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Eternal sunshine of the spotless bearings…

Posted by desflurane on May 28, 2013

(34 days until Red Bull Romaniacs #10!!)

About three weeks ago I was out for a bicycle ride and I could no longer stand the squeaking noises coming from the rear wheel. Up until that point I had assumed that all the racket was produced by a chain that was reaching the “golden years” of its service life. It seemed that a generous application of lube to the links would quiet things down for a bit, but the squealing would always return before the end of a ride.


I pulled off the rear wheel and set to work installing the shiny new chain I had purchased a few months earlier, but had never “gotten around” to installing. This went smoothly and perhaps fifteen minutes later I re-installed my sexy Rol rear wheel and took a quick run up and down the street to enjoy the riding solitude I would now be enjoying…

No dice…

The squealing was undiminished by the new chain, if anything it seemed more pronounced.

I pulled the rear wheel off and gave it a brisk spin while holding the hub between my fingers. The REAL problem was immediately obvious. The hub whined and squeaked and felt as though the bearings were packed full of sand. At one point the bearings actually bound up and the wheel didn’t spin at all.

I’m no expert at bike mechanics, but I’m pretty sure that ain’t how its s’posed to be.

To shorten the tale, I partially disassembled the hub and every bearing I could turn seemed to be completely roached. I contacted Rol regarding my pitiful situation. I had read glowing reviews of the company’s customer service and my expectaitons were high. Indeed they were met when the owner of the company (Sean) called me on my cell phone to discuss the problem. He assured me that there is no way the bearings should have gone out so quickly and that he would be happy to send a new cassette body (with fresh bearings installed) as well as a new set of the sealed main wheel bearings – all free of charge. On top of that he would foot the bill to have the new bits swapped in by my nearest competent bike shop.

Perfect! Doesn’t get better than that!

We discussed logistics a bit further and decided that we would cut out the middle-man (myself) and just have the parts sent directly to the bike shop to be mated up to the wheel, which I would drop off the next day. The phone call was on a Thursday and it was expected that I would be up and running by the beginning of the next week.

I was unable to get the wheel to the shop for another couple of days and I emailed the shop’s contact info to Sean at that time. No problem, should be riding by the following weekend at the latest.

A full week passed by with no word from the shop. I dropped in and asked if the parts had arrived. Not so much.

Another email, then a voicemail on Sean’s cell phone finally did the trick and the bits were successfully delivered and crammed into my wheel. A full two weeks after the process began.

The fresh hub/chain combo is heavenly! The shop lubed the hub internals up with high quality grease and mineral oil and the pawl noise when freewheeling is almost nonexistent! Shifts with the new chain are lightning fast and buttery smooth. All’s well that ends well…

But I am left with kind of a love-hate relationship with the customer service experience. On the one hand, Sean totally did me a solid and hooked me up with the needed parts completely at his expense. On the other, it took two weeks and repeated nudging to get this to happen. If I were a big-time cyclist this could have been a major setback to a rigorous training schedule (though a serious cyclist would probably have a spare wheel, or even complete bike on hand in the mean time). Fortunately for me I had been focusing on running during this time – to prepare for the relay race coming up this weekend. I wouldn’t have spent much time on the bike anyway. My impression is that Sean probably gets a lot of email and my paltry communication was lost in the shuffle. Once I got myself on his radar I got taken care of right away.

Bottom line: I love the wheels. The bike feels better than when it rolled of the showroom floor. I suffered no real slowdown in my training as a result of all this hoopla. The only way I could really complain is if the new bearings croak on me prematurely as well. That would seem to indicate a real problem with the wheel design, and not me. But for the time being, I’m happy!


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