Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thowdown Thursdays: Long Term Testin'

For this Throwdown I have enlisted the help of Banner Moffat, cycling guru and long time stalwart in the SoCal cycling scene. When Banner approached me telling me he wanted to write a piece about Chris King hubs I thought "Meh... Everyone does reviews on Chris King parts". When Banner told me these hubs had been in constant use for the last 12 years I thought "Meh...Now that's a great idea, No one does product tests that last 12 years" So here you go, gentle reader, a product test 12 years in the making.

I bought my first Chris King hubs in 1996 for my hard tail mountain bike. I rode that bike HARD for years both training and racing as an expert on those hubs and guess what? I still have them, I still ride on them and they still work great. I've worn out at least 6 rims around them. How's that for a long term equipment test? Plus I have owned newer disc brake Chris King hubs on more recent mountain bikes and used them for a mere 3-4 years and likewise, they always work well.

One reason they have lasted so well may be that I take them apart and clean and grease them regularly; twice a year if I use them a lot and once a year otherwise. If that sounds like too much work, keep in mind they disassemble very easily. I have the rear apart, cleaned, greased and back together in about 30 minutes. The front is faster.

With the cogs and quick release off, you just insert 2 allen wrenches and unscrew them against each other and then the axle comes out by hand. The freehub also comes out by hand. The needle bearings are exposed and the outer ball bearings have seals which come apart with my little dentist tool. I'm sure there is a kosher way to clean and grease these hubs that I don't know about, but I just clean everything I can get my finger into with clean terry cloth. The ball bearings I pack with waterproof grease and reseal, and the needle bearings I coat with a lighter grease.

Chris King rear hubs have a unique 72 tooth engagement mechanism (AKA "Ring Drive") that give them their characteristic buzz. The buzz is either a great way to warn the person riding in front of you that you are on his tail and he is not going fast enough... or an annoying bee-like sound. To me it is the sound of a rear hub that lasts forever so who cares what it sounds like. You have to be very careful not to put too much or too heavy a grease on those 72 teeth or else the hub will skip when you want it to engage. If that happens you can easily take it apart again and thin out what you put in there with some oil. When it all goes back together, you only have turn the screw down on the bearings an easy finger tightness and there will be no play.

I suspect these rear hubs may not freewheel quite as freely as some other brands. Perhaps the seals are tighter or the 72 teeth add a little drag, but if it is true, it is minor. I've never minded since if I want to go faster on my mountain bike I'm generally pedaling and the drag I'm talking about only is freewheel drag not wheel spinning drag.

These hubs are still lighter than almost anything on the market, same as they were in 1996: 112 grams front, 264 grams rear (a few grams heavier than XTR) for the classic model. They come in all sorts of cool colors. Or you can get the pink ones which include a donation by Chris King to the Susan G. Konen Foundation - a breast cancer charity, or you can get the red/gold/black and green ones which include a donation to Hans Rey's "Wheels for Life" charity which provides bicycles to needy people in developing countries.

Chris King has a modern factory in the US which was designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. They recycle everything they can and construct all their product with minimal waste and use as much renewable energy as possible.

These are all reasons to consider buying these admittedly expensive hubs, but their durability is the best reason for me. They will outlast most bikes. Try considering the cost per wheel revolutions you'll get out of them. In fact at 1 penny per wheel revolution, a $5000 bicycle pays for itself in 70 miles! That way you can tell your loved one who sees your credit card bill and wonders if Chris King is a jewelry company - that they cost almost nothing.

-Banner Moffat

1 comment:

Bill Meadows said...

i may have my first ever King wheelset sometime today! getting a road set made...laced up to a mavic open pro rim....rough and tough!!!