I’ve been looking forward to starting a new project. A recent purchase – an early 1980’s Meral Randonneuse with a Reynolds 531 frame – is equipped with many desireable components: custom racks and fenders with integrated lighting, Huret derailleurs, T.A. crankset, and best of all: Maxi-Car hubs.
I’m also planning to begin restoration of my 1977 Jack Taylor tandem, which is equipped with Maxi-Car hubs. Feeling the need to experiment first, I purchased an older 1950’s wheelset (one that I wanted anyway) that also featured Maxi-Car hubs, so that I could learn the service procedure on that wheelset first.
These older hubs hail from the 1950’s, and were very dirty, looking like they hadn’t been attended to in many years. Type II Maxi-Car hubs can be identified by their solid, undrilled flanges. The rear hubs have the “key-hole” spoke holes on the drive side, which allow for easy spoke replacement but can make building up the hub a little more “interesting”.
Maxi-Car hubs were manufactured with “annular” bearings which are essentially cartridge bearings, in this case of the highest quality, and were atypical in that the hubs were adjustable as well as serviceable. The recommended service schedule is once a year, so about as frequent as regular cup and cone hubs. The difference is in the life of the bearings – lasting over 100,000 miles or more according to cycling lore.
There are several excellent resources on the web which provide technical and service specs, as well as historical information:
Bike Cafe (France): detailed article on the history of the company, and a step by step guide on servicing (in French) https://bike-cafe.fr/2015/06/maxi-car-la-rolls-du-moyeu-vintage/
Yellow Jersey (US): Maxi-Car technical manual with detailed illustrations and instructions in English http://www.yellowjersey.org/maxtek.html
In addition, Velo-Orange Blackbirdsf, and Ebykr have paid tribute to these innovative components, first introduced before WWII. There is also an article in the Summer 2004 Bicycle Quarterly which provides step by step overhaul instructions. Unfortunately, that edition is longer available as a reprint.
I started with the front wheel, which takes a 16 mm wrench for the locknuts, and a 14 mm wrench for the adjustable cone. Following the instructions noted above, I removed the nut and red dustcap from the fixed side of the hub (identified by having no adjustable cone). Then I flipped the hub over to remove the nuts and washers on the adjustable side.
I photographed each step and also laid out the parts in order, so I wouldn’t forget their orientation when replacing them after cleaning and lubrication (not knowing what would come next!).
The next step involves using a small length of 1 1/2″ PVC pipe (or wood block with 1 1/2″ hole bored) and placing the fixed end of the axle into the opening so that the hub rests on the flange. Then, taking a rubber or wood mallet, one should tap “lightly” to cause the axle to drop down. When it does so, it should take with it the fixed side’s cartridge bearings and washers. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
The above photo, courtesy of Bike-Cafe, shows what you should have after tapping the axle through. However, my axle would not tap through, even with some very robust strokes of my rubber mallet.
Not wanting to damage the axle, I decided to switch over the the rear hub. After removing the freewheel, I followed the same steps to remove the nuts and washers. When I attempted to remove the adjustment cone I discovered that it’s locknut was embedded into the cone and could not be removed. That meant unthreading the cone with the lock nut attached – not in any way ideal as doing so could damage the axle threads. Fortunately, I was able to get the cone off with too much destruction to the axle, and then proceeded to the next step of attempting to tap the axle out. Again, the axle would not budge. That’s when I realized that probably after 70 years of not being serviced, the axle had become permanently attached to the inner races.
After soaking the hubs in WD-40 for several days, I still could not budge the axles, so decided to try something a little more drastic. Right now, I’ve got the hubs soaking in PB Blaster, which is a smelly and environmentally questionable solvent. I’m going to give the hubs a week of soaking, and then again try to tap out the axles. If that doesn’t work, I may try the mysterious brake fluid solution. In the meantime, I’ve decided to pull the wheels from the Jack Taylor tandem and begin working on servicing those hubs, which I hope will yield better results.