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  1. #1
    Dumpster cyclist
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    Anyone out there on Chris King hubs?

    I'm putting together a wheelset that may someday see a very very long tour, most of it in other countries, and not always in developed countries. I'm considering a few different hubs, among them the Chris Kings.

    At first I was thinking Shimano XTs because they're cheap, I've already got a set I love, and they're serviceable. If I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere needing to service them, all I need is new bearings which should be widely available. I could just repack them every couple months and they should last forever. Then I got to thinking, who cares about the reason, but what if the cup races wear out? I don't want to have to stop an build a new damn wheel.

    So I got to thinking about Phils and Chris Kings. The shop I work in is a big fan of the Chris Kings, due to their overall high quality and serviceability. You can repack the cartridge bearings without any specialized tools, and worst comes to worst replace the cartridge. Maybe carry just one cartridge so you're set in case one fails. They're light and come in pretty colors too.

    I've heard a lot about Phils on this forum, but never anything about their serviceability. Yes, people say they last forever, but you have to work on everything at some point. Besides, being a mechanically inclined guy, knowing I can work on them is probably more important than actually doing so.

    So my questions are:
    Is anyone out there touring on Chris Kings? Do you like them?
    Have you ever done a serious repair on them yourself, and do you think there's anything about them that's not suited to touring?

    Or for you out there on Phils:
    Have you ever done a serious repair/overhaul without specialized tools? Was it easy?

    Sorry for such specific questions. But I figure if anyone can answer them, they're on this forum!
    Thanks everyone!
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    PW hubs are serviceable with 5mm and 8mm hex wrenches. It couldn't be simpler.

    http://www.philwood.com/?s=fsc

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    I have the CK Classics on my LHT and they are very nice hubs. You can't go wrong with either the PW's or CK's. I find that the people that complain about either of these hubs don't do it because of the noise they make or the cost but no one says they are not of very high quality. If you have the $ you will enjoy either of these for many many years. If you carry really heavy loads, no hub on the market will withstand it forever with no maintainance and if your like me, I have everything checked out before going on a long trip and under a really heavy load, something else on your bike will cave well before your hubs.
    Last edited by Dave Nault; 09-30-09 at 06:53 AM.
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  4. #4
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    i use kings - the ISO disc hubs -- expensive. worth it the extra cost? on a tourer probably not.

    so what?
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    Just a side note: The CK site has short videos on maintaining there hubs. I guess you have to decide for yourself if this seems complicated or not.
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    I'm in the "i can't stand the noise" camp - I have the Chris King hubs on my mountain bike and my friend has them on her road bike. The noise is irritating - think about it and listen to it before you decide.
    ...

  7. #7
    It's true, man.
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    While you're looking, be sure to check out Hope's Pro2 hubs - also very nice.

    My aversion to CK and PW hubs has more to do with elevating the theftworthiness of my bike. Nobody's gonna steal a whole bike to eBay an XT hubset, but a lot of folks would take that risk for a set they could move easily for $500.

  8. #8
    Senior Member jabberwocky's Avatar
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    I've got 3 sets on my mountainbikes. None of them have ever been serviced. The oldest set is over half a decade old and still spins silky-smooth, and thats after numerous full-submersion stream crossings and thousands of off-road miles (many of them on highly abusive trails).

    The bearing preload can be adjusted very easily with either a 2.5mm allen (one-piece axle) or 2 4mm allens (two piece axle). However, a complete tear-down requires the proprietary King tools.

    They do make a distinct noise. Its not really loud (at least mine aren't), but its more of a buzzing noise than the distinct clicking of a ratchett and pawl freehub like Shimano hubs.

    They are very expensive. But its worth noting that there are very few bike parts that are truly designed to last as close to forever as possible, and every one of them is expensive. It goes with the territory.

    -Non-tourer planning his first tour. Carry on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by truman View Post
    While you're looking, be sure to check out Hope's Pro2 hubs - also very nice.

    ...snip
    I have 2 sets of the Hope Pro2 hubs. One on my MTB and one on my winter commuter. They are great on my MTB, but I don't think I'd put them on a touring bike.

    I had the drive side flange on the rear hub on my commuter crack in several places, and 4 of the spokes pulled out of the flange. Hope sent me a new hub shell, and the new one is fine. However, I had to pull all the bearings out of the old one, press them into the new shell, unlace the old spokes, and rebuild the wheel. Not too bad to do in my living room, but not something I would want to deal with on tour. The failed flange may have been related to the road salt that gets everywhere in the winter, so YMMV.

    Also, the ratchet mechanism in the Hopes is louder than in the Kings. For my MTB I don't mind it, but the noise gets to me a little on the road.


    Chris

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by truman View Post
    While you're looking, be sure to check out Hope's Pro2 hubs - also very nice.

    My aversion to CK and PW hubs has more to do with elevating the theftworthiness of my bike. Nobody's gonna steal a whole bike to eBay an XT hubset, but a lot of folks would take that risk for a set they could move easily for $500.
    i understand your point, however, I just never take my eyes off my bike. ANY BIKE.

    especially while touring. the OP is talking about a tour bike. who wants to get stranded in rural East Jabib??

    would I lock a touring bike, with loaded panniers in public and take off for a few hours? I think not.

    " Nobody's gonna steal a whole bike to eBay an XT hubset"

    true, but you are talking about professionals -- there are plenty that are less than professionals, have no access to ebay, but do have access to a pawnshop. pawnshops are more suspicious of high-bling bikes then they are of a bike with, say, an XT hubset.

    some folks will break a car window just to steal a cheap CD player off the seat!

    folks steal bikes all the time just to get temporary transportion, dump it when they get across town, or because they can get ten dollars for it at a pawnshop.

    no bike is safe, and I refuse to live in fear that my possessions might get jacked. IMO, living in fear can help manifest what you fear the most.

    I met a guy who made is fancy bike frame look crappy as a theft deterrent. didn't work. the thief apparently could read - and XTR was still on the drivetrain.
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  11. #11
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    When touring it is rare to meet real bike nuts who know what hubs you have, I don't worry about theft. Rohloff is much more expensive, and nobody worries about those. Really, this is the place to ride your bling without many worries.

    My number one choice are the Phil, they are serviceable, they make actual touring hubs, they didn't start with MTBs in mind. They have cool features like all the spokes on your wheel can be same length for front and back. They offer hubs for freewheel users which is a tiny subset of tourists, but another sign they are thinking about us kind of thing. After that there are DT, they have loose bearings which is probably actually superior, but they are super high quality. They may be the number one choice.

    So having said that, I pulled a fast one and actually bought the White Industry hubs. They aren't serviceable in the field, don't have equal length spokes, etc... WTF?

    Sheldon says that one should avoid all these billet hubs, that the grain alignment in barstock makes for a greater likelihood of torn out spokes... Then he says Phil's are probably the best hub. Bit of a head scratcher. Still, it may be true that the Shimano are really the best because of cold forging, and other stuff only a big company can pull off.

  12. #12
    Senior Member jabberwocky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cp43 View Post
    I have 2 sets of the Hope Pro2 hubs. One on my MTB and one on my winter commuter. They are great on my MTB, but I don't think I'd put them on a touring bike.
    I have a set as well, on my cyclocross commuter. They are very nice for the cost, but definitely not as nicely built as the Kings. I've known more people who had issues with them than Kings, as well (mainly cracked shells and freehubs assemblies). Hope has great service and took care of everyone affected, but obviously thats an issue on a tour.

    They are also a horrible choice if you care about noise; they are extremely loud. They basically sound like a Shimano with a bullhorn held up to the freehub.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    My number one choice are the Phil, they are serviceable, they make actual touring hubs, they didn't start with MTBs in mind. They have cool features like all the spokes on your wheel can be same length for front and back.
    For what its worth, I built all 3 of my King wheelsets and was able to use the same length spoke for both sides, front and back. The length only varied a millimeter or two. I just bought a complete box of the average size and built them up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    Sheldon says that one should avoid all these billet hubs, that the grain alignment in barstock makes for a greater likelihood of torn out spokes... Then he says Phil's are probably the best hub. Bit of a head scratcher. Still, it may be true that the Shimano are really the best because of cold forging, and other stuff only a big company can pull off.
    I'm pretty sure that most high-end machined hubs are heat treated after machining, which solves the grain problem. I've put my Kings through some serious stress (I have a set on my downhill race bike, which routinely hits 10+ foot drops and charges through incredibly steep rock gardens at high speed) without an issue. Over time, I've trashed rims much stronger than your typical touring rim without damaging the hub whatsoever (Mavic 729 or 823).

    I'll also add that I have two sets of Phil SS hubs (on my mtb singlespeed and commuter fixie) and they are also a very high quality hub.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ziemas View Post
    PW hubs are serviceable with 5mm and 8mm hex wrenches. It couldn't be simpler.

    http://www.philwood.com/?s=fsc
    So, how do you replace one of the bearings pressed into the freehub body in a field with two allen keys?
    Cleaning the freewheel mechanism is something you can do on many cartridge bearing hubs with no tools at all.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by d_D View Post
    So, how do you replace one of the bearings pressed into the freehub body in a field with two allen keys?
    Cleaning the freewheel mechanism is something you can do on many cartridge bearing hubs with no tools at all.
    Do you really plan on replacing your bearings on the side of the road?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ziemas View Post
    Do you really plan on replacing your bearings on the side of the road?
    in some of the places i tour, I'd have to, if i had a failure. In some of the places I tour, I bring the odd assortment of parts so at least they are in the country, if not with me on the bike.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbpence View Post
    in some of the places i tour, I'd have to, if i had a failure. In some of the places I tour, I bring the odd assortment of parts so at least they are in the country, if not with me on the bike.
    Which hubs do you use?

  17. #17
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    All hubs eventually fail.

    The PWs are one of the most easy to service. The bearings are a common (well, for cartridge bearings) size and not necessarily expensive. However, it's unlikely you'll find them outside NA, Europe, or Japan/Taiwan. The bearings are protected only by the dust shield made into the bearing itself - no other seal between them and outside.

    The Hope hubs are nice and a better value than PWs IMO. The bearings are better protected than PWs, but they require some special tools to remove and reinstall. Hope has a video on their website of the process.

    I've had good luck with DT hubs. They tend to be the cheapest of the "boutique" hubs.

    I considered CK hubs years ago. I hated the noise, and hated the price more. Real theft-bait IMO. Also not the easiest to work on.

    There's little difference between Shimano Deore, Deore LX and Deore XT freehubs, other than price. Recently I looked for XT hubs and they were $80-100 (I've bought several for <45), so I chose Deore 36h for $29.95 from Jenson. I found an Ebay seller with Velocity Synergy rims (spoke hole drilled 4mm off-center) for $15ea in quantity. I added Wheelsmith 2.0mm SG spokes and WS brass nipples. Also bought some Wheels Manufacturing #6 axles and some 10x1.0 nylon insert lock nuts.

    Built these components into a dishless, 142mm-spaced rear wheel, tensioned to 100kgf (tire mounted and inflated to pressure) with Park tensiometer. Used Spocalc to determine minimum spacing required to achieve equal spoke length (dishless) geometry. The Velocity Synergy offset drilling is a crucial element to this wheel build. With a std center-drilled rim you need ~150mm spacing, which is too much to spread dropouts by hand. You'd have to bend them wider to accept 150mm without losing fingertips. Cost per wheel was $83 with shipping.

    The 142mm spaced rear hub fits into my 135mm LHT with some thumb-on-axle-end + fingers pulling to spread the dropout and seat the axle on each side. I'm careful to not mar the powdercoat any more than possible in this process. In my 135mm Ti frame, it drops in with almost no effort (TI is not as stiff as steel).

    The wider rear spacing affects derailleur alignment somewhat, but on a practical level I hardly notice any difference. I have not needed to attempt a realignment since it works pretty good as is. I use 9spd Shimano cassettes, mtb cranksets, "rapid-rise" derailleurs and Campy 10spd Veloce ergo shifters with a Jtek #2 Shiftmate adaptor. Shifts/brakes pretty darn good. The Sram Rocket Shorty (gripshift) shifters on my flat-bar bike have a slight shifting advantage, but they're the best shifters I've ever used.

    I only have 1,200 miles on this wide spaced rear wheel so far, so it's hardly been evaluated. I expect it will have better longevity than the 135mm spaced wheels I've built since the tension is more uniform side-to-side, and generally higher overall. The Deore hub series gives you as wide a flange spacing (~55mm) and as favorable a spoke angle (in this wide spaced build) as you can get on a bike, except for a Rohloff Speedhub at 60mm.

    A wheel built in this manner should outlast a 135mm spaced rear wheel with Chris King, Phil Wood or whatever hubs you use. You usually crack rims and/or break spokes on a touring bike before the hub bearings get rough or seize, or the hub shell cracks, or the freewheel stops freewheeling. The weak link in the above described wheel is the Synergy rim. It's a fairly lightweight rim at 440g. It would make nice if it were 2mm wider and 1mm thicker in the spokebed area.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    Here's the how-to on bearing replacement of the PW FSA hubs. The photos show a front hubs, but I assume that the rear is similar. If someone knows different please correct me.

    http://www.philwood.com/wp-content/s...structions.pdf

  19. #19
    Chilled Member alaska joe's Avatar
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    I have Chris King classic hubs. I used them on a cross country tour of the US this summer. 3,700+ miles. No problems other than the rear hub developed a bit of slop after 3,000 miles and I spent 5 minutes adjusting it. I was carrying the special CK hub adjustment tool just for this reason (I don't know how you'd do it without the tool).

    Nobody ever tried to steal my bike, but then the 60 lbs of gear hung on it may have discouraged them and hid the hubs from sight.

    I like the noise they make.

  20. #20
    Senior Member jabberwocky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaska joe View Post
    No problems other than the rear hub developed a bit of slop after 3,000 miles and I spent 5 minutes adjusting it. I was carrying the special CK hub adjustment tool just for this reason (I don't know how you'd do it without the tool).
    The two piece axle hubs can be adjusted by inserting a 5mm allen into either end of the axle (after removing the QR), loosening the axle, spinning the preload ring by hand until its snug, and then retightening the axle. Piece of cake. The tool is really designed to make it easier for shops who have to do it more often.

    The one piece axle version has a lockring on the non-drive side of the hub. Loosen it with a 2.5mm allen, tighten the preload ring by hand and retighten the lockring. Takes 30 seconds, and you don't even need to remove the hub from the bike to do it.

    Kings bearings are built to tight tolerances and always loosen up some as they break in. Mine had to be tightened 3-4 times over a few months as I used them, but the bearings eventually settle down and no longer need it. I will say that the one piece axle is a worthy upgrade (its standard now on the ISO disc hubs, but an option on the classics). Its not only stronger, but easier to adjust.

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    Chilled Member alaska joe's Avatar
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    OK, no doubt you are correct. I didn't try that since I had the tool and I guess I just desire precision in these matter.

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    Senior Member jabberwocky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaska joe View Post
    OK, no doubt you are correct. I didn't try that since I had the tool and I guess I just desire precision in these matter.
    No problem, just wanted to make it clear that the tool isn't strictly necessary. With all CK hubs you can clean and lube the freehub mechanism and bearings with no special tools (two 5mm allens and a knife/pick with the 2piece axle, and a 2.5mm allen and a knife/pick with the 1 piece). CK has some excellent videos on their website covering routine maintenance as well as total teardown.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ziemas View Post
    Which hubs do you use?

    chris kink ISO disc hubs - i have disc brakes on my tourer
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    Woah! I just got off work, and look at the response! Thanks for everyone's input, all this has been great.

    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    I'm in the "i can't stand the noise" camp - I have the Chris King hubs on my mountain bike and my friend has them on her road bike. The noise is irritating - think about it and listen to it before you decide.
    You know, I hadn't even thought of that. The things sound like a swarm of bees coming up behind you. I can see that being less than desirable on the machine that I'd be living on. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by truman View Post
    My aversion to CK and PW hubs has more to do with elevating the theftworthiness of my bike. Nobody's gonna steal a whole bike to eBay an XT hubset, but a lot of folks would take that risk for a set they could move easily for $500.
    I was worried about this too. All but one of my bikes are old and many were found in dumpsters. My LHT is the most expensive bike I own, and I worried quite a bit about it getting stolen on some nights touring. It only has XT. I might not be able to sleep with PWs on the thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbpence View Post
    ...i understand your point, however, I just never take my eyes off my bike. ANY BIKE.

    especially while touring. the OP is talking about a tour bike. who wants to get stranded in rural East Jabib??

    would I lock a touring bike, with loaded panniers in public and take off for a few hours? I think not.

    ...

    no bike is safe, and I refuse to live in fear that my possessions might get jacked. IMO, living in fear can help manifest what you fear the most.
    My touring tends to be more on the fringe end of things. I never do hotels, and end up in rotten parts of cities more often than I'd like. Since I like taking my time on tour, I stay in Cities and ride my bike around places, going to museums and coffee shops and the like. Being able to leave my bike locked places for a couple hours at a time is absolutely necessary. I don't like the idea of living months of my life within 40 feet of my bike.
    I hope this comes across as respectfully as I want it to, but how is riding a bike you never take your eyes off of not living in fear of it getting jacked? If I toured on a rusty rockhopper, I'd never worry about someone taking the trouble of going through a u-lock just to get it. Whether I was near it or no.

    But I do agree that it's pointless to be worrying about your bike 24/7. It's almost not worth riding PWs or CKs simply because I'd have to take the time to REALLY lock my bike just going in a convenience store. That can happen 10 or more times a day. That's a lot of fumbling with my keys!

    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    My number one choice are the Phil... They offer hubs for freewheel users which is a tiny subset of tourists, but another sign they are thinking about us kind of thing.
    You know, I've been thinking more about freewheels recently. Just took one apart at the shop today and repacked it. Everything you can possibly do to it can be done with a freewheel remover and a pin spanner. More specialized than a couple allen wrenches I guess, but still not bad.

    The freewheel I took apart had 70 tiny ball bearings in it. Whoo! All in all, a complete, 100% overhaul of the freewheel took 20 minutes at most. I thought that was pretty cool...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ziemas View Post
    Do you really plan on replacing your bearings on the side of the road?
    Yes.

    Well, I don't PLAN on it, but I like knowing that I can. A lot of times "the side of the road" is where I'm living at the moment.

    Quote Originally Posted by alaska joe View Post
    I have Chris King classic hubs. I used them on a cross country tour of the US this summer. 3,700+ miles. No problems other than the rear hub developed a bit of slop after 3,000 miles and I spent 5 minutes adjusting it. I was carrying the special CK hub adjustment tool just for this reason (I don't know how you'd do it without the tool).
    Cool! Fun stuff. I did the same this summer, but on XTs. 4600 miles and they're still smooth with 0 play. This example is actually why I am having such a hard time deciding. A good friend of mine just finished more than 3000 miles on an 80's Fuji with no name hubs and no name cup-and-cone bottom bracket(and on a bmx freewheel). Actually he ended up overhauling his BB on a sidewalk in Philadelphia, but a good mechanic can make anything work.

    Thanks again for everyone's feedback! A couple things were brought up that I hadn't even thought of, like the noise. Bleh. Also, I think I would probably really worry about them getting stolen! I want to look into the offerings of other companies now, too. Like DT. Sounds great.

    I like the idea of the CKs and the PWs so much, but for the money, and for sheer practicality's sake, I'm having a hard time choosing them over good old XTs. I think eventually I probably just need to pick up a pair of PWs and ride them and fix them and play with them so I'm comfortable with the idea of high-end hubs. Right now they're just a bit of a lofty idea to me, and I haven't worked on them much.

    You guys are awesome. If anyone else has input, I'm loving all of it.
    My latest feckless undertakings:
    http://www.erictomczak.webs.com

  25. #25
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbpence View Post
    chris kink ISO disc hubs - i have disc brakes on my tourer
    Discs are great. Can you change the bearings on the side of the road with the King hub?

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