When Bearings Need Replacement

I had asked this on a previous post, but the post wasn’t specifically about this, and I never felt clear on the answer.

I have a well ridden 4 year old KH20. I am taking the time to true up the wheel, tightening and equalizing spoke tension. I noticed the bearings seemed quite dirty, at least on the outside. The wheel seems to spin freely, but I do hear some clicking sounds when the wheel turns. Not when I ride (it’s not loud enough), but when on the truing stand.

Any idea what this clicking could be? How do I know if I need to replace the bearings. Is it a case of you’d know if they need replacing? They are sealed right? So they must be pretty low maintenance. Guidance appreciated…

I just had my 20" Equinox Street serviced/trued at the LBS. The tech told me how rusty the bearings were, how they’d cleaned them up, and how that was the likely source of creaking about which I’d been complaining. So, I took the uni for a little spin out in the parking lot, and it was still creaking. Then the tech lubricated where the spokes touched, to no avail. At that point, the tech blamed the creaking on the ISIS connection between the hub and cranks. I’m going to put some heavy grease under the bolts, to see if that helps. Seems like a lot of people suffer with mysterious noise/creaking! I may have to live with the sound.

I haven’t ever had to replace the bearings on any of my unicycles. Cartridge bearings are extremely durable and long wearing. They are sealed, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to getting grit/moisture in there. When you do, they wear out a little faster, and they’re usually not worth re-packing because they’re so cheap anyway. You can of course repack them by taking a screwdriver and removing the cover, but you can’t pull the bearings completely out, they are sealed in there. I have heard that you can go well over 10,000 miles on bicycle hubs with sealed bearings before they need to be serviced, which is extremely reliable compared to the cup-cone style.

Generally if they spin freely with no resistance, I’d just keep riding them unless they’re loose. Because of the way bearings are mounted on a uni, they’re independent of other parts, and it won’t hurt anything to run them until they are dead as a doornail.

To make sure it’s the bearing and not something else, just spin the bearing with your bare fingers and feel for any resistance/grit. If you don’t like the way they feel, replace them. Too much play in the bearings means you should probably replace the bearing entirely. A little grit, and you may get away with just repacking it.

Bearings should not click. . .

Do you have a one piece hub on yours, or is it the earlier model with the pressed on flanges? That’s the most common source of creaking that I’ve heard of. The old KH hubs are notorious for it.

Your bearings need to be replaced if your wheel stops spinning. You can think about replacing them if they’re making noises you don’t like. This isn’t a high-speed application; the inefficiency of crappy bearings is unlikely to make a noticeable difference in your ride.

The bearings on my 24" have been kind of gritty and grindy for a couple of years now, but I haven’t bothered replacing them because I can’t detect any difference at all when I ride. It’s not like they’re going to fail and strand me somewhere.

BTW they may be sealed, but it’s more of a dust seal than a weather seal, and they are sitting right out in the open. So I do occasionally pop the cover off and clean them up and regrease them. Bike hubs usually hide cartridge bearings away behind a real seal of some sort, and a lot of the old cup and cone hubs had really good seals.

Good info folks. Well especially on a trials, I am not concerned about a little resistance. The uni is rarely actually ridden any distance. It’s used for flatland and trials like riding.

After inspecting the bearings I do see a lot of grit on the outside. So just wipe it with a rag? And when I roll it, I can feel a bit of grit, but certainly nothing that would impact the ride. Is taking off the seal and greasing them termed “repacking”?

Usually you do it from scratch by taking apart the entire assembly, degreasing everything, then cleaning it off, and re-applying grease, but with sealed bearings this is impossible, and you really don’t want to put degreaser in there to get the grit out, it does more harm than good because you can’t get it back out. Kinda like using wd-40 on a b*ke chain. So in this case, yea, just remove the cover (carefully!) then just push the bearings around with a clean dry rag (something without lint) until you get the grit out and the cloth stops being totally black every time you wipe it, then throw in grease (bearing grease to be specific) and you’re good to go. There’s a good youtube video of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=simldPb88UU

Cost

How much are a new pair of bearings for KH or Nimbus unicycles?

Thank you in advance to anyone that can share knowledge of cost.

Less than it is worth to clean out the old ones unless you are very poor and have a lot of time to spare.

come on now, don’t make me pull out lmgtfy. . .

Or don’t like contributing to a throwaway society :stuck_out_tongue:

My Wilder Muni, which I got in early 2003, definitely could use new bearings. Another way to determine you might need new bearings is if you can stand the unicycle up with nothing holding the frame, and it stays up. Or if you move it back and forth and it makes sounds; when nobody’s sitting on it.

The hard part is getting the cranks off, and the bearings off, and then reversing the process. I guess that’s what bike shops are for. Now to find a pair of odd-sized bearings to fit my Wilder.

Or maybe I can just leave it “stock”, and buy a new muni? A shiny new KH 26" with a disc brake? Hmm… :slight_smile:

John are you saying your uni is hard to get the cranks and bearings off? With a crank puller and a bearing removing set, it’s pretty easy. But I’m sure you know that.