Overhauling Maxi-Car Hubs, Part 1 (sigh)

1980’s Maxi-Car front hub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Maxi-Car hub with drum brake – 1977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

1950’s Type II Maxi-Car hub

Hub shell engraving

Drive side slotted spoke holes – 1950’s Maxi-Car rear hub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Winter Ride Around Canby, Oregon

For the past several years, I have been drawn south to Canby from my Portland home base for winter cycling.

The Willamette River bends in a sharp s-curve at Canby before heading north toward its confluence with the mighty Columbia River.  Its beauty calls to me.  Fall colors, winter which promises spring, and the mesmerizing quiet of the ride offer a compelling contrast to cycling in Portland.

Today, I followed this little town’s cycling loop, rather accidentally.  I’ve ridden here a lot, and have ventured east of town up onto the plateau that sits above the river, and boasts the best of Oregon farm country – hazelnut groves, vegetable crops, and horses, cattle, sheep, and llamas a-plenty.  The basic route depicted above is a totally flat 11 mile loop.  It’s easy to add side trips to your journey, as there’s lots to explore around this sweet little town.

I’ve recently converted my 1980’s custom Meral 650b bicycle to more upright style handlebars.  On today’s ride one of my goals was to evaluate the bike’s ergonomics with the new Velo-Orange Tourist handlebars.

I wasn’t sure how to think about the brake levers for this bike – I wanted to stay true to its French heritage, and resisted purchasing new brake levers for the upright bar.  I finally settled on these black vintage Mafac levers.  I also removed 3 cm of bar material from each bar end of the V-O tourist bars.  I have found that modern upright style bars are generally too wide and long, and without cutting them down can give your bike an out of balance appearance, not to mention being uncomfortable.

To keep the bars free for additional hand positions I opted for stem mounted shifters.  These SunTour ratcheting shifters performed just fine, but I did have to adjust the position of the rear derailleur on down-shifts, whereas upshifts were near perfect.  I may replace these with some stem mounted Simplex Retrofriction shifters once I have a mounting option identified.

Oregon City Falls

The City of Canby sits along the Willamette River, upstream from the falls and locks at the historic town of Oregon City.  Today, the river was swift moving.  Maybe, I was too.

My 1980’s Meral is built with Reynolds 531 tubing, with a fully chromed fork (and with chromed main tubes underneath the dark lavender paint). That, plus converting the bike to 650b has made it one of my most treasured bicycles.  Happy riding in 2019!

Cycling around Canby, Oregon

If you are looking for a peaceful, nature-filled cycling adventure, look no further than Canby, Oregon.  The site of this little town was once a gathering place for Native Americans who enjoyed the local crop of strawberries and used the area as a meeting place.  Canby sits on a plateau above the east bank of the Willamette River.  The Canby Ferry, on the outskirts of the town, is one of those rare cable ferries, and will take you across the river on a tiny conveyance whose maximum load allows for 6 cars and 49 passengers, plus a bicycle or two.

Cycling around Canby is mostly flat, but if you venture out east of Highway 99E you will begin to climb up to another plateau that sits at the base of the Cascade Mountain Range.  For today’s ride, I stayed close to town, and was able to use mostly my highest gears.  In fact, as I was blasting away in my top gear I thought:  Uh oh!  What will it be like on the return trip?  As it turned out, I seemed to have a slightly downhill grade the whole way, and enjoyed spinning leisurely on my Meral.  Many of the town’s back roads have 25 mph speed limits.  I kind of worried about exceeding them!

The town’s website has several bike route maps which you can download.  I printed out all of them for my trip today, but actually ended up just riding where my instincts took me.  One route not to be missed is the Logging Road Trail which leads down to the river.  I took an inviting unmarked path off this trail and ended up at the banks of the Willamette River, after walking the bike through a very muddy section.  I was rewarded with a lovely view of the river, quietly meandering northward toward Portland.

On the way back, I encountered lovely pastures, crop fields at rest, and big horizons.  Seeing these irrigation wheels reminded me of my childhood.  My grandfather was an enthusiast of this “new” technology back in the 1950’s.  Wheel line irrigation is in use today, but was developed many decades earlier.

If you have the opportunity to cycle here, I think you will be delighted by the roads, friendly residents, and the enticing call of the wild.