Hub Strength: get it, and keep it, in gear

hub strength

Mountain bike product is constantly evolving – top tier manufacturers and retailers alike work hard to maintain product application relevance.  In the past few years we have paired 3x, 2x and 1x with 9, 10 and 11 speed cassettes.

The introduction of 10 and 11 speed systems and the additional strain they apply has created growing pains for several well known hub companies.  Many current marketed platforms were designed based on 9 speed 11-32 cassette options – without the foresight that 2x and 1x systems would evolve larger diameter cassettes and the increased leverage with them.  The additional leverage on lesser hubs leads to product failure – sometimes amazing catastrophic “POP” type failure -more often premature wear, noise, bearing failure (sometimes fixable with new bearings) or internal hub wear from bearing movement (often fatal to product lifespan).

With larger diameter 36t & 42t cassettes dynamically increase the mechanical advantage (leverage) ratio.  Compared to a 32t a larger 36t diameter increases mechanical advantage by 13.75% and the 42t produces 35% more force than the 32t.  Since torque, leverage, and load in this application are a sum the additional % quickly compounds.

How do you avoid buying a wheelset that will give you fits?

A good starting point is to review manufacturer history.  Companies with a reputation of freehub issues are poor candidates to add leverage strain to.

Do your research on bearing systems.  Many house brand hub systems are available with a variety of bearings.  Decisions made by accountants looking at a half million units may mean that to save $1.50 per wheel hubs were produced with sub-par bearings.  Admittedly $750,000 looks great in the bank – but personally I am willing to pay that little bit more, and it really is only a little bit more, to have the best bearings available.

Work with your chain ring configuration.  Run gears that allow you to stay in the middle of the cassette longer in your rides.  This will help alleviate excessive leverage on the hub internals.  Running a 38t is great if you can run it.  If the 38t means you are constantly at the top of your cassette (or riding in your 24/26t granny front ring) you are not maximizing your drivetrain setup.

High engagement hub systems not only provide additional performance but significantly lessen the spike loads as pawls travel a shorter distance before engagement.  Spike loads (like an impact hammer) create instantaneous loads several times higher than the theoretical leverage.

Take these factors into account – look at the weight, stiffness, spoke system, flange dimension then pair them with your size, your riding style, riding aspirations, desired service life and the ideal hub for you should be pretty clear.

And if it’s not 100% clear?  If you don’t have time or desire to re-learn physics and material properties, to research manufacturer systems and history, to spend a lifetime racing with the world’s fastest riders to understand maximum performance capacities.  Demand More!

Top tier retailers like The Bike Company exist to give riders quick, precise, truthful product assessments.  Your MTB resource whether Brick and Mortar or Web based must be able to help you with questions like these.  Why would you tolerate purchasing product at this level blindly or without adequate understanding and consultation?  Insist on understanding why the $2,000 wheelset is available half off.  Insist on the explaination of why one of the top three carbon rim manufacturers mountain rim is suddenly popular with the road and cyclocross community.

There are quality MTB retailers around the world who work hard to innovate – not replicate.  These are shops without beach cruisers, without interest in fixies (ask the kid I told to Google “fixie shop” on Monday…) shops committed to providing clients the best MTB knowledge base possible.  If you work with one of these shops build equity with them, utilize their expertise.  If your buying resource leaves you to your own research, your own development, only your own understanding spec’ing parts – you have no resource.

If that’s the case I suggest working with BikeCo.com – 949.470.1099 or Sales@BikeCo.com – our expert staff will help you avoid costly purchasing mistakes the first time while maximizing the most out of your on trail experience.  See you on the trails – Nate@BikeCo.com

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