RE: bearing holders
I read the original question and all the responses so far. Great information and
advice! But nobody mentioned what I consider the main problem with the lollypop
bearing holders on cheap Taiwan and China unicycles.
The problem is not at the bearing. Cheap Lollypop bearing holders are probably
much better on bearings than the pressed steel main cap type. But if they cause
your unicycle frame to fail, they can’t be recommended. And they do.
I have heard of many cases of the side-bolted lollypop bearing holders
over-stressing and breaking the metal between the two bolt holes, killing the
fork. This is due to what can most quickly be summed up as retarded engineering.
If you look at automobile and bicycle design, you will never, ever see
flat-headed bolts screwed into non-flat surfaces. At least not without a
specially shaped washer to fit between them. Instead, the force is concentrated
over a narrow, straight line up the side of the fork.
If you don’t keep the bolts tight enough, they will come loose because the
bearing holder is not a precise fit into the fork. If you keep the bolts too
tight, eventually the cracking and failure can happen. I imagine the cracking
can also happen from riding with a loose bearing holder, causing it to jiggle
around in there.
The problem can be solved on unicycles with this design with the addition of
washers that are round on one side to match the fork, and flat on the other side
to match the bolt. The reason the cycles don’t come with this is because the
manufacturers are working hard to keep costs as low as possible and keep the
unicycles’ price down. Buyers don’t know (unless we keep speaking up), until
much later if the thing fails. The manufacturers are gambling on a low
percentage of these unicycles being actually ridden, and an even lower
percentage of them being ridden enough to lead to these kinds of problems.
But it’s not a total disaster, even if your frame fails. I met a guy this Spring
at Paramount’s Great America theme park in Santa Clara. He was a juggling
performer with a unicycle. I checked out his unicycle, and it was one of the
Taiwan models with the lollypops. I was reluctant to tell him the bad news after
riding his cycle around for a few seconds. The frame was already cracking apart
between the bolts, and the bearing holders were moving around freely in the
non-fitting fork ends. It looked like he would need a new unicycle.
But then I met the guy again this Fall at the Lodi Juggling Festival (sorry I
can’t remember his name). He still had the same unicycle. “Why did you buy
another one of those?” I asked him, assuming it was because he couldn’t afford a
more expensive one. He replied “I didn’t. My bike shop replaced the fork at no
cost.” Very cool!
I don’t assume all bike shops would do that, but I recommend you try it if you
have the same problem. If lots of returns start being made, the effect will
eventually be felt back at the factory. Then maybe they will consider a less
Until then, I’ll have to keep recommending other bearing attachment methods.
Note: The above does not apply to Pashleys. I have never heard of a frame
failure on one of those, and the bolt presses on both sides of the fork,
not just one.
In summary, lollypop bearing holders are a great way to hold a bearing, but if
they’re not attached to the unicycle fork in such a potentially damaging way, I
can’t recommend them.
> I do agree that many riders who are unfamiliar with bicycle maintenance
> probably over tighten the bolts on the main cap style bearing holders. A
> little note about that problem of over tightening should be in the owners
> manual for the unicycle, but I have not seen that type of info in any owners
> manual for any unicycle.
You’ve seen owners manuals for unicycles? I think I have only seen them for
Schwinn and Miyata. In other cases I have sometimes seen poorly translated
assembly instructions (if they used any words at all). And these are aimed at
bike shop mechanics, not consumers at home. No instructions are given on
bearings, or any other part of the unicycles we’re talking about, other than
which piece attaches to which other one, and where.
MAIN CAP BEARINGS: Follow the suggestions the guys have made. Turn the unicycle
upside down and spin the wheel slowly. It should keep spinning for a while. If
there is obvious binding or the wheel stops after a turn or two, loosen the
bolts a quarter turn, as Roger Davies suggested.
Also, make sure you have something in place to keep you from losing your bolts
if they come loose. Lock washers, or those nuts with the nylon inside to keep
them from unscrewing are even better.
TAIWAN/CHINA LOLLYPOP BEARINGS: Short term: Check the tightness of the bolts and
check for movement of the bearing holder in the frame. I can’t recommend a
torque setting, but you also don’t want it too tight. Lock washers won’t work on
the non-flat surface. Check tightness frequently.
Long term: Find yourself some washers, as described above, that are flat on one
side and round (to fit the fork) on the other side. Brett Bymaster had a set of
these made for his Pashley when it was new, and he’s never had any problems. I
have mentioned the idea to John Drummond at Unicycle Source, and I think he will
have a big batch made so they will be very cheap.
Stay on top, John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone http://www.unicycling.com
“Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.” – Forrest Gump