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Touring hub reliability: Phil Woods and others?

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Touring hub reliability: Phil Woods and others?

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Old 09-13-16, 02:38 PM
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mev
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Touring hub reliability: Phil Woods and others?

I had a second rear hub go in ~3500 miles of my current tour. Two different bikes, so it wasn't the first (fixed) hub failing. General symptom is the same: the pawls are not grabbing and hence the freehub spins freely both directions.

The first failure was preceded by an occasional "slip" in the several hundred miles previous. Unclear if the grease was gunked up or the spring was also a problem. The second failure was much more sudden. No "slips" but one point the hub was working and short while later the hub was no longer working. Haven't opened the hub yet to see if the spring broke or some other cause.

Needless to say, a bit frustrating and hence trying to see if others have experience with particularly bombproof wheels including hubs. I switched to Phil Woods hubs after a trip across Canada 19 years ago where I broke three (36-spoke) wheels. I believe switching to 48-spoke hubs has generally helped lower my incidence of rim failures. However, I've now had four hub failures (in 50,000+ miles of touring) since the switch including two in the last 3,500 miles.

Are there other very reliable hubs to consider in addition to Phil Woods? Any other experiences?
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Old 09-13-16, 03:11 PM
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Are you saying you've had 4 Phil Woods hub failures with 2 in the last 3500 miles?
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Old 09-13-16, 03:33 PM
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I've been using White Industries CLD hubs for a while without any issues. The freehub body is titanuim, which wears better than alloy. Also use Shimano XT hubs without issue, but they require more maintenance. Have a couple other wheelsets with Mavic hubs, which don't seem quite as good as the others.
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Old 09-13-16, 03:40 PM
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so what is the life of a hub ,is it just down to luck weather you get 50 k or 5 k before it stars giving trouble.
i head the Phil Wood are fantastic hubs as is Chris king and White industries .
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Old 09-13-16, 04:19 PM
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I've had good results with XT's. I used a set for 9,000 miles before rebuilding, but probably best to rebuild after 5,000 touring miles. What are you using?
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Old 09-13-16, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by robow View Post
Are you saying you've had 4 Phil Woods hub failures with 2 in the last 3500 miles?
Sorry to make it complicated:

1. I started on my touring bike. The Phil Wood hub failed after 1788 miles. I had it repaired and cycled another 388 miles on the touring bike.
2. I switched to my mountain bike to do parts of Great Divide. I cycled 1404 miles on that bike and the Phil Wood hub failed.
3. Both the mountain bike and touring bike wheels had some mileage on them before the trip, but 3580 miles into the trip, I've had two Phil Woods hub failures one on my mountain bike and one on my touring bike.

Prior to this trip, I've had two other Phil Wood hub failures, however in those cases I had considerably more mileage on the wheels before the hub failed. For example, both of them failed after >10,000 miles on each hub.

Looking at the Phil Woods page (https://www.philwood.com/products/hu...ringhubs.php); I believe my two recent failures have been one of the 2nd generation (on the touring bike) and one of the 1st generation (on the mountain bike). Can't quite tell if I'm just having bad luck, abusing things or some other reason but frustrating to have these failures.
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Old 09-13-16, 04:47 PM
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interesting issue Mev (although of course, not from your perspective) I ride pretty regularly, mostly commuting, and havent done any trips over about a month in length, but I have never in my life had a hub go like that.
Granted, I'm a light guy with rarely more than 45lbs of a load, but I don't see how load would change the issue here--I really do wonder if its a contamination issue, I know you have done pretty tough trips, and am doing, where dirt, mud etc is on a whole diff scale than my riding and touring experiences.

Given your past failures, and specifically the pawls going wonky in some way, it reminds of a guy who recently told me of winter riding and how he has had pawls do this from the cold, and banging his wheel to get the pawls to engage again--which brings me back to the contamination idea of stuff getting gunked up royally in your cases??

who knows, not much of a help to your question, just throwing out some ideas that could perhaps help reduce the risk of it happening again, if certain hubs are known to have much better seals etc.

here are some questions though--am I right in thinking that your bike possibly gets really mudded up a lot (Im thinking of your Alaska dirt road bit you dealt with, I know you mentioned it was muddy and tough)

wish I had some proper suggestions other than just ideas of "why"
All the best with finding hubs that last for you.
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Old 09-13-16, 04:52 PM
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The only hub failure I've ever had was due to corrosion after 3 years of winter riding, and no maintenance. Road salt will destroy pretty much any hub - that was my fault.
You mention something about grease gumming up, certainly a possibility,since there should be no grease in that part of the hub, just light machine oil.
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Old 09-13-16, 06:13 PM
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Wow, someone lays claim to the fact that they don't like an LHT and now Mev confesses to not one but two Phil Woods hubs giving him problems, all in the same day. I think I'm going to have to go lie down for a while.

Seriously though, have always heard great things about White hubs though I'm too cheap to have purchased any. I've always been a big proponent of XT's and 105's with just a little maintainence and have had several go well over 10-15K miles
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Old 09-13-16, 06:40 PM
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If you have that many failures, I think you need to ask yourself what are you doing that cause so many failures, when others don't have such failures. Do you suddenly push on the pedal in a way that causes a shock on the pawls, or do you push lightly on the pedal until the pawls engage and only then push hard?

Several above had good comments on XT hubs. I also have had good luck on XT hubs, but I have avoided the Aluminum axle versions, I toured on both M752 and M760 XT rear hubs.

I believe that the Aluminum axle versions use an unusual tool to replace the freehub body, but the earlier steel axle hubs use a common tool. If you try the XT hubs, you might consider carrying the right tool and a spare freehub body considering your history with freehub body failures.

I have never used a Velo Orange hub, but they sound interesting. You might consider giving them a phone call and see what they say about longevity of pawls.
Grand Cru Disc Touring Hub 135mm
I think they also have a non-disc version.

I had problems with a motorcycle kickstarter, the shop finally told me that I should push lightly on the starter until the pawl engaged, then push hard enough to start the engine. I had been just suddenly pushing hard on the kickstarter and the shock was causing bits of metal to chip of the kickstarter pawl. I had no problems after that. In this case it was operator error.
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Old 09-13-16, 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
If you have that many failures, I think you need to ask yourself what are you doing that cause so many failures, when others don't have such failures. Do you suddenly push on the pedal in a way that causes a shock on the pawls, or do you push lightly on the pedal until the pawls engage and only then push hard?

Several above had good comments on XT hubs. I also have had good luck on XT hubs, but I have avoided the Aluminum axle versions, I toured on both M752 and M760 XT rear hubs.

I believe that the Aluminum axle versions use an unusual tool to replace the freehub body, but the earlier steel axle hubs use a common tool. If you try the XT hubs, you might consider carrying the right tool and a spare freehub body considering your history with freehub body failures.

I have never used a Velo Orange hub, but they sound interesting. You might consider giving them a phone call and see what they say about longevity of pawls.
Grand Cru Disc Touring Hub 135mm
I think they also have a non-disc version.
I've certainly asked myself if there is something I'm doing to exasperate the problem. I shifted to 48-spoke Phil Wood hubs after a 1997 trip across Canada where in 6089 miles I broke three rims. Rims have been more reliable in subsequent longer tours but now wondering if either stresses from being heavier than average or perhaps something else is helping earlier failures. I'll start carrying an extra freehub kit so can replace the innards when they do break - but potentially also wondering about trying a different hub.

I'm sure over many miles I'll sometimes engage quickly/heavily and sometimes more systematically though typically try to engage somewhat more measured rather than stomping on the pedals.

I'll see what the failure is when bike shop opens up the hub.
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Old 09-13-16, 07:48 PM
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Back about '97 I bought a pair of PW hubs for my mtn/touring bike.
In the early 2000's I moved them to my winter/touring bike where they are still in use to this day.
In all that time, each one has been sent into PW for rebuilding, just once.
IIRC the rebuild was a flat rate of $50/ea, and the rear one came back with an obviously new freehub body.
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Old 09-13-16, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
I've had good results with XT's. I used a set for 9,000 miles before rebuilding, but probably best to rebuild after 5,000 touring miles. What are you using?
BA, what does "rebuilding" entail?

I have had good success with LX and XT hubs. We also use Ultegra and 105 hubs.

My wife has a set of Ultegra hubs on her touring bike. That bike has just gone over 16,000 miles, a large proportion of those miles were fully loade tours.

I go through our hubs before each major tour, that means at least once a year. If we have especially wet weather during a long tour, I'll service the hubs when we get home, as part of the bike cleanup. The hubs are disassembled, bearings and races cleaned, reinstalled with Phil Wood grease,and adjusted using the pre-load method. I have never had a free hub failure, and our touring bikes see a lot of rough usage.

P.S. The aluminum axle XTs use a 14 mm hex wrench to remove the free hub.

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Old 09-13-16, 08:33 PM
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You mentioned grease. If that implies that you used grease in the ratchet mechanism, that's your problem.

Freehub ratchet failures are rare, so if you have more than two in a lifetime, I'd suspect that you or something you do is the common demominator.
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Old 09-13-16, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
You mentioned grease. If that implies that you used grease in the ratchet mechanism, that's your problem.
Sorry, didn't use grease.

First PW hub that failed on this tour was purchased October 2015 and built into touring wheel at wheel building class.. Some shakedown riding and shorter tours before starting but otherwise ridden from Prudhoe Bay, AK to Smithers, BC with no service done.

Second PW hub that failed on this tour was purchased fall 2014 and built into wheel by bike shop. I rode it for a year and a half before the tour. Otherwise ridden from McBride, BC to Rawlins, WY with no service done. Mostly on road, but also some gravel/rough great divide touring.

The failure mode of the first failure was that I noticed it might occasionally "slip", as if a pawl was not engaging and the hub slipped forward. That started a few hundred miles before it failed for certain. That is why I wonder if the hub got contaminated preventing the pawls from engaging.

The failure mode of the second failure was not preceded by slipping behavior but instead it worked and then it didn't. I was climbing a hill at the time it failed. I'll have bike shop open the hub, but wonder if the spring broke or something else to cause a more sudden failure.
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Old 09-13-16, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
You mentioned grease. If that implies that you used grease in the ratchet mechanism, that's your problem.

Freehub ratchet failures are rare, so if you have more than two in a lifetime, I'd suspect that you or something you do is the common demominator.
Probably correct. I had a bike mechanic pack grease in a Mavic freehub so that I couldn't even hear the ratcheting, rather than replacing a worn part. Immediately brought it back and insisted he remove the grease and replace with the recommended oil. And order the replacement part per manufacturer specs. Hub works great again. I think you or your mechanic are likely doing something wrong.
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Old 09-13-16, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post

The failure mode of the first failure was that I noticed it might occasionally "slip", as if a pawl was not engaging and the hub slipped forward. That started a few hundred miles before it failed for certain. That is why I wonder if the hub got contaminated preventing the pawls from engaging.

The failure mode of the second failure was not preceded by slipping behavior but instead it worked and then it didn't. I was climbing a hill at the time it failed. I'll have bike shop open the hub, but wonder if the spring broke or something else to cause a more sudden failure.
The first failure is indicative of chipping of the edge of the pawl or ratchet ring teeth, usually the pawl, though you'll also see some chipping of the ratchet ring. I have no idea if the ring chips first, leading to the pawl edge breaking down or if it's the other way around.

The second indicates catastrophic disintegration of the pawls, though it's possible that they are getting "glued" in the retracted position somehow.

Rust may be involved, either if the pawls and ring, or leading to failure of the springs.

I'd be interested to hear what you see (or saw) when you open(ed) them up.

Meanwhile, I'm curious as to whether load was a factor, so what do you weigh?
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Old 09-13-16, 09:40 PM
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After ALL that BS you still expect a better outcome sometime ??? Einstein had a saying for that.
How many of those poor rims had eyelets?
Only ROHLOFF is the answer, with Dyad rims. My bike is 120 lbs on tour.
My SA dyno drum hub has 20,000 miles with one bearing replacement. Good as new still.
I do have a Phill BB, awesome.

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Old 09-13-16, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
After ALL that BS you still expect a better outcome sometime ??? Einstein had a saying for that.

Only ROHLOFF is the answer, with Dyad rims. My bike is 120 lbs on tour.
.....

And we're off!!! --------------------------->
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Old 09-13-16, 10:29 PM
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And some people have claimed that the pawls in my SA 5w hub are poor. ha
After 10,000 miles I still need a microscope to find any wear.
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Old 09-14-16, 01:29 AM
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I've been using Shimano hubs for almost 30 years - mid-level versions such as DX, LX, and Deore - with no failures yet. I weigh 220 lbs and carry a load when touring and riding daily. I know folks often recommend more expensive hubs, but Shimano mid-level hubs tend to work well, and one can get a good Shimano hub for $25 to $50, much less than PW and other expensive hubs. Possible to obtain new rear wheel with Deore hubs and good rims for $90 to $130. Might be worth giving that type of wheel a try.
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Old 09-14-16, 01:44 AM
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Kinda sounds like you should consider the original freewheels. You have pawl trouble there it is really easy to replace the freewheel.

Personally I would see what the factory has to say about it. The raison detre of the Phil touring freehub was to take the (unecessary on a phil but still good engineering) Shimano bearing upgrade; add a bombproof shell, and the most overbuilt ratchet system in history, all in one hub. The downside is the weight. There are some good hubs out there, and some that look as though they should be good, but have zero track record compared to the top hubs. I am running the WHites because at one point I tripped over a good sale, but otherwise I would have been with the phils. The Whites are serious but I wouldn't swap out Phils for them.

I'm 255, being heavy is not what ruins hubs or wheels.
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Old 09-14-16, 01:54 AM
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Originally Posted by bwgride View Post
I've been using Shimano hubs for almost 30 years - mid-level versions such as DX, LX, and Deore - with no failures yet. I weigh 220 lbs and carry a load when touring and riding daily. I know folks often recommend more expensive hubs, but Shimano mid-level hubs tend to work well, and one can get a good Shimano hub for $25 to $50, much less than PW and other expensive hubs. Possible to obtain new rear wheel with Deore hubs and good rims for $90 to $130. Might be worth giving that type of wheel a try.
Jobst used to be slightly confusing to me on this point. He seemed to believe the forged hubs by the shimanos of the world were better than billet hubs, but he often seemed to mention Phil with ultimate respect. My problem with SHimano LX is that I have had bad quality control parts on them. I didn't actually have a problem because few of my tours are a lot longer than 1000 miles, and I rebuild after every trip. But I was obviously on the verge of a failure because water was getting in and the lube was going bad. If I could only use LX I would be fine, I guess, but when I have a part failure I don't see any reason to return to that part (which obviously is where MEV is on his Phill...)

I wonder if there isn't a helmet type deal here. Helmets make people feel safer so they push a little harder, and have the same or worse accidents. Likewise you get some bombproof hubs, and you stop feeling the need to pay attention to the parts. It is still just an alloy part.
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Old 09-14-16, 05:02 AM
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mev
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Meanwhile, I'm curious as to whether load was a factor, so what do you weigh?
Load is a factor. Before the trip I was 280#, bike and gear was 110# on departure.
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Old 09-14-16, 06:01 AM
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The DT Swiss hubs might do the trick for you. Their star ratchet system is robust and easy to service without tools. I've been happy with my Velo Orange touring hub, but the pawl system uses smaller springs and fewer contact points, which seems to be failing in your case. The DT Swiss star ratchets have many more engagement points, distributing the load better.
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