Busted Bearings

You may or may not have noticed that since I started mountain biking at the beginning of the year, my steed has changed colour!
Without sounding big headed, I outgrew the capabilities of the Boardman Team, quicker than expected. I started tackling trails and jumps that the bike was struggling to deal with. It was better to sell it onwards and get something that could keep up, before I broke the bike or myself.
Introducing my new ( to me ) bike: Giant Reign 2016 in, eye watering, yellow and blue. Like me, it’s not subtle in any way.

It’s certainly been used, as there are scrapes and scuffs all over the frame, but they are just cosmetic and won’t stop me riding it like a loon. Let’s be honest, it’s a mountain bike, if it hasn’t got a bit of cosmetic damage, have you even been riding it?

So… I made a bit of an excitable child’s mistake and took it straight from the purchase and directly onto the trails to ride it. HARD. I should have taken it home and checked it over fully, replaced a few bits and bobs that needed doing and cleaned and lubed everything – but that’s boring and I wanted to ride my new toy.
Now, ss the weather has deteriorated going into autumn and now winter, the gritty mud and guff that coats mountain bikes after each ride, has done it’s work and destroyed the bearings. I’m pretty careful about how I wash the bikes after a ride – no high power jets, only fully soaped up after a few rides, just water and brush in-between, always relube after cleaning, etc… but there is only so long bearings are going to last. They were knackered and basically ALL needed replacing. Luckily, Stephen has the same bike and has a list of bearings so I didn’t have to disassemble it, collect the bearing codes and leave it a week or two while they were ordered and delivered.
12 bearings showed up and the process began. Stripping the rear suspension down and extracting the busted bearings. The worst was on the suspension rocker arm where one set of bearings had fully disintegrated. The bearing shells are steel and very hard wearing which is a good job because there were pretty much no ball bearings left. These old bearing units could be punched out with a hammer but the new ones would need to be installed by a lighter touch. I don’t have a bearing press, but with some threaded bar, washers and a load of different size hex sockets, you can effectively make your own. It obviously takes a little longer and is more fiddly, but considering how expensive proper bearing presses are, I can suck it up.
Since then, I have also replaced the wheel bearings. Again, 2 of them were very badly damaged. Interestingly, I posted up pictures of them on a MTB Facebook group and was told the reason bearings on a particular side of the bike were failing was likely because that’s the brake side. The strong hydraulic brakes on bikes transfer the force through the bearings into the frame. This makes obvious and complete sense, but it’s interesting to see it manifest in one side of the bikes bearings wearing out before the other. And they were really worn out. One bearing case was split in 2 and had to be dug out with a screwdriver in pieces! But I got them out, cleaned up the hubs and pressed in the new ones and now it runs so smoothly it’s like a lubed seal sliding down a freshly polished marble corridor.
While I had the rear wheel in pieces, I rebuilt the freehub and replaced those bearings too. I had ordered some new ones but didn’t know it required 3 of them as I could only see the outer 2. Luckily these bearings are buried so deep in the wheel that the ones I removed were not actually in that bad condition. I chose the smoothest feeling one and reinstalled it with the new ones.
I also completely disassembled the ratchet pawls ( the bits that click when you push a bike along ), de-gunked them, lubed and reinstalled them. That made a huge difference! I hadn’t noticed over time that instead of loads of clean sounding high pitched clicks, I had only been getting a few gummy thunks from my freehub. With this done, I was clicking like a hyperactive mechanical cricket again! This will need replacing soon because it is quite worn, but a bit of maintenance will certainly make it last a bit longer.
The last thing I wanted to get done was a proper shock service so I sent the bike off to my local store. They sent the shock off to a service centre and came back with some bad news. The ports and pistons were damaged and while they could be fixed with new parts, the cost of doing that was almost more than a new shock! I understand why, it’s not the parts that cost that much money, it’s the labor to strip it down, install and reassemble it correctly.
It’s not dangerous and can still be ridden, so I asked for it back and will continue using it through the muddy, gritty, wet winter. It won’t feel like it’s working properly because I’ve basically got zero damping, but at least I’ll be getting out riding and not worrying too much about it getting wet and muddy. Then, I’ve decided, come drier, warmer weather, I’ll stump up the cash for a new shock to really take advantage of it.