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Hub Qualitative Differences

Old 08-30-09, 04:40 PM
  #1  
wb416
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Hub Qualitative Differences

I'm trying to learn more about the differences in quality between hubs
as I think about building a rear wheel for the learning experience.
What are you likely to see/feel/hear different between a good Phil
Wood vs a value-priced Shimano hub?

What about number of internal ratchets or the clicking sound a hub
makes. Is quieter better, or just different?

Thanks!
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Old 08-30-09, 04:54 PM
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I'm no expert, but can tell you this will quickly become a religious debate. Personally I like Shimano hubs because:

1) they are comparatively inexpensive
2) loose ball cup/cone bearings are cheap to replace
3) I'm familiar with their maintenance and quality expectations

Personally I have no problem repacking my shimano hubs twice a year with new balls and grease. Some people think that's ridiculous and instead prefer a sealed cartridge bearing that is lower maintenance. Replacing cartridge bearings can cost a lot of money potentially.
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Old 08-30-09, 05:19 PM
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I'm a Shimano hub lover too.

The weak link on rear hubs is the freehub body. With a Shimano hub it's easy to replace the freehub body and they are easy to acquire. Many other hubs aren't nearly so easy even if you are able to source repair parts.
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Old 08-30-09, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I'm a Shimano hub lover too.

The weak link on rear hubs is the freehub body. With a Shimano hub it's easy to replace the freehub body and they are easy to acquire. Many other hubs aren't nearly so easy even if you are able to source repair parts.
You also forget to mention that the reason why it's so easy to replace the freehub is because they suck so much to require frequent replacement. And by suck I mean, good value for the money but there's better options out there.
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Old 08-30-09, 06:33 PM
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Phil hubs are fantastic. Shimano hubs are remarkable value. The best Shimano ones are pricey and nearly as good as the best boutique hubs. The low-level Shimano hubs are cheap and really very good. I am not generally a fan of Shimano, but their hubs are good.

Loud v quiet freehubs? Very different opinions on this. And to some extent it depends on what you are doing with the bike. Everything else equal, the louder the freehub, the fewer the pawls(and hopefully therefore the more robust each pawl is.) So there are some in the gonzo MTB world that prefer hubs that tend to be louder. A Chris King hub, for example, is loud as heck. You can hear someone coasting on one from a block away. It makes a very distinctive sound. It sounds sort of like, "Coin, coin, coin, coin..."

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Old 08-30-09, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by operator View Post
You also forget to mention that the reason why it's so easy to replace the freehub is because they suck so much to require frequent replacement. And by suck I mean, good value for the money but there's better options out there.
You seem to have a lot of problems I don't. Maybe your dealing with mostly off-road conditions and I'm strictly a road rider.

I have a Dura Ace (ok, it is the top of Shimano's line) 7700-series freehub with over 50,000 miles and the cones, races and freehub body are all original and still running perfectly.

My experience with other Shimano hubs like 105, Ultegra and Deore LX says these hubs and freehub bodies are very durable too. In 135,000 miles of my own riding plus tens of thousand of miles by other riders that I know, there has been ONE Shimano freehub body that needed to be replaced and only because it was noisy, not because it failed in service.
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Old 08-30-09, 07:42 PM
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Sorry this isn't a reply but a qualifying question: for those who prefer the Shimano hubs, would you still recommend them if a person was planning on doing a multi-year tour in developing countries? My concern is a hub failure in some place that wouldn't even have the tools to repair a hub let alone replace one. I would want one that is virtually indestructible and will last the long haul. I hear that Phil Wood hubs fit this bill. Anyone disagree with this statement? I apologize if this if I should not have entered this question in this thread.
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Old 08-30-09, 08:59 PM
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I have a variety of hubs on my bikes. As far as actual performance goes, they sound differently but they all roll and engage quite well. Shimano hubs work great, but the one thing I don't like are their freehub bodies, mostly for lack/ease of serviceability.

I'm a King fan for the most part on my mountain bikes due to their ring drive engagement (72 points of engagement, no pawls), weight, quality, complete rebuildability and relatively simple maintenance (which I do all of myself, have their tools). I'd love a Phil Wood but have never had one, but do have 4 sets of Kings. I've got two that are nearly silent, one medium and one fairly loud. Don't hear 'em when you're pedaling...

I also have a few Shimano hubs from over the years: 600, Ultegra, XT and XTR but have had but one freehub body failure that I can remember, the rest are going strong after many years (but I do wish the freehub bodies were more service-friendly). Great value hubs...just wish they had serviceable freehub bodies. They're a bit trickier to service and maintain than a King, too.

I also have a DT 240s disc hub that is quite nice and has been reliable and easily serviced (although actual bearing replacement would be a hassle as I don't have their tools), although it is a replacement for an older DT240 whose hub body cracked (but was replaced beyond warranty for free by DT--awesome customer service). Very good sealing on this hub, and I like that it has no pawls in it's drive system, but is a bit different than King's. Same as the older Shimano's engagement-wise, though (newer models of each have increased engagement, though).

I spend silly amounts of money on hubs obviously...
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Old 08-31-09, 11:15 AM
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For extended touring, I would think bearing maintenance should be a stronger consideration than risk of freehub failure. Of course you don't want a rinky-dink freehub - but you can re-pack loose ball hubs assuming you've got grease and 2 small cone wrenches.

Given enough distance ridden and the conditions of, you will at some point need to service bearings - regardless of the type or quality. As has been posted, most people can ride for decades without breaking a freehub. Just some food for thought.
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Old 08-31-09, 11:46 AM
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Nice food for thought. Thanks for the info! I look forward to reading more of your responses!
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Old 08-31-09, 01:57 PM
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I have found that the brand of hub I ride has had next to no effect on my riding comfort or ease of maintenance. Even cheap hubs do their job pretty well, considering.

The only think that makes a difference above basic quality (which is hard to observe unless something actually gos and breaks on you) is having seals - those rubber seals that come with Shimano mtb hubs (and probably others) are a godsend at keeping dust out. Otherwise, I've never thought much about brand differences, and never had a hub fail, either on tour or for everyday riding.
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Old 08-31-09, 02:23 PM
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You'll have to pick your poison on the hub issue. If spending bigger bucks on a hub that has a better track record or something a little cheaper and a decent track record are your choices. Consider what you'll be able to repair locally if you do run into a problem. Would you be able to get a freehub for any of the makes in your touring areas? What other repair parts are/are not available in those areas?

The Touring section might have some discussions on what you are looking for. The Tandem section had a discussion on hubs a little while back on hub qualities.
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Old 08-31-09, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by KazzBike View Post
Sorry this isn't a reply but a qualifying question: for those who prefer the Shimano hubs, would you still recommend them if a person was planning on doing a multi-year tour in developing countries? My concern is a hub failure in some place that wouldn't even have the tools to repair a hub let alone replace one. I would want one that is virtually indestructible and will last the long haul. I hear that Phil Wood hubs fit this bill. Anyone disagree with this statement? I apologize if this if I should not have entered this question in this thread.
Phil Wood hubs certainly have a good reputation. I would think the primary concern with respect to hub reliability is the cassette bearing system.

Originally Posted by smurf hunter View Post
For extended touring, I would think bearing maintenance should be a stronger consideration than risk of freehub failure. Of course you don't want a rinky-dink freehub - but you can re-pack loose ball hubs assuming you've got grease and 2 small cone wrenches.
From what I understand, the Phil Wood hubs are very easy to service in the field. Carrying some extra sealed bearing cassettes would seem easy to do.

Last edited by njkayaker; 08-31-09 at 03:19 PM.
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Old 08-31-09, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
Phil Wood hubs certainly have a good reputation. I would think the primary concern with respect to hub reliability is the cassette bearing system.


From what I understand, the Phil Wood hubs are very easy to service. Carrying some extra bearing cassette would seem easy to do.
You could also carry a spare Shimano freewheel hub body, and for much less $ (with proper cone wrenches and a 10mm, maybe 12mm, allen wrench as necessary). You could do the same with a Phil Wood or Chris King hub (with as little as one allen wrench, depending on axle option, for a King, haven't worked on a Phil). A Shimano freehub body costs about 1/3 that of an aluminum King drive shell with bearings installed (more $ for the stainless steel model), imagine it's similar for the Phil Wood. The hub cost differential can be even more substantial than that, but would depend on which model of Shimano you're talking about. Probably more easily find service/parts for the Shimano hubs abroad in any case.
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Old 08-31-09, 06:51 PM
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between shimano hubs, the quality difference only seems to be in the outer finish and dust cap.

tiagra has previous generation rubber dust caps. 105 and ultegra have that 'labyrinth' metal dust cap as well as the rubber o-ring seals.

if you just want to practice, it's hard to go wrong with a tiagra or 105 hub.
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Old 08-31-09, 07:12 PM
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I built a set of wheels around a pair of Ultegra 6600 hubs. What I like is they are loose-bearing and simple to maintain. They remind me of my 1982 Campagnolo Record hubs - simplicity itself. And those Campy's are just resting up until I build another set of wheels with them - still in perfect shape (a few splotches on the chrome, but no internal wear from running dry or out of adjustment). So the Campy hubs will be my standard by which I'll be measuring all others. Except.....

A pair of Phil Wood hubs or bottom-bracket. These are very different animals altogether, and I don't think comparing a sealed mechanism with a loose-bearing set-up makes much sense. If it were me personally planing an expedition to Mars and needed something least likely to need attention, or spare parts, I'd run the Phil Woods. As I love to tinker with my equipment to keep it running in perfect sync, the Ultegra's fit the bill nicely.
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Old 08-31-09, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Panthers007 View Post
I built a set of wheels around a pair of Ultegra 6600 hubs. What I like is they are loose-bearing and simple to maintain. They remind me of my 1982 Campagnolo Record hubs - simplicity itself. And those Campy's are just resting up until I build another set of wheels with them - still in perfect shape (a few splotches on the chrome, but no internal wear from running dry or out of adjustment). So the Campy hubs will be my standard by which I'll be measuring all others. Except.....

A pair of Phil Wood hubs or bottom-bracket. These are very different animals altogether, and I don't think comparing a sealed mechanism with a loose-bearing set-up makes much sense. If it were me personally planing an expedition to Mars and needed something least likely to need attention, or spare parts, I'd run the Phil Woods. As I love to tinker with my equipment to keep it running in perfect sync, the Ultegra's fit the bill nicely.
IME there's not much real difference in sealing properties between most of the Shimano cup and cone type hubs vs the cartridge bearings. Kings aren't as good as keeping crud out as some people think, some Shimano hubs don't have as good a sealing as other Shimano hubs. The DT labyrinth seals have kept pretty much all the gunk out so far compared to the others...
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Old 09-01-09, 05:52 AM
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You can't go wrong with Shimano Ultegra or XT hubs. Best bang for the buck. 105/LX/SLX level is also great too with a little less finish and a different sealing system.

I think changing out loose bearings is a whole heck of a lot easier than changing out cartridges. You have to figure out how to bang out and repress cartridges. Shimano Freehub bodies also rarely go bad unless you are riding through rivers and swamps.

Most shops, if not all, carry loose balls and shimano bodies. Not sure if the shop you roll in will have a king, phil, dt body and cartiridge bearings in stock.
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Old 09-01-09, 08:53 AM
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Lots of opinions on hubs and bearings.

How about any correlations between ratcheting and noise levels... number of ratchets, etc?
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Old 09-01-09, 09:26 AM
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My experience with Phil Wood hubs:

After getting fed up with loose-ball bearings that need endless cleaning/lubing/adjusting/part-replacement, in 1997 I bought a pair of PW mtn hubs.

They have been through many different rims, and two different bikes.
I have never touched the internals.
About 6 weeks ago the freehub started making noises.
I sent the wheel into PW for $55 flat-rate service (plus two-way shipping).
It came back with all new bearings and a new freehub body.

$55 of repairs over 12 years, and *no* time wasted on maintenance is a bargain in my POV.

BTW The PW freehub is loud initially, but gets quieter over the years.
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Old 09-01-09, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by wb416 View Post
Lots of opinions on hubs and bearings.

How about any correlations between ratcheting and noise levels... number of ratchets, etc?
Noise level is what it is. Shimanos tend to be fairly quiet, DT's a bit loud, Kings vary from quiet to loud (just depends on the individual hub you end up with there). Shimagnolo says the PWs are fairly loud but get quieter (some Kings do that, too).

Points of engagement vary with type of freehub mechanism, as does sound level. Some use pawls, like Shimano (and I think PW). Some use a different mechanism, like King with their ring drive and DT with their star ratchet system. They have various degrees of engagement; King with their 72 points is 5 degrees, older Shimanos had 18 points, or 20 degrees, new Shimanos have 36, or 10 degrees, and believe DT has now gone from 18 to 36 as well. I think I read PW has 24, but not sure.

There are other quality hubs, too, worthy mentions would be I9 (industrynine.net), Hope and Hadley.

There is also the issue of weight. Phil Woods tend to be pretty porky compared to the others...
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