Is there HOPE* for my hub?


new ball bearings in HOPE hubOn my touring bicycle I have a HOPE XC rear hub with a Mavic A319 rim. But, over the last two years, I have had two rims crack and two sets of bearings and one broken axle plus a freewheel go bust. So I have had to butcher another HOPE hub and get the axle and freehub from that one to build mine up. This fettling has, unfortunately, started to fail again and I’m now looking for a new rear wheel, hub and rim.

I’m around 15-16 stones (~100Kg) and carry around 4.5 stones (25-30kg) on my fully-loaded bicycle. Which, compared to other tourers, is heavy, but not the heaviest of loads. Yet others do not seem to have the same problems with their rear wheels, even though they’re doing more miles on rougher tracks.

I have talked about the bearings in the hub dying before in these posts: exploding balls and rolling
rolling rolling
. The HOPE hubs are great and easy to fettle by yourself, but this isn’t something that you can easily do while touring.

I’ve therefore recently been on a quest to find a suitable hub and rim combination which will carry me and my touring luggage in confidence!

Phil Wood: These hubs certainly sound like the bees knees and everyone says if you can afford it, go for it. They look like they have a strong axle too, with the same diameter along the full length of the axle.

Chris King: This is a slightly cheaper option, but still costs a pretty penny. I like the sound of their cross country hubs, which sound like they can take a fair beating. Again, the axle is the same diameter throughout and they appear to be easy to service, too.

Royce: This is a cheaper option and have a titanium axle. I had a good old chat with Chris on the phone recently where I told him my woes. He sounded very sure that the Royce hubs were up to the job. No sales pitch or business bullshit there, just honest talk.

Shimano: I have a good old XT M550 which I have used for around 10 years and loads of hard miles around London, without any problems. However, I have heard from many mechanics that they would not use the new XT M770 in any wheels they are building up. They simply don’t trust the new version of this model.

I have even toyed with the idea of a tandem wheel with 48 spokes. But that gives its own set of problems, since they’re not that easy to get hold of even here in the UK. I worry how I’d find spare parts if we’re really off the beaten track somewhere. I’m pushing the boat out in going for 700c wheels on my tourer, but I’m sure that if I build a strong wheel and keep it with “standard” parts I shouldn’t have huge problems. I have read about other tourers on 700c who have cycled the most remote areas of the world and, in their experience, getting spare parts for 700c wheels was equally as difficult as getting parts for 26″ wheels.

Side note: Why is it that the 700c rim is supposedly harder to find compared to the 26″ rim? Surely 700c rims have been around the longest?

I think I have discovered why the rim died the second time. We built it too tight so there was not enough flex in the spokes to take the load on bumpy roads. The brake surface of the rim has lasted very well, even after 9000+ miles. So I think I will still go with Mavic rims but be a bit more careful on the tightening of the spokes. I’m not entirely sure why the rim died the first time, since it was a bit “softer” and I only spotted one crack near an eyelet where the second time there were several cracks.

So, a decision needs to be made. I’m even considering getting a trailer to spread out the load across the bike. Pros: weight spread over more wheels and more room for food and water. Cons: extra weight to pack up when flying out and you have to be very strict not to submit to the temptation of loading it up simply because you have the “space”.


HOPE will certainly be getting a phone call from us, to see if anything can be done with the two broken hubs which are in bits. We also have a light (that we accidentally dropped onto a carpeted floor) which is in need of a service, too.

It took some time for us to contact HOPE, but HOPE came back very fast once we did. Two days later the front light came back fixed within warranty, which is nice. Though, the two hubs we sent them, the ratchet rings were broken beyond repair.

*) did you see what I did there, did you, did you? :)


  1. I have had the same problem as you.I resolved it by shopping around for quite a while .For me the solution was to go to ProWheel Builder in the USA.The Aussie dollar was not so good to the US$ at that time , I opted for Shimano XT M756 hubs and Velocity Aeroheat rims , DT Swiss spokes in a 4 cross pattern. They built excellent rims and I made sure that my hubs would take disc brakes ( I run front disc only, but am looking at a rear in the future) and the rims had machined side walls just in case.I ordered a third for my Extrawheel trailer.Price was great compared to prices here in Australia even with freight costs thrown in.No problems so far , me 100kg, two rear panniers 20-30 kgs and trailer max of 45kgs.If I had spent more time researching I would have opted for the Velocity Chukkers with S/S eyelets for extra strength.

  2. PS. another hub that I run on my spare rims is a “WHITE” these I consider bullet proof and rebuildable, don’t know about newest ones, up there with Phil Wood hubs.These brands are worth every penny as they will last a damn long time and when your ride falls apart transfer them to the new ride.I also have a set of old Araya Steel rims with double eyelets that are 26 years old and run on really old Shimano hubs, this is my old Mountain bike circa 1985.They might have to go to a museum soon ,the only way I’ll part with them.

  3. Another factor is the spokes. It’s tempting to specify plain gauge spokes when trying to come up with a bomb-proof wheel, but being more stiff, they transmit more shock to the hub, and cause local high peak-loads on the rim. Butted spokes are more elastic, spreading shock loads between several spokes, and absorbing some of the shock to the hub, and so make a stronger wheel overall.
    Truing is a little bit more difficult, and they are more prone to baggage-handler damage, but that’s a small price to pay.

    • Ian: I talked to the fella at Royce and he told me pretty much the same. Make the spokes the weakest link, so if you should get something in the wheel it is the spokes that goes first. Not your expensive hub or rim and it is much easier to fettle too. 13 gauge I think he talked about. Would a four cross build up be any good?

  4. Tis’ simple. Get a Rohloff on the rear and a SON on the front. Of course you might need to change your chosen steed to accomodate these but this is surely a small price to pay for such great bits of kit. ;-)

    • Yup I have been thinking about that too, Though it does mean a new bicycle, which is going to be hard to get past the “bank” since it will be more than just a back wheel. :)

  5. Woolypig, may I recommend Brandt’s “The Bicycle Wheel” should you not already have it in your library? Therein you’ll find the myth of the “soft wheel” exploded, so to speak. Basically, the more tension the stronger the wheel. Of course, too much tension may lead to cracks around the spoke holes; I get the specs from the rim maker and use a tensiometer. There have been issues with Velocity rims, and two of my favourite local shops aren’t keen on Mavic rims at all with issues of cracking around the spoke holes and lack of trueness being cited. I’m afraid that Mavic may well be another in a long line of names once known for quality and innovation being cynically exploited by a conglomerate. Although the owner of Velo Orange doesn’t have much of a fan in me, I have been very pleased with the rims supplied by him. And they’re shiny too! How I mourn the passing, locally, of the availability of Ambrosio “Club” rims! Double-eyeleted, clean looking, durable, non-machined, and so easy to build into a true wheel that never needed the touch of a spoke key again.

    Shimano hubs. I’m not a fan as such, but after problems aplenty with the alternatives, I’m sticking with what hasn’t failed me, yet. I won’t use sealed bearings on any component if I can help it: the balls are (almost) always smaller, the bearings are often difficult to replace, and the amount of grease in the bearing is small. The indomitable Phil Wood bottom bracket provided me with an example of the latter two issues. Every two years the grease had completely disappeared from the bearings, and nobody local would touch it. Fed up with mailing off, into the bin it went.

    Another point in favour of the Shimano rear hub is that the bearings are located as far outboard as possible leading to an easier life for the axle; three broken Campagnolo axles in a year made me take off my rose-tinted Euro spectacles! I seem to recall patent issues prohibit others from duplicating this feature, but I wouldn’t swear to it. I use a 36 hole Ultegra rear hub which deals well with my ample bulk, bad roads, light to medium loads, and eight to ten thousand miles per year. Spring and fall I repack the grease, more out of a sense of duty than anything else; it’s always clean and plentiful.

    Finally, the boutique hubs are generally machined aluminum, I suppose that’s aluminium to you! I wouldn’t accept that in something so stressed and vital as a hub or crankset.

    Sorry to run on! I use my cycle everyday and I’ve broken a lot of stuff on the way! It’s too bad that we cyclers are so poorly served by the media: rigorous testing and reviewing of the products we use just isn’t being done, with the exception of Jan Heine’s “Bicycle Quarterly. And try and pick that up at the news stand!

  6. Hello, can I use the pictures for a book I’m helping with. I was looking for free-license pictures of broken bearing. Can I?


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