Quando/Quanta Hubs Long Term Update

Quando/Quanta hubs

Last week, while getting ready to climb a steep section of my route home, I vigorously shifted into my lowest gear while riding my 1987 Panasonic MC 7500 winter bike.  That resulted in my chain over-shifting and falling into the spokes.  Uh oh!  It took about 15 minutes for me to dislodge the chain and ride home, after turning the bike upside down for diagnosis and repair.  I had to remove my Paul’s chain keeper in order move the chain, as it had gotten wedged between the chain keeper and chain ring.  Still, I wasn’t worried because I stopped the bike the minute this occurred, and didn’t expect that I had done much damage.

I had built this wheelset about a year and a half ago using Quando cartridge bearing hubs, laced to SunRims CR18 rims. For the few weeks preceding this mishap, I had been hearing a clunking noise in the rear of the bike, occurring while pedaling and coasting, but louder when riding at speed.  It took a while for me to clue in to what the noise might mean.  At first, I thought it was the saddle rails or seat post, because I only heard it when working hard at accelerating. But then I began hearing it while coasting.  Then I thought it was the replacement freewheel I was using – perhaps the freewheel cover plate was coming loose and the body was clunking around.  Bicycle noises can be maddening to diagnose!

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Spoke damage.

When I finally had time to get the bike into the shop stand, I was saddened to see that the chain had damaged all the drive side spokes in my little mishap.  Doh!  Good thing I checked.  So, I proceeded to disassemble the wheel, all the while wondering whether I had the right length replacement spokes (that’s why you always buy extras…), and questioning whether I was up to a wheel building experience on this nice sunny afternoon.

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Once I had the spokes out, which I removed very slowly and methodically (spokes under tension are dangerous projectiles), I examined the hub body.  It looked pretty good.  Okay, let’s build the wheel again with some new spokes.  Fortunately, I had 9 spokes on hand of the exact length needed.  In a sort of thoughtless way I began turning the hub axle, perhaps in an attempt to delay the inevitable.  That’s when I heard a strange grinding/clicking sound.  I held the hub close to my ears to listen further.  Finally, the sound stopped, but was replaced by a very tight spot when turning the axle of the hub.  Very tight.  Not normal!  The source of the clunking was now illuminated.  But, what to do?

I could attempt to diagnose the cartridge bearings, or I could try to find the right rear hub with 126mm rear spacing (mission impossible?).  The latter turned out to be the best course of action.  Velo Orange sells a 126mm rear hub with freewheel threads and 36 holes – just what I needed.  Mission accomplished.

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Meanwhile, I removed the dust covers on the Quando hubs.  Perhaps with this winter’s especially rainy and muddy rides, bad stuff had made its way into the cartridge bearings and could be simply cleaned out.

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No such luck.  The bearing grease (which has been removed in the above photos), was pristine.  Undaunted, I decided to clean the bearings and re-grease them, to see if by some chance that would change the hub’s tight spot (which was illogical of course).

The bearings on these Quando hubs are either bad, or not properly adjusted, or the races and cups in the hubs are damaged.  Cartridge bearings do not work in the same way as cup and cone style bearings.  The latter’s adjustment is achieved by the correct position of the cone against the cup, something most experienced mechanics can do easily.

Cartridge bearings are engineered differently.  The preload adjustment is done by the factory when the bearings are pressed into the hub.  If it is wrong, correcting it can be a problem.  A cartridge bearing hub’s races can also be damaged by improper installation (or removal).

While it may be possible to have these hubs diagnosed and repaired by a mechanic with the right equipment, the cost to do so is not justified here (throwaway technology strikes again).  Now, I will try to look forward to rebuilding the rear wheel with my new VO hub, when it arrives.  The front hub spins just fine and has no issues, for now.  But, given this experience, I will plan to monitor it in the future.

Wheel Building: the Musical

Quando hubs and sun rims

Why build bicycle wheels when there are tons of inexpensive and well built wheel options out there in the marketplace?  Well, in this case I have been wanting a nicer wheelset for my winter bike.  It sports a mismatched and funky set that is old, pretty heavy, and is getting long in the tooth.  The bike, a 1987 Panasonic MC 7500, has 126 mm rear spacing and uses 26″ MTB rims (559 mm).  I didn’t want to spread the frame to 130 mm, and I have had these Quando/Quantum 36 hole sealed cartridge hubs that have been in my shop for a few years now.  The Quando hubs’ rear spacing is 126, and with their cartridge bearings, they should be perfect for winter riding.  Plus they are about as smooth as hubs can get.

I build wheels every now and then, so each time I do it I need a refresher course.  Since there are so many thorough, step-by-step resources available on the web, I thought I would use this post to focus on the practical side of wheel building, rather than science (Jobst Brandt), or the mechanics (Sheldon Brown).  And, not only is there a musical element to wheel-building, there is a quantum physics element as well, but more on that later.

Quando/Quanta hubs

There seems to be a bit of controversy about the quality of these hubs, but other than some sloppy machining on the spacers, everything else about them seems just fine to me.  It should only take one Portland winter for me to figure out if I have made a mistake in choosing them.  I don’t know if, because they are older, they are better or worse than newer ones.

Then, rims are needed – I chose the Sunrims CR-18 because they seemed to be priced right for my application and were going to be plenty sturdy enough for my winter/errand bike.  The cost so far: $132.

Once you’ve got the rims and the hubs, it’s time to order spokes.  Now comes the hard part.

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spocalc spreadsheet

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Freehand hub drawing and measurements

I use the spocalc spreadsheet designed by Damon Rinard.  It already has most hubs and rims built into its tables, so you may not have to take hub measurements.  Unfortunately, my hubs were not there, so I needed to take some key measurements in order to plug those numbers into the spreadsheet.  I find it easiest to make a visual drawing of the front and rear hub.  As simplistic as this may seem, it really keeps me from making mistakes at this critical juncture.  If you order the wrong length spokes, you’ll have to go and re-measure again, and sometimes you won’t know you’ve made a mistake until you are in the middle of building the wheel.  Spokes can be expensive, so mistakes can add up (Another tip:  do not pour yourself a snifter of brandy while taking hub measurements.)

You can see that the spreadsheet gives lengths for different cross patterns.  I always use a 3 cross pattern, and you can see the bias in the spreadsheet for a 3 cross pattern as well (highlighted in red).  Also, I always use 14 gauge spokes so I won’t have to stock anything but 2.0 mm nipples.

For a reality check,  I look at the output and say to myself:  are the drive side spokes shorter than the non drive side spokes for the rear hub?  Check.  Are the front spokes longer than the non-drive side rear spokes (because in this case the front hub has a smaller flange diameter)?  Check.  So far, so good.  I place my order.  That adds another $91 to the cost.  Yes, spokes ARE expensive, plus I usually order a few extras, just in case (see below).

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When the order arrives I carefully separate and label the spokes.  Then, I disassemble each packet, count them, and measure them to make sure they are really the correct length (a practice based on experience).  Then, I slowly and carefully reassemble them into their separate length packets and place them in different parts of the shop.  Do not let your spokes of different lengths congregate!  They are instigators.  If allowed to interact, all hell could break loose.  Spokes also have quantum physics characteristics.  They can change merely by being observed.  For example, once you measure a spoke, you can set it down, and when you pick it back up again, you’ll get a different measurement.  Also, spokes can be in two different places at once, and can multiply as well as disappear.  Be very alert!

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I like to work outside when building wheels – it’s kind of a relaxing experience when the weather is nice.  For resources, I follow Sheldon Brown’s wheel-building guide, and then I use Jobst Brandt’s book as a back up and technical resource.  In the photos above I have first installed the trailing spokes, with the key spoke inserted into the correct position so that the valve hole will not have crossing spokes above it, and so that the rim logo and hub logo are visible when peering down from the valve hole in a straight line.  If you read his instructions carefully, you’ll get this part right.  In fact, once you have your trailing spokes in, the rest of the spoke lacing process is a piece of cake.

I like to build the front wheel first so I can get back into the hang of it.  Since both sides of the hub flange are equal, all the spokes are of the same length.  Once that wheel is trued and dished, then I start on the rear wheel.  For spoke tension, although I do have a Tension Meter, I don’t actually tend to use it, but like to follow the musical note method (see, it IS a musical after all) of testing for proper spoke tension.  All the while I am mashing pairs of spokes together in my hands and smashing the heads against the hub.  This provides the tension relief (for the spokes, that is).

Quando/Quanta sealed cartridge hubs on 36 hole CR-18 Sunrims

Quando/Quanta sealed cartridge hubs on 36 hole CR-18 Sunrims

And there you have it.  It took me a number of hours to complete these, partly because I made an initial error on the front wheel when placing the key spoke, so had to take the wheel apart and start over.  But, the wheels look great, and I really like the way the red seals on the hubs pick up the red color on the rim logo.  Now, time for the brandy…