We have reduced the number of brands of hubs we use over the years due to poor reliability, slow distribution and poor after-sales. We now only use: Wheelsmith Race hubs (which are made for us in Taiwan),Hope (made in Barnoldswick), Chris King (USA), Campagnolo (Italy),Shimano (DuraAce are made in Japan), DT Swiss (Switzerland) and Miche (Italy).
We frequently get asked: "what makes hub X £200 better than hub Y".
It's a difficult one to answer. Suffice to say, from trying similar designs, the Wheelsmith hubs are the best value for money lightweight race hubs we have found. They are very light race hubs and designed to give you a few seasons race use before needing bearings etc. Pile on more miles & weight and that timescale decreases. But parts are cheap and maintenance is simple, so that should be as frightening as changing an inner tube. We find them a noticeable upgrade from Novatec, typically found on most of our competitors wheelsets.
Hope are the best value-for-money high mileage hubs. The can be used for 4-season training, racing or just about anything really. They are beautifully and robustly made, come with a "cartridge" end-cap design where all axle configurations can be changed without tools. The seals are superb, their new bearings are smooth and have high-mileage reliability. The finish is fantastic and all colours of anodising are thick and durable. The new RS4 Centrelock disc hubs are proving really popular with the current move to disc road setups. They come in 24h f&r so make a perfect basis for a carbon disc set.
DT240s are the best cartridge bearing hubs available - they also don't require tools for disassembly and bearings are excellent. The 240s are CNC machined, come with a safe, quiet and reliable engagement mechanism with a minimum of moving parts. Black only.
Click here to see how easy it is to clean the internals of a DT hub. DT240 and DT350 are the same design, road or MTB:
DT350 hubs are a cheaper version of the 240s. They have forged shells and are slightly heavier but use the same ratchet mechanism and free hub bodies.
Chris King are the best hubs available. They manufacture their own bearings and the hubs have a 5yr warranty. They have an easy adjustment system for taking up any wear in the bearings over the years and the ring-drive mechanism is incredibly durable and allows instant pick-up. Chris King have a worldwide reputation for reliability. Easily maintainable and great back-up service - an investment! A variety of colours are available and the anodising is incredibly good. We have never yet seen a worn-out R45 bearing (although we have seen people ruining seals by sheer neglect). The instructions come with details on how to clean them out and re-oil - really simple stuff.
Miche are the best value for money "all year round" hubs - very nicely finished.
Campagnolo Record and Shimano Dura Ace are the most durable cup-and-cone bearing hubs for all-season riding and racing. You are not buying "less maintenance". However, generally speaking, the cheaper the hub in our range, the more maintenance you will have to carry out - but not by much. An exception to this is Hope.
Hub choice comes down to personal tastes and aesthetics but we will try to help with the choice based on our experience of how long the bearings and hub mechanisms last. Please bear in mind that spares prices and the frequency of having to buy them is directly proportional to hub prices. ie. the more expensive the hub, the more expensive the parts are - however you will need them less often - given a controlled maintenance regime.
Overall, the frequency of bearing or mechanism failure is directly related to hours used and the frequency of the maintenance regime. See Maintenance page here.
Our own hubs are great little race hubs. They are the lightest in our range. The bearings are sealed units, with contact seals on each end of the rear hub and a diaphragm seal between hub shell and freehub body. This seal has proven more reliable in UK winter use than Novatec hubs and the freehub mechanism is more reliable. They use 699, 6802 and 6902 bearings (6802 in Campag freehub bodies) which, when it comes to replacing, are as cheap or expensive as you want - depending on quality. Fitting new bearings effectively gives you a new hub. Freehub bodies are available from Spares page for Shimano or Campagnolo pattern. They are all 11/10sp compatible now. Maintenance and bearing replacement information is supplied.
They are light weight race hubs and some consideration has to be made regarding "training" in bad weather. The seal is a contact diaphragm and requires little maintenance but neglect them and they will let you down, just like any other hub or any component on a bike. They are no worse than the hubs found in most of the high-end carbon wheelsets and certainly better than Zipp etc.
The freehub body has 6 paired pawls with individual springs - all held together with a light steel circlip - a very safe design. Flange width is optimised for 23-60mm deep rims. You have the option of a 10sp specific or 11sp specific (this is supplied with a spacer for 10sp Shimano or SRAM if required).
Campagnolo Record are still amongst our most favoured hubs for "traditional" style wheels - they last forever with minimal maintenance. Bearing replacement costs a few pounds if you ever do need them - and they roll beautifully. They are limited to 32h now only so lend themselves to "classic" builds very well. They are also robust and well-sealed enough for year-round use. Easy bearing adjustment too.
We use DuraAce from Shimano. DuraAce are the only hubs in the range still manufactured in Japan and the quality is excellent. Ultegra are Malaysian, are almost identical but use steel in some places where DuraAce use alloy or Titanium. They have good seals and last well. We often see DuraAce hubs in here for new rims. some are 25yr old and still running well.
Other hubs are available, please just ask. We have years of experience on what works and what doesn't, both in the hubs themselves and the companies which supply them!!
All in all, you "get what you pay for" generally speaking. We don't go in for boutique and low-volume hubs anymore like Extralite or Tune generally - they failed our requirements for durability versus performance and are time consuming to order and to get spares.
See Bearings page HERE for information. Above all, please do not become hung-up on having to change bearings - if you keep things clean, it is a rare thing to have to do. And if you do a lot of miles, you should expect components do wear out.
Note: It is normal with some light alloy freehub bodies for Shimano cassettes to dig into the lighweight alloy and cause grooves. These freehubs have to accommodate 9sp, 10sp and 11sp Shimano and SRAM of all qualities and manufacturing tolerances and it is a compromise we have to live with. 10sp Shimano was designed for a Shimano freehub with deeper splines. Shimano quickly avoided the issue of incompatibility with their 7800 design of hub by changing back to a "generic" design 7850, however the cassette design did not change. You can file down the burrs and refit your cassette or contact us for a replacement body. Top-end SRAM cassettes generally do not dig in like this since the sprockets are on a single carrier.
Campagnolo freehubs do not suffer from this problem at all, due to the deeper spline design.