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A follow up to What is this device attached to the seat-tube?

Having got the rear wheel down, I see the freewheel only rotates in one direction. In the other direction I expected the freewheel to rotate without engaging the wheel. This did not happen. In my experience, the freewheel turns the wheel in one direction but rotates without engagement in the reverse. Am I looking at a bad freewheel, or was it unidirectional historically?The freewheel

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    You see a freewheel that rotates in one direction; you know that freewheels rotate in one direction. Why do you think your freewheel is bad if it matches your experience? Please reformulate your question, it is non-comprehensible. – Grigory Rechistov Jun 17 '18 at 5:40
  • It doesn't even rotate in the other direction. In my experience a freewheel engages the wheel in one direction; In the other direction it rotates without engagement. The problem freewheel in context does not even rotate in the other direction – Everyone Jun 17 '18 at 8:38
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    Your question makes no sense. – Daniel R Hicks Jun 17 '18 at 11:58
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    Is this a bike with a "coaster brake"? Is there a lever coming out of the hub, designed to be strapped to the frame? – Daniel R Hicks Jun 17 '18 at 18:15
  • No lever I can spot, just the grease nipple. – Everyone Jun 18 '18 at 17:21
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After reading comments, it seems to me that the freewheel you describe is simply stuck/rusted/jammed. Given that it comes on a bike from 1940's, it is more than possible.

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The first question is if the bike has a freewheel or a fixed gear cog the bike is too old to have a freehub (which has the mechanism which allows the wheel to turn without the pedals turning (i.e. freewheeling) inside the hub; these were ~1980s).

A fixed gear just threads on the hub and will allow you to make the wheel turn if you pedal forwards or backwards. A freewheel allows you to freewheel; theres a ratchet that allows you to keep the pedals stationary/pedal backwards without engaging the rear wheel, yet you can pedal forwards and engage the rear wheel.

Not all bikes with one cog have freewheels; some of them have fixed gear.

If the bike has a fixed gear and is allowing you to turn the wheel when pedaling both ways, that is normal (and should be the only type of motion possible).

If the bike has a freewheel: When the ratcheting mechanism breaks in a freewheel, it normally doesn't engage the rear wheel at all; you pedal forward and backward and nothing happens. However, if the ratcheting mechanism gets stuck in the right way (rust, jammed, someone forced it to get stuck, etc.), it can effectively act as a fixed gear. Freewheels became common slightly after 1900, so its fairly reasonable that it had a freewheel.

If the freewheel is acting up (or you have a fixed and you want to have freewheeling), normally I'd suggest replacing it with a new freewheel which may have to destroy the existing one to remove it. However, with the age of the bike, I'm not sure if the existing standards match what was available in the 1940s where you are. You could try spraying in some WD-40 or a lubricant (which WD-40 is not) at the cog and seeing if it loosens up and starts freewheeling. Or, just leave it.

  • Technically there is a third option: coaster brake. Most of them have cassette-like cogs, but some older ones use track-style threaded cogs. – ojs Jun 17 '18 at 17:34
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This is how freewheels work. They engage when pedaling forward and let the wheel rotate freely without pedaling.

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    If it doesn't rotate freely in the other direction and turns the wheel it isn't a freewheel but a fixed cog. Which were in common use at the beginning of the 20th century and still are on track-bikes and fixies. – Carel Jun 17 '18 at 7:28
  • The cycle was used by my late father in the 1940s ... It has an open hub and a grease nipple on the hub ... If that helps – Everyone Jun 17 '18 at 8:40
  • @carel: How does one distinguish between a cog, and freewheel? – Everyone Jun 17 '18 at 14:28
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    @Everyone: There's a lot of information and knowledge to gain on bikes either in print or on Wikipedia. – Carel Jun 17 '18 at 16:18
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    I read the part "the freewheel turns the wheel in one direction but rotates without engagement in the reverse" as opposite of turning the wheel in both directions. – ojs Jun 17 '18 at 17:28

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