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So, I know that the hubs on my bike are low quality, and I want to know the difference between a good and bad quality hub. Also, my fork is a "QR20" fork. Can someone plz explain to me what this means? And does this mean I would have to get a special hub for both my front and back wheel. And finally, is it worth it to upgrade my hubs, that I know might break on me soon?

Thanks
 

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At the end of the day, all hubs are a fixed axle, with a rotating cylinder around to hold the spokes and bearings in between. They quality of the bearings and the type of bearings is the difference.

A ball bearing can be made to varying degrees of accuracy, likewise the bearing races ( the channel the ball runs on ) can also be made with varying degrees of accuracy. The more accurate, the smoother the action. The materials used can also affect how long and how hard wearing the hub is.

Some hubs also have sealed bearings to prevent grime getting in and wearing down the moving parts. Other than the obvious cleaner advantage of sealing, the smoothness of a sealed bearing over an unsealed on is to me debatable. A sealed bearing does not simply equate to a smoother bearing.

i would say that the biggest noticable difference in a hub would be in rear hubs where the design of the racthets and pawls which engage drive from the chain vary from hub to hub. Some of the more expensive hubs have systems which engage quicker than others. ( The benefits of which may, or may not be an issue to some ). Some are easily stripped, serviced and adjusted, and some are not. Assuming all the bearings are smooth, then this is the only area that you would notice a difference in quality . . .( i.e the way in which it engages and freewheels )

The QR20 fork you refer to describes how you have a large 20mm diameter axle ( the general XC average is 10mm? or is it 12mm? ) . The advantages of the larger axle are primarily additional stiffness. A 20mm axle simply wont flex as much as a 10mm one.

It would mean that you would need a hub that is meant for 20mm axles and not just any old hub off the shelf. Companies like HOPE do 20mm compatable axles.

What makes you think that you have a low quality hub? Just cause it doesn't have HOPE or Chris King written on it?

Depending on the bearings, if you properly service them then there is no reason to not continue to use a hub. I would only consider replacing a hub once i could feel that its action was not smooth ( its pretty obvious if it isn't )

Honest opinion is that until you actually wreck a hub or it wears out, then stick with what you have and enjoy it.

If you put a aside a little money now on a periodic basis, then you could save up for a complete new wheelset further down the line. That way you may be able to acheive something significantly better than it suddenly breaking and you being strapped for cash and having to get anotehr 'low quality' setup.
 

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Aloha Alex,

donboyfisher made a lot of great points.

First off, you're hubs are probably just fine. Why would people spend lots of money on hubs? What makes a hub good?

Well, qualities I look for which make 1 hub better then the other? Notice I said 1 better then the other. To perform as a hub, most of them are more then OK.

  1. Weight
  2. Bearing smoothness and longevity
  3. Quickness to engage (when pedaling)
  4. Strength (bearings, freewheel mechanism, spoke holes etc)
  5. Ease of Maintenance (If they need to be and how frequent)
  6. Cost
  7. What kind of riding you do (Once again, strength, cost, etc....come into play)

The above list is in no particular order, these are just considerations I've come up with. In the end, it's your dime and how much fun you can have with what you have. I particularly like when a hub's freewheel engages really quick. It's most noticeable in really low gears and riding in technical sections. With a regular hub, you'll feel the crank turn a long ways before the chain actually engages and starts driving the wheel. Does this make the other hubs bad? No, just one better then the other.

That QR20 is a "standard" kind of thing someone came up with for use of a 20mm through axle (metal tube) versus the standard bicycle axle. It's closer to a motorcycle type hub/axle mounting which all the down hill people were using. The QR20 was supposed to make removing and installing a wheel much easier with out the use of tools.

In the end, if you want to "upgrade" your hubs, I would wait until you get/need new wheels. That way you can get your favorite rim, spokes and hub built into a wheel that you like. Your next question will be what makes one spoke better then the other or what makes one rim better then the other.....................

Aloha,
g
 

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gmats answer is awesome and covers just about everything. The only thing I would add is the presence of seals. I would never consider riding on an unsealed hub -- it just doesn't last for me. Here is a picture of an older low-end shimano hub with no rubber seals:



Here is an example of a similar looking hub, but with a rubber seal to keep out dirt and grit. Hubs that add this little piece generally also will have harder cones and ball bearings (which roll better):



And here is an example of a hub with a sealed cartridge bearing. These are generally higher-end, although some people prefer a quality cone & ball bearing hub to a cartridge hub...



Here's one that might fool you into thinking its an unsealed hub at first glance, but actually is a cartridge:

 
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