Highly Engaged Hubs

Highly Engaged Hubs

Hub engagement speed has become a huge topic in the past year or so. A few companies have made a lot of sound and fury around instant engagement, and consequently it's one of those things that we spend a lot of time addressing as an issue or a concept. Whether it has any benefit to you, or in fact might be a detriment to you, all depends on how and what you ride. 

Pictured here is my Gen1 (28mm internal) Hotfoot rear wheel, with a White Industries XMR rear hub. Its 48 points of engagement would have been notably high not long ago, now it's derided as "nowhere near enough." Quite simply, to me, this feels like plenty. I also have a pair of wheels with I9 Torch (not the new Hydra, which have even more points of engagement than Torch hubs have), and while they feel a bit quicker to pick up, for cross country and the general "fairly skilled and fit person riding around on stuff like most people ride around on" use they go through, the benefit of that quicker pickup is negligible. 48 seems enough, more than that feels like it's past the point of diminishing returns. Which isn't to say that Torches and Hydras aren't awesome hubs - they are. But the race for infinite engagement is, to me, over hyped. 

Here is a post I recently put up on the RoadBikeReview "Wheels and Tires" forum. While we used to be active forum posters, it seems like most of them have slid toward the toilet of internet inevitability and we don't post so much any more. But this was one I did want to address:

The benefit of engagement speed is at least magnified, and in my view sort of created, by gear ratios. If you have 10* engagement, but you're in 50x13, that drives the engagement that you feel down to ~2.5*. This is because your chain ring is ~4x the teeth of your cog, meaning that you turn the cog ~4* for every 1* that you turn the chain ring.

When you are in a negative gear (say 32x42) going up a technical climb, every degree you turn the cranks is reduced at the cog, so every 10* you turn the crank means like a ~7.5* turn at the cog. This is where points of engagement get super important.

There are mountain bike climbs that I can clean (somewhat) easily with high engagement hubs that get way harder with low engagement hubs. If you stuff up and need to remount and get going again, high engagement also makes that way easier.

On road, high engagement is a COMPLETE AND TOTAL red herring. It's another of the bike industry's meaningless points of differentiation that people totally buy into, and that people like me can either waste electrons trying to educate people about (which typically pi$$es people off and costs sales) or smile and go along with (which generally legitimizes the mistaken belief).

In short, if you are making a decision in favor of a hub for road use based on its superiority of engagement speed, I think you're barking up the wrong tree. I would MUCH rather use a 48 point XMR hub than an 18 point DT Swiss hub for mountain biking, but for road? Non issue. 

Back to blog


Jordan – I don’t have any watt numbers to quote but if you look at say Zipp’s numbers for their current hubs on what they save over normal hubs and then divide by 2 (bc Zipp) and then divide by 2 again bc we’re not getting rid of all that pawl drag, you’re probably close.

Roy – Glad you enjoyed it!

Brett – Welcome to the dark side!

Rick – Everything has its place, although the sound of victory ALWAYS has a place!


I’ve got i9 hubs on 5 of my bikes, 4 MTBs and one CX, two MTBs have Hydras courtesy of November, the CX has Torch from November as well. I love the buzzy sound of infinite POEs. To me it sounds like victory, as in I can claim a victory over a challenging log rollover or other tech uphill feature where I have to do a quick ratchet at the top in order to get over it.

Rick Perner

Nice article! I just started mountain biking (long time roadie). As a beginner, I often get hung up on some uphill segments, so now completely understand this engagement issue. Never a problem on the road.


Excellent article you have written about high engagement hubs and these being a “COMPLETE AND TOTAL red herring” as applied to road biking. It confirms what I have been telling my cycling buddies for the past year or so. Thanks for the continuing education. PLEASE CONTINUE!

Roy Johnston

I had not heard the concept of gear ratio effect applied to POE before. Thanks for sharing. Do you have any data on hub drag? I see almost every single bike thing quantified in watts but have never seen that analyzed. How much would these so called zero drag hubs save in watts at X coasting speed? What would a “bad” hubs drag be in watts vs a “good” one? In an average road race you do ton of coasting if you do it well and if there are significant savings to be had there it seems like they would add up. On an XC course there is plenty of coasting there too. Any data you’ve seen on the significance or opinions on freehub drag would be interesting to hear. Thanks!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.