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White Industries Rear Hub Failure

Old 07-22-22, 01:51 AM
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bikeNaround
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White Industries Rear Hub Failure

Hi,

After about 11,000 miles of riding our Cannondale Road Tandem, the rear wheel felt a little sloppy, kind of like if the rear tire was low or flat. At the next stop a pinch of the rear tire ruled that out. But, upon closer inspection of the rear hub, I was shocked to see that two places on the drive-side hub flange had failed and one place on the non drive-side hub flange had also failed There's also a crack on the drive-side flange where another chunk of the hub is about to pull out and two more spokes will be gone. I'm very surprised with this level of failure of a tandem specific White Industries hub after not that many miles, relatively, but maybe I shouldn't be. Together we weigh in at around 310 (170 front/140 rear) lbs and when we go touring our rear panniers are usually around 45 pounds total, 8 lbs in the rear trunk bag on top of the rack, and no panniers or handlebar bag on the front. The bulk of the 11,000 miles are on paved surfaces but we have ridden on some gravel roads and paths occasionally. This White Industries rear hub is a 40h hub and about 3.5 years old. Either there were defects in the hub, the wheel was built up wrong (wrong spoke tension), or we just plain overloaded the wheel. No damage to the rim. The bike has not been wrecked or ridden anywhere that I would have expected this level of failure of a hub.

Any input on likely causes and recommendations for a more robust wheel that is suitable for loaded tandem touring would be greatly appreciated.

John


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Old 07-22-22, 06:55 AM
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Sh*t happens. In our experience, things just fail on tandems faster than on single bikes due to the increased load.

11,000 miles on a high quality tandem specific hub is admittedly pretty quick to fail. It’s likely due to a manufacturing defect in that hub, improper spoke tension, one or more traumatic hits to the wheel, or a combination of the above.

we did have problems with Roloff hub flanges failing. However that was likely the result of the high spoke tension from the paired spoke design, and I wouldn’t really expect that from a properly tensioned 40 spoke wheel.

I’d just replace the wheel, make sure the spoke tension on the new wheel is correct and not worry too much about it.
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Old 07-22-22, 02:04 PM
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For loaded tandem touring, you probably can't do much better than Phil Wood. Touring has always been their forte. However, in the changing world, I'm not sure what they're offering now:
https://phil-wood-co.myshopify.com/c...s/cassette-hub

I do not see a specific tandem hub listed in their product lineup. However, you may just pick the rear spacing, drilling & disc option to get what you need. Nope, only offering 135mm QR or 142mm X 12 through axle:
https://phil-wood-co.myshopify.com/c...29614836449355
And:
"*ISO disc hubs will be discontinued soon."

So unfortunately, it looks like Phil has exited the tandem market for anyone not running through axles.

I'd choose Chris King as an alternative. Be sure to spec a stainless steel freehub body. You don't need or want an aluminum freehub body for tandem use.

I'd also highly recommend your next build be with butted spokes. The higher elasticity will spread spoke tension changes throughout the wheel better.

PS Another option is DT/Swiss. They've provided quality tandem hubs for decades now. They've had their issues, but have generally resolved them. The easy serviceability in the field is also a huge plus. Freehub body can be removed by hand to access the ratchets. I just did a 500 mile France tour with them. I carried spare ratchets just in case, but never needed them. The Hugi hubs (predecessor to DT/Swiss, but the original design) on my '93 Cannondale are still going strong. Never serviced them; They've never as much as HINTED at skipping or having issues.

Last edited by LV2TNDM; 07-22-22 at 02:08 PM.
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Old 07-22-22, 02:28 PM
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White Industry has a 5 year warranty: https://www.whiteind.com/wp-content/...urn-Policy.pdf

(I don't know how long you have had yours, but I would bring this to their attention.)

Chris King, FWIW, has a lifetime warranty.
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Old 07-22-22, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by bikeNaround View Post
I'm very surprised with this level of failure of a tandem specific White Industries hub after not that many miles, relatively, but maybe I shouldn't be.
Have you contacted White Industries? I have found bike-gear companies almost universally eager to make things right, even when years out of warranty and with no obligation to do so.
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Old 07-23-22, 02:25 AM
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What gauge spokes were used? They look very stout in the pix. And what rim?
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Old 07-23-22, 01:59 PM
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[QUOTE=sapporoguy;22584060]Have you contacted White Industries? I have found bike-gear companies almost universally eager to make things right, even when years out of warranty and with no obligation to 2
i 2nd this, i have found white very accommodating to warranty concerns​​​
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Old 07-24-22, 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Polaris OBark View Post
White Industry has a 5 year warranty: https://www.whiteind.com/wp-content/...urn-Policy.pdf

(I don't know how long you have had yours, but I would bring this to their attention.)
Originally Posted by sapporoguy View Post
Have you contacted White Industries? I have found bike-gear companies almost universally eager to make things right, even when years out of warranty and with no obligation to do so.
The shop mechanic where I bought the bike was not going to be back until Sunday so I plan on taking the wheel in to show him tomorrow. Now, for some information that I hadn't yet provided. This hub failure was the second time the exact same thing happened. The first time was around 10,000 miles. The bike shop contacted WI and WI agreed to warranty the hub. The rim was in good shape so WI sent the bike shop a new hub and the bike shop built up my repaired wheel with a new hub using my old rim and charged me the wheel building rate - not great but I had a zero time hub which had brand new bearings so I was good with that especially since the hub was around 6 years old at the time of the first failure. Now with at least 21,000 miles on the rim, I'm a little hesitant to put any money or effort into a second repair but maybe if they will repair it again I could keep the wheel a spare which wouldn't be a bad thing since I have no spare wheels for the tandem. Going from memory, for the first failure I believe I first contacted WI directly and they weren't receptive to warranting my hub. It wasn't until I had the bike shop submit the hub for warranty on my behalf that they were willing to agree to a replacement. So, I'm not too hopeful that I'll get any assistance from WI this time around but you never know until you ask. I'll report back what kind of response I get when I show them this second failure.
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Old 07-24-22, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Ross200 View Post
What gauge spokes were used? They look very stout in the pix. And what rim?
Just measured with a caliper and it's 2mm dia so 14 ga straight gauge spoke. The rim is a Sun Rims ME14A which has spoke hole eyelets.

The wheels always stayed true and I never had any issues with the them outside the rear hub flange fractures.
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Old 07-24-22, 09:47 AM
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I've got 3 (non-tandem) wheel-sets with White Industry hubs, and haven't had a problem, but your experience makes me very reluctant to go back to them. My experience with Chris King is that they go well beyond the call of duty to make things right.

If you need new wheels, and can get Chris King, I recommend them without hesitation.
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Old 07-24-22, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by bikeNaround View Post
Going from memory, for the first failure I believe I first contacted WI directly and they weren't receptive to warranting my hub. It wasn't until I had the bike shop submit the hub for warranty on my behalf that they were willing to agree to a replacement.
What were WIís conclusions about the cause of the first failure?
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Old 07-24-22, 04:02 PM
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I am also surprised that your hub took that kind of damage. I have a 1990 Burly Bongo. When purchased the wife and I combined weight was near 400lbs. The cheap Wheel set it came with had broken spokes anda bent axle within a week. I ordered 48 spoked Phil Wood tandem hubs and new rims and spokes. We rode it for near twenty years and part of that time Towing a two wheeled cart with our children. There Has never been hub damage. No spoke breakage but cracked rims a half dozen times. the White industries Tandem rear hub weighs 306 grams The Phil Wood Tandem rear hub weighs 506 grams. The price is also higher.

Last edited by Rick; 07-26-22 at 05:11 PM.
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Old 07-24-22, 04:28 PM
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we did have problems with Roloff hub flanges failing. However that was likely the result of the high spoke tension from the paired spoke design, and I wouldnít really expect that from a properly tensioned 40 spoke wheel.
I have a Rohloff equipped belt drive touring bicycle. I weigh near your combined weight. It was supposed to be a custom build but they used different spokes and rims than I requested. the spoke line was Terrible on that large Rohloff hub. I ordered in Sapim 14 gauge Leader spokes and there Polyax nipples. The spokes are straight gauge and the Polyax nipples are shaped like a ball joint were they contact the rim. I found old stock new Velocity Psycho rims. I rebuilt the wheels and used Tri Flo oil on threads and spoke nipple contact points. The spoke line is perfect and the TIR is .005 both Horizontally and latterly. I have seen three other Rohloff equipped bicycles with lousey spoke line. If your bicycle doesn't have good spoke line then you are likely to break the flanges again.
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Old 07-24-22, 10:05 PM
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Straight gauge spokes can cause or exacerbate this type of problem because of the lack of elasticity. The length of the elbow, the angle of the elbow and the shape of the spoke head can also cause problems if they don't fit the spoke hole/flange properly.

I don't like the fit of DTSwiss spokes in most non-DT hubs. They have messed with the shape of the elbow to facilitate the ease of machine building at the expense of longevity. Hub flange and spoke elbow failure seem too common in these combinations.

10000 miles is not the duty life we would like but it also is not insignificant on any bike but especially a tandem. Disc brakes put tremendous stresses on hubs the we didn't see with rim brakes. We don't have a lot of good current choices for any tandem duty components, particularly QR hubs and touring rims. Component manufacturers just don't see a market and too many tandem makers are using single bike parts and assuming that most owners will get on with them in OK fashion. Our anecdotes of "lifetime" parts from decades past are just that-history not likely to occur again soon. By most standards WI and Rohloff are probably more supportive of the tandem community than other component suppliers.
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Old 07-26-22, 12:00 AM
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Originally Posted by sapporoguy View Post
What were WIís conclusions about the cause of the first failure?
Finally got ahold of the guy that I always deal with at the LBS (who was also the same one that got me the warranty replacement on the first failed WI hub). He has been in training and won't be available to look at the wheel until this coming Friday. He said he planned on taking some pictures and reporting it to WI so I'll let you know what they have to say when we hear back from them.
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Old 07-26-22, 06:36 PM
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If you have had it happen twice it seems like something is putting excessive stress on the hub flange.
I have WI hubs on our tandem since 2011 and have had no problem.
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Old 07-27-22, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Ross200 View Post
Straight gauge spokes can cause or exacerbate this type of problem because of the lack of elasticity. The length of the elbow, the angle of the elbow and the shape of the spoke head can also cause problems if they don't fit the spoke hole/flange properly.

I don't like the fit of DTSwiss spokes in most non-DT hubs. They have messed with the shape of the elbow to facilitate the ease of machine building at the expense of longevity. Hub flange and spoke elbow failure seem too common in these combinations.

10000 miles is not the duty life we would like but it also is not insignificant on any bike but especially a tandem. Disc brakes put tremendous stresses on hubs the we didn't see with rim brakes. We don't have a lot of good current choices for any tandem duty components, particularly QR hubs and touring rims. Component manufacturers just don't see a market and too many tandem makers are using single bike parts and assuming that most owners will get on with them in OK fashion. Our anecdotes of "lifetime" parts from decades past are just that-history not likely to occur again soon. By most standards WI and Rohloff are probably more supportive of the tandem community than other component suppliers.
Excellent post. Thanks for sharing. I hadn't noticed the change in DT spokes. Interesting. I have a bunch of boxes of old straight gauge spokes; I'll compare one to a new DT to see the difference.

Flange failure is not THAT uncommon on tandems. They simply load the rear wheel to a degree single bikes don't see. That plus the torque loads means the hub is working triple duty! As someone who's gone through six rear mountain tandem hubs (freehub body & hubshell failure due to high torque), I can appreciate the stress rear hubs undergo.

I wouldn't push the warranty issue. You cannot expect a component to have an unlimited life on a tandem, especially one that's been toured on. It's unrealistic to expect this.

Light. Strong. Cheap. Pick two!

The bike industry is constantly trying to produce products that are durable, light and not overly expensive. In other words, they COULD make a lifetime product, but it would be either too heavy or expensive to be commercially viable. So we get stuff that's pretty darn good for most uses. But tandem touring often exceeds their parameters.

That said, I'd suggest the OP then go with triple butted spokes to optimize spoke interface at the flanges, and elasticity in the middle where it's needed. This will provide the best durability for the long run.
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Old 07-27-22, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by LV2TNDM View Post
I wouldn't push the warranty issue. You cannot expect a component to have an unlimited life on a tandem, especially one that's been toured on. It's unrealistic to expect this.
I agree with you. I'm don't expect WI to pay for the failure this time. WI replaced the hub after the first failure and I now have over 21,000 combined miles on the two hubs.

I was most interested in:
1) getting a read on the expected life span of my hub for our weight, pannier weight, and the type of riding we do and then compare that to the amount of miles I got
2) explore what options exist for hubs/wheels that might be an improvement in reliability.

I am going to provide feedback to WI with details about how I used the hub, how long it lasted the second time, and pictures of the failure so that they will have another data point to consider for designing and manufacturing future hubs. Based on the replies I've gotten here and some scouring of the web, I'm pretty good with 21,000 miles for that hub.
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Old 07-27-22, 11:59 PM
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Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
If you have had it happen twice it seems like something is putting excessive stress on the hub flange.
I have WI hubs on our tandem since 2011 and have had no problem.
I think the excessive stress has come in the form of our fully loaded touring that sometimes includes off-road and, at times, has included trails that were similar to mountain bike single track. All off-road riding was done with extra care when navigating the paths but when riding unfamiliar trails while touring you inevitably ride through places that are extra hard on the bike.

In 2019, we did two self guided tours in Europe. One was from Amsterdam down to the English Channel, across on the ferry, along the southern coast of UK, and then on up to London. The second one was from Paris to London. On those two tours we didn't have our panniers but I did make a tactical error. Previous tours we did in Europe were most, if not all, paved surface but these two tours make use of lots of dirt trails though forest, farmers fields, and the like. Before we left for these two tours I didn't verify the surfaces we would be riding on and just assumed that they would be paved - oopsie. We did both those tours with 28mm wide tires and I felt very fortunate to complete both tours with no flats. Live and learn. I have been more attentive to inquiring about what surfaces I'll be riding for tours taken since then and mounting the appropriate tires for the terrain.

We got our Cannondale new in March of 2012.
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Old 07-28-22, 05:13 PM
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That type of failure is not uncommon.
I have had similar hub breakage on Hadley front tandem hub.
My buddy on his rear Hadley tandem hub.
I did notice the replacement hubs have tiny bit taller flanges and stainless steel ends on the axle spacers. Will see how the new hubs hold up.
Data point(s). Buddys bike, early 2000's vintage wheelset, maybe 15,000 miles. Mine, little bit newer but much harder life and many, many more miles.
Is what it is.
I do inspect stuff like this now with a more serious eye than in years past.
Be safe and hope the OP gets good service from new hub.
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