Help Me Choose, Part 2: Hubs

Sorry for a really crappy photo, I was in a rush.  Standard house hubs on left, WI-T11 on right.

So what's the difference between our standard house hubs (aka Novatec F482SB-11 rear and A291SB front) and White Industries T11, are the White Industries worth the price difference, and which one is right for you?  Well, as any knucklehead can see, White Industries are pink, house hubs are red, and the house hubs use tape to keep the 10-speed spacer on while White Industries uses a rubber band.  Duh!

More seriously, let's begin with what you can't see.  Inside the rear, White uses some titanium in nice places like the drive ring to increase durability, there are 5 bearings in the WI hub to the 4 in the house hub, although the bearings are all the same size (6902 and 6802).  Bearing quality is comparable - Novatec uses good bearings (EZO, Japanese) in these hubs.  We recently had a weird outlier bad bearing, but one in a couple of thousand in a pretty good hit rate.  The WI rear has the same diameter axle as the house hub, but it's cro-mo steel vs 7075 aluminum alloy in the house hub: a several gram increase in weight for a significant gain in strength and durability. 

On the outside, the house hub uses one steel spline on the cassette body, dubbed the Anti-Bite Guard.  This improves cassette body durability, though not to the degree of the titanium cassette body on the WI hub.  Again, the WI cassette body is slightly heavier, but it doesn't have durability, it has infallibilty. 

The geometry of the rear hubs is functionally similar.  We build them with the same spoke lengths, they build to about 2 or 3 nipple turns (the threaded segment of a spoke is 10mm, the thread pitch is 56tpi - yes, inch - so a 3 turn difference is about the thickness of your thumbnail, and both fall well within what would be considered an ideal length range), and the tension balance winds up being ever so slightly better on the WI hubs, but in any case just around 50%.  The bracing angles are similar.  The WI might have some additional lacing stiffness out there in the decimal places because the flanges are higher, but it's not something I can notice while building. 

We've had four instances where WI has gained some weight on the house hub (additional bearing, ti vs al cassette body, bigger flanges, and cro-mo vs al axle), and although in every case it's a well-considered trade, you don't want to be riding pigs, do you?  WI hubs are more extensively machined to find and remove material that isn't contributing to hub performance. At the end of it all, the WI rear hub winds up about 15g heavier.  Both hubs are shockingly consistent, to the gram, in weight.

For front, the WI hub again has taller flanges, which are slightly wider set.  WI fronts use a 2mm shorter spoke than house fronts, due to the taller flanges and despite their wider set.  They both use 2 bearings, but the WI bearings are bigger.  In an ideal world, smaller bearings spin better.  In an ideal world there is no axial loading, a bicycle front hub is pretty far from an ideal world for a bearing.  The stiffness difference between a WI-based front and a house-based front may be noticeable to an extremely discerning rider, more likely it is bench-measurable but gets lost in the wash of tires, forks, bars, and everything else that's moving on your bike.  Weight difference between the two is, again, 15 grams in favor of the house hubs. 

The WI hubs come in black, red, blue, silver, green, purple, pink, and gold.  House hubs come in black and red. 

We are phasing house hubs out over time.  Why?  Because we have to buy a ton of them at a time, and the lead time is long.  When we get a shipment in, we have hundreds and hundreds of them on hand.  This is a cash drain (lead time and implied inventory turns, plus the cost of goods) and takes away agility in a market that demands it.  On the other hand, we have a few dozen sets of WI hubs at the moment, which will be gone and replaced with successors in short order, as we cycle that inventory as fast as we can build wheels.  When I look at our hub inventory and the money it represents it freaks me out a little that we now keep that much on hand, but it's where we are now and that's a great thing for us.  Colors that we don't keep on hand (we generally have red, black, blue on hand) are a week away, and it's a good setup for us.  We also sell more WI-based builds by an increasing margin.  That said, the house hubs are of equivalent quality (and come off the same line as) well-regarded private-label hubs. 

Which one is right for you?  We feel much better about presenting you with a unique information resource and encouraging you to find the decision that's right for you. 

I like blue hubs and use them. 

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Having used and loved WI H1, H2, and H3 hubs, White Industries hubs are the only ones for me!

Robin S

When the house hubs run out, we plan to make the base price of a set of Rails the same price as the then-current price of a set of Rails with WI T-11 hubs. The house hubs are running out at a rate that the current price of WI-hubbed Rails is that price, but that could change.


When the house hubs are gone, will the base price for Rails be the same as the current WI T-11 upgrade price?


thesteve4761 – Sorry we missed your comment for a while. It's not something we're running headlong toward, for inventory cost, logistics management, sales time (we spend a lot of hours consulting with people on the best choice for them with just 2 options), and a bunch of other factors. For now, because we sell rims individually, whatever hubs you'd like a set of Rails with, you can get them. David – Next time tell Carl to let you know they've arrived. We know we've lost sales because we don't fudge, I think people expect it and have come to factor it in (i.e. a stated 1490g wheel set is actually 1530, so if we say it's 1530 then it's going to come in at 1600 – that's so prevalent I can hardly fault people for assuming it), so whatever, but we're sticking with how we do it. Good on you for weighing them – the number of people on forums or whatever who say "I bought these because they were the lightest option" and then don't weigh what it is they've bought, that's maddening.

Dave K

I received my Rail 52's with the White Industries hubs today. I can attest that the WI hubs add a little weight. Without rim strips and skewers, they weighed within 5grams of EXACTLY what November Bicycles lists plus the difference as outlined above for the WI hubs. Can't wait to get these on the road. Good to see a wheel builder list an honest weight specs. So many bigger name companies wheels list an overly optimistic weight spec. I'm not a weight weenie but its just nice when things are advertised as they really are.

david deatsch

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