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2014 Road Hub Review

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  • #95272
    Keymaster

    Welcome to the 4th edition of the Fair Wheel Hub review.  In the previous review we brought Ron Ruff from White Mountain Wheels on board to give his thoughts as well.  We figured having different points of view would be advantageous, so we’ve once again brought Ron back for the latest version.  Ron, like us, really seems to enjoy the geekier side of wheel building and is one of the custom builders we most respect.   We should also mention that while some of this review is taken directly from the original two we’ve changed much of it as well as added to it as hubs have changed quite a bit over the years that we’ve been doing this review.  So don’t skip a paragraph thinking that you read it in the last one, just because part of it is the same doesn’t mean that all of it is.

    Mistakes: The specs were compiled by us here at Fair Wheel and Ron at White Mountain Wheels, and while we did do our best to be careful there were an awful lot of numbers and calculations thrown around over those days. So with that in mind I’d like to put out the disclaimer that it isn’t impossible that we might have transcribed, written or recorded a number incorrectly. So please forgive any typos or mistakes. We’ve already corrected a ton and now like to think that most things should be correct, but with the scale of this thing it’s still possible that one will find a mistake.

    Considerations when choosing a hubset: It’s important to understand that there is no one perfect hub.  Each hub has its own unique strengths and weaknesses.  That’s where a good custom wheel builder comes into play, helping you decide what best fits your needs.  So a hub that is right for one person may not be the right hub for another.  Anyone that tells you there is one ideal hub should be considered suspect. We’ve never found one hub that fits all needs ideally.  With the combination of those of us writing this review, we estimate we’ve built 20,000 pairs of wheels, so it’s safe to say we’ve had a fair amount of experience.  There are certainly hubs that could be used by any rider, but that doesn’t necessarily make them ideal for everyone.  Just like being under-built, a wheel can also be over-built for a rider and their needs.  We consider all the hubs in this review to be “good” hubs. That means they have a good design, quality control, reliability, service, etc… and each is capable of being a top choice in a particular application. But every design is a collection of optimizations and compromises, and every rider has different priorities. Things like price, weight, resistance, durability, ease of service, branding, and looks, are all considerations… along with the spokes and rim selection and the intended purpose of the wheelset.  The idea is to balance the characteristics that are most important to one given rider and more importantly to balance the hub selection in harmony with the rim and spoke selection.  Hopefully this review will help to point you in the direction of the hubs that will work best for you.

    Durability is one important aspect, and also the most difficult to nail down. A hubset might be lighter than another due to better design and materials, but there can also be tradeoffs like smaller bearings, and simply thinner or weaker parts. Ultimately long term experience is the best indicator, but that isn’t a lot of help when a new or altered design comes on the market. To further complicate matters, the QC can be variable, so even an old design that was previously solid can have random issues. Even determining the kind of forces a rider might put on their wheels is complicated. Some 240 lb riders would have no issues with a hubset that some 120 lb riders would destroy. Rider weight is one important aspect, but so is riding style, so the rider’s previous experience with equipment needs to be considered.  Also, a rider might be fine with durability compromises on their 12 lb climbing bike, but have a completely different set of requirements on a regular bike that is ridden in all sorts of weather.

    Bearing material: this is what comes stock in the base model. Some hubs have upgrades available from the factory.

    Bearing size: moving from left to right in the hub shell and then in the hub body.

    Static load: Combined static load for the hub shell and again for the freehub body.  Static load rating is the maximum amount of load a bearing can take without excessive deformation that would degrade the bearing performance.

    Notes on Bearings and drag: Since ceramic bearings became the rage a several years ago, bearing drag has been a hot topic among cyclists. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much public information on just how much of a loss the wheel bearing drag contributes. According to Bicycle Science the drag of clean, lubricated, properly aligned and adjusted ball bearings is very small. The friction coefficient is ~.0015… which is the ratio of resistive force generated in the bearing divided by the load it is carrying. If you are familiar with tire rolling resistance coefficients, this functions in the same way… except that you need to multiply this force by the bearing/wheel radius to get a comparable factor. So lets say we have a hub with 15mm axle, and the bearings are on a radius of ~12mm. The wheel’s radius is ~335mm, so 12/335 *.0015 gives us an equivalent rolling resistance coefficient of .000054. To give you an idea of how small this is, typical tire rolling resistance coefficient is about .005… so the bearing resistance is ~100 times smaller. Another way to look at it is that a 200lb rider+bike traveling at 25mph will lose ~0.5W from the bearing rolling resistance. And these are not fancy bearings we are talking about… just decent steel ones.

    There is another major component to bearing drag though, and that is the resistance of the seals. John Swanson did some interesting coast-down tests of wheels shown here: http://www.bikephysics.com/rails/wheel/list Aerodynamic drag was part of it, but his instrumentation was sophisticated enough to back out the bearing drag alone. Ron did the calculations on the bearing coefficients he obtained, and got an average power consumption of 0.25W for front hubs and 0.40W for the rear hubs at 25mph… or 0.65W for both wheels. Note that there was a lot of variation, but even the worst set of wheels was only ~1.3W. Since the only load in his tests was the weight of the wheel we’d consider these values additive to the 0.5W determined above… so typical losses are about 1.2W total. Though the losses in this test would capture any effects of misalignment or preload in the unloaded state, we should point out that under typical loads these factors can result in additional friction.

    Does this mean that bearings don’t matter? We wouldn’t say that. Instead we’d emphasize that the most important factors are cleanliness, adequate lubrication, alignment, and adjustment. If any of these are off, then the drag can be much higher. Even though smaller bearings might have lower resistance in an ideal world, larger bearings (higher load rating) will be more tolerant of un-ideal situations, probably resulting in a lower practical resistance in addition to a longer life span. If your typical hub set in good condition is only consuming ~1W then be realistic about how much improvement is possible. The added expense of ceramic bearings and the added hassle of having light seals and grease (which probably will result in quicker bearing contamination and more frequent replacement) may not be worth it.

    Axle diameter: Larger axles will typically produce stiffer wheels. It’s also important to note that a couple of axles are in different ways, butted or reinforced at the freehub body in the rear to help prevent cantilevering under acceleration.

    Price: This is the msrp as it applies in the USA.

    Flange diameters: Left / Right. As measured by us from center of spoke hole to center of spoke hole. A note or two on flange diameter. The biggest effect of flange diameter comes particularly from the drive side and in the form of torque transfer and a wheel’s ability to resist wind up during acceleration. Typically a larger flange will produce a better result in this category.

    Center to flange: As measured by us. It’s been noticed that many of our numbers don’t match what is claimed by manufacturers. Our measurements are taken from center of flange to locknut. Some manufacturers provide outside of flange to center, while others provide numbers for both inside and outside but nothing center. Also some manufacturers may assume a 130 oln when their axle is not exactly 130. We use the actual oln measurement for our calculations. After the flange to center number is calculated it is rounded to 0.5mm.

    Bracing angle: Based on a build using Kinlin XR300, 2x. Of course not all of these hubs would be recommended to be laced 2x, and with some it isn’t even possible. This was just a way to create an equalizer to show the differences in the hubs on a level playing field. Actual bracing angles and tension differences will vary based on the build.

    Notes on Bracing angle: Bracing angle (or flange offset) is one of the most important factors affecting the lateral stiffness and stability of the wheel. The lateral stiffness imparted by the spokes goes up with the *square* of the bracing angles, while using more or heavier spokes only results in a linear increase in stiffness… and an increase in weight.

    As Dave Walker mentioned last year, rim stiffness has a great affect on the wheel stiffness as well, but since this is a hub review, we’ll focus on how the hub contributes to stiffness.

    On a front wheel it isn’t difficult to get adequate offsets and stiffness. The limit is having clearance for the fork, and offsets of up to 40mm are usually fine… the wider the better the lateral stiffness will be. There has been some speculation that narrower spacings are more aerodynamic. It is also possible that a very flexible rim might experience a lateral wave if the combination of high tension and bracing angle and low spoke count were severe enough.

    Bracing presents a conundrum on the rear wheel though, since the position of the DS flange is dictated by the 130mm dropout spacing, the wide cassette, and providing clearance for the derailleur. Because of this the spacing from the center of the wheel (and rim) is “stuck” being only ~16-19mm from the DS flange with a 130mm dropout width. Campy and Shimano/SRAM 11 spd hubs are generally in the 16-17mm range due to their wider cassettes, and 10 spd Shimano/SRAM specific hubs *can* be in the 18-19mm range. 11 spd hubs are inherently disadvantaged when it comes to making a stiff wheel.

    The spacing on the NDS can be whatever the hub manufacturer wants. If it is same as the DS, then both sides will have the same tension… but lateral stiffness and overall stability will be very low. If it is twice as large… say 36mm… the NDS tension will be *half* as great as the DS, but lateral stiffness will be ok. The dilemma here is that a high bracing angle is good for lateral strength and stability, but lower tension on the NDS could cause these spokes to go slack when subjected to high radial loads. When spokes go slack the stiffness of the wheel goes way down and bad things can happen… from spokes coming loose due to nipples unwinding, to “taco”, wheel failure, etc.

    So as you can see, the trick here is to find the best compromise. Now that nearly every hub offered is 11 spd compatible, we’ve seen some convergence of hub geometry. Most manufacturers are now “cheating” a little by making the axle 131mm long rather than 130mm long. I think Alchemy was the first to do this several years ago. This 1mm increase gives you an extra 0.5mm of DS offset capability. The maximum possible DS offset is now 18mm and most hubs are around 17mm.

    Triplet lacing:  Another approach to solving the issue of bracing angle and spoke tension on rear wheels is one that we think will become more prevalent as Shimano 11 speed with its Campag like dimensions takes hold in the market in coming years.  The triplet or 2:1 lacing pattern on a rear wheel features 2 drive spokes for every 1 non-drive spoke. Because the non-drive side spoke head sits further out from the centerline of the hub it has lower spoke tension — typical non-drive side spokes may have only 45-50% of the tension of the drive side. On a  24h triplet rear wheel. You have 16 drive spokes and 8 non drive spokes. When you take away half of the non drive spokes the ones that are left have to pull twice as hard against the drive side spokes — effectively doubling the tension on the non-drive side. So if the non-drive was only 45% of the drive side and the triplet pattern doubles the tension on the non drive it is now only a 10% difference. Another benefit of the triplet pattern is that the drive side spokes are tangent which makes for the most efficient power transfer.

    Like with all things compromises come with tradeoffs. One is that because you take away half of the spokes on one side of the wheel you lose lateral stiffness. To compensate for this you need a hub that has a wide flange spacing, ideally designed for triplet use.  Another is that the rim needs to be stiff and center-drilled (holes not offset towards the flanges), which can limit rim choice. Also, if one of the NDS spokes happens to break, the rim could warp in an extreme way. None of the hubs in this review were specifically designed for triplet lacing.

    The case for lighter spokes: There is an alternative to triplet lacing that can also address this issue; using heavier spokes on the DS and lighter (less stiff) spokes on the NDS, along with a higher NDS offset. Using lighter spokes increases their static “stretch” with a given amount of tension, and a small increase in the NDS offset can get back the lateral stiffness that would ordinarily be lost due to using lighter spokes.

    There are now viable options in extra light stainless steel aero spokes (Sapim CX Super, and Pillar Mega Lite SS), plus a titanium spoke that is lighter still (Pillar Xtra Lite Ti). The stainless spokes are about 82% of the weight and stiffness of a CX-Ray while the Ti is about 60%.

    Ordinarily we’d pick an NDS/DS bracing angle ratio of ~2.0 as being the best compromise for wheel strength and integrity. If we assume that the DS offset is 17mm for C11 and S11 hubs, then this is ~34mm. But if you used spokes that are 82% as stiff on the NDS, this would be increased to 2.2 (37.5mm) to retain the same lateral stiffness. For NDS spokes with 60% stiffness it would be 2.6 (44mm). In both of these cases you could increase the DS offset a bit more (and have improved lateral stiffness) and still have improved resistance to spokes going slack.

    Hub shell material: Even though not every manufacturer will state the alloy they use, most manufacturers use a very high strength alloy (usually 7000 series), and at first glance this seems like a good idea. Stronger is better, right? In some applications though, we believe that 6061 might be a better choice. The reason is that 6061 has higher corrosion resistance, and more importantly resistance to something called “stress corrosion cracking”. The spokes exert concentrated and variable forces at the holes in the hub flanges, and high strength is a less important factor than ductility and corrosion resistance. Another advantage is that the softer alloy will deform more readily providing better support for the spoke in the flange. If you live and ride in a particularly corrosive area, anodized 6061 hubshells would likely last the longest. As far as we know, only White Industries and Alchemy use this alloy.  Chris King won’t divulge the series of alloy they use for their hubshells stating only that it is proprietary.

    Shimano 11 speed: The new Dura Ace 11 speed cassettes are wider by 1.85mm. This breaks with their tradition of keeping the cassette width about the same as they went from 8 speed, to 9, and then 10. The wider cassette will reduce the DS offset a similar amount, all else being equal.  All the hubs in this review use the newer Shimano 11 dimensions.

    Captured bearing vs free axle: These are two popular methods of hub design. Captured bearing means that the inner race of the bearings have a solid lateral support between them, either via shoulders on the axle or spacers that slide on the axle and join adjacent bearings together. The outer race is constrained in all cases by a press-fit inside the hubshell or freehub. In this design, the outer caps typically slide on and press directly on the inner race of the outer bearings, and no adjustment is necessary.

    In the free axle design there are no lateral constraints on the inner races except for the external axle caps, one of which will be adjustable. If the adjustable end is removed, the axle can be slid out the other side. The adjustment is accomplished with either a threaded collar, a sliding collar with set screw, the cap itself threads onto the axle, or shims are used.

    Either method can work well. With captured bearings the tolerances must be nearly perfect, else there will be a lateral preload on some or all of the bearings that will increase drag and wear. This is the biggest drawback. Some manufacturers have had more success with this than others.

    With a free axle the lateral tolerances between bearings are not important, but the hub must be precisely adjusted, else there will be either a preload or excessive play. Also the outer bearings in this design are required to take all lateral loads (including preload if there is any). It is better to adjust these hubs with a little extra play rather than too tight. Either a threaded or sliding collar that allows for adjustment while the QR is installed, is a good feature to have with this type of hub… otherwise you must adjust with a little extra play to allow for QR compression.

    Note that other aspects of hub design can also have substantial affects on wheel stiffness. Axle and shell stiffness, bearing size, tolerance, and arrangement, bearing to axle interface stiffness, and axle to dropout interface stiffness, are all important factors. Unfortunately, quantifying these is beyond the scope of this review

    Note on Specs:  All specs for this review are based on Shimano 11 speed versions of the hubs.

    Note on brakes: All hubs in this review are for standard caliper brakes, we have not included any road disc brakes.   Personally I’m not a fan of disc brakes on a road bike as I feel the disadvantages of them far outweigh any advantages they currently offer.  However if they continue to gain popularity we will consider adding them to the next hub review.

    A note on tools:  When we talk about tools we will be talking about special tools. It will be assumed that a bearing puller and press is part of a standard tool kit. For the bearing press, we highly recommend the Wizard from Wheels Manufacturing, but designed by Jeremy from Alchemy. This is truly the most versatile press ever and with details such as an internally threaded shaft it’s uses go far beyond being a standard bearing press. We use it to pull axles, install axles, bearings, freehub bodies etc…

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    Now let’s get things started. Since many people mix front and rear hub brands we are going to look at them separately. So, on to the hubs…..

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    Alchemy Elf   

    Alchemy Elf

    Alchemy Elf

    Manufacturer: Alchemy

    Model: ELF

    Notes: Radial lacing is allowed.

    Weight: 66 gr

    Available drillings:16/18/20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size: 6900

    Combined Bearing static load: 606

    Axle diameter: 10mm

    Available colors: Black, Red, Silver

    Price in USD: $180

    Flange diameters: 32mm

    Center to flange: 39mm

    Bracing angle: 7.9

    FWB Opinion: At 66 grams the fits nicely into the mid-lightweight hubs. The Elf axle has been changed from a captured bearing design with a 12mm axle to a 10mm adjustable and sliding axle. The large bearings static capacity is high, and the flange spacing is the widest of just about anything we’ve seen. The bearing placement is about as far outboard as a front hub can tolerate and still have room to clear the fork. That extra bearing width should contribute to an even stiffer front wheel. Combine all of those factors with allowed radial lacing and you have the hub that is likely to produce the laterally stiffest wheel available. The hub has also recently had the flange OD increased by 1 mm to add even more strength and better resist flange failure.  Price isn’t too high for a hub of such quality. Drilling options are plentiful. The previous complaint I had of this hub was that it lacked preload adjustment has been addressed with the new hub having a threaded axle for preload adjustment.  Getting the preload just right does take a bit of practice and a good feel for the hub. I guess the only remaining complaint would be that it’s only available in 3 colors. Customer service from Alchemy has been absolutely top notch, but unfortunately Alchemy has been closed for the last couple of months and will continue to be so until early in 2014.

    Ron’s perspective: I still really like this hub. It’s an excellent example of a light front hub that isn’t delving into “crazy light” territory. Very good durability and stiffness. The 6900 bearings are a perfect choice… high capacity and low resistance. I thought the axle change would negatively affect stiffness, but still seems very good. I guess having bearings right near the dropouts and the wide flange offset are more important factors relating to stiffness. Adjustment is by a threaded axle cap with threadlock so it takes a little trial and error to get it perfect. I have this hub on my personal wheels and often marvel at how long the wheel will rock back and forth if it gets bumped.

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    Chris King R45

    Chris King R45

    Chris King R45

    Manufacturer: Chris King

    Model: R45

    Notes: Radial lacing allowed.

    Weight: 103 gr

    Available drillings: 20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless (ceramic version available)

    Bearing size: non standard, 17.5x27x7

    Combined Bearing static load: est. 630

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Available colors: Black, Blue, Brown, Gold, Green, Orange, Pewter, Pink, Red, Silver

    Price in USD: $199

    Flange diameters: 40mm

    Center to flange: 35mm

    Bracing angle: 7.1

    FWB Opinion: At 103 grams the R45 is one of the heaviest front hubs in the review, but the weight is reflected in the quality. However I’d still prefer they made it lighter.  The made in house angular contact, proprietary bearings have one of the highest load capacities of all tested hubs, they also carry a 5-year warranty.  On the other side the bearings are proprietary and not readily available at most shops.  It’s also one of the few hubs that features a 17mm axle in the front. However the R45 has the narrowest flange placement in the test meaning the lowest bracing angle.  King has approved these hubs for radial lacing, which is a departure from their other hubs and they make them in drillings now down to 16h. The price was raised to $199 this year, but is not out of line for a hub of this quality.  Color choices are more than plentiful, I can’t think of anyone that offers more. The preload on the hub is probably one of the best designs of all the hubs  and works great. Skewers can be clamped as tight as desired without creating any additional drag on the bearings. Besides the weight the thing that bothers me most about these hubs is that they don’t match as well with the rears as I wish.  The rear has a nice mid size flange with cutouts giving it a bit of a retro look.  The front uses a lower flange with no cutouts and a bit more of modern styling.

    Ron’s perspective: This a good solid hub… as you would expect from Chris King. One of the real standout features is the finish and overall visual appeal. This is a very pretty and finely crafted hub. The external collar makes precise adjustments easy. It’s overbuilt if you are weight conscious, and the large axle diameter and angular contact bearings tend to cause a little more drag. They are now available with a ceramic bearing option.

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    DT180

    DT Swiss 180

    DT Swiss 180

    Manufacturer: DT

    Model: 180

    Notes: Radial lacing is allowed.

    Weight: 101gr

    Available drillings:16/18/20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Ceramic

    Bearing size: 6803

    Combined Bearing static load: 552

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Available colors: White

    Price in USD: $430

    Flange diameters: 39mm

    Center to flange: 37.5mm

    Bracing angle: 7.6

    FWB Opinion:  The 180/190 series of DT hubs have never been my favorite with very small differences from the 240 other than the price.  However the latest version has seen a decrease in the price making it more appealing but still a halo product.  The 180 does feel fantastic when spinning it in your hand, but the smaller bearing doesn’t hold up as well.

    Ron’s perspective: I guess this is a good hub for those who want the best and most expensive DT hub. If you like the DT180 rear, then this is the front hub that matches it.

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    DT 240

    DT Swiss 240

    DT Swiss 240

    Manufacturer:DT

    Model: 240

    Notes: Radial lacing version.

    Weight: 106 gr

    Available drillings: 20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size: 6803

    Combined Bearing static load: 552

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Available colors: Black (white in 28h)

    Price in USD: $193

    Flange diameters: 39mm

    Center to flange: 37.5mm

    Bracing angle: 7.6

    FWB Opinion: In past reviews I’ve not had a lot of good or bad things to say about the 240, it’s a very well balanced all around hub.  It has solid dimensions and most importantly a trouble free design that makes this a great choice for a daily rider.

    Ron’s perspective: I don’t think I’ve used one of these since the last review. It’s a common hub that does the job. Many people have a lot of miles on these with no issues.

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    Extralite SX

    Extralite Ultrafront SX

    Extralite Ultrafront SX

    Manufacturer: Extralite

    Model: Ultrafront SX

    Notes: Radial lacing is allowed heads out only with DB spokes with a central section equivalent to 1.5mm. Self aligning flanges.

    Weight: 49 gr

    Available drillings: 16/18/20/24

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless w/ceramic upgrade

    Bearing size: 6801

    Combined Bearing static load: 376

    Axle diameter: 14mm

    Available colors: Black

    Price in USD: $210

    Flange diameters: 29mm

    Center to flange: 38mm

    Bracing angle: 7.6

    FWB Opinion: Made in Italy the SX front is one of the lightest front hubs in the review at 49 grams.  But with all things this comes as a tradeoff.  To get the weight down a mid sized bearing and axle are used which does reduce the durability and stiffness of the hub a bit.  The SX has a simple external preload adjustment, but that is also the source of some of its problems.  The SX definitely requires more frequent adjustment than the more robust hubs we’re looking at.  It is really important that the adjuster be run on the left side of the bike so that it does not loosen during use, but when run on the left side, the laser etched logo on the hub shell is facing the wrong way.  The other unfortunate thing about the SX front is max tension is restricted to 70 kgf.  On the upside serviceability of the hub is very easy and customer service from Extralite is quite stellar.  In my opinion this hub is meant more for special use and not as a daily rider as I had mentioned in the original review as the weight savings definitely comes with a tradeoff.

    Ron’s perspective: IMO it crosses the line into the light weight territory where compromises are made. But then, this is intended to be mated to the very light SLX rear hub, so that makes sense.

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    Extralite SL2

    Extralite Ultrafront SL2

    Extralite Ultrafront SL2

    Manufacturer: Extralite

    Model: Ultrafront SL2

    Notes: Radial lacing is allowed heads out only with DB spokes with a central section equivalent to 1.5mm. Self aligning flanges.

    Weight: 62gr

    Available drillings: 16/18/20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless w/ceramic upgrade

    Bearing size: 6803

    Combined Bearing static load:  552

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Available colors: Black

    Price in USD: $180

    Flange diameters: 34mm

    Center to flange: 35mm

    Bracing angle: 7.1

    FWB Opinion: Since the SX definitely approaches a special use hub, Extralite reintroduced the original SL with some new upgrades and called it the SL2.  At only a 13 gram weight increase this hub makes much more sense to me as a daily rider.  Full size 6803 bearings with a 17mm axle.  Self aligning flanges.  Larger more robust micro tuner that doesn’t have the same tendency to back off as the SX.  The bracing angle is reduced slightly as compared to the SX but still ample.  Like the SX, serviceability is very easy.  My opinion is that this is about as light of a daily rider hub with easy maintenance as you can get.

    Ron’s perspective: Probably worth the 13g weight increase over the SX for most people. Compared to the Alchemy Elf, I like the adjustment on the SL2, but prefer the bearing choice, smaller diameter, and the bearing and flange placement of the ELF.

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    Tune Mig45

    Tune Mig45

    Tune Mig45

    Manufacturer:Tune

    Model: Mig45

    Notes: straight pull radial only. Carbon fiber axle.

    Weight: 47gr

    Available drillings:16/18/20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size: 6803

    Bearing static load: 552

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Available colors: Black, Blue, Gold, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Silver, White

    Price in USD: $300

    Flange diameters: 26mm

    Center to flange: 36.5mm

    Bracing angle: 7.3

    FWB Opinion: The Mig45 is the lightest hub in the review.  The Mig45 balances performance characteristics quite well.  For this latest version, Tune has increased the axle diameter from 15mm to 17mm increasing lateral stiffness.  It also has fairly wide flange spacing using straight pull spokes.  Overall the hub builds into a lightweight, stiff, smooth rolling wheel. The straight pull spokes should be less prone to breaking than a j-bend, but at the same time can be more of a hassle to deal with if they do break. Finding the proper straight pull spoke at your LBS may not be the easiest option. The main drawback to this hub is serviceability.  Replacing a spoke requires removal of the end caps and axle which is best done with special tools although in a pinch can be done without. I think this is certainly one of the best looking hubs available with its aluminum shell and carbon reinforced ends. There is no preload adjuster other than micro shims but it doesn’t seem to suffer much from tightening of the skewers.  It’s unusual in that the hub is the lightest in the review but doesn’t suffer from some of the durability issues of other light hubs.

    Ron’s perspective: This is a good hub for an exotic build. It is visually striking with carbon reinforcements on the shell. The bearings have an excellent load rating for such a light hub.

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    Tune Mig70

    Tune Mig70

    Tune Mig70

    Manufacturer: Tune

    Model: Mig70

    Notes: Radial lacing allowed heads out up to 28h.

    Weight: 72 gr

    Available drillings: 12/16/18/20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size: 6803

    Bearing static load: 552

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Available colors: Black, Blue, Gold, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Silver, White

    Price in USD: $185

    Flange diameters: 37.5mm

    Center to flange: 35mm

    Bracing angle: 7.1

    FWB Opinion: The Mig70 is Tunes mainstay front hub and for this year gets larger bearings, larger axle (17mm in place of the previous 15mm) and the adjustment uses micro-shims instead of a threaded cap. It is one of my favorite front hubs due to its balance of characteristics. Good weight, good price, good bearing size, good bearings, good flange spacing, good drilling selection, good color choice, and good axle size. The preload is basic but is accomplished through the use of micro shims.. Self aligning flanges are a nice addition to its already well balanced design. This hub fits right into the middle weight range with the Alchemy, however where it saves weight is that it’s matched rear is significantly lighter than others in its class. Very rarely have there been reported problems with these hubs and when there are typically it’s related to improper lacing. Radial lacing is recommended only on lower drillings. This is one of my go to recommendations for someone that wants a do it all hub but with an eye on weight and performance.

    Ron’s perspective: This is a good hub at a decent weight and a fair price. The larger bearings give it a higher load capacity than the previous model, and better stiffness. I would have liked to see a little weight loss to put it more on par with the light Mag170.

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    White Industries T11

    White Industries T11

    White Industries T11

    Manufacturer: White Industries

    Model: T11

    Weight: 95 gr

    Available drillings: 16/18/20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size: 6901

    Bearing static load: 636

    Axle diameter: 12mm

    Available colors: Black, Silver

    Price in USD: $134

    Flange diameters: 35mm

    Center to flange: 36mm

    Bracing angle: 7.2

    FWB Opinion: At almost 100 grams it’s in the realm of standard weight hubs such as the King R45. It has a very high load capacity on its’ bearings, a good axle size and a good flange spacing. It is certainly a durable hub and can handle all sorts of different lacing options including heads in radial. The price makes this an appealing yet durable budget hub. While I’m not a big fan of the set screw preload adjuster, it is functional and resists compression from the skewer in all but extreme cases. Drilling options are plenty, but color options are limited. The hub seems to weigh more than it needs to, but I suppose that’s partly responsible for its durability.  Its biggest appeal to me is the price and more so it’s appearance.  The T11 is one of the prettiest hubs in the review and as a bonus it works well with a great price.

    Ron’s perspective: I like this hub. The bearings are a good size, it’s pretty, and it spins very smooth. I kind of like the collar with set screw… it makes it easy to take up the clearance without the chance of preloading. They could surely drop a little weight but compared to the T11 rear it makes sense.

     

    REAR HUBS:

    ———————————————-

    Alchemy ORC-UL

    Alchemy Orc-UL

    Alchemy Orc-UL

    Manufacturer: Alchemy

    Model: ORC UL

    Drive Mechanism: 3 steel pawls, steel drive ring

    Weight: 198gr

    Available drillings: 20/24/28/32/36

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless with Ceramic upgrade option (except large outer bearing)

    Bearing size, hub shell left: 6901

    Bearing size, hub shell right: 6901

    Combined hub shell Static load: 974

    Bearing size, freehub body: mr1728 17x28x6

    Combined freehub body Static load: 650

    Axle diameter: 12mm

    Freehub body material: Al.

    Available colors: Black, Red, Silver

    Price in USD: $440

    Flange diameters, L/R: 40/57

    Center to flange: 39/18

    Bracing angle: 8/3.8

    Tension differential: 47%

    FWB Opinion: The original Orc was a very popular hub and featured the best bracing angle of all hubs available.  The UL version continues on with that same trend having still the best bracing angle of the hubs in the review, but with the forced reduction in spacing for 11 speed the differences from some of the others have become much smaller.  The UL has dropped two of the five bearings from it’s previous design and moved to a smaller which results in a lower static capacity but results in a hub which is much easier to service and is lighter.  The UL also reduces it’s axle from 17mm down to 12mm.  The other big change for the UL is the elimination of a Campagnolo version, though a shim kit is available that adapts a Shimano cassette to run on a Campag drivetrain.  The new UL was a much anticipated design, but unfortunately due to delays in manufacturing as well as a shutdown by Alchemy, for restructuring, has resulted in not many hubs being released this year so even though the hub has been out for almost a year very little real world experience has been reported back.  Alchemy plans to re-open at the beginning of 2014 and we hope with their new focus being entirely on their own products that availability will improve.  Traditionally Alchemy has been one of the top companies when it comes to customer service.

    Ron’s perspective: The Orc-UL is a major redesign that bears no resemblance internally to the previous Orc. It is also unique, although it does have some similarities to the Mavic hubs and the ancient Maillard Helicomatic. The main feature is that the body of the hub has a bolted connection that extends almost to the DS dropout. This eliminates the long cantilever from the DS hub bearing to the dropout which must be supported by the axle and contributes to flex. Of course since the DS hub bearing is *inside* the freehub where space is very limited, the bearing and axle must be small also. In the Orc-UL 6901 bearings are used, but they do have a static capacity that is about the same as the 6803 bearings common in other light rear hubs. Instead of the more common 17mm axle a 12mm axle is used, but since the cantilever has been eliminated this is adequate. Alchemy claims that the stiffness of the hub structure is higher than the previous Orc. The design means that only these two bearings are rotating against the axle when under power, significantly reducing losses compared to the typical arrangement which has the friction of the hub bearings as well as the freehub bearings riding on the axle.

    The freehub has an outer bearing and an inner plastic bushing. When under power there is no relative movement, and when freewheeling the friction is very light if there is contact at all. Alchemy expects the bushing to last a long time, and at any rate it is easy to replace.

    The old Orc required a special tool kit and a fairly involved procedure for bearing replacement. The Orc-UL is much simpler in this respect. In addition to a standard bearing press you will need a 7/16” hex wrench for the unbolting the extension, plus an inexpensive expanding collet for pushing out the DS hub bearing. Removing the freehub requires that you first remove this bearing. Then the hex wrench can be used to remove the bolted extension and the freehub.

    ———————————————

    Chris King R45

    Chris King R45

    Chris King R45

    Manufacturer: Chris King

    Model: R45

    Drive Mechanism: Ring Drive 45T.

    Weight: 223gr

    Available drillings: 20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size, hub shell left: non standard, 17.5x27x7

    Bearing size, hub shell right: non standard, 27x37x7

    Combined hub shell Static load: 767

    Bearing size, freehub body: non standard, 17.5x27x7 / 19x30x6

    Combined freehub body static load: 859

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Freehub body material: Al.

    Available colors: Black, Blue, Brown, Gold, Green, Orange, Pewter, Pink, Red, Silver

    Price in USD: $399

    Flange diameters, L/R: 51/51

    Center to flange: 34/17

    Bracing angle: 7/3.5

    Tension differential: 50%

    FWB Opinion: The latest version of the R45 hasn’t seen too many changes from the original.  They have added some lower spoke count drilling options and have reduced the flange spacing to accommodate for 11 speed Shimano as well as released a Campagnolo version.  The R45 has a good track record for durability though falling short of the classic King hubs.  King has a very high quality proprietary bearing which is great for durability.  King has in my opinion the best preload adjuster design of all the tested hubs.  Basic servicing of the Kings is really easy to do, but unfortunately bearing replacement and full servicing requires special bearings and tools which many shops do not have on hand.  The Kings biggest draw for me is it’s great looks and wide range of available colors.

    Ron’s perspective: It’s proven to be a very good hub. Reliable and strong with high capacity bearings all around and a decent weight. Unlike the MTB hubs it is fairly quiet when coasting. The flange placement pays attention to maximising the DS offset in both models and the NDS flange spacing is about right. I’m not thrilled with the large diameter NDS flange, but it is a very attractive looking hub with an excellent finish. It is also available in huge variety of colors. The threaded adjustment collar is a nice feature. I echo what Jason said about servicing. If your shop has the tools then it isn’t a big deal, but the tools are expensive and necessary.

    ———————————————-

    DT 180

    DT Swiss 180

    DT Swiss 180

    Manufacturer: DT

    Model: 180

    Drive Mechanism: Star Ratchet, 18t spring operated

    Weight: 187 gr

    Available drillings: 20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Ceramic

    Bearing size, hub shell left: 6802

    Bearing size, hub shell right: 6902

    Combined hub shell Static load: 653

    Bearing size, freehub body: 6702 (pair)

    Combined freehub body Static load: 198

    Axle diameter: 15mm

    Freehub body material: Al.

    Available colors: White

    Price in USD: $770

    Flange diameters, L/R: 41/45

    Center to flange: 33/17

    Bracing angle: 6.8/3.5

    Tension differential: 52%

    FWB Opinion: Like the front 180 this hub is also one that I don’t fully grasp.  Sure it’s lighter than some in the review, and comes stock with ceramic bearings, but while there was a price decrease this year, the price is still a bit out of where we would like to see it.   Compared to the 240 most of the weight savings in this hub is due to a reduction in the size of the bearings which comes with a reduction in its durability.  This drop in durability is also reduced through the use of ceramics which tend to wear at a faster rate than stainless.  The hub does use the tried and true star ratchet giving it the typical DT reliability in the drive mechanism and I have to admit the smaller bearings spin with some of the least drag of any hub in the review.  For less money I think a better choice is buy a DT240 and install ceramic bearings.  You won’t get something quite as light as the 180, but you’ll get something better.  If you’re after the 180 for weight savings alone the Tune 170 gives you a lighter hub for half the price.

    Ron’s perspective: I don’t have much personal experience with this hub, but the small bearing sizes…especially in the freehub… do not give me confidence in its durability. And then there is the price, for a hub that is not that light. The flange spacing makes for a wheel with poor stiffness. Strictly for DT fans.

    ———————————————-

    DT 240

    DT Swiss 240

    DT Swiss 240

    Manufacturer: DT

    Model: 240

    Drive Mechanism: Star Ratchet, 18t spring operated

    Weight: 214 gr

    Available drillings: 20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size, hub shell left: 6902

    Bearing size, hub shell right: 6902

    Combined hub shell Static load: 868

    Bearing size, freehub body: 6802 (pair)

    Combined freehub body Static load: 438

    Axle diameter: 15mm

    Freehub body material: Al.

    Available colors: Black (white in 28h)

    Price in USD: $400

    Flange diameters, L/R: 45/45

    Center to flange: 33/17

    Bracing angle: 6.8/3.5

    Tension differential: 52%

    FWB Opinion: In reviews of the past the 240 has been a hub that didn’t stand out.  It hit mid-field in just about every category making it a fairly well balanced hub.  However with the new 11 speed dimensions my opinion of this hub has changed making it one of my favorite hubs.  Bracing angle is now very respectable and tension balance is one of the best in the review.  The DT uses a star ratchet over the traditional pawl system which gives it a simple and reliable drive system.  Over the years the 240 has shown itself to be ultra reliable and the fact that parts and service can be had at virtually any shop in the world means the DT240 has become one of my favorite go-to hubs for a daily rider.  They also offer a star ratchet upgrade which doubles the amount of teeth cutting the amount of movement prior to engagement by about half and shaving another 10 grams of weight from the hub.  In my opinion this upgrade should be a standard feature in the hub.

    Ron’s perspective: Definitely a decent reliable hub and at a good weight as well. The bearings are large enough and they rarely need overhauling. Lubing the freehub mechanism is a very easy job, but an expensive special tool kit is required for bearing replacement. They are common enough that most shops will have these tools, though. The flange offsets are more mainstream now that all hubs are 11 spd. The price keeps creeping up, but DT sells these pretty cheap for OEM applications, which reduces their value for customs in my opinion.

    ———————————————-

    Extralite SLX

    Extralite SLX

    Extralite SLX

    Manufacturer: Extralite

    Model: SLX

    Drive Mechanism: 2 Pawl with O-ring spring. Titanium drive ring 30T.

    Weight: 139 gr

    Available drillings: 20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size, hub shell left: 6803

    Bearing size, hub shell right: 6803

    Combined hub shell Static load: 552

    Bearing size, freehub body: 6903

    Combined freehub body Static load: 477

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Freehub body material: Al.

    Available colors: Black

    Price in USD: $480

    Flange diameters, L/R: 35/50

    Center to flange: 37/17

    Bracing angle: 7.6/3.5

    Tension differential: 47%

    FWB Opinion: The previous review featured the SX, a combination straight pull/flanged hub.  For this year we selected to drop that and review the fully flanged SLX version.  The SLX is the definitive weight weenie flanged hub.    In my opinion there is nothing else on the market in this weight range that approaches the use-ability of this hub.  Being so much lighter than the other hubs in the review one would expect this hub to be very limited in use like the matching SX front.  However over the last couple years the rear has turned out to be surprisingly durable.  That’s not to say it’s in the same league as heavier hubs but that it can be a viable option for a superlight rear hub, though not my first choice as a daily rider.   A 17mm axle with good sized bearings and a decent load capacity.  One drawback is the use of a bushing in place of a large shell bearing at the freehub body interface.  The use of a bushing means that more frequent servicing is required to keep the system spinning freely.  Servicing the hub is very simple and quick to do though.  Extralite does recommend only using their own in house Alugrease for servicing.

    Ron’s perspective: I agree. Extralite has done well to make a super light rear hub with acceptable durability. It doesn’t even use exotic materials, or have an exotic price. Of course it would add a little weight, but I’d prefer to see a cartridge bearing rather than a bushing at the inner freehub. The Campy version (and surely the new S11) has a very high NDS offset, making it a good candidate for lighter spokes on that side.

    ———————————————-

    Tune Mag150

    Tune Mag150

    Tune Mag150

    Manufacturer: Tune

    Model: Mag150

    Drive Mechanism: 3 titanium pawls, titanium drive ring.

    Weight: 161 gr

    Available drillings: 16/20/24/28/32

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size, hub shell left: 6803

    Bearing size, hub shell right: 6903

    Combined hub shell Static load: 753

    Bearing size, freehub body: 6803 (Pair)

    Combined freehub body Static load: 552

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Freehub body material: Al.

    Available colors: Black, blue, gold, green, orange, pink, purple, red, silver, white

    Price in USD: $775

    Flange diameters, L/R: 28/54.5

    Center to flange: 35/17

    Bracing angle: 7.2/3.5

    Tension differential: 49%

    FWB Opinion: Tunes current flagship hub, 161 grams makes it lighter than everything except the Extralite. For a hub at this weight it has plenty of large bearings and a high static capacity thanks to larger axle and bearings than previous models.  Tune also removed the proprietary XoT bearing from the hub and replaced it with two individual 6903/6803 bearings.  Overall the hub works really well, but the price and the serviceability hold it back a bit in my opinion.  Spoke replacement of NDS spokes requires removal of the axle.  Also new since 2012 is a larger shell, larger freehub body, and larger drive ring.  These changes have removed the tendency that previous models had to make a creaking sound under load.  Overall a very nice hub, but hard to justify the decrease in serviceability and increase in price when compared to the 10 gram heavier 170.

    Ron’s perspective: An exotic light hub with good sized bearings, a carbon axle and shell reinforcements, and a Ti drive ring. Maybe not so practical, but still a viable choice for “exotic” wheelsets.

    ———————————————-

    Tune Mag170

    Tune Mag170

    Tune Mag170

    Manufacturer: Tune

    Model: Mag170

    Drive Mechanism: 3 titanium pawls.  Titanium drive ring.

    Weight, 172 gr

    Available drillings: 16/20/24/28/32/36

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size, hub shell left: 6803

    Bearing size, hub shell right: 6903

    Combined hub shell Static load: 753

    Bearing size, freehub body: 6803 (Pair)

    Combined freehub body Static load: 552

    Axle diameter: 17mm

    Freehub body material: Al.

    Available colors: Black, blue, gold, green, orange, pink, purple, red, silver, white

    Price in USD: $410

    Flange diameters, L/R: 41/55

    Center to flange: 36/17

    Bracing angle: 7.3/3.5

    Tension differential: 49%

    FWB Opinion: The Mag170 has had a major overhaul in 2012 and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite weight oriented hubs.  Having been available for 2 years now with no real reports of creaking issues that the older 180 suffered from we feel pretty confident in the robustness and durability of the 170.  The hub shell got larger as did the freehub body and titanium drive ring.  This addressed the previous versions tendency to make noise.  The axle went from 15mm to 17mm as the bearings also got larger which improved the stiffness.  The XoT bearing was removed in favor of a pair of traditional bearings. Which while it does reduce its ability to resist cantilevering it also makes for a quieter, easier to service hub. The adjustment now uses micro shims rather than a threaded cap.  The left flange has been moved inward a little to address tension balancing issues as well. The hub is light, works well, comes in a variety of colors and is priced well.  Overall a hard hub to beat for a daily rider looking for something lighter or more unique than the mainstays.

    Ron’s perspective: The design looks very good. They’ve taken care of some issues with the Mag180 and dropped the weight at the same time. If it proves reliable, this is an excellent choice for a light hub that is also reasonably priced. The price, weight, and features put this hub in the sweet spot for a lot of weight conscious riders.

    ———————————————-

    White Industries T11

    White Industries T11

    White Industries T11

    Manufacturer: White Industries

    Model: T11

    Drive Mechanism: 24t steel drive ring, 3 steel pawls

    Weight: 255 gr

    Available drillings: 20/24/28/32/36

    Bearing material and other bearing notes: Stainless

    Bearing size, hub shell left: 6902

    Bearing size, hub shell right: 6902

    Combined hub shell Static load: 868

    Bearing size, freehub body: Campag Custom 15x24x10 double row x2

    Combined freehub body Static load: 876

    Axle diameter: 15mm

    Freehub body material: Ti

    Available colors: Black, blue, gold, pink, purple, red, silver.

    Price in USD: $318

    Flange diameters, L/R: 40.5/55

    Center to flange: 36/17

    Bracing angle: 7.4/3.5

    Tension differential: 48%

    FWB Opinion:  At around 255 grams, the T11 is one of the heaviest hubs in the review but also one of the most durable.  Made in the U.S. the T11 has one of the highest static load capacities of any hub on the market.   It has large bearings that spin smoothly, and an easy to use preload adjustment, though not my favorite preload design. It also has a nice outward position of the left bearing. At $273 it is a very reasonably priced rear hub. In some cases it seems almost over built, such as having 3 or 4 bearings in the freehub body. One thing that makes it heavier is also the thing I like most about it, that is that it is the only rear hub in the review to have a ti freehub body. This is great for riders running Shimano who are tired of the alloy bodies being grooved by cogs. The 6000 series alloy polishes better than most of the other hubs, so this is one of the most brilliant hubs in silver.  It’s also now available in a wide range of colors.  White industries is easy to get a hold of and customer service from them has been very. The T11 is the only hub in the test that uses steel for the rear axle making it very good for very large riders and daily use wheelsets.

    Ron’s perspective: The T11 is the same basic design as the H3, with changes being mostly cosmetic. It’s a very pretty hub and for an additional charge is now available in a wide range of colors. This is really a fine US made hub for riders who aren’t so focused on low weight. It’s strong, has a large bearing capacity, it looks nice, has a Ti freehub, and the price is good. The design is simple too, and it’s easy to service. One bonus of the collar-with-set-screw method of adjustment, is that it is near impossible to make the preload too high. I think it’s the only hub in this review that has a steel axle. It’s easy to build solid wheelsets with the T11 that are in the 1350-1500g range, which makes them lighter than comparable factory wheels that are much more expensive.

    ———————————————-

    We realize that this review was quite long, and unfortunately it only touches on a lot of the subjects.  There is much, much more that goes into component selection and design for a custom wheel.  However in the interest of keeping this review to a moderate length we decided to just cover the basics of hub selection.  An alloy rim review can be found here:  http://fairwheelbikes.com/c/forums/topic/2013-rim-roundup/  In the coming months we hope to write more on the subject including reviews on spokes and lacing patterns but for now we do hope that you found this an interesting read and have a better idea of what hubs may or may not be ideal for you.

     

    • This topic was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by  Madcow.
    • This topic was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by  Madcow.
    • This topic was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by  Madcow.
    • This topic was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by  Madcow.
    #95279
    Participant

    As always very informative-thx, and please keep on geeking about bicycle components.

    Nothing ventured nothing gained!
    #95304
    Participant

    what do you guys think of Campagnolo Record hubs ?

    #95305
    Moderator

    IMHO they are nice hubs, but since they only come in very few hole counts it’s hard for me to think of a build where they make sense. Maybe if you race Paris-Roubaix?

    I guess Campagnolo is more interested in selling complete wheelsets.

    "Nothing compares to the simple pleasures of a bike ride," said John F. Kennedy, a man who had the pleasure of Marilyn Monroe.
    #95307
    Participant

    Regarding the DT 240 rear, FWB wrote
    They also offer a star ratchet upgrade which doubles the amount of teeth cutting the amount of movement prior to engagement by about half and shaving another 10 grams of weight from the hub. In my opinion this upgrade should be a standard feature in the hub.

    Does the tar ratchet upgrade increase the drag? Leaving aside noise (is the upgrade noisier when freewheeling?) and cost, is there any downside to the upgrade?

    #95308
    Participant

    Excellent review and very helpful info, guys. Thank you.

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