Which, as my wife undoubtedly knows and probably intuitively said it when she saw the title, is supposed to be said like "politics politics politics politics" (boy, when you die at Caeser's Palace, you really DIE at Caeser's Palace!) from History of the World Pt 1.
help, help, I'm upside down!!!
Anyhoo........ We've been selling a lot of wheels lately, and a lot of them are getting built with either White Industries or Chris King hubs. Like nearly half of them. We also sell a lot of wheels with Powertaps.
The exact same hubs we use as our standard get anodized in fancy colors and laser etched with fancy logos and show up on some pretty expensive wheels indeed, and having used our hubs now for going on two years with I couldn't even count how many miles, including plenty of cross racing, our first hand experience with them has been fantastic. I replaced a rear hub bearing for one customer after, by the owner's reckoning, over 5000 road miles. The fact that I replaced it for her tells you that I wasn't wild about the bearing having gone out even with the mileage (water intrusion was the evident cuplrit), but jeez collectively there have to be like I don't even know, 250,000 miles on our hubs? At the very least. Maybe triple that. Apart from that one hub, I know of one guy who's going to replace some bearings because of a happy power washer guy at cross races. Point a power washer at a hub and the bearings are marked for death, I don't care which hub. That, as far as Mike and I are concerned, is a pretty fantastic track record.
So why are so many people buying White Industries and King hubs? I think there are a lot of reasons, including but not limited to both having awesome reputations, both being dead sexy, both making lascivious (sp?) noises, the general overall affordability of them when built into our wheels, their availability, and maybe some other factors. But I'm less concerned with the "why" right now than talking about when we recommend them, and how we come to those recommendations.
Both have pretty legendary durability, but Chris King hubs are sealed better than pretty much any other hubs around. If you want to get yourself a really astonishing set of wheels which are primarily intended for CX use, you can't beat King hubs. Both have really really tight engagement (how many degrees the cranks need to go before the hub engages and makes the wheel go 'round and 'round) which is absolutely prized by mountain bikers who constantly ratchet their cranks to get around obstacles, but is not super relevant in road, but is of some import in cross. So for the ultimate cross wheel set, Kings.
Both Kings and White Industries use wide flanges and big bearings. These are both great for big dudes and people who are generally hard on their wheels. In any case, I really start to hesitate on radial laced front wheels for guys who start going over 200 pounds, but for Clydesdales, the flange diameter of both Kings and Whites is a boon.
Bigger bearings are pretty wheel always better. They turn more smoothly and get stressed less than smaller bearings at any given speed or torque. If you want something to roll more smoothly, put a bigger bearing on it. This is a benefit for all, but again I think bigger guys who throw big torque at things are going to be the main beneficiaries. Both are excellent in this regard.
For a long time, Campagnolo users couldn't have Chris King R45 rear hubs. They didn't make them. Now they do. And having built Campy wheels with both Kings and Whites, I prefer the Kings for this application. The geometry of the King hub is such that non-drive spokes are tighter on King builds than Whites. Novatec hubs actually build very very nicely in Campy wheels as well. It's not a door closer for the Whites in any respect (there are people who will read this who own or will soon own Campy-based White hubbed wheels from us, and I would have advised them against were it that big a deal), but if you are starting from a blank sheet of paper with all else being equal, it's Kings for Campy. They even include a cassette lockring on Campy hubs, that is of course suitable for wearing as jewelry. It's a notable lockring. Get that? A notable lockring. The whole package is just beautiful.
When you hold either hub in your hand, the quality is self evident. You pick them up and say "holy cow, this is a precision instrument." Chris King had his fabrication start making medical implant equipment. That legacy has clearly stayed strong in his company's products. White is not far off. If you are looking for a set of wheels with hubs that display 100% masterful machining and will be precision pieces for longer than probably any other part on your bike, either fits that bill. One of my favorite builds recently was a set of FSWCX with Red Kings for Campy. They're headed to Europe this year to do a whole bunch of bucket list riding over there. Bucket list wheels for bucket list riding. It was HARD to part with those ones.
Have you seen the red, pewter, and mango finishes that King offers? The pink? The blue? Look, it's bikes we're talking about, and people want their bikes to look TOIGHT like a TOIGER. The King colors are seriously lustful.
That said, you'll have to dig a bit deeper for Kings. They ain't cheap.
Whites have a titanium freehub. In keeping with the advantage that I perceive King to have in the Campy geometry, the Campy freehub's superior spline design makes aluminum more feasible for cassette bodies. Eventually, any aluminum freehub body will get chewed up when you use it with a Shimano/SRAM cassette. You will never wear out a White Industries cassette body.
King hubs have a really nice bearing pre-load adjustment mechanism. Whites also have bearing pre-load. Both work well and allow you to tune your hubs to virtually eliminate bearing play yet allow your hubs to roll as freely as possible and last a good long time. For some people who are more of a set it and forget it inclination, this may not be the best thing. But if you can't live without tinkering, well, there's this.
Now, on Powertaps, the classic design ins't exactly revered among wheelbuilders for being the greatest geometry, but it's passable. The new G3 hubs look much improved in this regard. But that's not really what a Powertap is all about anyway. You get a Powertap because it's a convenient and (relatively) less expensive, accurate, power option. People like them. We have two in my family, that have some psychotic number of miles on them. So they're sort of a sidebar to this discussion.
Any of the hubs that we offer are going to build into great wheels. A lot of people are choosing Whites and Kings, and there are good reasons to do so. Sometimes, one has an advantage over the other for a specific purpose. If you have any questions about using one or the other, let us know. We're happy to help.