I thought I’d write this page as a result of problems encountered whilst replacing the front wheel bearings and spindle on my 1953 Matchless G3LS. (# see my ‘update’ at the bottom of this page)

VBC Taper Roller Bearing and Spindle

My bike has a 1956 ‘barrel shaped’ front hub and uses a complete front spindle and bearing assembly, part number 012825. The machined spindle includes taper roller bearings at each side of the hub. Correctly lubricated and adjusted, these bearings should last indefinitely. Mine hadn’t been…the original work on the bike hadn’t been done to a high standard and the oil seal on the circlip side of the hub simply wasn’t there; I’m guessing that my cousin had tried to remove the circlip and just replace the oil seal, and had found he couldn’t get the circlip back on with the seal in place. Don’t fit the seal and the circlip goes in, but the grease comes out.

The manuals explain how to remove, refurbish and refit the assembly, so I won’t go through it here.

I essentially had three choices (really two) which were: the more modern cartridge type bearing and spindle assembly from AMC Classic Spares, a newly manufactured taper roller bearing assembly with spindle from the Vintage Bearing Company (VBC) on eBay and what looks like the same VBC assembly from the AJS & Matchless Owners Club at a much higher price.

AMC Classic Spares Spindle Assembly

My instinct was to go with the newer design, which is the famous Andrews Engineering cartridge bearing and spindle assembly from AMC Classic Spares; it requires no adjustment once fitted. However, an allegedly wiser man than me on such things, advised me to go with the VBC taper roller bearing option…which I did.

I checked all the external dimensions of the new assembly and they matched my old spindle and bearing assembly. Then I had the tyre and tube removed again to fit in a press (don’t use a hammer and drifts to change bearings) and pressed out the old spindle and bearings; the rollers on the latter were quite badly pitted.

Once the housing in the hub was cleaned up, the new spindle assembly was fitted in accordance with the instructions in the manual, including new oil seals. Additional grease was injected into the hub. Then the tube and tyre went back on again.

I then went to fit the aluminium cover and securing nuts…neither of the nuts would screw on more than a few turns on the spindle. I tried a second set of nuts from a different spindle and the result was the same. All four nuts fitted my original spindle and the other one I had.

My old front spindle and bearing assembly

I contacted the Vintage Bearing Company who just said ‘send it back’…that isn’t a five minute job! The tyre and tube would have to come off again and the whole assembly would have to be removed again. I made them a video clearly demonstrating the problem and suggested there was a problem with the threads. I was told ‘we’ve sold hundreds of these and only had this problem two times and it was the nuts’. I felt like I was banging my head of a brick wall. Eventually I got VBC to agree to me running a die down the thread to check and possibly repair it. Once I put the die down the thread, which removed quite a lot of metal towards the bottom of the threaded spindle end, the nuts would all fit.

The Vintage Bearing Company gave me a token refund which covered the cost of the die and wrench. If you buy from them, check all dimensions and make sure your nuts fit.

However, if you need to replace your Matchless or AJS front wheel spindle assembly, I’d suggest you buy the design Steve at AMC Classic Spares sells. Again, no adjustment will be needed and it will probably outlast you…Steve and Linda also provide superb customer service. They also provide an Andrews Engineering style spindle assembly for the rear wheel too.

Many companies are similar when everything goes right…I judge them by how they respond when things don’t go right. In my opinion, the Vintage Bearing Company are somewhat below par.

At the time of writing, the VBC assembly was £195 on eBay, the AMC Classic Spares assembly was £175 direct and the AJS&MOC assembly was £234; and the latter looks identical to the VBC offering.

This is my opinion and review…you must make your own choice of course.

UPDATE as of 29th January 2023: more than one other person has reported problems with this bearing assembly and the rude, unhelpful response from the supplier. They blame the ‘nuts’ every time…well I say ‘nuts’ to them; get your product sorted out, as everyone has had the same problem as me! Like the last correspondent I do wonder how many people bought these for future use, and will only find out after the ‘warranty’ has run out that they they will need reworking?