touring tandem and it performed faultlessly.

Bice
Posts: 30
Joined: 18 May 2020, 7:33pm

Re: Should I worry about freewheel axle?

Postby Bice » 19 Nov 2020, 5:27pm

nsew wrote:The Shimano STX 7 speed is considered a good strong hub with decent seals, judging by reviews. You may be able to use your current spokes - this site may give spoke lengths https://leonard.io/edd/


I am beginning to think I should make up a pair of wheels and if anything breaks I won't have anyone to blame.

The present hubs are Shimano Altus rear and a Shimano HB CT91 front.

Isn't there a case for sticking with them as I have not broken them yet, and they do get hard use? Or are STX way better? SORRY, scrap this. Forgot the freewheel point of the entire thread ... But maybe a case for the front wheel?
Daily: Carlton Courette 1982 mixte frame, 42, 32, 22 7-speed on Tiagra
Favourite: Lazzaretti steel 1996 10-speed 48/34
Trek 1.7 10-speed triple 2010;
Ciocc steel 1984 50/34 7-speed used for Eroica in Italy
Marin Bolinas Ridge MTB c1995, 7-speed triple