The reassembler

We popped back to Stafford today, and I spent an enjoyable afternoon taking apart, cleaning, oiling and reassembling the rear hub of my three-speed.

Those who have ridden a well-maintained three-speed will know it ticks as one pedals along. Some people don’t like this but I do, when you’re blasting a long it gives a sense of speed. Of late, mine stopped ticking and then last week I was unable to engage bottom (easiest) gear. I knew what the problem was as soon as I encountered it, but didn’t have time to fix it.

The ticking comes from a series of pawls – little spring-loaded hinged ramps that engage in a series of fixed ramps inside the hub. When the pawls are driven the other way they press in, slide over, then spring back out and go “click”. Since my ticking had stopped, I knew the pawls must not be clicking back fast enough.

I took the hub apart (and these days I don’t need an instruction manual) and sure enough, the pawls we’re stuck in a load of goo. They did spring pack, but very, very slowly. After taking all the bits out (including the tiny, all-important hairpin springs) a bit of WD40 got everything nice and clean, and the pawls were springing back nice and fast again. One thing I learned recently that I put into action was to really go to town with the grease around the cones at either end, as this keeps the water out and the oil in.

Being mechanical is a nice skill to have. It totally engages your mind in a very restful way. Once you’ve understood how something works, it all just flows. I didn’t take any notes or photos as I was taking it apart, and didn’t look up how to put it back together. It was just obvious how it had to go together. This doesn’t hold for every design, as some can be a bit treacherous, but for most things I do ok. The one bit of specialist knowledge I needed was how to get the cones to their proper adjustment (Google Sheldon Brown if you need to find out, he knows all). Sadly I didn’t get a chance for e test ride, mainly because I didn’t have time and also because I didn’t have my torque wrench to get the nuts to the necessary 27Nm.

It’s amazing really, I know for a fact this hub is a little over 31 years old, and I’ve done 1,500 miles on it, but it hardly shows any signs of wear internally. This hub will quite probably outlive me and everyone reading this…

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