After spending hours trying to relieve the spokes, and generally driving myself nuts trying to remedy the creak, I gave up and put my nearly identical spare on, and have ridden that the last 8 months. A couple of months ago though, I realized it was time to get ready to replace my "winter" wheel with my summer wheel, and decided to repack the bearings on both in the process of swapping them out.
|Parts replace were 5,6,8,9, and 10,11,12,13. Photos are of #10's cup surface|
|Pitting and spalling of an Ultegra 6700 rear hub|
I took the good free-hub body off my creaky, custom wheel, the axle with 2 good cones, and was able to put together one good wheel by cannibalizing two bad ones. There's definite advantages in having two identical, or in my case, nearly identical wheels (the PBS wheel uses 14/15 double butted Wheelsmith spokes on both sides). Since rear wheels are much more likely to break than front ones, having two identical rear wheels is much more important. Think about relative tire wear in the front and back, and double or triple that.
I ordered a new free-hub body from Amazon, and a new cone from Performance Bike Shop, who happen to remember they're a LBS, and should provide this service. They did so after a complete failure the first time (they lost all record and recollection of the order, until I jogged their memory, and then they just shrugged), 6 weeks of waiting, and then a week waiting for the re-order. When I went to pick the drive-side cone up, they informed me they couldn't sell just one - in clear contradiction to the two cones, each with their own part number, plastic bag, and price. I HATE being lied to!!!
$20, plus tax for the two cones, and $45 for the free-hub body. I'd RX getting the 2 cones along with the axle in a rebuild kit for $30 - a better deal IMHO. $65 is a lot of money to put into rebuilding a hub that didn't cost much more than that when I bought it, but the alternative was to toss the entire wheel. Nasty thing, having a nice wheel wrapped around a bad hub. In fairness to PBS, the 2nd mechanic I dealt with was very professional.
|I'll see you on the dark side of the moon. Very hard to photograph. These are the best of 100+ attempts.|
I now have 2 good wheels, assuming I don't find anymore nasty surprises when I repack my winter wheel, and I have replaced the stock bearings, which have G20 balls, with G10 balls I bought in bulk from Amazon.com. Btw, balls are rated according to their tolerances, so the smaller the number, the tighter the tolerances, and therefore, the better the balls. G10 is as good as steel bearings get. You can get G5 ceramic balls, and that is an advantage in having loose ball hubs. Generally though, my enthusiasm for loose balls has dissipated significantly. ;)
This brings me to an important point. If you have cartridge/sealed bearings, (a misnomer, as all bearings have seals) you don't have to worry about the cups getting pitted or spalled. You replace the cups, cones, balls, and seals whenever you replace the cartridge bearing. The downside is, you're paying a lot of extra money for parts that aren't usually needed, so for any given price point, you get better quality bearings in a loose ball hub, AND, you can get them. Chris King, for example uses his own in-house mfg-ed sealed bearings - which he doesn't sell to the public.
|Good, basic bearing grease for bikes. Basically, I use it as a filler to displace water and dirt, and let the pure Teflon do the work of keeping the bearings rolling.|
There's nothing very hard about replacing or repacking ball bearings, nor free-hub bodies. It pays to swap your wheels out at least once a year, and at least repack them. The G10 balls are going for a dime a piece at Amazon. There are 18 in back and 22 in front. Well worth the trivial expense in my view.
|Morningstar Ball Tweezers|
This one has a brass ball holder, which makes scratching a ball impossible. These are tools mechanics treasure. A source of bragging rights for those who know how easily balls can get scratched. When working with bearings, every attempt should be made to maintain a surgically clean environment. A human hair mixed in the grease, speck of dirt, metal fleck, or bit of rubber seal will degrade and/or ruin a bearing. It is absolutely essential that your tools, hands, rags, and general work area be absolutely CLEAN!
I am happy to report that the creak is gone, so almost worth the $65 bucks. Now I can focus on building up a new speed wheel in back, based on my old Alex wheel hub, DT Swiss bladed spokes, and a DT Swiss R585 30mm deep rim. With 24 spokes, and the 30mm profile, it should be slippery, and since the Alex hub is pretty light, a reasonable weight as well.