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  1. #1
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    New question here. Upgrading Rusted MTB 2003 Shimano Altus 7-speed Freewheel Drive Train Parts

    I need advice on what are the best price-to-performance ratio parts that I can upgrade which are compatible with my MTB 7-speed freewheel type setup. I expect that most folks would tell me to replace the $40 rear-wheel with a $120 cassette type and go to a $$$$$$$ SRAM 9sp 2x10 type setup but this isn't what I'm looking for this afforable repair/upgrade.

    Upgrading to a 9-speed or newer components would require me to upgrade to a cassette which would require me to trash a lot of brand-new parts that I replaced in the last few months that I'm unwilling to part with since they keep improving the functionality of my bicycle and my commuting time keeps dropping. Started at 38-min, then 36-min, after rear wheel replacement due to cracked axle, spoke, and bent skewer (age or my bad reassembly?) and bottom bracket replacement to isolate a clicking noise (wasn't it but possibly from wheel hub nuts might have been loose) it went to 30-31-min, and record of 29:29 last week.

    The purpose is to replace rusted parts on a MTB that has a freewheel (not cassette) re-purposed to a Commuter bicycle for a daily 8-mile each-way ride (26x1.5" Kenda 100psi tires now).

    Parts to be replaced are 10-year old and rusted Shimano Altus parts where the FD is FD-M310 like-model (3x7 Bottom-Pull) and RD-310 from 2003 and RD is likely a RD-M310 (7-speed) type. Along this replacement I also want to fix an issue with shifting lag up or down between 15T to 18T and no downshift to 11T after resizing my chain from 58" to 54" as calculated twice by two formulas 48T + 16.75" chain stay + 28T = 54" (possibly cable tension, cable routing issue, angles, or something else) but RD probably needs swapping since the main spring is fully brown and rusted up, possibly losing power due to wear and age.

    The chain has been replaced by KMC Z51 and freewheel cogset by a DNP 11-13-15-18-24-28T 7-speed due to age, wear, and bent gears. The newfreewheel cogset is a $25 eBay Chinese special due to 11T smallest cog I wanted for good ratio of 48:11T=113 for downhill flat sections. Bottom bracket is a square-type 68mm-122mm that was just replaced by a Shimano UN55. Crankset is still a Shimano FC-C051, 28/38/48 teeth and still works well but looks worn. New cables and cable shrouds also. Other stuff is described in my profile.

    Now, I picked up a Shimano Acera RD-M360 long-stem RD today for $30 at a LBS and also a Shimano Altus FD-M310 Top-Swing (Bottom-Pull) for $20. I see that there is a Shimano Acera FD-M360 out there for ~$15 and was wondering if I should return this FD Altus for an Acera if there is a reason or a marginal improvement or at least consistency in model between FD and RD.

    Also will the Acera FD & RD be compatible with my 7-speed freewheel setup and especially the Shimano EF-29 EZ-Fire 7-speed shifters since the Acera is sold as an 8-speed part? (My guess is yes since these are analogous parts to Altus 7/8 speed line.)

    I'm a complete newbie at bicycle repair and upgrades, only rebuild my bicycle a few months ago from bearings all the way after a cracked frame that was replaced after 10-years of riding under lifetime warranty. Have the tools required but am always looking for some more as I learn more. Don't let the detailed jargon fool you, I'm a techie geek so that's natural and might sound like I know what I'm talking about when I'm really completely oblivious to obvious things.

    Any other advice about upgrades? Any components for me to consider also? Just curious and looking for guidance from folks who know more than I.
    Last edited by JakFrost; 06-24-2012 at 02:34 AM.

  2. #2
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    That was a long-ass post.

    So one of the reasons that hubs with a freehub body have supplanted threaded hubs on the market is that the length of exposed axle on a threaded hub for a 7-speed cassette is problematic. As you found out. I didn't know you could get a freewheel with an 11t cog, but I guess, why not.

    Since you don't want to replace a new wheel and you've already thrown some parts at it, I won't belabor that. Just, keep it in mind if it comes up again.

    Sounds like you're using the bike for commuting. So, you may not break another axle. Here's my advice:

    Don't screw around with Acera parts when you're spending your own money. At least, in future. Do Alivio or, better yet, Deore. The parallelograms are stiffer, the cages are stiffer, the springs are stiffer. While I haven't seen a good explanation as to why, they seem to be better at staying tuned.

    The things that must match for a drivetrain to work correctly are the number of gears supported by the right-hand shifter and the number of cogs on the freewheel or cassette, and the pull ratios of the shifter and derailleur. Shimano stuck with the same pull ratio on all their indexed MTB systems from 6-speed until 9-speed. So you can drop 8- or 9-speed derailleurs and cranksets into your drivetrain with no problem. If I understand your mix-and-match correctly, it should all work together fine.

    Personally, I like Shimano's HG freewheels quite a lot. I'd heard about how all new freewheels were bad but I was pleasantly surprised when I replaced the one I had on my last freewheel bike with a Shimano freewheel and saw an improvement. I'd stick with them if/when you kill your current freewheel, if the wheel itself survives that long. If you kill the wheel, get a new one with a freehub and get a 7-speed cassette and a spacer. Then if you want to further modernize the bike when your shifters die, it's a pretty low-cost path. If your shifters die first, you may be able to use 8-speed shifters to shift your 7-speed drivetrain because the cog spacing is very close, but I'd talk it over with my mechanic if I was considering it for one of my bikes.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    Good advice, you've read my mind on a few things that I omitted from the initial brain dump post since it was a bit long. I had a lot of ideas and questions bouncing around for a few months in my head so many of them got barfed out in that one long post.

    I was considering going to higher-level Shimano components for the FD and RD since I saw that their prices were not very expensive ($60-80) and within my price/performance ratio budget that I was considering. My biggest issue is that I cannot find information or a compatibility chart anywhere for MTB components (found one for 8-10-speed Road components though) so I can't easily mix-and-match parts on the drive-train without having this knowledge beforehand or months/years of experience working on the parts (it has only been 5-months since rebuilding the bicycle and I don't have hands-on access to inventory to mix-and-match).

    I do not know enough about chain widths and how the FD and RD component widths (pilot wheels, etc) would match my KMC 7-speed chain. On top of this my BB is a square-type 68-122mm so it is wider than the common 113mm and I'm not sure if the extra 9mm of length will affect the FD if I switch it.

    My shifters are the Shimano EZ-Fire 3x7 with integrated break levers and they are in like-new condition and I like them a lot for how great and authoritatively they shift and their ergonomics of the up and down shifter trigger and knob. I don't really care to switch them out.

    I saw that I can still replace my freewheel with one of the no-longer manufactured Shimano models and I'll consider that if I wear out or most likely bend-out the current Chinese made DNP one (11T rarity) as I did to the original Shimano 13-34T freewheel. Many are still available on the market now.

    I'm going to research Shimano Deore as replacement parts for FD & RD and return the Altus and Acera {F|R}D-M310/M360 parts and go up a few grades if possible.

    How Much Do You Get Spending Extra Money?

    The question that has been bouncing around in my head is the whole price-to-performance ratio thing (very big in computer tech and benchmarks) is if the large cost of replacing my freewheel components to more modern cassette ones is going to drastically improve my riding experience since the cost of such a replacement will be drastic also (Wheel set $100+ or Rear Wheel $70+, cassette $30+)?

    However, that would mean that the new parts I just got would be wasted away, and I'd rather use them and wear them out to get all the life out of them instead of just replacing them now, unless there is a clear night-and-day difference in performance. Somehow I don't see that as the case since I've noticed that it's usually the person who determines performance of the equipment being used and not vice versa (from shooting sports perspective at least).

    Since changing the wheel or set might also put me in line of replacing my rim V-breaks then I might as well do that also with disc-breaks, and the rabbit hole goes deeper since then I'll be thinking of replacing the square-taper BB and crankset with a newer standard designs and the costs just skyrockets then (crankset $150+, BB $50+, disc-breaks Oh my!). The rabbit hole of upgrades just falls off a cliff into a black-hole of never ending upgrades and parts and the idea of a whole new modern bike comes up. Something that I'd like to avoid for now as I learn about repair and upgrades on this perfectly usable and functional 10-year old bike.

    So boiled down to a simple question, are freewheels that much worse than cassettes? Will buying new cassette-compatible components to replace my current freewheel ones make a huge difference in performance?

  4. #4
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    The longer I ride bikes, the less I want from my bike. I want it to go, stop and shift, and I want it not to do anything weird. I do like having suspension on a mountain bike, but I use mine for mountain biking.

    So no, I don't think you'll get a big difference in performance switching from freewheels to cassettes. I do think you'll reduce the likelihood of another broken axle by switching to a modern freehub-style hub, but since you've already got your current wheel, I don't see it as worthwhile to change it until it comes up. My attitude with a bike is that if it's working, I'm not going to fight it. But if I break something and have to spend money fixing it, I may make some choices toward modernizing or improving durability or reliability. If you break this wheel, get one with a freehub. Stay with 7-speed if you like. I'd use an 8/9/10-speed compatible freehub and a spacer, rather than hunting up a 7-speed freehub. Rim brake compatible wheels are still readily available, so you don't need to change that either.

    In general, I just buy 8-speed chains for bikes that take fewer. Sometimes you can run into problems mixing wider chains with narrower derailleurs. It actually doesn't come up much, and mostly for front derailleurs. You can use a 9-speed chain on a 7-speed drivetrain with good success. I think things get a little tougher with 10-speed, but those chains aren't exactly cheap and you can't use those derailleurs anyway. So that would be something to try if you got a 9-speed front derailleur and your 7-speed chain didn't play well with it.

    I don't think the newer crank design is enough better to merit replacement as an upgrade. If you need a new crank anyway, then by all means. But it doesn't sound like you do. Stick with what you've got unless and until you need to replace more pieces than the cost of just getting a whole new one.

    For me, compatibility with an existing bottom bracket is putting the cart before the horse. My attitude is to get the crank I want, as long as there's an available bottom bracket for it that's compatible with my frame, and then get whatever bottom bracket I need. The crank arms and spider are usually the large-ticket part of the system.

    With a bike that's supposed to not cost too much, in general I like to stick with 1:1 replacements. Often, as you're figuring out, trying to update one thing touches off a whole string of other components that need to be replaced too. With an older bike than yours, sometimes the frame itself prevents compatibility with certain things.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  5. #5
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    I wouldn't buy the acera for the reasons mentioned. If you're gong to upgrade something, make it meaningful.

    The spring in the fd is much stronger than the rd. It may just need a good clean and lube. Although the rd spring may have weakened, it only has to overcome the cable friction to operate. Put a new set of cables and housings on it and ride. Save your money for another bike that is better suited to commuting.

  6. #6
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    I am going to leave upgrading to the higher class components as an exercise for the future. There is just too much up-front expense to replace so many parts and throw away so many already replaced parts. I am an inexperienced home bicycle maintainer with less than 1-month of actual hands-on practice in cleaning, repairing, and upgrading parts. There are just too many unknowns and small issues to consider when going from Shimano low-end M100-M300 (Tourney, Altus, Acera) series components all the way up to M500-M700 (Deore, SLX, XT) series along with a whole 7-9-speed change.

    I spent many hours today redoing the FD because I had it mounted too high above the largest chainring and had to reset the high-low (inner-outer) limits properly. One that I will be replacing tomorrow with a newer version of the same Altus. Then I spend many more hours redoing my 10-year old RD, including disassembly, complete cleaning and pulley wheel re-greasing and then re-mounting with resetting the limits and trying to get the shifting to work again on 7-speeds. It took me hours of work to do this, while using Shimano's TechDocs and Bicycle repair book and in the end the RD still wouldn't shift properly to the largest and smallest at the same time. So I bit the bullet and replaced it with the $30 Acera RD-M360 model and that got the shifting to go a lot better now, all the way to the largest and smallest authoritatively and without hesitation. No amount of cleaning, relubbing, and fixing the old one worked but the new one worked like a charm.

    While at it I pulled the RD cable and greased it up and checked the housings and movement, seems pretty good to me now.

    I also put one extra link back on my chain from 54 to 55 even though the formulas say 54 is the proper size for my 48T, 16.75", 28T numbers. I saw that with a 54 link the RD pulley rests forward at 85-degrees and when I added the extra link the pulley now rests 90-degrees when on the largest chainring and smallest cog as Shimano's TechDocs show it should be.

    It was a pain getting one link back on the like-new KMC Z51 7-speed chain and having that link to move well. It took me two tries and two bad links to get one good one even after trying to loosen up those two bad ones. Finally the last one popped on well and had good motion without being stiff. It looks well and it has a good looking non-flared rim on the link where I put the pin back with the Alien Tool II, unlike the other two which showed a flared out rim. Not sure why the other two were a problem, either my inexperience or just general difficulty in re-adding links to a chain.

    I still have shifting hesitation when going from 4th to 5th gear (18T to 15T, but when I go to 15T to 13T to 11T the shift is smooth up and down) for the gears that I like the most. I think that the DNP rare cogset just doesn't work well with these Shimano derailleurs due to the 3-tooth skip between my most often used 4th and 5th gears and my large chainring (48T) during commuting. I really ride a lot in the 48T front and 18T to 15T to 13T combination so I want that 18T to 15T transition to be smooth. To try out my theory about this DNP freewheel I ordered the Shimano Tourney MF-HG37 13T-28T freewheel for $20 since it is cheap enough to get and try.

    While resetting the limits on my FD I noticed that my large chainring has slight bends in it since it doesn't rotate the chain uniformly so I decided to get a Shimano Altus FC-M311 175mm 28-38-48T crankset for $30. This is 5mm longer than my current 170mm chainring that came with the bike and I measured my inseam as 35-inches so 175mm seems to be recommended for my inseam and height of 6'2" (proportional).

    I ordered some more tools and the Park Took PCS-10 repair stand yesterday. Today I decided to keep the FD and RD that I bought and buy new crankset and freewheel cogset but overall these Shimano 300-series parts are not too expensive to replace and upgrade.

    I'm thinking that it is more prudent to replace these old rusted out and bent 10-year old parts with similar replacements and learn how to upgrade, repair, and maintain them. Any mistakes that I make with these are not very costly either. After a year or more I'll have enough knowledge and experience to attempt upgrades to better quality components.

    Sorry to disappoint any folks who staunchly recommend that I upgrade to brand new high-quality components right off the bat, but I'm not ready yet.
    Last edited by JakFrost; 06-25-2012 at 11:49 PM.

  7. #7
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    You're being too quantitative about some of this stuff, and overdoing some other things.

    Since you've got working derailleurs now, we'll leave that aside. Just revisit it next time you have to spend money on this bike.

    For chain length, use of a quantitative formula is way too complicated. I use the Big-big +a link method to size my chain. It's fast, easy, and conservative in a good way. Here's a link.
    Park Tool Co. ParkTool Blog Chain Length Sizing

    Did you already order another Altus crank? On most cranksets, the individual rings are replaceable...

    Be conservative about use of grease. Keep in mind that most of a bicycle's drivetrain is exposed. While commuting isn't as dirty as mountain biking, I find that it's still pretty bad. Cables don't typically need grease, or not more than they shipped with, and housings have an interior jacket that reduces friction without use of grease. It's recommended to grease some parts of a derailleur, but I don't think jockey wheels are one of them. I occasionally use tri-flow on the jockey wheel bushings, but that's it. For me, grease is something I put on mating surfaces of parts that aren't supposed to move against each other, so threads, the bottom of a seat post if I had a dry one, faces that press-fit together, stuff like that, and that I pack into a bearing that's supposed to be sealed against the outside.

    It sounds like you could benefit a lot from taking a class. Most of the stuff on a bicycle isn't rocket science, but there's a certain amount of manual skill involved, and a lot of that is best learned in person. I don't know about other posters, but I initially learned a lot of repair and maintenance skills from my father, the friend who got me into mountain biking, and volunteers at my college's bike coop. While I've definitely gone beyond those tasks, I already had some experience working on bikes when I tried to learn more advanced stuff. I think it helps a lot.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  8. #8
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    My modus operandi is to be thorough to the point of compulsiveness, but just short of freaky.

    Measurement As Required Standards

    Learning about and then applying standard bicycle formulas and calculations, inseam lenght to crankarm length, and chainstay plus gears and angle of derailleur cage to ground are pretty basic and standard things. I think that this is pretty much a requirement for anyone so that they establish a baseline for their equipment and only understanding that to know what needs to be adjusted. Otherwise people end up adjusting things on hunches and feelings which are undescribable to others and not quantifiable.

    I've measured out my gear combinations (48T large chainring) and found that I prefer to ride at 73 gr.in. (18T) and 83 gr.in. (15T) gear inches most of the time and crank up to 96 gr.in. (13T) on downhills and fast flats and rarely 113 gr.in. (11T) on long downhills followed by flats. Now that I know these values I can do a better job in calculating and determining upgrade paths that will be within my riding preferences.

    I am still planning on doing a weight distribution test for optimum tire inflation to achieve the recommended 15-degree tire deformation. I also have to measure out my saddle horizontal position in relation to the vertical angle between my knee and the ball of my foot. I think that my saddle is too far forward, but I also have to balance out how far back I move the saddle since the last frame I broke was according to the bicycle repair guy due to my saddle being too far back causing too much stress on the frame with a too-short seat-post.

    Shimano Altus

    Anyway, I'm standardizing on the Shimano Altus parts for this build to establish a baseline for learn from when all the parts are in good working condition. This will give my bicycle relative longevity before these parts fail or start to deform due to the softer steel that they use and also being non-repairable due to the high effort and lost cost of the parts to easily replace them.

    I will be looking at the higher quality Shimano Deore and XT or SRAM parts as a future upgrade or possible a whole new bicycle built on a new frame or upgrade of a Craig's List purchased bicycle. Right now, I am enjoying toying around with my bicycle and maintenance is pretty easy and enjoyable because I'm learning.

    Chainring Not Disassemblable

    My chainring is not upgradable or repairable since it is welded together and does not come apart. I do have the wrench to take chainrings apart, but not this one. It is most likely a M100 series part like a 10-year old FC-M131 that probably costs $15-20. Not bad price-to-performance for 10-years of usage from a bicycle masher and heavy weight starter.

    Bicycle Classes

    My local REI outdoors store has Advanced Bicycle Repair classes but they are limited to 4-people and are always full, even while being put on the waiting list. I got pretty good experience taking my while bicycle apart down to the ball-bearings and putting it back together on a new frame, then replacing and upgrading parts so I'm not mechanically inept since I took the bicycle apart one year after putting it back together and I remembered nothing from the disassembly before putting it back. I just saw which way parts fit properly and worked the best and I'm pretty sure that I got things correct but there might be a few small things that might be wrong or need a little better adjustment.

    Bicycle Tools

    I've been steadily purchasing bicycle tools as I need them and have a little bag already with the repair stand coming along with more tools and spare parts. In the future if I get more serious I'll probably spend the money for more tools as I need them since the experience I am gaining repairing my bicycle is invaluable compared to the cost of the tools or the loss if I just gave the bicycle to a LBS to do the work for me blindly trusting them. I buy each tool as I need it and then learn to use it.

    Up-Shifting Hesitation

    I'm learning as I'm diagnosing the shifting issue from the 3rd to 4th and 4th to 5th that requires me to overshift then backshift once. I know that it has to do with the tension on the cable versus the derailleur spring but this started when I shortened my chain from 58 to 54 and now 55-links and now remains as a problem as I'm discovering.

    Riding The Thing

    I ride my bicycle to work 4-days a week, 8-miles each way in 30 to 32-minutes and I enjoy the ride. There is a Wednesday 7pm trail ride that I want to do so I'll probably buy wheel set and put on my mountain bike tires on it so that I can participate and learn trail riding. I miss doing long-rides (30-miles) in the park and might want to pick that up during the fall when the weather dips below 108-degrees.

    I ride with an Alient Tool II that I know how to use, spare tube, stop-flats in my tires, tire and tube patches, pump, lights, helment, hydration pack, and spare chainrings on my paved bicycle trail in a popular park. Any issue short of destroying a key piece of the bicycle I can probably fix on the spot right there. All the little shifting related problems I've been dealing by stopping and adjusting something here and there because things work different under-weight.

    I'm having a lot of good fun on my bicycle and any little issues aren't big enough to phase me. I'm looking forward to riding and working on it more.

  9. #9
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    Is your shifting issue only from the 3rd through 5th cog? Or does it apply to the whole freewheel?

    Shifting issues applying to some but not all cogs are generally not a cable tension problem, IME. That should apply pretty much the same across the entire freewheel.

    Do you have the Shimano freewheel yet, or is this still the off-brand one?

    Do you know your selected cadence? That's also a really good thing to understand in figuring out and choosing gear combinations. One of the difficulties with bicycles and quantitative calculation is that the engine and pilot both behave in inconsistent and non-linear ways. Do a little more reading on crank arm length and you'll find out that those formulae are pretty much bogus too.

    I've been somewhat successful getting my bikes dialed for me by recording the changes I make. If I go in the wrong direction, I can easily go back to what I had before. It's easy to precisely and accurately quantify the setup of a bike. Park Tool has a couple worksheets for it on their site, or you can figure out your own. Quantitative calculation of how a bike should be set up is a mistake, though. Comparing bike setup to rider dimensions is really more of a statistical thing. Assuming you fall inside a standard deviation, there's still plenty of room for a setup that's not bang-on average.

    I like being able to look at the world quantitatively too. I'm working on a degree in mechanical engineering. But it's important to be able to recognize where things can't be described well mathematically, and also where deterministic formulae don't exist or don't work. Trust your hunches. Just also record your last known good setups.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  10. #10
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    I completely agree with you that the world is analog and people are squishy (my own words) so things can't be hard-set and quantifiable. I always thought that mathematics, while elegant and self-conforming are quite rigid for the real world where things are always fuzzy and without clearly definable borders.

    I am still using that DNP 11-13-15-18-21-24-28T (2-2-3-3-3-4 tooth difference) 7-speed freewheel and waiting on the Shimano 13T-28T one to come in. I adjusted the high-limit screw on my rear derailleur closer to the outer line of the smallest cog since my chain fell off when up-shifting to the 7th smallest cog today and I over-adjusted the screw on my ride for safety and was only able to hit the 6th gear. I lowered the tension on my cable slightly, 1.5 turns or so out and the shifting from 3rd to 4th and 4th to 5th improved but there is still hesitation from 4th to 5th. I have to keep a balance between 3->4 and 4->5 up-shifting and 7->6 down-shifting. If I lower the tension too much I get good up-shifting but bad 7->6 down-shifting requring me to almost over-pull the shifter. Although this is probably a limitation of the parts or the shifters since this is how I remember the old Shimano 13T-34T (overdive largest cog) being, the first down-shift was always a long one and the others were short. The other shifts are pretty good in both directions.

    I'll ride it tomorrow and check. On Frinday I should have the new Shimano freewheel for $20 and swap it out to cross-compare. If I lose the 11T but gain consistent shifting I'll keep that since I'm not in good enough shape and don't have enough long downhill-flats to really hit the 11T cog except for two little spots on the trail. I'm probably screwing up my cadance and mashing too much going to the 11T anyway so perhaps this non-standard 11T might not be a loss. I'll see on Friday or next week depending on the shipper.

    Bicycle University

    I started looking at the Barnett Bicycle Institute and their BAM and BRO class schedules since this is something that I'd like to attend and do as a home mechanic. Not sure about find the time available for that away from work but perhaps next year.

  11. #11
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    Have a shop make sure your derailleur hanger isn't screwed up.

    I wouldn't be too surprised if the new freewheel fixes it. But your problem is something that warped derailleur hangers sometimes cause too, so that's worth a look.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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    It's been a while and I just wanted to follow up to this thread to give an update on this extra pedantic line of reasoning. Keeping this thread as my upgrade log.

    Shimano Altus M310 Parts Standardized: Crankset, FD, RD

    As I wrote last I switched out the rear derailleur to a matching Shimano Altus RD-M310 7/8 Speed Black for $24.61 USD model and also replaced the DNP freewheel with a Shimano Tourney MF-HG37 13T-28T 7-speed Freewheel for $15.90 USD and that solved the hesitation problems in switching to my favorite 5th to 6th gears but created a hesitation in the 3rd to 4th gear shift.

    I have also started focusing more on pedaling and not mashing so I've been riding in the 4th, 5th, and rarely 6th (15T) gear and hardly ever the 7th (13T) gear unless I'm going at 25mph downhill. I use the 2nd front gear for riding up hills and I switch down to the 3rd rear gear or 2nd if the hill is steep.

    I also switched out the crankset that had some signs of wear and slightly bent teeth with a new Shimano Altus M311 28/38/48T 175mm Black for $29.79 USD and have been very happy with it.

    I rode this bicycle pretty much 3-4 times a week since then and have been very happy with its performance with this series of parts. I have kept my ride times to 30-33 minutes for 8.1-miles most of the time and have been very happy with my progress and experience.

    The parts that I replaced in it have been very affordable and inexpensive for me, $15-$30 USD and have held up well and are working very well. I maintain them, clean them, lube them and they continue to work.

    Second Broken Axle on a Rear Freewheel Wheel

    Last week I noticed a few days that my times went from my usual times to 35-37 minutes for the last 3-days of riding and I remembered that this is exactly what happened the last time that axle broke on my bicycle.

    Last time I thought the root cause was that it was an old the 9-year that was a problem so I replaced it with another similar freewheel type made by Sta-Tru for $35 USD at my LBS. The guy there warned me that I should invest in better wheel but since I don't like his know-it-all attitude and pushy sales pitches I ignored him. He was right about these freewheels breaking and bending axles so I give him that. He's probably a very experienced and knowledgeable mechanic but he's got an incompatible attitude so I just use his LBS out of convenience and for parts.

    Upgrades/Replacements Again -> Scrambled Brains

    Now I'm back to the brain scrambling upgrade path and I'm not liking it one bit, just like last time. I'm too inexperienced to know what parts work with which ones and which upgrade paths are safe that I'm getting my brain scrambled by trying to figure out what I can upgrade and replace with what. I have the 3 most popular bicycle mechanics books and have been browsing Shimano TechDocs regularly looking for part numbers and compatibility but it's not easy for me to know what problems I am going to face this time around.

    7-Speed Freewheel to Freehub 8/9-Speed Upgrade?

    The sad part is that I replaced many parts in my bicycle around the fact that I wanted to keep my costs down by keeping my old freewheel rear wheel and the now replaced DNP freewheel sprockets. Now that I saw and learned that the freewheel design is flawed because the ball-bearings are not far enough out on the wheel causing bent and broken axles really defeats my original idea and purpose in the previous upgrades. It's been 5-months and I'm looking at replacements and upgrades once again.

    The parts that I purchased are at least 7/8-speed compatible but I'm find out that the 8-speed freehub parts are rare now because everyone switched over to 9-speed parts almost two decades ago or so.

    So now I'm once again hunting down a 8-speed Shimano Altus FH-RM40-8 Rear Freehub and find that's it is difficult to find by itself and I only find two wheels online that are build on it. Luckily the one wheel is $35.18. Unfortunately, I don't know what valve type this Weinmann 519 rim has but I'm seeing some references to Presta instead of Shrader that I have on the front.

    Wheel Master Rear 26 x 1.5, WEI-519, Blk, Altus RM40 8sp Blk Hub, 14g Blk Spokes, 36H - $35.18 USD

    The other parts that I'll need is an 8-speed rear shifter but luckily the set below looks affordable.

    Shimano ST-EZ51 Shift/Break Set 3x8-Speed Black - $35.34 USD.

    My rear and front deraileurs are 7/8-speed compatible and my KMC Z51 chain is 6/7/8-speed compatible so I should be fine there.

    Shimano Altus CS-HG40-8 11T-30T 8-Speed Freehub Cassette - $21.24 USD

    I'll also need a ParkTool Chain Whip tool and cassette removal bit for the freehub to add to my tools collection.

    This latest upgrade is going to cost me a little over $130 USD including the parts and tools.

    Shimano Deore M500 Series On My Mind

    I'm thinking that perhaps now is the time to get a better rear wheel with better freehub body such as the M500 series. The guy at another LBS recommended that I should go to a 9-speed and skip the 8-speed all together but then that means that I have to replace even more parts and I'm not sure what will be compatible with the 9-speed parts. The big issue is that I don't know enough about parts compatibility without using Shimano's Deore M500 TechDoc parts lists and looking for part numbers off those pages.

    This type of an upgrade would open up my bicycle to more modern upgrades instead of having to trowel the bottom of the barrel for last two decade's left-over parts on he online dealers but it would cost a lot of money to jump to M500 series of parts.

    I'm also thinking that this will be like the last upgrade research that I did and found that to upgrade all the major drive-train components would be a few hundred dollars, above $500 or more. Then that would lead me back to the question of do I want to spend that much and do I need that high performance parts for a commuter bicycle on a 8-mile paved park ride. The answer last time was no, and this time might also be the case.

    Anyway, back to the web for research and parts ordering after checking out the two other LBS in my area.
    Last edited by JakFrost; 11-26-2012 at 10:27 PM.

  13. #13
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    If I read you right, the major thing you're trying to accomplish is to switch to a hub that won't keep breaking.

    Get an 8/9-speed wheel. Get a 7-speed cassette. Get a spacer. Don't worry about the other stuff, and be happy. Make sure the wheel you get is compatible with your brakes.

    Get a new shop while you're at it. Probably nobody's going to like dealing with your bike, especially as it gets more "frankenbike." But some people are less professional than others.

    If you want to go to 8- or 9-speed later (or now,) you need the shifters, cassette and chain. That's it. Your current derailleurs and crank are fine.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  14. #14
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    I actually spent many hours putting my brain back together after it got scrambled from all of this bicycle parts confusion and finally made part choices that I liked and placed an order for them after I got fed-up with having to deal with my LBSs.

    I decided to upgrade to an 8/9-speed freehub wheel and an 8-speed cassette along with new 3x8 shifters. I chose 8-speed versus 9-speed that the freehub would support because I wouldn't have to change my crankset, derailleurs, or chain and only the shifters would require an upgrade.

    When I started looking into Shimano Deore M500 series 9-speed parts the costs were double to triple for the 8-speed setup that I could have now and be happy with. I was happy with 7-speeds, an extra sprocket on the 8-speed is going to be a nice gradual improvement.

    Also, I chose a very gradual 11-28T cassette instead of 11-30|32|34 so that I have very small 2-3 tooth jumps between the larger sprockets instead of 3-4 jumps so that my shifting is more gradual and smoother for my fairly flat terrain paved park path ride to work.

    I also bought the tools required to maintain the freehub setup along with tools to rebuild the broken wheel with a freehub this way I will have a spare rear wheel and also I will learn how to build wheels, something that I haven't learned to do yet even after rebuilding my bicycle from the frame up after the crack. I just ordered the $70 Park Tool spoke tension meter since I'll need that to rebuild the wheel correctly.

    Below are the parts that I bought last night, the most expensive is a Sun Rhyno Lite built on a Shimano Deore FH-M590 32H Rear freehub and another of the same freehubs for just $30 but a 36H model to rebuild my current broken wheel to learn. I could have went with a $45-$56 USD rear wheels made on lower level rims and no-name freehub bodies but I saw that MTBR reviews had an unusually large 350 reviews for the Sun Rhyno Lite rim and a 4.26/5.00 average review that I thought the extra $40 USD for that rim and a brand-name Shimano Deore FH-M590 freehub would be worth the little extra.

    Overall, the price of these parts, including today's spoke tensioner is something like $370 USD, the cost of a new bicycle and more than $150 USD than the original price that I paid for my bicycle in 2002 which was something like $235 USD. If I added up the cost of all the Park Tool tools that I purchased, including the bicycle stand and books the cost would probably be in the couple hundreds, and with this expense it would be close to $1,000, the cost of a good quality new bicycle. However, this is a project bicycle for me and it isn't about the money but about the knowledge that I gain from learning to rebuild, maintain, and upgrade my own bicycle which is in itself a separate hobby outside of riding the bicycle.

    Sometime in the future, I am going to buy a road bicycle as my second bicycle and first ever road bicycle and that is going to be another fun project bicycle while this one stays as my tough commuter bike.

    Code:
    1	"Park Tool Portable Wheel Dishing Tool"
    Sports; $29.36
    In Stock
       Sold by: Amazon.com LLC 
    
    1	"Park Tool SR-1 Sprocket Remover/Chain whip with Header"
    Sports; $19.14
    In Stock
       Sold by: Amazon.com LLC 
    
    1	"Park Tool Repair Mount Wheel Truing Stand"
    Sports; $30.39
    In Stock
       Sold by: Amazon.com LLC 
    
    1	"Shimano HG50 Cassette - Nickel, 11-28T"
    Sports; $23.98
    In Stock
       Sold by: Amazon.com LLC 
    
    1	"Park Tool FR-5G Cassette Lockring Tool with Guide Pin"
    Sports; $7.94
    In Stock
       Sold by: Amazon.com LLC 
    
    1	"Shimano ST-EF51(LL)2A Shift/Brake Set (Black, 3x8 Speed)"
    Sports; $35.34
    In Stock
       Sold by: Amazon.com LLC 
    
    1	"Sun Rhyno Lite Rear Wheel - 26" x 1.5, 8/9 Speed, 32H, QR, All-Black"
    Misc.; $92.78
    In Stock
       Sold by: Niagara Cycle Works 
    
    1	"Shimano Deore M590 36 hole Rear Hub, Black"
    Misc.; $30.35
    In stock. Processing takes an additional 2 to 3 days.
       Sold by: Niagara Cycle Works

  15. #15
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    Freehub Rear Wheel and 8-Speed Upgrade Success

    I rode the new 8-speed setup with the new Shimano Deore M590 freehub body wheel yesterday for the first time to work after the axle broke on the old one a month ago or so. Everything works well and my times are back to their normal 31-32 minutes so everything is working as it should. The shifting on the new 11-28T 8-speed cassette is working fine and it is very smooth with only a few hesitations between some of the middle-gear jumps, nothing serious but much better than on the 7-speed freewheel. The new Shimano EZ-Fire 3x8-speed shifters work very well also feel the same as the old ones but slightly smoother. I also noticed that the front derailleur shifting from middle-to-large is now easier and smoother also with less tension required on the large thumb lever, very nice surprising improvement also.

    I re-checked and adjusted the front and rear derailleur high-and-low screw positions and they are fine after the replacement with only slight adjustment needed for the front derailleur due to the 8-sprockets instead of 7.

    KMC Z72 8-Speed Chain 7.1mm Pin-Length Strangeness

    I also checked my chain and found out that it's likely a KMC Z72 8-speed chain with 7.0-7.1mm pin-length. I cleaned it out well and lubed it with synthetic Bicycle chain purple oil lubricant. I checked it for stretching and it's still fine.

    Strangely after measuring with my caliper the KMC MasterLink that came with this chain in the box was the CL5571R model KMC MasterLink II that was supposed to have the 7.1mm pin-length for 8-speed chains but when I measured it the pins were 7.3mm in length so I swapped it out for one of the 6-spares that I had that actually measured 7.03mm. Very weird.

    When this chain gets stretched out I might replace it with what looks like a better model the KMC X8.99 8-speed chain but I'm a little confused why that chain needs the wider 7.3mm KMC MissingLink instead of the 7.1mm KMC MissingLink II that it should use? Makes no sense to me. 8-speed chains should be 7.1mm according to the tables in the books. Why this 7.3mm on this better chain?

    Lezyne 400 Lumen LED Front Light

    Last week I took a short night ride to test out the bicycle after swapping out the parts and used the Lezyne lamp that I purchased half a year ago for the first time. It is very strong and great to use but the mount is a little annoying since I can't seem to find the rubber pieces to secure it well to the handle bars and used some crappy foam pad I had that is slippery. Also no matter how much I tightended the mount the light has a tendency to move horizontally left-to-right at the slightest touch like when pressing the buttons. I hope that this is just because I don't have the rubber liner that is/was supposed to come with the light but I have all the boxes and parts and don't see any liners in there.

    The light is bright as hell at night and it must be one of those too-strong for opposing traffic lights because it must blind people temporarily when they rid by me. I have it pointed low and aimed slight off to the side and on the lowest of the 3-settings but it is still super damn bright. Luckily there are only 2-or-3 cyclists that rode by me that evening so I hope I didn't cause too much distress to them.

    I wish that these Lezyne or any other bicycle lights lights came with a military hand grip light tape-switch so that I could lower the intensity or turn the light off temporarily at night when passing others as not to blind them. That would be a great addition I think. I'll e-mail Lezyne to see if they have any interest.

    Slight Problem with the 7th and 8th Smallest Gears and Front Crankset Gears

    I noticed after replacing all the parts and testing the drive train on the stand that there is noticeable resistance and harshness at the front crankset/chainring (not rear) when each tooth engages with each chain link when the front is on the large 48T sprocket and the rear is on the smallest 13T or 11T sprockets. I don't see the chain rubbing against the front derailleurs cage, chain stay, axle, jockey wheels, or rear derailleur cage.

    I don't know where it is coming but somehow I suspect the bottom bracket might have something to do with this. I a few months ago replaced my old Shimano UN25 68mm-121mm square-taper internal bearing sealed from the 7-speed setup with a new Shimano UN55 68mm-122.5mm so I don't know if that might have anything to do with this. I didn't know which of the lengths to choose at the time back then so I chose the same length pretty much.

    Below are the choices but I'm not sure what determines which one to use.

    68x107mm
    68x110mm
    68x113mm
    68x115mm
    68x118mm
    68x122.5mm
    68x127.5mm

    I'm wondering if perhaps the chain might be on a different and uneven vertical plane between the smallest sprockets 11T/13T and the largest 48T front chain ring and the lateral tension on the chain makes the engagement harsh on the teeth of the chain ring. This harshness might also be forcing the chain onto the teeth of the chain ring and might be damaging them slowly by rubbing on the corners of the teeth.

    I will look around for some info on this issue to see what's going on and why the motion isn't smooth. If it's the bottom bracket then I can replace it cheaply from Amazon for ~$20 USD for the Shimano UN55 and keep my crankset the same.
    Last edited by JakFrost; 12-25-2012 at 07:20 PM.

  16. #16
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    I commend you and anyone else who learns to do their own repairs but one thing you still need to learn is value. As you have discovered, freewheel hubs are no longer of any value except on toy bikes. Back in the day when bikes had 5 speed drivetrains and cassettes were not yet invented there were many high quality freewheel hubs available but today unless you go crazy (Phil Wood, etc.) all you will find is low quality, weak steel that is totally unsuitable for any real riding.

    When repairing bikes, especially lower end bikes there quickly comes a point of diminishing returns on your investment. Add up the cost of parts you need or will soon need and compare to the price of a similarly equipped new bike. Sometimes more expensive parts (cassette hubs) are actually cheaper, as you have found.

    As for the "harshness" when in the smaller rear cogs- It's not the BB. It is not uncommon to feel friction in a lower end drivetrain and you will usually feel it most in the small rear cogs. This harsh feeling will usually diminish some with some miles on it.

  17. #17
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    Yes, I am trying to learn about value versus price of parts when doing repairs that often go from simple same-for-same swap outs to progressive slow upgrades.

    The first rear wheel axle break was a same-for-same replacement of the whole wheel at $34 USD since it was cheap, the next break was a $93 USD wheel upgrade to a freehub + $24 cassette. I wanted to avoid the third axle break that would likely happen a few months later and cost me more in annoyance factor than the money for the upgrade to the freehub.

    Some people might think and say that I should have obviously gone for the freehub upgrade after the first break but I didn't think that axle breaks were that common until the second one happened so quickly in 5-months as predicted by my LBS snotty repair guy.

    I'm rather enjoying this learning process myself since I get to ride through all the upgrades and learning on how to install, repair, and replace each one as I go along. Invaluable experience for an aspiring gear-head worth more than the money.

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