Overhauling Maxi-Car Hubs, Part 3 (whew!)

My Maxi-Car hub overhaul experience has spanned many weeks now.  When I left off in Part 2, I was working on a set of Maxi-Car hubs from a 1977 Jack Taylor tandem.  After running into some issues with those hubs, I went back to the older hubset that I was using as my platform for learning the process.  Those hubs were soaking in penetrant for several weeks.  I had been unable to drop the axle through the hub by striking it with my mallet.  Several readers suggested using a regular hammer with a piece of brass to protect the axle, or a copper or brass hammer.

That turned out to be good advice.  But, I didn’t have a copper hammer or a piece of brass.  And, my local hardware store doesn’t carry copper or brass hammers, so I purchased a much heavier dead blow rubber mallet and finally got the axle of the rear rub to drop down.  The top photo above shows what you see when this happens.  The axle carries with it the two outer seals, plus the bearing set and inner race.  The outer races are permanently attached to the hub and do not need to be removed for the overhaul process.  The hubs and parts were very dirty so I soaked everything in alcohol and then used a pipe cleaner to get at the nooks and crannies inside the bearing rings.

Bearing ring before cleaning

Inner races looking good

Once I had the parts cleaned it was time to begin the lubrication, assembly and adjustment process.

Since the hubs are sealed, I operated on the theory that it would not be a good idea to heavily grease the races and bearings.  The grease has no place to go in a sealed system, so I modestly applied grease, as shown above, using Phil’s waterproof bearing grease.

Now comes time for the assembly and adjustment process.  The above two pages from Yellow Jersey’s Maxi-Car tech manual are the most important resources for the process.  The tech manual was translated from the original French, and so there is the potential for lost meanings and nuances.  The assembly process proceeds in this order:

1.  Assemble the non-adjustable end of the axle with the flat washer and the cambered washers, the bearing cage, and the inner race.  Then insert this into the hub.  On a rear wheel, the fixed end of the axle always corresponds to the freewheel side of the hub.

2.  Put the fixed end of the axle into the hub axle vise.  Now assemble the adjustable side’s inner race, bearing cage, and two washers in the same order as disassembled (See diagram above).  You will note that the inner race will not fully seat onto the axle.

3.  Screw on the adjustment nut until the inner race begins to move downward over the axle, leaving a slight amount of free-play.  Unlike a regular cup and cone adjustment, this is a one-way venture, and if you over tighten the nut, as I did the first time I tried this, you’ll have to disassemble everything and start over.  But, practice makes perfect.  I slowly screwed down the adjustment nut until I felt approximately the same amount of free-play as I would want in a cup and cone hub with a quick release axle.  The instructions say to “take the wheel by the rim and try to move it up and down”.  You want “a little play”, according to the tech manual.

4.  Reassemble the lockring, outer nut and dustcap onto the adjustable end. Lock the nuts against each other.

5.  Now flip the hub over and do the same thing on the fixed end.

The hub should spin freely but without excessive side to side play when mounted in the dropouts.  I ended up doing the adjustment twice because my initial attempt was too tight.  The above video shows the hub spinning smoothly after the final adjustment.

This undertaking was challenging but also rewarding, and I’m looking forward now to working on the Maxi-Car hubs that are part on the 1980’s custom Meral that landed in my shop last Summer.  Stay tuned!

R. Ducheron – Sneak Preview

I’ve purchased another artisanal French bike to add to my collection, this one built by Robert Ducheron, who I had heard of but didn’t know much about.

While the bike arrived in a well taped box, charmingly covered with these oddball postage stamps, it had been packed using Styrofoam.  I wish that product had never been invented.  The stuff broke apart all over the frame and components, leaving its tiny carcinogenic particles embedded in every nook and cranny.

Unpacking the bike, I was amazed at the attention to detail at the drop-outs and seat stay.  I can imagine the hours of file work needed to produce the beautiful crescents at each drop-out.  The concave seat stay attachment was a Ducheron signature.

This is a step-through frame with a sloping top tube, not technically a mixte.  The attachment lug of the single sloping top tube to the seat tube is a design I haven’t seen before.  I’m excited to ride the bike and see how this method feels, and whether it helps to control the wobbly feel that some sloping top tube frames exhibit.

Other custom details include through the frame cable routing for the rear brake, and a custom from rack.

The condition of the paint surprises me, and I wonder if it has been re-painted.  If so, someone did a fabulous job.  The R. Ducheron logo is hand painted, and the rest of the sky blue paint is pristine.

I’m not sure how to date this bike.  The components appear to be a mix of late 50’s to mid to late 60’s.  The wheelset appears oldest, with the round hole Normandy hubs (logo in quotes), mated to yellow label Super Champion rims.  The freewheel is a Cyclo 64.  The crankset is a Stronglight with Dural rings.  The drive train is Huret, with a rear Allvit, a derailleur which works very well but suffers from being regarded as low-end.  The Phillipe porteur bars are a nice touch.

Advert from the 1950’s

Advert from the 1970’s

Some preliminary research into Robert Ducheron (b. 1910) bicycles indicates that he was an active builder before and through the WWII years, up to the late 50’s.  There seems to be a hiatus, and then he reappears again in the early 1970’s.  In the 1970’s advert, there is a reference to A.H.R. tubing, which seems to be a proprietary tube set developed by Ducheron, or exclusively licensed to him.  I’ll be curious to see if I can determine the type of tubing used to build this custom frame once I get the bike disassembled for restoration.

Overhauling Maxi-Car Hubs, Part 2 (hmmm…)

When I left off from part 1 of my Maxi-Car hub overhaul project, I was having trouble disassembling the 1950’s Type 2 hubs that I was using as my training ground for learning the process of servicing and adjusting these well-regarded vintage components.  Those hubs are still soaking in penetrant in the hopes of freeing up the axles from the inner races of the annular bearings.  Now, I have pulled the Maxi-Car wheelset off of my 1977 Jack Taylor tandem, and am looking forward to achieving better results.  That hubset is laced to 650b rims, and features a front hub with a drum brake (as an addition to the front cantilevers), and a rear hub with a freewheel.

The freewheel, axle and nuts were showing some rust, so I was prepared for the eventuality that it would not come off on the first try.  That meant that the rear wheel of my 2nd Maxi-Car project is also soaking in penetrant, so I turned my attention to the front hub, which I was hoping to put off due to also having to address servicing the drum brake.

I don’t have a lot of experience with drum brakes and am not a big fan.  But, they can work well for some applications.  In this case, a tandem needs more than one front brake to safely descend steep hills, so the drum brake (which is actuated by the same lever as the front cantilevers – a double-cable mafac brake lever) is meant to augment the effectiveness of the rim brakes.

I started the process of removing the outer nuts and washers of what I thought was the fixed end of the hub, documenting each step as I went along.  When it came time to remove the drum brake shoes from the hub shell, the component came out easily by gently lifting it up from the axle.

However, one brake liner was left behind, having become dislodged from its proper position on the shoe.  Rather than worry too much about that, I continued with my process, thinking I would find the fixed side’s dust cover underneath the brake assembly.

But, that’s not what happened. Instead, I saw a black dust cap underneath the nuts and washers, with no holes for a pin-spanner.  Hmmm…

When I flipped the hub over to the “adjustable side” that’s when I realized that this hub looks different from other Maxi-Car hubs.  The dust caps are anodized black, and don’t have holes.  Are these cup and cone hubs?  The answer is yes!

I was kind of almost overjoyed to see these bearings peaking out from underneath the dust cover.  But then I realized that I may not in fact be overhauling a Maxi-Car hub, but some other kind of hub.  What could it be?

I took a closer look at the hub and saw that it is completely unbranded.  There are no markings anywhere on the hub.  The flanges and drum are steel, and the hub body is aluminum.  The style of the rivets and the flanges matches up to a number of older Maxi-Car hub styles.   Did Maxi-Car build regular cup and cone hubs?  I don’t know.  I do know what the hub is not.  It is not a:  Sturmey Archer, Sachs, Arai, or Shimano.  The hub appears to be of older vintage than its rear counterpart.  Perhaps the wheel was built up by Ken Taylor with the customer’s favorite older front hub?

Cam with spring on the right, pivot on the left, lower brake lining missing.

Brake drum before cleaning

Brake drum after cleaning

While those thoughts cogitated, I went forward with cleaning all the parts and thinking more about how to attach the dislodged brake liner to its shoe.  I know that drum brakes can build up a lot of heat, so using an adhesive that can tolerate high temperatures will be critical.  The liners still have about 2.5 mm thickness, so if the adhesive problem can be solved, then I can complete the hub overhaul.  If not, I’ll have to discard the hubs and build up a new 650b wheel using the original Weinmann rim, which is in good shape, and decide on what kind of front hub to use that would be appropriate for the 1977 JT.  But, the next step for now is to get the freewheel off of the rear hub.  Stay tuned!