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I currently have loose ball bearings for my hubs and I am wondering if I can put caged ball bearings in there instead. Can anyone let me know if they are better or worse than loose bearings.

Also I thought of asking this because I noticed my front wheel was making quite a bit of vibration when spinning so I opened it up and added one more ball bearing to each side as there were only 9 in each side even though I surely remember taking out 10 from both sides when replacing an axle in the past. After this, the wheel would not move at all as each ball would rub on eachother so I left it with 9 balls each side, but I still don't feel right about the fact that there is some space between each ball in the hub. This is why I thought it might be a good idea to switch to caged ball bearings. Is the space between each ball a problem or am I overthinking it?

  • You'll need some space between the balls for the bearings to work. I think the general rule of thumb is to add balls up to the point that you can fit anymore, and at least 2 balls next to each other are not touching each other (assuming you have the original size balls!). Did you actually find the two "missing" balls? Unless your cone is damaged, I would expect you would find the "missing" balls around the axle in the hub body. Otherwise, could it be that 9 were installed each side? – Superman.Lopez Jun 20 '19 at 0:03
  • As to your question, I don't know if you can replace it with a caged ball bearing. I doubt it. But I don't see the advantage. Loose ball bearings is a well proven design for hubs. I expect you'd get better results servicing the bearings as they are (by checking the balls for pits/roundess and replace if necessary, check the cup and cone for pits, etc). – Superman.Lopez Jun 20 '19 at 0:06
  • No I never lost the bearings, I just put 9 back in when replacing the axle because it looked like 10 was too many for the hub which I don't understand why as there was originally 10 and it never made vibrations like it does now. – Willdebeast Jun 20 '19 at 0:08
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    It's normal for a cageless bearing to have a odd number of balls -- typically 7 or 9. I'd be surprised if your bearings are designed for 10 balls. If I don't know how many balls were there originally my rule is "a full race, minus one". (And caged bearings are generally inferior to loose-ball bearings.) – Daniel R Hicks Jun 20 '19 at 0:20
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    (And be sure you are using the right size balls -- always mike an old ball to determine the size. And, except in desperate circumstance, always replace all the balls with new ones if you replace any of them -- new balls will be larger than worn ones and will make the bearing wonky.) – Daniel R Hicks Jun 20 '19 at 0:23
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Yes, you can get caged bearings to go in the hub. RJ The Bike Guy seems to have several YouTube how-to videos (hint: they have to go the right way round)

No, they are not better than loose balls. Caged balls are spaced out evenly, but have fewer balls in total which means fewer balls sharing the load, so they are said to wear out quicker.

With loose balls, you need to leave a little bit of room for them to move, so you’d put in one less than fills the whole cup. Given that caged sets typically have seven balls, if you put nine in loose then you’ll still have more bearings (better) than using a caged set. I.e. if you’re concerned about the space between balls, 9 loose is still preferable to 7 caged.

Some front hubs can take 10 balls, it depends on the design. You need to figure out which size your hub requires - presumably the majority of your balls are still the original size. If you can measure that then figuring out, or asking the LBS, or asking here in another question with photos, how many to put in, should get the hub running smoothly again.

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