Shimano generally makes fine bike stuff. Exploding wheels in Adriatic team time trials are much the exception for them, rather than the norm. About the biggest knock on their road groups is that Eddy didn't ride them. And they make good hubs. Or at least, they make hubs that are good at being hubs, but can really suck at being applicable products.
Take, for example, the CX75 hubs. These are disc brake hubs that Shimano brought out, as the name implies, for cross disc. They're great - quality work, pretty good geometry, outstanding color choice, all in all they work well, very cost effective, and they come with great skewers. Which is the rub - if you don't have a quick release disc bike, these aren't for you. And if you do have a quick release disc bike, you're probably thinking you'll wind up with a thru axle disc bike at some point in the not too far away. And these can't be converted. Lame.
If the CX75, which only comes in 28h drilling, had axle adaptability, we would sell the daylights out of them. Pair them with a set of the HED Belgium Black tubulars and you've got like a sub-$600, quite light set of wheels that oozes quality and makes carbon tubulars look pretty frivolous indeed. Pair them with Easton R90SL or Stan's Grail rims and your tubeless wardrobe gets a big dose of "What's up NOW?!?" But the axle deal makes them kind of a non-starter.
They also make a road hub that I think is called the HB505 (some sailors among you will know why that's such a cool number), and it's got the same exact deal - quick release only. Lame.
So if you want to use a Shimano disc hub with thru axles, why not just get their mountain bike hubs. Good idea, except it really doesn't work. I mean, the front will work just fine, so long as you have a 15mm axle (someone made me aware of a 12mm axle hub but I haven't found it). And so long as you want 32 or 36 hole lacing, which a lot of people don't. But the rear just ain't gonna work, because they don't do road 11 speed.
What's the difference between road and mountain 11 speed? Good question. Mountain 11 speed cassettes fit on road 10 speed cassette bodies. So a Shimano mountain cassette body is the same dimensions as the old 10 speed Shimano/SRAM cassette bodies. The difference is in the clearance, and to illustrate that I made an illustration.
So the reason why the mtb cassettes work, apart from the cassette actually fitting on the cassette body, is the increased space gained by having the big 36 and bigger inner cog on the cassette. That gives the drive side spokes more run to slope away from the cassette (and derailleur) and gain the requisite clearance.
Then there are other things like the fact that Ultegra hubs, which would otherwise be mint, don't come in anything below 32h. When the new Open Pro comes out we'll definitely do a build with that combo because that's like an iconic setup, but boy would it be cool if they made them in 24. Heck, even 28 would make them a heck of a lot more attractive. But then they'd run the risk of selling too many hubs and not enough built wheels, and the better game for them to be in is built wheels. A similar dynamic goes on with rim makers.
Anyway, as we're in the game of trying to figure out how to build better mousetraps, it's a shame that the mousetrap part that is the Shimano hub range gives such roadblocks. We'll keep trying, but ugh. Good thing there are so many other awesome choices.
Interestingly enough, Shimano made a 24h QR and CL XTR hub a few years back that matches the finish, but those are few and far between. I too am puzzled by their inability to switch between axle standards, especially now. I'd guess it has more to do with their cup and cone bearings, but I agree you are extremely limited. With the engineering force and staff behind what is Shimano, you'd think they would at least offer a thru axle hub with caps that can be switched to run QR if desired. Indeed a conundrum..
It's a good thing you guys are really good wheel builders. If your marketing and sales game was on par you would start the whole more spokes, more better trend and cash in on those extra spokes you would be selling with the Shimano hubs. I guess we will just have to settle for whale tails on our deep section carbon wheels for the time being. I'm still holding out hope that you are going to come out with a new Rail lineup with dolphin fins.
Personally I think Shomano engineering and marketing know exactly what they're doing.
Nuh uh – definitely not talking about that one. Nor are Rails with dolphin fins in the offing.
Dave- Is it the one about making a women sound like a dolphin? If we're on the same page, I guess you're discreetly telling me Rails with dolphin fins aint gonna happen.