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Can you feel differences in hubs?, and other questions

Old 10-26-19, 10:41 PM
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RockiesDad
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Can you feel differences in hubs?, and other questions

With all things being equal, ie. rims, spokes/nipples and tires, do you think you would be able to tell the difference between hubs when ridden? I'm not talking cheap unknown brands vs Christ King but something mainstream. Say Shimano Dura Ace vs White Industries etc.

Also what makes a quality hub? How does one go about choosing a good quality hub? Being price conscience what would be a fair price to pay for something decent?

TIA...
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Old 10-27-19, 04:33 AM
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I had very good luck with Surly Hubs, Shimano Deore XT hubs and I also have some cheaper Formula Hubs. None of them has ever given me any problems. The most important thing in hubs is proper bearing pre-load and adjustment...,as long as those hubs are adjusted properly they will last for a long time. ..Super expensive hubs like Chris King and other boutique hubs is just a waste of money and doesn't offer any real advantages over other cheaper well known brands.
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Old 10-27-19, 06:17 AM
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As far as "feeling" a difference between various brand and models of hubs properly adjusted where all other aspects of the bike were the same, my guess is this would be pretty hard even between relatively inexpensive and high-end boutique hubs. Yes, measurable differences exist between hub models and brands based on design, materials and construction but, remember, if they roll smoothly and without excessive friction, there are lots of other variables at play that will affect the "feel" to the rider--tires, tubes, suspension or not, lateral rigidity of wheels, etc......

The freehub portion of the hub generally takes the most abuse and many riders have experienced broken pawls. Higher end hubs are typically lighter and making something lighter usually involves making compromises in long term durability. I've personally had a flange fail on a DT Swiss 240 hub (not cheap, but not the most expensive either).

There are lots of stories out in bicycleland about failed hubs and many more of riders touting the smoothness and general greatness of their hubs. However, I don't recall reading or hearing much about the specific "feel" of one hub over another unless it was something about poor adjustment resulting in excessive friction or binding.

So, what do we get with more expensive hubs (not exhaustive): appearance, less weight (hub and wallet), bragging rights, cool noises (i.e.hub buzz), different ratcheting mechanisms, less friction and other things I can't think of at the moment.
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Old 10-27-19, 06:51 AM
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Can you “feel” the differences in hubs while riding? In my experience, no, other than differences in the number of engagement points in the free-hub.

But there are many other reasons to get one hub over another:

Weight: self explanatory

Maintenance: most half decent hubs will last pretty much indefinitely, but the maintenance required will vary.

Many less expensive hubs (as well as all Shimano hubs as far as I know) are cup and cone. These will require periodic maintenance (disassembling, cleaning, regreasing, sometimes replacing the ball bearings which are cheap). If you let them go to long, you can damage the cup and/or cone. Cones are generally replaceable, cups are generally not.

How often you need to do this varied. On my road bike with Shimano hubs, I did it about every other years. On a older MTB with LX hubs I did so every year, and should have done so more often (One if the cups got a little worn).

Most higher end hubs use replaceable sealed cartridge bearings. These are basically maintenance free, and in better hubs will last a very long time.

I have hubs from DT Swiss and Hope ranging from 9 to 19 years old in pretty constant use. The only time I have replaced bearings is when I have converted the Hope rear hub to 142x12 from QR. My front Hugo (DT Swiss) 240 hub is 19 years ild on the original bearings.

Convertibility: with constantly changing axle and dropout standards, it is a plus to have a design that can be converted from one to another, either by end caps or a different installed axle and bearings.

Last edited by Kapusta; 10-27-19 at 08:35 AM.
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Old 10-27-19, 07:20 AM
  #5  
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If you can feel your hubs, you need new hubs.
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Old 10-27-19, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by honcho View Post

The freehub portion of the hub generally takes the most abuse and many riders have experienced broken pawls. Higher end hubs are typically lighter and making something lighter usually involves making compromises in long term durability. I've personally had a flange fail on a DT Swiss 240 hub (not cheap, but not the most expensive either).

So, what do we get with more expensive hubs (not exhaustive): appearance, less weight (hub and wallet), bragging rights, cool noises (i.e.hub buzz), different ratcheting mechanisms, less friction and other things I can't think of at the moment.
At least as far as weight goes, I don't know that you can really say that pricier hubs = lower weight (and/or less durability?). A $300+ white industries or I-9 Torch hub is going to weigh more than a Bitex or BHS SL variety $100 hub.
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Old 10-27-19, 07:40 AM
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Maybe

Hubs influence rolling smoothness and wheel stiffness. The rolling smoothness is due to the bearings. If your bearings are too small for your weight the wheels won’t roll as well (likely difficult to detect for most riders) and will wear out faster and you will feel that. Big bearings have a little more drag than little ones at lighter loads of course so there is a tiny trade off. My experience - at over 200 pounds - is that bigger bearings work better because they deform less under load. A guy who’s 160? Smaller bearings might be better. Shimano cup and cone are pretty big. In cartridge land, 6902 is a decent size and similar in size to some of Mavic’s stuff that has worked well for me. In terms of radial vs angular contact - you can’t generalize and have to look at the design. All else equal angular has more drag, but it rarely is equal.

Wheel stiffness is influenced by flange spacing, height and axle stiffness. Relevant in climbing and sprinting. I suspect spoke count is more important. If you are a powerful rider then you will notice wheel stiffness but isolating to the hub may be hard due to the complexity of the system.
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Old 10-27-19, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
.Super expensive hubs like Chris King and other boutique hubs is just a waste of money and doesn't offer any real advantages over other cheaper well known brands.
“waste of money” depends on one’s disposable income and financial outlook so what is a significant purchase for one person is no big deal for another.

If folks ride off-road, especially on technical trails, there is a very real and noticeable difference between high end hubs and cheap hubs. This is glaringly obvious when ratcheting and pedaling hard as you exit a corner. The latter is also noticeable on the road.
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Old 10-27-19, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by RockiesDad View Post
With all things being equal, ie. rims, spokes/nipples and tires, do you think you would be able to tell the difference between hubs when ridden? I'm not talking cheap unknown brands vs Christ King but something mainstream. Say Shimano Dura Ace vs White Industries etc.

Also what makes a quality hub? How does one go about choosing a good quality hub? Being price conscience what would be a fair price to pay for something decent?

TIA...
I wouldn’t say that Chris King is outside the “mainstream”. It’s at least as mainstream as White Industries. That said, of the hubs I’ve worked on and used, White Industries hubs are about the smoothest ones I’ve run across. Put them on a stand and give them a spin and you’ll be surprised how long the wheel will spin. My daughter once came into the garage to talk to me after I had spun the front wheel and after about 5 minutes asked if the wheel was ever going to stop. I have Phil Woods as well and the Whites are much smoother. That transfers to easier rolling hubs on the road. On the plus side, the Whites are cheaper than either King or Phils.

The disadvantage of the Whites is that they aren’t nearly as easy to disassemble as the Phils. Phil Wood hub can be taken apart completely with a 5mm Allen wrench. Bearing replacement can be done without other tools. The Whites are much more involved. As a bonus, the freehub of the Phils can be removed to get access to the spokes on the drive side if they need to be replaced. For touring, that is a huge advantage.

One other large advantage of the White Industries hubs is the weight. They use a titanium carrier for the freehub which significantly reduces weight. I built a set of 32 spoke wheels with T11s that dropped 2 pounds of weight over the low spoke count Velutas that I originally had on the bike. That’s a massive amount of weight loss for a wheel. While the titanium shell of the freehub wasn’t all of the weight loss, it was a significant portion of it.

There is also maintenance and adjustment to consider. Loose bearing hubs...even expensive ones...require more maintenance. They can also be easily misadjusted so that they either drag or are too loose. I have Phil Wood hubs that are over a decade old, have 25,000 miles on them and have never needed maintenance of any kind.

Currently I have Phil Wood, White Industries and an old Ringle’. I’ve had DT Swiss, a Cannondale house brand, Velocity, Suntour and a couple of others that I can’t recall the names right now. I’ve also have some wheels with Shimano hubs. I really don’t think I’d go back to Shimano. I don’t think there’s a problem with them but they are just plain and they are just more futzy.
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Old 10-27-19, 10:50 PM
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Maybe. Sachin Hambini, the opinionated and entertaining UK bearing guy, talks a lot about the difference bearing design and quality makes on his website and YouTube channel. He's not a fan of "angular contact" bearings -- loose bearings, cups and cones. So sealed cartridge bearings may offer advantages besides lower maintenance demands.

The main difference I've noticed between my various cup and cone loose bearing hubs is the condition of the cones. Some of the used bikes I've bought had pitted cones. I could feel the grinding just twiddling the axle with the wheel off the bike. Usually I can improve the feel and reduce the rolling resistance by carefully adjusting the cones to minimize slack without increasing slop.

I suspect many mass produced loose bearing hubs are assembled quickly, cranking down the cones and setting the lock nuts without much finesse. The cups and bearings are hardened but the cones are brittle on the outer layer and chip easily. Just a theory.

Another older wheelset with Shimano 600 hubs was smooth as silk when I got it. On the same bike, same tires and tubes, as another wheelset with pitted Suntour hubs, the Shimano wheelset would spin longer, and roll with less felt resistance on the road.

Freehub and freewheel condition may be a factor too. I recently noticed a freehub on an older aero wheelset felt a bit sluggish. A squirt of penetrating oil loosened it up and the bike seemed to roll better coasting downhill, and maybe felt a little less resistance pedaling. Mostly it indicated I need to overall that entire wheelset.

Does that translate to consistently better results in riding? I dunno. It might if nths of a second matter, or conserving energy over a longer ride.
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Old 10-28-19, 12:35 AM
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Nope! I have DA, Ultegra, and 105 hubs. All on same rims and spokes. Can't tell a bean of difference.

Funny, some dude I know asked me to push myself to see if he could keep up with me on his new bike. OK, should be fun. He fell pretty far behind. Later in the ride he said it was because his new bike had 2014 hubs (that was the time we rode together) and that I was on Dura Ace. I pointed out that I was riding 1997 Shimano 600 hubs. Had nothing to do with the hubs.

Unless you are TDF time trial material, I think it's more wanting to think you got your money's worth.
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Old 10-28-19, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
he main difference I've noticed between my various cup and cone loose bearing hubs is the condition of the cones. Some of the used bikes I've bought had pitted cones. I could feel the grinding just twiddling the axle with the wheel off the bike. Usually I can improve the feel and reduce the rolling resistance by carefully adjusting the cones to minimize slack without increasing slop.

I suspect many mass produced loose bearing hubs are assembled quickly, cranking down the cones and setting the lock nuts without much finesse. The cups and bearings are hardened but the cones are brittle on the outer layer and chip easily. Just a theory.
I've noticed that loose bearing Shimano hubs are consistently tighter than they should be. If it were just an assembly issue, the tightness of the bearings should vary but it seems to be about the same no matter what hub is used. My working hypothesis is that this is done intentionally to aid in machine assembly of the wheels. If the hub spins a little less freely in the machine, the robot can line up the spoke more consistently. The hubs should be adjusted before sale but this isn't done on a regular basis.
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Old 10-28-19, 07:53 AM
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...And in other news: Man who claims to feel the difference between 2 watts CRR also lies about other stuff too!

Snark aside, For the most part a hub is a hub is a hub. Maybe if we expand the thread into IGH vs any number of possible combinations or cup/cone vs cartridge, or new vs old & unadjusted then there will be a true BF thread about minutia.

As for me, a well broke in Rolhoff or Nexus 7 or Nuvinci N380 is indistinguishable from any other conventional hub. Son 28 or Nexus dynamo hub is indistinguishable from any other conventional front hub.

I have however had a front cup/cone wear out from age, use, and lack of maintenance. Pushing that seized piece of garbage was indeed noticable. I've never had a "Formula" branded hub that was worth owning longer than as much time it took to buy a better wheel. Though they start out ok.

YMMV.
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Old 10-28-19, 09:46 AM
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Not any difference if the hubs are maintained and adjusted properly, and do not have damaged bearing surfaces or mangled dust caps or anything like that.

In my experience, the difference between cheap hubs and expensive hubs is how long they stay smooth between bearing service or replacement. The XT hubs on my touring bike have lived for many hard kms, while I have had cheap OEM hubs that came on new bikes where the bearing surfaces were ground into crumbs after a season of riding, and mid-tier Shimano hubs (Exage 500LX and Deore) that needed some maintenance every season, but otherwise were good.
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Old 10-28-19, 09:53 AM
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Less friction in the front hub means less energy spent pushing the pedals to maintain a certain speed or when climbing hills. Found that out in a real hurry when I went from a set of wheels with loose ball bearing hubs to nicer set of wheels with cartridge bearing hubs. It was a noticeable difference.
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Old 10-28-19, 05:00 PM
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Back in the 90's I changed my commuter bike hubs from XT to Mavic 501 and since then I am totally sold on sealed cartridge bearing hubs. Those hubs went through 10 years of salt and snow, wet and dry and never needed maintenance. The rear axle broke and I got rid of it, but the front wheel is still in use. Untold 10's of thousands of miles on both hubs, and never needing maintenance.

I now have a set of DT Swiss 350 hubs on my daily rider and the biggest thing I notice from a traditional hub is that the rear hub is super easy to pull apart and the ratcheting mech is less noisy and connects faster than the old 2 and 3 pawl mechs of old.

They don't roll better than the Campy NR old school hubs I have, but they are way less hassle in the long run.
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Old 10-28-19, 05:06 PM
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On my favorite bike I can't feel a ride difference between the original wheel, and a wheel built up with an SP dynohub using the same rim. Yes I know that there is more drag with the dyno (far more than any difference between bearing systems), and you can feel it when turning the axle in the hub, but when riding it is not noticeable.

I expect that you have wind where you live, right? Any minor change in the wind will affect your observation of performance much more than any difference in hubs.
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Old 10-28-19, 07:31 PM
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My SS bike has cheapie no-name cup & cone bearing hubs, and my old nine-speed bike has Dura Ace cup & cone bearing hubs. With fresh bearings and grease, properly adjusted, all of these wheels will spin for a loooong time in the workstand and feel fine on the road. Of course, the D/A hubs are much lighter.

For newer wheels, I will choose DT Swiss 350 all day long and twice on Sundays. Reasonably light, reasonably priced, and reliable. And smooth.
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Old 10-28-19, 08:36 PM
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I think the unspoken question here is something like "What do I get from a $600 Chris King hubset that I don't get from a $90 Formula hubset?"

Maybe some reliability/longevity, certainly a can of bees, possibly some cachet with the people who might care about such things.

I'm a cheap hubset guy, all the way. Cheap hubs, good spokes, good hoops.
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Old 10-28-19, 08:55 PM
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I can't tell any difference between hubs. Can't tell much difference in rims either. I can definitely tell the difference between lighter vs. heavier wheels & tires. And, the easiest thing to notice is the difference between tires. Some tires roll much better than others.
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Old 10-29-19, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
I think the unspoken question here is something like "What do I get from a $600 Chris King hubset that I don't get from a $90 Formula hubset?".
Yes this is what I was thinking but did not want to come out and say it. Didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings...
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