Last Updated: 19th February 2018
Just like your bike has a front and a back wheel, so too does it have front and rear hubs. If you’re looking for hubs then you probably know that it is in the middle of your wheel, joining to the rims via the spokes. It also allows the wheels to spin freely on the two sets of bearings.
The front hub is fairly simple in that it allows the wheel to spin, while the rear hub is slightly more complex, playing a part in the mountain bike’s transmission. The sprocket (or cassette) that drives the back wheel is connected to the rear hub, which has a feature that lets bikes coast or freewheel. The hub, while a small and fairly inconspicuous part of the bike is the central point of the wheel’s structure. It’s where all the spokes meet, and without it, well you pretty much don’t have a functioning bike.
Type of Bike Hubs
There are three types:
- Internally geared
Single-speed specific rear hubs are built to accommodate only one gear. This is done using a driver or a modified freewheel.
Regular or standard mountain bike hubs utilize a freewheel design, which is attached to the drive side of the hub where the cassette mounts.
Although harder to come by, internally geared hubs are also available. This particular design doesn’t need a derailleur but uses a system of gears and springs housed within the hub.
These are sized according to the length of the rear axle and the diameter (in millimetres). To make sure you’re getting the correct size you must know the measurements of the frame. To try and make this process a little easier the available MTB sizes are as follows:
- 165 x 12mm
- 157 x 12mm
- 150 x 12mm
- 142 x 12mm
- 135 x 10mm
- 135 x 5mm
Once you know what size axle your frame needs and if you’re going to need an internally geared model there are a few things that’ll help you find the best model for your needs and budget. These are: what you intend using the bike for, the type of bearing and the rotor compatibility.
Basically, a hub’s design depends on the type of riding it’s intended for. Freeride and downhill hubs need to be able to handle the rough conditions, cross-country hubs must need to handle more docile conditions and an all-mountain rear hub falls somewhere in the middle, a little bit of strength and a lightweight design.
You need to also keep in mind that there are two different disc brake rotor standards. These are the Centerlock and the International Standard, which is a six bolt. These need a specific hub design so we suggest you select the model that’s compatible with the brake rotor.
And as always, look for hubs within your price range. You can find some really good ones without breaking the bank.
My Top 3 Mountain Bike Hubs
DT Swiss 350 Hub
The rear hub is a brilliant purchase if you’re looking for DT Swiss quality but don’t want to spend a lot of money. Their durability makes them the right hubs for many miles of stress-fee biking and performance. What we particularly like is the 350 Classics can be broken down completely without any tools.
Chris King ISO Hub
We’re going to start off by saying the Chris King ISO hub isn’t cheap, but trust us, when it comes to reliability it’s worth every cent. While a lot of companies claim excellent craftsmanship, Chris King (for me) is one of the very few that truly puts their money where their mouth is and quality is at the heart of everything they do. The Chris King ISO, even at the higher price, is excellent value for money, for the simple reason, it’s going to serve you well for years to come.
Shimano Deore XT Hub
Shimano’s XT label is another product known for its reliability and quality and offers excellent value for money. Even when compared to hubs that cost more, these handle the competition well. The XT hub comes with Shimano’s freehub body, which allows you run eight- and nine-speed setups. We think for what you’re getting, at the price you’re getting it at, you won’t be disappointed, They’re easy to maintain, and there are replacements parts available. Also, they come in 32- or 36 spoke options.
Who would have thought a bike has so many ‘unseen’ but essential components that make or break a day out in the saddle. We hope our guidelines give you somewhat of an idea of what to look for, and our reviews steer you in the right direction.