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While working on a old 60's Raleigh I found that there is slight pitting on one of the cones on the front hub (rest of the hub is good). Ideally I would replace the damaged part and move one, but spare parts for these bikes are becoming difficult to find. While I did find a replacement this time, there may be a point that I will not.

So given that one can't fix this properly, what can be done to ensure that damage is minimized?

This will also cause my bearings to wear out faster, and rules of thumb to follow?

In my case these are the oil lubed hubs and I plan on sticking with that, but if grease would work better, then I'm ok with that too.

Here is all the damage the current cone has:

Damage to cone

  • Good luck, I guess -- my guess is all that you can do is make sure everything is properly adjusted regularly. And save the damaged parts, since you may have to reuse them at some point since they're the least damaged parts you can get at some point. – Batman Apr 20 '15 at 14:00
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    If you find replacement cones now buy as many as you can. Put the unused ones in a sealed glass jar with some oil or desiccant. – Carel Apr 20 '15 at 18:16
  • The problem is that running with such a cone will eventually cause similar damage to the cup of the hub. – Daniel R Hicks May 4 '15 at 0:40
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    One might be able to find a machine shop that could resurface the cone, but it would be expensive, and the resurfaced cone would wear faster. – Daniel R Hicks May 4 '15 at 0:41
  • Are these cones actually hard to find? Are they significantly different to regular cones, that can be had at your LBS ? I couldn't buy cones separately, a whole axle with cones and lock nuts cost around $30 NZ. If the only difference is depth/width, then you might get away with a spacer between the cone and the lock nut. – Criggie Sep 27 '15 at 21:57
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I would recommend doing two things:

Reassemble the hub with the thickest grease you can find (within reason). It might slow you down a little, but it will help the bearings last as long as possible.

Make a mark on the back side of the cone that corresponds to where the damage is. When you're putting the wheel on, rotate the axle so that the damaged side of the cone is facing up. Then (assuming you adjusted the hub perfectly), there will be no pressure at all on the damaged side of the cone, and all the pressure on the good side.

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    Good point about putting the damaged side up. – Daniel R Hicks May 4 '15 at 0:42
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"Ball bearings depend on the continuous presence of a very thin -millionths of an inch - film of lubricant between balls and races, and between the cage, bearing rings, and balls."

Pitting happen very often when user over-tighten the hub, or forget to re-adjust the hub between winter/summer (depends on where you live, in Scotland I need to give a proper re-adjustment every half a year); especially from Winter to Summer, if you have the hub adjusted in the winter for good fit. This leads to little/no lubricant between the balls and the hub.

Use good quality Ball Bearing

Use grease specifically designed for bearings. So that you do not have to service the hub too often

I wouldn't go too far before seeing the picture of your cones to see what actually caused the failure of your hub. Could you please upload a picture?

EDIT: from the picture, it looks like the cone is either (1) being installed incorrectly (pitting appears only on a particular side), (2) Over-loading or wrong handling, (3)less likely, but I will not rule-out, is that the cone is machined with defects: asymmetrical

  • I'll put photos up of the cones if I remember too. I'm not sure about the service history of the bike, but considering the shape it is in, it was either hardly ridden or taken care off. It is 50 years old. The hub was clean, no dirt or grime in it. It is a oiled hub but there was no standing oil in it. Before I opened it spun really well (after cone adjustment). the only reason I opened it was because there was play and I wanted to check on its condition. – BPugh Apr 22 '15 at 14:07
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    don't forget to take picture BPugh – Nhân Lê Apr 23 '15 at 22:40
  • I got that picture up. – BPugh May 3 '15 at 20:33
  • from the picture, it looks like the cone is either (1) being installed incorrectly (pitting appears only on a particular side), (2) Over-loading or wrong handling, (3)less likely, but I will not rule-out, is that the cone is machined with defects: asymmetrical – Nhân Lê May 5 '15 at 15:04
  • I wonder if what we're seeing here is the opposite of @BSO rider's solution? Could this be the bottom of a mis-adjusted bearing? – dlu Jul 14 '15 at 3:23
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There is no way to minimize damage. With all due respect to BSOrider, the assembly rotates so no matter what position the damaged portion is, it will have an affect on the bearings and races. Pitted cones, races, and bearings need to be replaced period. Old Raleigh 3 speeds are quite ubiquitous so some LBS is likely to have them. That having been said, this is a Raleigh 3 speed, not a artificial heart. The amount of precision here is not that crucial. The North Vietnamese used these things on the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the War. Until you can get replacement parts, pack it in plenty of grease. The main thing is stop reading your computer and ride.

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    BSOrider's suggestion should work. The axel is fixed to the frame (I.e., it will not rotate) so the damaged portion of the cone will remain up. While the bearings rotate around the cone, the the lower portion of the cone surface is the surface that supports the weight of the rider and hence will benefit the most from a smooth surface. – Rider_X Sep 27 '15 at 21:25
  • @Rider_X I respectfully disagree. While yes, the axle is fixed to the frame and the damaged portion of the cone will remain up, the nature of the cone assembly is that there is pressure on all areas of contact around the cone. Pressure on the damaged area will lead to damage to the other bearings which rotate around the cone/cup assembly. The perfectly spherical ball bearing will no longer be perfectly spherical and damage to the other parts of the cone and cup will result. But as I said above, It's being implanted into a 3-speed wheel, not a human heart. – justaguy168 Sep 28 '15 at 2:45
  • "the nature of the cone assembly is that there is pressure on all areas of contact around the cone" this is only true if your bearings are overtightened. – BSO rider Sep 28 '15 at 14:42
  • I bought a new axle, which came with two cones, a spacer, lock nuts and outer wheel nuts and bearings for $30 NZ. Fairly pricy but its straight and probably stronger than an old axle. Worth doing if you want to keep the bike. – Criggie Oct 8 '15 at 4:25

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