Is the hub only for sound? Absolutely No!

front and rear hubs

The frame determines the lower limit, and the wheelset determines the upper limit. The frame is like the torso, and the wheelset is like the limbs. They must be coordinated to achieve ideal sports performance. The wheel is the most valuable component to upgrade and it is also the most obvious part of the bike between the upper and lower limits. The hub is the core of the wheel and its rolling performance greatly affects the actual slide distance. So let’s talk about the hub.

The structure and principle 

The hub is divided into a front hub and a rear hub. There are differences in structure and usage. The front hub is mainly used as the support, steering and rolling component of the front wheel.

front and rear hubs
Internal structure of the front and rear hubs

The structure of the front hub mainly includes a hub shell, bearing or bear bowl and hub axis. The rear hub needs to connect the flywheel and drive the rear wheel. In addition to having the same structure as the front hub, it also contains a tower base and a ratchet.

The front hub connects the hub shell and the axis through the internal bearing or bead bowl structure, allowing the hub shell to rotate freely relative to the axis.

The rear hub drives the rear through ratchet device. When pedalling, the hub pawls bite the ratchet teeth to transmit power. In contrast, the pawls release the ratchet teeth and the bike slides by inertia.

Types and characteristics of hub

According to the structure of the internal rolling part, it can be divided into cup&cone hub and sealed cartridge hub.

The balls of cup&cone hud directly contact the bowl and shaft baffle so that the contact area is large. At the same time, there is no need to use a support frame. More balls can be accommodated in a certain space, but the tightness is not very high. 

Therefore, in theory, the cup&cone hub can withstand greater pressure and the lateral force. The tightness of the assembly will have a certain impact on the rolling accuracy of the wheel, a loose fit can bring a more comfortable riding experience.

cup&cone hub

The rolling part of the sealed cartridge hub is mainly composed of high-precision ball bearings. They are usually divided into 2 bearings, 3 bearings, and 4 bearings, which respectively represent the number of bearings inside the hub. 3 bearings and 4 bearings are mainly used for rear hubs. 

There is a support frame inside the sealed cartridge hub, which has higher stability and accuracy. Compared with the cup&cone hub, there are fewer installed balls and lower friction coefficient. For the rider, it is more uncomfortable than that of cup&cone hub. However, sealed cartridge hub does not need extra maintenance, they can be replaced directly after wear and the cost is very cheap. When replacing the bearings, special tools are needed for disassembly and assembly. If not, it can easily be damaged.

sealed cartridge hub

How to choose a hub

Table 1 shows the main difference between the sealed cartridge hub and the cup&cone hub.

The difference between sealed cartridge hub and cup&cone hub.

Riders focus on comfort rather than shifting speed or hub strength during leisure riding, so the cup&cone hub is more suitable for leisure bikes.

Leisure ride

The light cross-riding has some requirements for shifting speed and bike strength but is not too high, as a result, both hubs can be used in light cross-country bikes. If you prefer comfort and economy, it is recommended to choose a cup&cone hub. If you are more concerned about waterproofing and maintenance, it is recommended to choose a sealed cartridge hub.

Light cross country riding

The racing bike has high requirements for hub precision and smoothness. Although cup&cone hubs can also meet the requirements of some competition, most superb bikes use sealed cartridge hubs due to waterproofing and maintenance performance.

Racing bike


[1] ‘Cycling Bible’ Editorial Board. Cycling Bible [M]. 1st Edition. Beijing: Machinery Industry Press, 2013.

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