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Old 09-21-06, 09:01 AM   #1
TallRider
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just how much better are Ultegra hubs than Tiagra?

So I'm looking to buy a 36-hole rear road hub, to build up with a Ritchy 36-hole asymmetrical rear rim that should make for an extremely durable wheel. While 32-hole rear hubs are very common, 36-hole rear road hubs can be hard to find. I can get Ultegra on sale for $55, but have found Tiagra for less than $30.

So my main question is a more general one than 36-hole rear cassette hubs. How much meaningful difference exists between Tiagra, 105 and Ultegra cassette hubs? (I've linked to Shimano's webpage for each hub.) There's a slight weight difference of 15g between Tiagra and Ultegra, which is basically meaningless. Durability is the real question. Here are the design differences:
  • 105 and Ultegra seem to have better seals than Tiagra - but I expect Tiagra's are plenty good seals; 105 and Ultegra have an "internal grease sleeve" on the freehub
  • Ultegra says forged hub shell (on Shimano's website); 105 and Tiagra just say "aluminum" (they don't say that it's not forged, but they don't say that it is either, and Ultegra says forged hub shell)
  • 105 and Ultegra have "super polished" bearing races; Tiagra doesn't
So the basic diffs are that 105 and Ultegra have better seals and bearing races, while Ultegra improves on 105 with a forged hub body.
I'm wondering how much difference, in terms of frequency of service, chance of pitting, and chance of breakage there actually/functionally exists between these hubs, though.
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Old 09-21-06, 10:30 AM   #2
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I expect functionally that Tiagra will give you excellent service given a reasonable maintainance schedule. The seals on ANY model hub, Shimano or Campy, cup-and-cone or cartridge bearing, are not really very effective or the drag would be unacceptable so you don't stand to gain or lose much that way.

As you noted, the Tiagra is slightly heavier but since you are building a 36 hole wheel with the emphasis on durability, not light weight, the difference should be of no importance. Save the money.
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Old 09-21-06, 10:43 AM   #3
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Yeah, I think the weight is inconsequential. I don't think that Shimano or anyone else would cite the weight as a meaningful difference between Tiagra and Ultegra - but they would point to the forged hub shell, internal grease sleeve, and the super polished bearing races. And I wonder if these matter at all. Is it just largely needless features that get people to think they're buying a much more better product than the actual difference? The list price diff is $30 compared to $90, which is quite a bit.
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Old 09-21-06, 10:52 AM   #4
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I had a Tiagra rear hub crap out after a single winter of commuting. Basically, the pawls just seized up. And I attribute that to crappy seals. I've had no problems with Ultegra hubs (or for that matter, an old set of RSX hubs).

My recommendation is 105 or Ultegra (if you can find a deal).
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Old 09-21-06, 10:57 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caloso
I had a Tiagra rear hub crap out after a single winter of commuting. Basically, the pawls just seized up. And I attribute that to crappy seals. I've had no problems with Ultegra hubs (or for that matter, an old set of RSX hubs).
My recommendation is 105 or Ultegra (if you can find a deal).
Or RSX, apparently - and it was 1 step below where Tiagra is now at in Shimano's lineup.
That said, I am glad to hear feedback about Tiagra's durability.
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Old 09-21-06, 11:00 AM   #6
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That RSX stuff is bombproof. Heavy and ugly, but bombproof.
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Old 09-21-06, 11:00 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HillRider
I expect functionally that Tiagra will give you excellent service given a reasonable maintainance schedule.
What's a reasonable maintenance schedule? Regrease bearings every x000 miles?
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Old 09-21-06, 11:19 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caloso
That RSX stuff is bombproof. Heavy and ugly, but bombproof.
The problem that you had with Tiagra had nothing to do with its being bombproof, but poorly sealed. And I wouldn't expect RSX's seals to be any better than Tiagra. If anything, RSX would have poorer seals, as it was a lower-level gruppo, and it was 5-10 years ago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg
What's a reasonable maintenance schedule? Regrease bearings every x000 miles?
I just spin the axle between my fingers every so often to feel the resistance. I usually repack my hub bearings every 3,000 miles or so, but that's not a number I carefully try to live by; that's just about what ends up being the schedule.
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Old 09-21-06, 11:36 AM   #9
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The only modern "road" hubs I have personal experience with are Shimano 2200's, which I believe are absolute bottom of the line in Shimano's current hierarchy. They've been very satisfactory, they're the ones on my rebuilt Schwinn le tour luxe. At the time, Nashbar had a deal on a 700c wheelset that had these hubs and Sun M13II rims, 36 spoke, with a modern Shimano freehub. I got the wheelset for like $80 less 10% and it met my needs for that bike perfectly since I wanted to go to 700c wheels (for cheap) and put a modern drivetrain on the bike. In addition, I think these hubs are actually used on hybrid bikes more often than anything else, so they're kind of "robust," which is what I wanted for the Schwinn's purposes. When I installed the lovely Schwinn safety tabs on the front axle, I thought, heck, might as well take this thing completely apart and make sure it's got plenty of grease in there. After servicing the hub, I realized it was a heck of a deal for what I had paid, there was nothing suspect at all about it. I even ordered another wheelset for some future bike. So anyway, in the case of Tiagra vs. Ultegra hubs, my thinking is that you're almost certainly paying more for the Ultegra name and a little weight savings than anything else, in terms of real world functionality..........In the world of mountain biking, I've got lots of experience with different Shimano hubs, from the old STX to Deore to LX to XT. My current mtb is a full XT build, (including the hubs), and I like that, but if you covered the lettering up I'm not sure I'd know the difference. Shimano brags about the borizon (maybe the wrong word, I can't remember) races, etc. on the XT hubs (sounds like something similar to what you're hearing with the Ultegra), but again, in terms of real world riding, I'm not sure there's any real difference between that and something like a Deore hub....... Just my .02-

Last edited by well biked; 09-21-06 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 09-21-06, 11:37 AM   #10
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I cracked the rim on my ultegra rear wheel and borrowed a friends tiagra one. It had horrible drag. Whenever I was not pedaling I could feel the bike slowing.
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Old 09-21-06, 11:49 AM   #11
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For a $25 difference I think it is a no brainer. Go with the better Ultegra Hub.
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Old 09-21-06, 12:02 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timcupery
The problem that you had with Tiagra had nothing to do with its being bombproof, but poorly sealed. And I wouldn't expect RSX's seals to be any better than Tiagra. If anything, RSX would have poorer seals, as it was a lower-level gruppo, and it was 5-10 years ago.
I can't disagree with you, it's just that I've had better experience with RSX and Ultegra than Tiagra. I may have just gotten a better than average RSX hub and a worse than average Tiagra hub. Each hub was on the same bike, ridden under the same conditions, and received the same service.
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Old 09-21-06, 12:04 PM   #13
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well biked, thanks for the thoughts and analysis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by toothless
I cracked the rim on my ultegra rear wheel and borrowed a friends tiagra one. It had horrible drag. Whenever I was not pedaling I could feel the bike slowing.
Whatever you experienced isn't directly a fault of the tiagra hub. A hub needs to be in really terrible shape before you can feel drag while riding them, since the radius of the rotating wheels is so much larger than the hub bearings. The hub on your friend's bike was probably completely shot. Which could have happened to an Ultegra.

Quote:
Originally Posted by geraldatwork
For a $25 difference I think it is a no brainer. Go with the better Ultegra Hub.
Again, my question is "how much better and why is it better"

Quote:
Originally Posted by caloso
I can't disagree with you, it's just that I've had better experience with RSX and Ultegra than Tiagra. I may have just gotten a better than average RSX hub and a worse than average Tiagra hub. Each hub was on the same bike, ridden under the same conditions, and received the same service.
Sorry - I didn't mean to discredit or disregard your experience. It's only one data point and may be an abberation, but I want to hear data points from people because that's how I can figure out an overall trend.

Last edited by TallRider; 09-21-06 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 09-21-06, 12:57 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timcupery
Sorry - I didn't mean to discredit or disregard your experience. It's only one data point and may be an abberation, but I want to hear data points from people because that's how I can figure out an overall trend.
No apology necessary. You're absolutely correct.
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Old 09-21-06, 02:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toothless
I cracked the rim on my ultegra rear wheel and borrowed a friends tiagra one. It had horrible drag. Whenever I was not pedaling I could feel the bike slowing.
What you experienced was a serious maintenance and adjustment problem, not a design flaw. Are you even sure the drag was in the hub, not a misadjusted brake pad?
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Old 09-21-06, 06:14 PM   #16
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If u dont have the money for ultegra get the tiagra ones. Ultegra is a nice set but isnt the best in the market if u know what I mean... besides many people only know shimano and no other brands. again... if u have money for tiagra get tiagra, if u have money for ultegra get ultegra...at that level a hub is a hub. They last forever anyways...

cya....
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Old 09-21-06, 06:56 PM   #17
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Why not get a deore hub? They are cheap, and pretty weather proof. So long as your frame will accept 135mm spacing, it would be a good choice. I have run Deore hubs through nasty english winters with no issues (although the same could be said of the cheapo quando hubs that were on the bike before i wore out the rims...). I now have an RM-40 hub on the rear (rear deore was stolen).....
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Old 09-21-06, 07:25 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timcupery
I'm wondering how much difference, in terms of frequency of service, chance of pitting, and chance of breakage there actually/functionally exists between these hubs, though.

I just built up a 36 hole rear wheel for my '84 Schwinn Voyageur XP with a Tiagra hub. I like it a good deal - it seemed to be an extremely nice piece. But I can't speak to durability yet, as I've only ridden it for 250 miles or so for the month that I've had it.

That said, I plan to use Tiagra and/or low end Deore for my future wheel needs, until proven otherwise.
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Old 09-21-06, 07:38 PM   #19
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This was from a couple of months ago but I thought it might help your decision.

Tiagra hub quality
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Old 09-21-06, 07:41 PM   #20
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as you move up the shimano line you find the price increases quickly because of the man hours involved in manufacturing the product. a 105 group has more man hours than a tiagra, a ultegra has more than a 105. I'm sure you get the picture. basically ,the tiagra stuff is tossed out rapidy by a machine and gets very little inspections compared to a da20 or a ultegra . which is the best? simple, the dura ace. by how much? maybe 1percent , maybe 2percent. maybe you will shave 3 minutes off you p.b. in a hundred mile race. you wont notice squat over short distance OVERALL. I'M NOT TALKING ERGONOMICS HERE . Research and development is slow, expensive and so is paying people to measure bearings with a micrometers .so there is where your extra money goes. Its just a hell of a lot cheaper to rapidly machine produce equipment with no human contact. i say go middle of the road, 105
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Old 09-22-06, 06:26 AM   #21
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I use Tiagra R500 wheels.Mine are fast and smooth.I don't feel the need to spend any more.
In fact my Ultegra 10 speed group is not that much better considering the price.Like anything,the higher up you go you are just paying for small differences
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Old 09-22-06, 06:26 AM   #22
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I chose to stick with Ultegra because of the larger diameter body. I like the way it looks, and it's better support for the flanges. Extra polish on the bearings doesn't hurt.

I guess you just need to look at how meaningful $25 is to you. There have been times in my life where I couldn't afford to replace a wheel at all, and just rode with a wheel on it's last legs for a month. Back then, $25 would have made all the difference. These days, I'm to the point that I'd rather build up a bike with Ultegra than Dura-Ace to free up the funds for a fixie/SS project -- the thought being that a fixie will make my geared bike faster through training, making a much bigger difference than Dura-Ace could ever make.
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Old 09-22-06, 02:52 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geraldatwork
For a $25 difference I think it is a no brainer. Go with the better Ultegra Hub.
i look at hubs as being disposable and XT and ultegra are the way to go.

ed rader
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Old 09-22-06, 03:08 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by erader
i look at hubs as being disposable and XT and ultegra are the way to go.
I'm not sure what to make of this, ed... if I looked at hubs as being disposable, then it would make sense to get cheapest hubs, not the second-from-top-of-the-line...
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Old 09-22-06, 04:22 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timcupery
I'm not sure what to make of this, ed... if I looked at hubs as being disposable, then it would make sense to get cheapest hubs, not the second-from-top-of-the-line...
i usually buy my wheels pre-made. when the wheel is trashed i buy another wheel and i either pitch the hub, give it away or sell it on ebay.

the best deals on pre-made wheels are usually XT and ultegra, which is the lowest in quality that i will go. you'll probably pay more hand-building a tiagra wheel than buying an ultegra wheel pre-made but may have no choice if you want 36 spokes.

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