Hub Showdown – Chris King, Hadley, Industry Nine, DT, Stealth, and Hope
Weight: 204g, 285g rear w/ alloy freehub
Engagement points: 72
Price : $350 F, $692 R
Available Axles: front QR, 15mm, 20mm, 24mm. Rear QR, Bolt on, 12mm
Colors: Black, Brown, Navy, Silver, Red, Gold, Mango, Pink, Pewter, Green
Holes: 328, 32, 36
Quality: There is no questioning the quality of a King hub. It’s clear that everything, from the machine work to the color, is done to the best level they can. The freehub drive mechanism is just beautiful to look at, even if you don’t understand how it works or even what it is. Everything about the Kings bleeds quality, right down to the axles themselves. Bearings are smooth out of the box, and they just get better with riding time.
Feel: There is just something cool about the buzz of a King hub. It makes you smile. There is a decent amount of drag initially, but they break in enough to make the drag minimal. Make no mistake, King hubs will never roll as smoothly as the best road hubs, but they are quite good considering the engagement.
Durability: Kings take maintenance. End of story. Every once and a while you have to crack them open (easy enough to do), clean them out, re-grease them, and properly load the bearings. If you are a beast on the bike, these might not be the best choice for you. Every hub here can and WILL die if you are hard enough on them, and the Kings are no exception.
Value: It’s been said the value in a King hub comes from its longevity. It’s supposed to be an investment, so while they are initially expensive they will supposedly last you for years. I dunno about that. Its true of course, but its true of every hub listed here too. The fact is, Kings are expensive. There are obvious reasons for that expense, but they are expensive none the less. That said, I’d be pretty comfortable saying they are the highest quality hub here, although its debatable if that quality is of any real benefit over the level of quality on the other hubs.
Overall thoughts: Kings are cool. There is no bigger piece of bike bling right now that speaks without saying a word like King stuff. Are they worth the money? That’s up to you. They aren’t necessarily better, performance-wise, than the other hubs here, but they’re pretty, they work really well, they sound cool, and they come with a history and aura that the others don’t. If they last as well as the rumors say, then you have also solved your hub problems for years to come too.
Industry Nine J-Bend
Weight: 191g, 371g rear
Engagement points: 60, 120
Price : $329 F, $638 R
Available Axles: front QR, 15mm, 20mm, 24mm, 25mm. Rear QR, Bolt on, 12mm
Colors: Black, Silver, Blue, Brown, Gold, Green, Orange, Pewter, Pink, Purple, Red.
Holes: 32, 36
Quality: The standard alloy spoke Industry Nine hubs are a CNC nerds dream. Its clear that they are built by people that know their way around a CNC machine, and love what they do. The axles are smooth and press in easily, the freehub body fits into the hub like a key and lock, and the freehub itself…it’s a work of machining art. The J Bend hubs continue that, but use standard spokes instead of machined alloy ones.
Feel: Like most high-engagement hubs, the I9s had a fair bit of drag to start. They quickly bed in, and require just a bit of cleaning and relubing initially. They quickly start getting louder too, making a very distinct buzzing sound. The engagement is impressive, although to be honest its hard to tell the difference between the 120 point I9s and the Kings on the trail.
Durability: While a fairly simple system internally, the I9s still have some very precise stuff going on in there, so dirt can make a bit of a mess. They’re well sealed, but will still need cleaning and relubing from time to time.
The freehub body was more resistant to cassette chewing then the other hubs here with an alloy freehub. Must have been the material I guess.
The only real problem we had with the I9 hubs is the bearings, although to be fair it was a rare problem. They can’t quite match the quality of the Kings or DTs, or even the Hopes. We developed a bit of play on some wheels, and a slight roughness. It was very slight, but it was there. I would like to see a better bearing used here. When ours fully die, I intend to replace them with Enduro ceramic bearings, which ought to cure any complaints fully.
Value: It’s clear that Industry Nine aimed straight at Chris King with their stuff, so it’s only fair to compare them directly. Compared to the Kings, the I9s are cheaper, but slightly heavier. Granted, it’s not much but heavier is heavier, and that may bother some people’s brains, although it won’t make any significant difference riding. Again though, if you upgrade the Kings to the steel freehub (you know, the one that doesn’t get chewed up like soft cheese) the weights start to get very similar. Where Industry Nine makes up for that is their ease of axle swaps, and much more affordable replacement parts then the King stuff. They’re still quite pricey though, so value again comes down to an individual choice, particularly if you go with the full I9 system (alloy spokes).
Overall thoughts: Industry Nine does a good job of giving Chris King a run for their money in the machining and bling categories, although they can’t quite beat them. The Kings are lighter, but the I9s engage faster. I9 doesn’t yet have the mystique that King does, but they are definitely gaining. Industry Nines also come in purple, and purple is just awesome.
Weight: 164g 20mm, 264g 10×135
Engagement points: 18
Price: $375 F, $575 R
Available Axles: QR, DT Swiss thru bolt , 20mm. QR, DT Swiss thru bolt, 12mm
Colors: black…maybe white.
Quality: Cracking open the DTs shows the unique internals, and a super clean design. The ring drive mechanism had nice sharp edges, and everything just looked very well done. The DTs are clean, well executed, and unique.
Feel: The DTs don’t have an outstanding feel. They are definitely lacking in engagement compared to the Kings, Stealths and Industry Nines. With only 18 points, there’s quite a bit of rotation before the Star Ratchet kicks in. But here’s the thing. When the ring drive does engage, it feels SOLID. The ring drive feels like you could be a 500 pound power sprinter, and they’d just take the abuse and carry on. I have never, EVER heard of a DT hub slipping. Ever.
Durability: DT hubs are infamous for their durability. I heard a good story from one hardcore XC racer that said after 3 years he cracked open the hub to clean it out, and just put it back together because it was so clean inside, and it just worked so well. Now that’s impressive.
Value: The DTs are pricey, in the same range as the Kings and Industry Nines. The DT’s have the bling factor, but not in the same way as the others. For one, the DTs only come in black (Apparently white now too, although we cant’ get them) They are fairly quiet too, without the obnoxious buzz or hub from the others. Even the stickers are understated. Its basically the Swiss Army knife of bike hubs. They’re kind of boring, kind of…meh. But they are well built, they’re stupidly light, they’re unique, and they will be what the surviving cockroaches are riding after a nuclear holocaust. If you can appreciate them for their performance rather than the bling factor, then you will understand why the DT 240s are brilliant.
Overall thoughts: If you’re after a solid performing, no nonsense hub that takes a lot of crap and just keeps going, this is the one. They are especially good for riders with a lot of power, although the lack of engagement might be a bit of a turn off. That said, DT has a new 36 point ring drive coming (retrofits to existing hubs too!), which ought to make them even better. the DT 204s hubs are just a no BS, super solid, stellar performing workhorse hub set. Add in the ridiculously light weight, and they definitely justify the status they’ve gained.
True Precision Stealths
Weight: 190g front 20mm, 550g rear QR
Engagement points: Eleventy billion
Price: $140 (US) front, $415 (US) 135mm rear, $430 (US) 150mm rear
Colors: Black, and some more black.
Quality: Opening the Stealths shows some fine machine work internally. Everything is smooth, with nice sharp edges and tight tolerances. Threads on the hub are smooth and fluid. All around good stuff. You might be a bit confused when you first open them due to the lack of a freehub mechanism. Thats the Stealth Drive system you’re seeing, not a needle bearing. Well, it is a needle bearing really, but it only rolls one way. Neat eh?
Feel: These hubs take some getting used to. The Stealths use what is essentially a one-way needle bearing instead of a freehub with pawls, so when they say engagement is instant they mean it. The Stealths aren’t like anything else on the market. You pedal forward, and they are already engaged. There is absolutely NO dead spot. They do however have a bit of drag. Even after riding them and breaking them in, the Stealths still had a bit of drag in the system, which was mostly noticed when backpedalling. They rolled quite smoothly however. Lesson here: knock off all that back pedaling.
Durability: There were reports of the older Stealth hubs having problems, from the freehub losing grip to the body actually exploding. The guys at True Precision are smart, and like any smart company they adapted the design to prevent it from remaining an issue. The new ones are designed to take a beating. Maintenance is easy. You undo the locknut, unscrew everything, pull open the freehub, degrease it, and relube it using ATF fluid. A dead squirrel could rebuild these hubs in under 5 minutes, using only a sponge and 2 acorns.
True Precision makes an interesting point saying that the lack of freeplay in the hub means less torque on the drivetrain. Since the hub is constantly engaged, you don’t get that “tug” on the drivetrain that the hub can cause before it engages. Theres no generating that high speed pull, which can put quite a bit of force on the drivetrain. I can’t say for sure whether thats true or not, but it does seem reasonable, and Todd at True Precision is a smart cookie, so I’ll buy it.
Value: The Stealth hubs aren’t cheap at $140 US for the front and $415 US rear. That’s Chris King territory (US pricing) but without the history, reputation or pretty colors. But they are hand machined, they’re unique, and they have an engagement system like no other, so you can understand where the price comes from.
Overall thoughts: 4x guys, this is your hub. Instant engagement, strong enough to take anything you can dish out and easy maintenance would make this a gate racer’s dream. Trials and street too. For a trail hub it also works, especially if you are doing a lot of stuff that requires stopping and starting, but not so much for long distance stuff. The weight is an issue though, as is the drag. We’re still hoping ours will break in a bit more and loosen up, but so far we can’t really recommend them for XC or all mountain use. We’ll happily update this if they loosen up though.
Hope Pro II
Weight: 180g front, 292g rear QR
Engagement points: 24
Price : $135 F, $ $330 R
Available Axles: QR, 15mm, 20mm F. QR, Bolt on, 12mm rear
Axle Conversion costs: $50
Colors: Silver, Black, Red, Blue, Gold & Gunsmoke
Holes: 28, 32, 36
Quality: Like all the hubs in this price range, you really can’t knock the quality. Everything is precise, clean and of course, very pretty to look at. The gold anodizing on the freehub body is a nice touch as well, giving the hubs a very unique look. Of course, that’s all pretty much lost as soon as you put on the cassette.
Feel: The Hopes don’t really feel that much different from any other hub really, especially with the relatively standard engagement. The only real uniquely Hope feeling is of the pawls clicking in, which you can actually feel. I’m thinking it’s because of the wide spacing of the engagement points, strong return springs, and the relatively large pawls.
Durability: It does seem that to get hubs this light, there can sometimes be a price. While it wouldn’t be fair to say it’s a common problem, cracking hub shells isn’t unheard of with Hope hubs. We’ve also heard a few people mention the pawls slipping from time to time, although we never had that problem ourselves. Because the Hopes are so simple, they are really easy to open up and clean. Spare parts are relatively cheap too, and most bike shops can get them within a few days.
Value: Hope’s pricing in Canada recently dropped a bit, making them an astounding deal. They are a well made, well functioning hub priced much less than the others in this report.
Overall thoughts: The Hope Pro IIs are a killer set of hubs. They’re very light, they perform quite well (as long as fast engagement isn’t a concern), and they come in a bunch of pretty colors.
The Hope Pro IIs are very loud, and if you’re into that sort of things its just brilliant. No need for a bell on the trails with these hubs. People will know you are coming, trust me.
Weight: 194g 20mm, 363g 10mm rear
Engagement points: 36, 72
Price: $ 285 F, $525 R
Available Axles: QR, 15mm, 20mm. Rear QR, bolt on, 12mm.
Colors: Black, Silver, Gold, Blue, Red, Gun metal
Holes: 28, 23, 36
Feel: This one is going to be hard to explain. Realistically, there is nothing about the Hadley’s that’s feels any different than any other hub. Riding them, you can’t really tell anything special is going on in back, minus the sound of course. If I had to describe the feel, it would be quality. They just feel smooth, and good, and fast. No doubt the ceramic bearings in our hubs helped this quite a bit.
Durability: So far, awesome. We opened the hubs up after a bunch of riding and found clean grease. The bearings (again, ceramic) spin smooth, and spin forever. Parts are relatively easy to get (Hadley are super helpful), and the hubs are dead simple to work on provided you have the Hadley tools. That’s right, they use custom tools. Definitely a bit of a downside, but the tools are easy enough to get from Hadley, and in a pinch you can use regular tools if you must. Its just not as perfect. That will also allow you to take advantage of the bearing preload feature.
Value: While they aren’t cheap, the Hadleys are cheaper than the Kings, DTs and Industry Nines. The Hadleys can be considered a pretty good deal if you listen to all the people ranting about the “years and years” they’ve had them.
Overall thoughts: First things first, the bearings. I never, ever thought I could say that ceramics would have made a difference for me, but I have to admit you CAN actually feel these things work. The Hadley’s spin extremely well, with little to no drag. It s really something.
The Hadleys are an example of a hub done very, very well. They aren’t reinventing anything, and they aren’t claiming they are either. The hubs are easy to maintain, but only require it after long periods of riding. The bearings are a standard size, so replacements are easy to get. It’s a bit of a drag that they use proprietary tools, but those are easy enough to get if you need them. Visually the Hadley’s aren’t quite as nice as the Industry Nines or Kings, but they are definitely on par with the Hopes.
Let’s be real here.
All these hubs are jewelry for your bike. They’re all a level way above what almost every rider out there can actually justify, as a good Formula or XT hub will do most riders just fine. But really, where’s the fun in that? All the hubs here are better built, higher quality, higher performance and much, much prettier then low end hubs. I can all but guarantee they aren’t going to make you faster, as they really only offer small weight savings and a small decrease in rolling resistance. The increase in engagement might help a few of you though, particularly race types.
But bikes are about fun, and fancy parts are fun.
IF I had to choose a winner from the group, I’d have to go with Hadley. Fast engagement, decent weight, excellent execution, and pretty colors. They cost less than the I9s, DTs and Kings too, and are available in axles and standards current AND past. Add in the famously good Hadley reputation for supporting their customers, and you have a winning investment.
The DTs are a close second for sure, maybe even a tie. Yeah, the DTs are boring. They’re black. They’re kind of quiet. The engagement isn’t the best. But they have a 36 point upgrade coming, they’re silly light, they are probably the strongest hub here engagement wise, and they are definitely the best set-and-forget hub here. They also come in every axle required, they seem to last forever, and they’re dead simple to maintain. But truth is, part of the reason people buy fancy hubs is the bling factor, and the understated nature of the DTs is a bit of a letdown. Performance wise though, they’re absolutely incredible.
The Hopes are a new favorite just because of the incredible value/ performance ratio. They are almost half the price of the other hubs, but perform extremely well. They are easy to maintain, they’re easy to change parts on, and the Canadian distributor has done a great job in making sure replacement parts are readily available. They come in pretty colors, they sound loud and crazy, and they fit everything. Now if they can just nip the few durability issues that sporadically pop up, they’d be rockin’. Oh, and fix that damn flange spacing on the 150mm too.
The Kings are pretty much in a league of their own, both in price and quality. Custom bearings, insane machine work, and solid engagement are just some of the reasons they are so highly praised. They can take a fair deal of abuse too, as many street riders will tell you. But in biking you gotta pay to play with the good stuff, and nowhere is that more evident than with Chris King hubs. They are the most expensive hubs here, and while you can clearly see why it doesn’t make the sting of paying for them any less painful.
The I9 classics are excellent hubs, but I think the standard bearings are a bit of a disappointment. At that price, I’d like something higher end, and a little more durable. While it’s easy enough to just pop in new bearings, it’d be much nicer if you didn’t have to. The engagement is seriously addictive though, and damn are they pretty. They aren’t super light, but they’re decent, and they perform amazingly well.
The Stealth hubs are unique, effective and very cool but the weight and drag are a bit disappointing.. The instant engagement is incredible to try out though, it’s really mind blowing at first. The simplicity of them as well is a huge bonus, as maintenance is dead easy. Bonus points too for True Precision being such nice guys, and easy to talk to. If you’re a shore rider or 4x racer, you should seriously give these things a look.