Vintage Bicycle Maintenance Part 1 – Hubs


Every now and you will find yourself an owner of an antique or vintage bike.  It goes without saying that it will probably need a little Vintage Bicycle Maintenance and TLC.  Most bikes you find, while ridable, can always use a good looking over.   When Kathleen and I picked up 2 vintage Schwinns recently, they were in great shape, but still needed some maintenance.

One area that usually needs maintenance, is the wheel hubs.  Over time, vintage bikes that have been sitting around in garages or dark corners collecting dust, while ridable, become very sluggish and lose performance.  Cleaning out the hubs and applying grease is a way to bring them back to new again.  Below is a great example of a Schwinn front hub.  As you can see from the picture there are various parts that make a hub work.


One of the most important parts of hub’s performance in many vintage bicycles are the ball retainer and the bearing cup.  The ball retainer contains a bunch of small metal balls, known as ball bearings. These ball bearings allow the hub to spin around the axle when it’s attached to the bike.  When the ball bearings get dirty, rusty or lose their ability to spin freely, the hub becomes sluggish.  To increase performance and the life of a hub, regular maintenance is required.  Most hub maintenance involves removing each piece, cleaning it with a degreaser to remove old grease and dirt, drying it and then applying new grease.

For those that are attempting this for the first time, I would advise using a camera to take pictures of the hub, so that you know how each piece goes back on.  Some people like to soak each piece in a degreaser solution.  I prefer the spray on a degreaser and then wipe off the grease with a rag towel.

Below are some good items to have on hand.  You can order them online or usually find them at a high end bicycle shop.

Phil Wood Waterproof Grease
White Lightning Degreaser

Of course you will also need some tools, like a wrench set (Standard/Metric), that will allow you to remove the bolts.

Many of the Vintage Bicycles will also have metal fenders, so again a camera is useful to take pictures of where each fender attaches to the axle.  You will understand what I mean if you attempt to do this.  On our Schwinns for example have 3 rods that attach to each side of the axle.  Two for the fenders and One for racks.  We have both front and rear racks that sit over the fenders.


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I share a passion for collecting all things vintage and antique and love to share that passion with others.

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