The response to our Nimbus Ti rim brake hubs (that description is always going to sound clunky) has been incredible, and now the Nimbus Ti CLD hubs have arrived and are ready to build. They look great, as you can see, but what makes them more than just a pretty face? What makes them worth choosing over other options? In short, what difference do hubs make?
If you have the time, it may be worth reading this fairly recent blog for some background.
The first two things that most people look for in hubs are cost and weight. Both matter. The difficulty comes when many of the less costly hubs come with lighter weight. Some of the most expensive hubs are also super light, but then a lot of the hubs that cost quite a bit are not as light. This leads a lot of people to ask "if I can get hubs that are way lighter for less money, why wouldn't I do that?" Fair question.
The old axiom is "light, cheap, strong - pick two," and to some degree that holds up here. The light and cheap hubs we've seen, in particular for discs, don't hold up as well as we think hubs need to. The primary fail points are the bearings and axles. Lesser bearings are less precise and have seals that aren't as good, which makes them more susceptible to dirt and moisture, and which generally lets them degrade more quickly through normal use. This phenonemon in old headset bearings is why the Chris King of today exists - their original headsets lasted seasons, where people were used to headsets lasting rides, if even that. Lightweight aluminum axles are fine for some applications (our rim brake front hubs use aluminum axles), but in other applications they do bend. We've seen this happen regularly. When an axle bends, and the bend we are talking about is miniscule, the hub won't hold a bearing. Steel axles? Not so much with the bending. So the better bearings cost money and the steel axles cost weight, but together they do a ton in terms of creating reliable longevity.
The most regular comment we get on wheels built with WI hubs is that they are "stiff and smooth." That may be just an unwitting and facile hub/wheel equivalent of "laterally stiff and vertically compliant," but it's what we most often hear. But the real story isn't that initial hit, it's that what you feel there will continue to be the case year after year after year, with maybe 30 minutes of maintenance a year - if you ride a lot.
Our ideology for the stuff we use, and what we think most people want to use, is that it needs above all else to be totally reliable and not need constant baby sitting to be at its best. Weight counts, but only insomuch as it doesn't compromise reliability. Quality is paramount, and when you eventually do need to service it, that should be easily accomplished. We find that White Industry's hubs always nail this equation in line with how we like. The Nimbus Ti hub series allows us to remove, or at least significantly lower, the cost barrier to getting a no-compromise set of hubs in a no-compromise set of wheels. Unlike almost all the hubs used in wheelsets that are anywhere close to what Nimbus Ti wheels sell for, when your rims finally do wear out, you simply clean up the hubs and put new rims on them, which makes a good initial value much better still over the long run.