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Gravel Cross Country Hubs - Recommendations?

Old 07-10-21, 06:58 PM
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Gravel Cross Country Hubs - Recommendations?

Hello,

I am currently spec'ing A new gravel bike that I will be riding on the Trans Am route next year. This tour will probably be 20%+ on gravel and rail trails. I am looking for recommendations for bomb-proof hubs that will hold up to these conditions while requiring little or no maintenance i.e. well sealed. Here are some characteristics that I would like to see:

1. Prefer sealed cartridge bearings.
2. Well sealed freehub body to hub. A lot of hubs like my Phil wood FSC hub fail miserably in this regard.
3. Easily serviced and maintained if required.
4. Doesn't require $200 of specialized tools to work on or rebuild. Prefer standard/inexpensive tools.

What hub manufacturers and models should I add to my short list?

Thanks,
Steve
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Old 07-10-21, 07:02 PM
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White Industries would be my top choice. My T11 hubs have been solid and nothing really done to them in 4-5 years.
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Old 07-10-21, 10:32 PM
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Steve- My experience with the FSA Phil isn't yours. Outside of this Phils pretty much hit your nails. I do like Whites too. Andy
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Old 07-11-21, 12:28 AM
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White Industries here too
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Old 07-11-21, 06:39 AM
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Maybe I'm not hard enough on my hubs but I've had wonderful service from Shimano road and MTB cup-and-cone hubs used in all kinds of weather and road conditions. Overpack them with grease and grease the hub/freehub body interface and they will last nearly forever with only occasional maintenance.
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Old 07-11-21, 11:24 AM
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No mention of budget, for high end, White Industries as above, mid range Bitex seem to get good reviews, or if you can cope with cup and cone, nothing wrong with Shimano.

No mention of rims/spokes would look at availability of everything as at present, it can be hit and lots of misses for availability.

Would look at complete wheel sets as well, unless you need something really specific (normally a dynamo hub or similar) Factory wheelsets have gotten to be a very good option, the added advantage is that you get everything in one go, and as long as you're get something that has relatively common parts, service is generally easy with tools any LBS should have (normally something like a a Park SW15 will be the most exotic bit of kit you need, although check specs) ,
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Old 07-11-21, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Steve- My experience with the FSC Phil isn't yours. Outside of this Phils pretty much hit your nails. I do like Whites too. Andy
The older or newer Phil's may be different. Apparently, when Phil started out they made their own free hubs and they are currently also doing the same after getting burned by Aerospoke going belly up. Yes, the freehub body in my vintage of the FSC hub are the Aerospoke freehubs. With these the only seal between the freehub and the hub is a plastic washer and a layer of grease which doesn't hold up well to a week of cross state riding in a lot of rain. They have also been very "fiddly" about the viscosity of grease in the hub. They tend to skip more frequently than I think that they should even with relatively thin (oil diluted) grease.
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Old 07-11-21, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
White Industries would be my top choice. My T11 hubs have been solid and nothing really done to them in 4-5 years.
I spent some time today on White's website. It looks like their hub/freehub seal is a fully shrouded o-ring. This appear to be far superior design to the sealing on my Phil FSC hub.

I am considering the T11 or M15 to replace the Phil wheels on my road bike. They have gone 70K miles and were rebuilt a few years ago after running into some unprotected milled pavement edges that bent both rims.

I am also considering the CLD or XMR disc hubs for the new build.

Peter White built the Phil wheels originally but doesn't appear to carry White Industries. Do you know of any good wheel builders that use White Industries hubs? There is no USA dealer locator on the WI website.
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Old 07-11-21, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by jimc101 View Post
No mention of rims/spokes would look at availability of everything as at present, it can be hit and lots of misses for availability.
Trip isn't until next May so I hope that I have some time and the supply chain will straighten itself out.

Originally Posted by jimc101 View Post
Would look at complete wheel sets as well, unless you need something really specific (normally a dynamo hub or similar) Factory wheelsets have gotten to be a very good option, the added advantage is that you get everything in one go, and as long as you're get something that has relatively common parts, service is generally easy with tools any LBS should have (normally something like a a Park SW15 will be the most exotic bit of kit you need, although check specs) ,
Factory wheelsets... from the bike manufacturer or somewhere else? I did this when I bought the Litespeed Tuscany road bike. The Real Design wheels were sort of boutique low spoke count and I wasn't impressed. This led to the Phil wheels about 2 years / 10K miles later.
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Old 07-11-21, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Maybe I'm not hard enough on my hubs but I've had wonderful service from Shimano road and MTB cup-and-cone hubs used in all kinds of weather and road conditions. Overpack them with grease and grease the hub/freehub body interface and they will last nearly forever with only occasional maintenance.
I have Shimano cup and cone on a MTB and a loaded touring bike. The MTB hubs are 1992 vintage and not particularly well sealed. These appear to use grease and an expanding plastic washer to do the sealing.

The hubs on the 2000 Cannondale 2000 are also Shimano MTB hubs and they seem to be better sealed but not as good as the WI seal design.

I am getting to the point where life is too short to repack cup and cone bearings (or Phil freehubs). :-)
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Old 07-11-21, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve_sr View Post
I spent some time today on White's website. It looks like their hub/freehub seal is a fully shrouded o-ring. This appear to be far superior design to the sealing on my Phil FSC hub.

I am considering the T11 or M15 to replace the Phil wheels on my road bike. They have gone 70K miles and were rebuilt a few years ago after running into some unprotected milled pavement edges that bent both rims.

I am also considering the CLD or XMR disc hubs for the new build.

Peter White built the Phil wheels originally but doesn't appear to carry White Industries. Do you know of any good wheel builders that use White Industries hubs? There is no USA dealer locator on the WI website.
Peter would probably build you a set with WI hubs, if not Sugar Wheelworks or Bill Mould should be able to help and if not them there are plenty of other excellent wheel builders out there.

I typically order direct through WI but if your wheel builder does order through them, that is fine as well. They are super friendly and easy to work with.
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Old 07-11-21, 08:35 PM
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My choices are White Industry, Shimano XT or XTR and Chris King.
The WI are nice, have a good shiny look, sound fairly normal and roll smoothly. I bought the hubs from AVT which always seems to have some in stock, I've got them on my coss bike and wife's gravel bike.
XT hubs don't really ever seem to need maintenance though it is recommended from time to time. Mine roll as smoothly as the wife's WI when we're riding together, similar noise level and haven't needed anything in 3+ years. Will probably repack this winter but understand if you just don't want the annoyance or cost of a shop doing it.
CK, my hub of choice. I've got a set on my road bike which were used for 10 years on my first cross bike, wife has a set on her cross bike and I've got them on my MTB. The special tools are a waste of cash in my experience, I have both sets for the classic and r45 hubs and haven't had a need for them yet after almost 23 years on a set of hubs. All cleaning and adjustment is done with standard tools and the special tools are only to pull bearings which is a waste of time unless they fail and they virtually never do that. Currently have 5 sets in the house and never had a bearing failure and only clean and grease every few years when I think about it.
Any of them will build well. Can't recommend a builder, I do all my own wheels.
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Old 07-12-21, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
My choices are White Industry, Shimano XT or XTR and Chris King.
CK, my hub of choice. I've got a set on my road bike which were used for 10 years on my first cross bike, wife has a set on her cross bike and I've got them on my MTB. The special tools are a waste of cash in my experience, I have both sets for the classic and r45 hubs and haven't had a need for them yet after almost 23 years on a set of hubs. All cleaning and adjustment is done with standard tools and the special tools are only to pull bearings which is a waste of time unless they fail and they virtually never do that. Currently have 5 sets in the house and never had a bearing failure and only clean and grease every few years when I think about it.
I looked at CK and they seem to be built like a swiss watch but with a lot of proprietary parts. How is the freehub sealed to the hub?
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Old 07-12-21, 04:06 PM
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I am surprised there is no mention of DT Swiss. Are they not popular any more?
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Old 07-12-21, 05:05 PM
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Your anticipated use is not extreme. Your wheels will have an easier life than those on a dedicated gravel or MTB. If it's not important to spend a lot, the Shimano GRX wheels seem like an easy choice.

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Old 07-12-21, 07:18 PM
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I live in Cambodia and ride mostly Shimano hubs, My favorite are Ultegra Road.
I just keep them well cleaned and grease them every so often.
Here is my bike from one of those rides. The first one has Ultegra hubs and the last 2 pics are Deore LX, same bike, different wheelsets and new paint job.




I suggest these because while fairly bombproof, they are easily worked on and repaired as parts are relatively easy to find.
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Old 07-12-21, 07:29 PM
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I like Shimano cup and cone... they are easily serviceable.
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Old 07-12-21, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve_sr View Post
I looked at CK and they seem to be built like a swiss watch but with a lot of proprietary parts. How is the freehub sealed to the hub?
All proprietary parts but far more durable then most hubs. Failures are incredibly few and far between and the only ones I've seen were flange failures that were more likely due to improper wheel builds. Never heard of the freehub mechanism failing. The freehub as a seal at the drive end that keeps the roller bearings clean and there's an O-ring, a plastic seal and the cartridge bearing which has a robust seal at the hub end.

Originally Posted by Steve_sr View Post
I am surprised there is no mention of DT Swiss. Are they not popular any more?
Just as good as CK or WI, only problem is they cost as much as CK or WI and don't come in nearly as many colors. They use a similar design, though not exactly the same as CK, for the freehub which doesn't use pawls. The design allows for fast engagement that won't slip ever. They had some issues with bearings early on and they didn't offer as many engagement points until much more recently being more road oriented at the beginning. I think these ended up being turn offs not to mention, the lack of colors at boutique pricing. Find a pair on sale and you won't go wrong with them.
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Old 07-12-21, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
All proprietary parts but far more durable then most hubs. Failures are incredibly few and far between and the only ones I've seen were flange failures that were more likely due to improper wheel builds. Never heard of the freehub mechanism failing. The freehub as a seal at the drive end that keeps the roller bearings clean and there's an O-ring, a plastic seal and the cartridge bearing which has a robust seal at the hub end.

Just as good as CK or WI, only problem is they cost as much as CK or WI and don't come in nearly as many colors. They use a similar design, though not exactly the same as CK, for the freehub which doesn't use pawls. The design allows for fast engagement that won't slip ever. They had some issues with bearings early on and they didn't offer as many engagement points until much more recently being more road oriented at the beginning. I think these ended up being turn offs not to mention, the lack of colors at boutique pricing. Find a pair on sale and you won't go wrong with them.
Thanks for the input. At this time I am probably leaning towards the WI hubs. They look like they are a robust but simpler design that uses standard bearings and parts like an o-ring freehub seal that could be easily replaced if needed.
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Old 07-12-21, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by bwilli88 View Post
I live in Cambodia and ride mostly Shimano hubs, My favorite are Ultegra Road.
I just keep them well cleaned and grease them every so often.
Here is my bike from one of those rides. The first one has Ultegra hubs and the last 2 pics are Deore LX, same bike, different wheelsets and new paint job.

I suggest these because while fairly bombproof, they are easily worked on and repaired as parts are relatively easy to find.
Wow! those bikes are a mess! My old Fuji looked like that... once.. after I tried to take a shortcut through a road that was under construction. Spent half of th e next day cleaning the bike and repacking all of the non-sealed bearings and freewheel.
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Old 07-13-21, 12:23 AM
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Another modestly priced option would be Velo Orange. Tool free freehub service, large bearings, nothing weird or proprietary.

DT works well and is reliable but requires a proprietary tool to remove the drive ring to access the ds hub bearing. Not that pricy a tool and pretty much all decent shops have it, but a point against them for sure.
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Old 07-13-21, 08:45 PM
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In my limited experience you won't go too wrong with the WI. The wife and I are putting two of them through their paces and they've done some rough miles and wet miles and they haven't given me cause to complain. At the current mileage I also wouldn't expect any other hub to have faltered yet, and anything decent wouldn't, though I've burned through some formula hubs with similar use so they've exceeded that poor benchmark. Enjoy the ride.
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Old 07-15-21, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Peter would probably build you a set with WI hubs, if not Sugar Wheelworks or Bill Mould should be able to help and if not them there are plenty of other excellent wheel builders out there.
Sugar's website looks interesting and I will be contacting them. On the other hand it looks like Bill Mould does not actually build wheels but sells info on how to do it yourself.

Thanks,
Steve
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Old 07-15-21, 09:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve_sr View Post
Sugar's website looks interesting and I will be contacting them. On the other hand it looks like Bill Mould does not actually build wheels but sells info on how to do it yourself.

Thanks,
Steve
Sugar is a cool I believe they are sharing a space with Breadwinner which is awesome and everything I have seen is good stuff.

Well you could sure fool me on Bill he built up my touring wheels and they are fantastic. He works out of a shop in Virginia so his website might not be clear on it but he does certainly build wheels. He does offer classes and such but he also personally builds wheels.
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Old 07-16-21, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Well you could sure fool me on Bill he built up my touring wheels and they are fantastic. He works out of a shop in Virginia so his website might not be clear on it but he does certainly build wheels. He does offer classes and such but he also personally builds wheels.
How long ago was this? He may have decided to retire from wheel building. I am wondering how much longer Peter White is going to hold out. Here is Bill's website:
https://billmouldwheels.com/custom-wheels/

I'll email him to see if he is still building wheels. He is actually the closest wheel build er that I have found.

Thanks,
Steve
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