There's no exaggeration when I say that we've been on a multi-year constant quest to find budget friendly hubs that mimic the performance and durability of more expensive options. If you've followed us for a while, you know that we're very into hubs. They can make or break your experience with a set of wheels. Our usual suspect high-grade hubs - White Industries, Industry Nine, and Chris King - all get top grades from us and everyone else, but they do it at a price. OEM hubs offer low prices and good service, but they often seem better suited to attracting people with lower weights and prices than with super reliability and durability. We've used them enough, and had a net positive experience, but not one strong enough to stay our wandering eyes. We've also consistently run into the issue of it either being a pain in the butt to find a way to source the hubs economically to take full advantage of their potential cost savings, or pay someone else what you might call an outsized premium to do that. One wastes time and takes your money out of play, the other just wastes money.
We became aware of Aivee maybe 2 years ago, and were sorely tempted to use them because we liked their backstory (a French aerospace engineering and manufacturing offshoot) and they seemed attractive. The issue was that their road flange spacing is a bit odd. They pull the non-drive flange in, which balances spoke tensions but compromises wheel stiffness. You're always picking a poison in these things, but we've always felt like non-drive spoke tensions were something we can manage and didn't want to compromise structure to mitigate a problem that hasn't been a problem for us.
Two years down the track, however, disc hubs are a much bigger part of the equation. Mike thinks we will be a disc brake wheel company in a disc brake wheel market this year. My guesstimated time frame is a little further out than his, but it's a difference of degree not substance. And Aivee makes some kick ass disc brake hubs.
We've tested a bunch of various hubs, from Shimano and SRAM to stuff you won't have heard of, and there's always been some obstacle. With Shimano, it's spoke counts and utter lack of axle adaptability. With SRAM, it's lack of a center lock option. With others, it's anything from one of those, to a supply line issue, to lack of confidence in the manufacturer, to some silly construction thing. Aivee had us roadblocked without a center lock option, but now they've solved that.
The MP2 model is the option we've chosen to go with our RCG36 builds, and which we'll filter into more and more builds as an available option in the coming days. So what do we like about them?
For one, they're seemingly indestructible. With other cost-conscious hubs, you can feel like you've got to be a bit ginger with them. These? Hah, they're far more "come at me, bro." For another, the design and construction is great. Wide set flanges, good bearings placed well, reliable pawl and spring design (very similar to White Industries'), 30 point engagement which is great (ideal-ish?) for "not mountain biking," and a very adaptable but also very secure end cap axle swap system. The axle is very robust (bent axles remain our #1 issue with the OEM hubs, and it generally messes up the whole hub). There is no pre-load adjustment system, and we view that as preferable to almost all users (we kinda wish the others would get rid of theirs, honestly). The bearings are great quality from a supplier with whom we have tons of experience (EZO) and they spec a generous fill. Beyond that, the bearings are well protected, so even if you're riding in super crap conditions it's pretty much a "rinse it off and forget about it" maintenance situation. Weight is 15g/set higher than a set of WI CLDs. Cassette body is hardened aluminum. If you torque your cassette lock ring enough, you won't have cassette chew issues. Shimano/SRAM and XD drivers are available. And center lock.
We're able to buy them directly and efficiently, which takes the cost of a middleman out, which of course leaves more money for "product" in the cost of the product.
We need to get the RCG36 pre-order done before we get too fancy with other stuff (like the orange hub you see in the photo above, which is their World Cup level - even World Cup winning - mountain bike hub), but the plan is to add the MP2s as an option in all of our disc builds in short order, and then offer them as standalone hubs for those of you who like to build wheels and are looking for something effective and different.