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rear wheel spinning problem

Old 05-28-22, 11:11 AM
  #1  
cuyd
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rear wheel spinning problem

I got freewheel single-speed bike that was converted from old road bike(horizontal dropouts). Rear wheel works all fine when I'm spinning it in hands, it's well trued and brakes are properly adjusted and aligned. Hub and freewheel are also properly greased and maintained, they hold tight and there is no bad clearance anywhere.

After installing rear wheel it doesn't spin that well anymore. I compared it to normal gravel bike(where rear wheel weights twice as much) with derailleurs and the difference is enormous, like 4x more spinning time after applying similar force. I've tried changing chain tension and it has some small effect, but nothing really noticeable when comparing to gravel bike. Same with axle tension. Comparatively, when spinning both wheels without chain attached, single-speed wheel spins much better than gravel one. My current guess is that there's something wrong with freewheel itself, even when it was bought one month ago. Or maybe it's poorly attached? But before hasty conclusions I'd like to ask if it's something I should worry about and what is your advice. Thanks
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Old 05-28-22, 11:20 AM
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Old 05-28-22, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by cuyd View Post
I got freewheel single-speed bike that was converted from old road bike(horizontal dropouts). Rear wheel works all fine when I'm spinning it in hands, it's well trued and brakes are properly adjusted and aligned. Hub and freewheel are also properly greased and maintained, they hold tight and there is no bad clearance anywhere.

After installing rear wheel it doesn't spin that well anymore. I compared it to normal gravel bike(where rear wheel weights twice as much) with derailleurs and the difference is enormous, like 4x more spinning time after applying similar force. I've tried changing chain tension and it has some small effect, but nothing really noticeable when comparing to gravel bike. Same with axle tension. Comparatively, when spinning both wheels without chain attached, single-speed wheel spins much better than gravel one. My current guess is that there's something wrong with freewheel itself, even when it was bought one month ago. Or maybe it's poorly attached? But before hasty conclusions I'd like to ask if it's something I should worry about and what is your advice. Thanks
So the wheel spins fine when you're holding the axle ends in your hands = bearings are OK
Wheel spins fine when clamped into the dropouts, but no chain attached (so freewheel spins along with the hub)
With chain attached, the wheel spins poorly.
Sounds like your freewheel is slowing things down. A freewheel or free hub will always do that to a degree - there's energy expended "fighting the ratchet" - the question is, is it excessive? A four-fold decrease in spin time with chain vs without chain seems like a lot. In your situation, I would either (i) replace the freewheel, or (ii) rebuilding and relaxing the existing freewheel, if that's within your capability (there are springs and bearings in there, I imagine). Prior to either, though, I would do the experiment of squirting some oil into the freewheel to free up whatever grease it in there and see if it makes a difference. If you do that, though, you will have to go in and regrease it at some point.
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Old 05-28-22, 11:54 AM
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One thing to keep in mind is that the tires on the gravel bike probably weigh much more than the ones on the single speed and therefore have much more inertia
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Old 05-28-22, 11:58 AM
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Chain too tight?
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Old 05-28-22, 12:07 PM
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If you have a quick release, it can tighten the cones slightly when clamped down. Less of an issue if you're using bolt-on wheels.

I suppose it might be possible that if the dropouts were massively out of alignment, it could also impact the wheels spinning.
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Old 05-28-22, 04:50 PM
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Chain tension for single speed bikes is a big misnomer. The correct "tension" is actually a very slight amount of slack. If the chain is actually adjusted for actual tension than it'll do what you're getting. And it's really bad for the chain, all the gearing, the freewheel bearings and the bottom bracket all at the same time.

As you back pedal the cranks the chain will alter the chain tension due to a variety of manufacturing differences and slight out of roundness issues in all the various components. What you want to avoid is a spot anywhere in about 15 to 20 crank rotations where the tension actually goes tight. Very little slack to where it's not felt is fine. But if the crank seems to feel any resistance as if going over a "bump" and kicking forward as it passes then you are getting a tight spot and need to slack things off a hair. Meanwhile at the most loose spot you should only be able to move the chain at mid run up and down perhaps in an extreme case of 1 inch. Ideally the chain slack would remain constant at around 1/2" or perhaps slightly less. But in the real world I'd be OK with from not quite tight at the tightest to up to around 3/4" of slack at the most loose.

If I find I'm getting an inch of slack or more I'll try to see if I can move the chain ring around on the crank spider or I'll change the crank set to a different quadrant on the square taper or try some other tricks to try to get the chain ring running more concentric.... hopefully.... If the issue is at the freewheel cog then not much can be done other than to get a different freewheel and hope it is made more concentrically.

And Clifford also makes a great point about the quick release issue tightening the cones and causing drag. So much so that I made up a couple of thick plate washers that pass a QR skewer and let's me tension the QR. Just heavy 1/8 steel squares about 3/4 to 1" square and 7/32 (a touch bigger than the 5mm needed) in the middle. This leaves the cone and locking nuts accessible to adjust the preload with QR tension in place.

After you carefully adjust for a nice running bearing and release the QR tension you'll be surprised at the amount of play in the cones.

Hope that helps out.
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Old 05-29-22, 06:35 AM
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Thanks for answers. Few more findings, I've tried to spin just the freewheel without chain attached and I'm 99% sure it's not spinning properly. This would mean that hub and hub cones/chain tension are probably fine. Now I wonder is it actually that big issue? It could be that there's just too much grease(it's new freewheel with new grease btw, it did less than 200 miles total in perfect road conditions). Honestly I'm not even sure is it slowing me down, it's not noticeable when I ride.
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Old 05-29-22, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
And Clifford also makes a great point about the quick release issue tightening the cones and causing drag. So much so that I made up a couple of thick plate washers that pass a QR skewer and let's me tension the QR. Just heavy 1/8 steel squares about 3/4 to 1" square and 7/32 (a touch bigger than the 5mm needed) in the middle. This leaves the cone and locking nuts accessible to adjust the preload with QR tension in place.

After you carefully adjust for a nice running bearing and release the QR tension you'll be surprised at the amount of play in the cones.
Stein Tools makes a compact and not too expensive AXLE VISE for those who like to collect tools.
It really is surprising how much play is taken up by compression of the axle by the quick-release.
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Old 05-29-22, 07:05 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
Chain tension for single speed bikes is a big misnomer. The correct "tension" is actually a very slight amount of slack. If the chain is actually adjusted for actual tension than it'll do what you're getting. And it's really bad for the chain, all the gearing, the freewheel bearings and the bottom bracket all at the same time.

As you back pedal the cranks the chain will alter the chain tension due to a variety of manufacturing differences and slight out of roundness issues in all the various components. What you want to avoid is a spot anywhere in about 15 to 20 crank rotations where the tension actually goes tight. Very little slack to where it's not felt is fine. But if the crank seems to feel any resistance as if going over a "bump" and kicking forward as it passes then you are getting a tight spot and need to slack things off a hair. Meanwhile at the most loose spot you should only be able to move the chain at mid run up and down perhaps in an extreme case of 1 inch. Ideally the chain slack would remain constant at around 1/2" or perhaps slightly less. But in the real world I'd be OK with from not quite tight at the tightest to up to around 3/4" of slack at the most loose.

If I find I'm getting an inch of slack or more I'll try to see if I can move the chain ring around on the crank spider or I'll change the crank set to a different quadrant on the square taper or try some other tricks to try to get the chain ring running more concentric.... hopefully.... If the issue is at the freewheel cog then not much can be done other than to get a different freewheel and hope it is made more concentrically.

And Clifford also makes a great point about the quick release issue tightening the cones and causing drag. So much so that I made up a couple of thick plate washers that pass a QR skewer and let's me tension the QR. Just heavy 1/8 steel squares about 3/4 to 1" square and 7/32 (a touch bigger than the 5mm needed) in the middle. This leaves the cone and locking nuts accessible to adjust the preload with QR tension in place.

After you carefully adjust for a nice running bearing and release the QR tension you'll be surprised at the amount of play in the cones.

Hope that helps out.
This describes lots of problems I have with my single-speed bike(albeit I think freewheel issue is separate). Given that I don't have tensioner and my frame has horizontal dropouts, raw leg power will always cause hub to move closer to crankset so I have to readjust it once in a while.

Because of this I don't use normal QR skewers anymore, in place of QR lever I have a nut that can be adjusted by normal allen key. This way I have more control over hub cones tension.

As for chain tension, I got it set to around 1/2" inch slack in tightest spot. Making it more loose does make the drivetrain work bit better, but the difference is so small I don't care. Plus, I like the "feel" of rigid drivetrain. It's definitely not cause of my freewheel not spinning properly(where difference is enormous). By the way, I talked about chain tension with bicycle mechanic and he told me that with brand new drivetrain it can be set as tight as possible but if it's bit used then there always should be some minimal slack in tightest spot.

Last edited by cuyd; 05-29-22 at 07:08 AM.
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Old 05-29-22, 09:41 AM
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When you are pedalling the bearings in the freewheel are not moving. it is only when you coast that friction in the freewheel is any kind of issue
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Old 05-29-22, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by alcjphil View Post
When you are pedalling the bearings in the freewheel are not moving. it is only when you coast that friction in the freewheel is any kind of issue
Honestly, when I coast it's because I'm about to slow down, normally I'm used to constant pedaling. So it doesn't bother me this way, but what about mechanics - is there any issue with it working this way, like some extra friction/stress on wheel parts or something that might get broken?
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Old 05-29-22, 01:46 PM
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Sounds like things are all good after all. More information in the last few posts filled in the blanks.

If your freewheel is sticky due to grease inside then if the bottom bracket is free turning you might even find that the rear wheel coasting causes the cranks to rotate too due to the stiffness. If it does that then that's a good sign that it's the sticky grease in your freewheel. But if you have a new or near new cartridge BB then don't be surprised if the grease in the BB fights the drag of the grease in the freewheel. It can easily end up with that sort of overall balance of issues.

Of course if we're talking about grease drag in BB's and freewheels we could easily be accused of making a mountain out of a small mole hill....

You'll need to decide if the drag in the freewheel is due to grease or if it's in fact the freewheel bearings being set too tight. What you could try is to dribble some solvent or WD40 down through the meeting line of the freewheel center and cog. It'll at least thin and somewhat wash out the grease. If you do that then replace the grease with some good oil to lube the bearings and pawls.
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Old 05-30-22, 09:39 AM
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All right, thanks guys. I'm going to leave it as it is and keep riding. The bottom bracket indeed does turn when freewheel is spinning. So once I get to cleaning drivetrain in future I will clean freewheel out of old grease with WD40 and carefully reconnect everything and apply new grease. Hopefully new grease won't be as sticky as current one and it all will get solved on it own.

Last edited by cuyd; 05-30-22 at 09:42 AM.
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