Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Wheelset Part I - The Hub Dilemma

I recently recognized the need for a general purpose wheelset, 700c.  Something for loaded riding on gravel, urban abuse, and so forth - strong, durable, and low maintenance.

The criteria for the hubs were:
  • 36 hole
  • Shimano 8/9/10 cassette compatible
  • Top quality
  • Silver and somewhat shiny
  • User serviceable
  • 130mm OLD on the rear
There are a lot of hubs out there, but the silver and somewhat shiny knocked many of them out of the running.  After substantial research, I came up with:
  • Shimano Dura Ace 7700/7850/7900
  • White Industries H2/H3
  • Chris King R45 or Classic
  • Phil Wood Road Hubs
  • Royce Venus Titan
The Chris Kings were the first out of the running.  They are getting better with toning down their logos, but it is still a bit much for me.  The Phil Woods fell out next, hard to say exactly why, but they just failed to excite me very much.

This left the various Dura Ace, White Industries H2/H3, and Royce, which I only recently researched in any depth.  I googled the pants off of Royce hubs; there isn't a whole lot out there but I was intrigued by what I found.

The next out of the running were the White Industries, simply because I recently had a set of them.  They met all the criteria and being a rerun for me is the only reason they were stricken from consideration - they are wonderful hubs and I recommend them highly.

I then struggled for a long time with the Dura Ace/Royce death match.  The Dura Ace has traditional cup/cone loose bearings which is a huge plus both for user serviceability, retro geekiness, and, according to some, less rolling resistance.  Plus, they come with very high quality and attractive quick release skewers - this is about a $130 dollar value and are somewhat less expensive to begin with than the Royce Titans.

The Royce Titans have the advantages of titanium axles with lifetime warranty, exotic & legendary unobtanium quality, better shininess, and general British small shop offbeatness.

First, I narrowed it down to the 7900 Dura Ace models.  The previous models have little advantage in price.  The 7700 models do a little better on the silver shininess front, but had little other to keep them in the running.  I figured I would have to refresh the bearing grease on 10 year old (or more) NOS hubs, so that knocked them out of the running.  The 7850 model had nothing in my book to recommend it over current production 7900 model.

At this point, logic dictated the Dura Ace 7900 by a nose - less exotic, but cheaper, loose bearings, and better parts availability.  However, I'm making these wheels for a special bike (still to be unveiled...), and the ephemeral qualities of the Royce Titans, along with the titanium axles, surged on the home stretch and clinched it.

The winners:

These are insanely gorgeous with their beautiful lines and detailed finishing,  and are top quality,  a combination just like Campagnolo back in the day.

The next trick was actually getting a set.  First of all, there aren't a whole lot of vendors that offer these hubs.  And of those that do, most of them are in the U.K. and some don't ship to the U.S.  Plus, I didn't mention that accepting Paypal (this is my slush fund from ebay sales...) was a hub criteria.

This narrowed things down to Shedborn Bikes in the UK, a Shaun Miller production:

Dare I say this is a British bike shop and proprietor straight from central casting?  All that is lacking is a sign that says, "Hobbits Welcome!".

Shedborn has a wide variety of interesting kit and Shaun answers email promptly and helpfully.  As I've been writing this, I've also been corresponding with him about the Royce order I just placed.  He reports that Royce has a preference for Campagnolo quick release skewers on their hubs.

This combination of neat gear and great service has immediately earned Shedborn Bikes a place of honor in the Otaku Worthy Vendors sidebar of this blog.

So the hub debate is settled - after these arrive I'll do a more detailed review and photo op.

In the meantime, the rim debate is heating up - I'm beginning to assemble the candidate rims list.  The criteria are, again, touring/urban tough/heavy duty.  Shiny and silver is less important, I like the way the black Synergy Velocity rims look on my wife's Trek 720.

The list is pretty short at the moment - by default, I get Velocity Dyads and Mavic A719.  I am pretty impressed with the Velocity Synergy rims - they are not billed for quite as tough duty, but I like the off center option for the rear rim, so I'm including them.

Any suggestions for other rim candidates would be appreciated, I'm not really up on current rim choices other than the obvious ones.

To be continued....

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