This is a brand new section dedicated to those who prefer the dirt. This will cater to the world of MTB, gravel grinders and cyclocross riders. A huge curated selection of best quality hubs and rims are on offer.
Mountain bike and Gravel bike hubs:
The number of high quality MTB & gravel bike hubs is impressive. In fact, there are so many that it can be difficult making a decision on what to choose. Cognoscenti Cycles has selected what we feel to be the absolute best hubs on the market, spanning a price point from reliable entry level all the way up to the best available in the world. I’ll provide some essential information on each hub and if you require more info please email me and I’ll do my best to fill you in on all the fine details. I’ll also provide a price indicator to give you an idea where they fit from least to most expensive. An exact price can be provided by contacting me, as each hub set will vary depending on the options one chooses, such as custom colours or other features that may alter the price.
Before you begin exploring your options I should answer a much asked question. What is the difference between a MTB and a gravel bike hub? I get this question frequently and it deserves an explanation. In a nutshell there are more similarities than differences. It boils down to axle specifications and hub widths and some attention paid to the amount of freehub engagement. The lines have become blurred and admittedly there is not a lot of difference between these two. With the intense interest in gravel riding in the last few years there has been a plethora of new bikes with gravel specific designs, yet the hubs are not a world away from a set of MTB hubs. The same features exist in both hubs, like thru axles, possibly wider spacing, slightly higher spoke counts and freehubs that exploit more engagement. So from this you can see why a MTB hub could also be quite suitable for your new gravel machine, as long as you have the correct specs for the thru axles.
Onyx Racing Products: Onyx is without a doubt one of my all time favourite hubs for several reasons. If silence is what you’d like to hear on the trail this should be your number one choice. This ultra quiet hub achieves this feat by the use of a unique German made sprag clutch that not only runs silently but also gives one instant engagement. No other hub maker uses such a special system. It requires little maintenance and offers next to no resistance when you’ve stopped pedaling, making it the fastest hub tested. Top this off with German hybrid ceramic bearings and you have a hub that can’t easily be beat. Onyx offers a plethora of beautiful colours as well as custom colour options if desired. I ride these hubs myself and I can attest to their amazing qualities. They are at the higher end of the price spectrum but worth every penny. $$$$$
Chris King: As most are already aware, Chris King has been turning out top shelf hubs for a very long time, earning them a reputation that is synonymous with high quality. Hailing from Portland Oregon these USA made hubs have their special bearings made in house as well as all the other finely machined parts that make up this incredible hub. The patented Chris King ring drive offers 72 points of simultaneous engagement for ISO hubs and 45 for the R45D hubs. Available in standard 6 bolt and centrelock disc brake interfaces. Lots of cool colours and that unmistakable angry bee sound. $$$$$
Hadley Racing Products: Another USA made hub that’s popular amongst those in the know. MTB riders in California were most likely those who first began spreading the word about these lovely hubs. They gained a fierce following amongst those who appreciated a bomb proof hub that sports a titanium freehub and has 72 points of engagement. Several beautifully anodised colours and a flawless finish leave little to be desired. Check out my blog posting on these excellent hubs. $$$$$
White Industries: I am a big fan of this company. They’ve been at this for a long time and they can be trusted to provide you with a fantastic set of hubs. Their new XMR hubs would be ideal for a serious set of MTB wheels. They have updated the ratchet system to 48 points of engagement and their hubs ship stock with a 6al4v titanium freehub. Running on buttery smooth high quality bearings makes these a great choice. Their CLD boost hubs come in 7 different colours. $$$$
Hope: This UK made hub’s popularity has grown steadily over the last few years. Its less expensive than its American competition yet still offers some serious bang for your buck. The Hope Pro 4 is their newest offering with a standard 6 bolt disc interface. It runs on 4 pawls with 44 teeth of engagement. Comes in 6 colours and has an alloy freehub. A solid hub indeed. $$$
Phil Wood: Phil’s legacy and company endure even after the passing of the man himself. This American company has been manufacturing bicycle hubs since the early 70’s. Their MTB hubs are offered in two models, the Classic and the Pro. Both hubs have an optional upgrade to their low drag Carbonyte bearings. A 40 tooth ratchet and 5 double row pawls provide the engagement. Available in 10 colours. $$$$$
Project 321: This is not a hub you’ll see every day, but don’t let their rarity put you off. These guys make beautiful high end hubs with some desirable features. A USA manufacturer who has exploited a few cool design features that work well for either MTB riders or gravel grinders. Their G2 MTB hub has a customisable drive system with two options. Choose quiet or loud pawls and different amounts of engagement. Different pawl configurations will produce either 144 or 216 points of engagement, depending on your preferences. The bearings are fine tuned with an adjustable preload system. These hubs come with a 10 year warranty on the hub shell and axles and 3 years on the pawls. $$$$$
Industry Nine: The engineers at I9 have created a game changer with their new model named Hydra. With 614 points of engagement this is a major step up from the much loved Torch hub. For many MTB riders this hub will be embraced, big time. Its design also improves axle flex as well. This new model comes in lots of eye popping colours. $$$$$
Syntace: This high end German MTB hub looks much like many other good quality off road hubs, until you get inside. Don't let its basic black exterior fool you. The Syntace Hi-Torque MX hub makes use of a few important innovations that separate it from the others. Their patent pending design incorporates a unique system of engagement that relies on 36 tooth precision machined spur gears driven by 4 spiral springs. Syntace claim a far greater degree of strength and reliability with their design. Their 17mm butted axle and careful bearing placement guarantees maximum stiffness at a competitive weight. Adaptable to all current axle standards with removable end caps. The hub shells are machined from 7075 aluminium.
Trailmech: Trailmech came into existence in 2012. Based in Poltava in the Ukraine, these hub designers and manufacturers have broken the mold with an innovative new engagement system that uses no pawls. Their award winning design is being used by the Ukrainian National MTB team at the UCI World Cup and the World Championships. Their "Vortex Ring Technology" offers just 6 degrees of rotational play. The XC hubs engagement mechanism is made from hardened tool steel and the hub shell is machined from 7075 aluminium. Coming soon are both Enduro and Freeride/downhill versions. Trailmech offers a confidence inspiring 5 year warranty on their hubs. They are available in 4 colours, black, red, silver and blue. Disc brakes are 6 bolt interface.
Raceface: The recent introduction of their Vault hub has definitely stirred some interest among MTB riders. This hub has 6 pawls and 120 points giving you 3 degrees of engagement. Available in all desirable axle lengths and configurations and 5 different colours.
Factor: Factor is a premier line of Asian made disc hubs from the company Novatec. These hubs have immediate appeal for MTB or gravel riders who are looking for a decent hub at a decent price. Under the shell is 4 sealed bearings and a 6 pawl set up. Cassette bodies are made from AL70775 alloy for light weight. Available in regular and boost configurations with a selection of end caps to suite QR, 9, 15 & 20mm. Colours range from mirror polished black, red, blue, apple green among others.
Box Components: Box is in the process of taking over production of Stealth hubs. Time will tell how this works out and if there are any changes in the design of these unique hubs famous for their instant engagement and silent running. Made in the USA.
Kappius Components: Kappius have created several excellent innovations. Their hubs incorporate 240 points of engagement with a 60 tooth drive ring and 8 pawls that use rare earth magnets instead of conventional springs. This design must be one of the quickest of engagement times of any hub manufacturer today. Kappius use Enduro angular contact bearings and some of their hubs use a carbon fibre centre with alloy flanges. Spoke drillings are 28 holes only. 6 bolt disc brake friendly.
Tune Hailing from the Black Forest in Germany, Tune has been making ultra light weight bicycle parts for 25 years. On their menu is a large selection of both straight pull and J bend spoke hubs. They make hubs that would suit road bikes as well as most off road machines. Their MTB hubs sport 6 bolt disc friendly interfaces and thru axle options are available. The Tune Mag 170 road hub weighs in at a mere 178 grams and uses 4 high quality sealed bearings and is available from 16 holes up to 36 holes. The freehub is Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM compatible.
MTB & gravel rim options
There are numerous excellent rim options both in carbon fibre and alloy. Cognoscenti Cycles has culled together the best performing rims from years of custom building experience. Our finger is also on the pulse of whats new and whats worthy of your consideration. I’ll highlight the specific models that represent the cream of the crop. I’ll also give you an idea where they exist on the price scale to help you stay on budget. Here’s the list of all the companies that produce the good stuff!
Enve: The folks at Enve have several MTB and newly issued gravel rims to consider. Its an area that they have placed special emphasis on. Important features like their unique molded spoke beds enable them to build strong and light weight carbon rims for the trails or for days spent on fire roads and gravel strewn paths. The new G23 gravel rim is an example of a very light but robust rim, weighing only 330 grams! I recently built a set for a competitor who used them on the notoriously demanding Dirty Kanza gravel endurance ride. They survived perfectly intact. $$$$$
Astral Cycling: Rol Prima has created a second rim maker by the name of Astral Cycling. This USA based company designs and produces all their new rim models in house. I have recently built both their carbon and alloy rims and I am impressed. Obviously they have greatly benefitted from the vast carbon knowledge held by their parent company Rolf Prima. They have a few choice rims for the gravel cyclists out there. Models like the Wanderlust , Jester, Viper and the Outback immediately come to mind. Both 700c and 27.5 sizes are available as well as models in both carbon and alloy. $$$$
HED: The HED Belgium alloy rim needs no introduction. Its been around for awhile and has been a favourite for some time with many wheel builders. Its a well made no nonsense alloy rim that now comes in a Plus version suiting slightly wider tires. 465 grams and tubeless compatible. 25mm wide and 24mm deep. They also have a 650B option at 390 grams. An affordable alloy rim that could do double duty as a training wheel or for some gravel adventures. Not for ultra wide tires but you could certainly use tires in the mid 30mm range. $$
Nox Composites: These guys have some really nice models in both MTB and gravel as well as cyclocross rims. Their use of asymmetric rim beds shows a keen desire to equalise spoke tension between drive side and non drive side spokes. The Citico is a very light gravel rim at 380 grams with a wide 31mm external and a 23mm internal. The Zolder is a feather weight 320 gram cyclocross rim for those choosing tubulars with a nice mid depth of 27mm. Several MTB rims to choose from in 27.5 and 29er versions. $$$$
Boyd Cycling: The owner Boyd Johnson once raced his bike as a pro. His passion for cycling is now poured into his company which produces high quality well designed rims that exhibit tight tolerances and quality control in both their carbon and alloy models. All rims are designed in the USA and made in Asia. I have always been quite happy with any Boyd rim I’ve built with in the past and I would recommend them highly without reservation. Many models to choose from including 650B options and carbon tubulars for CX or gravel racers. $$$-$$$$
We Are One Composites: A boutique carbon rim maker from Kamloops British Columbia on Canada’s west coast. All rims are designed and made in house. Both MTB and gravel models are up for grabs. With a Lifetime Warranty if you happen to break one of their rims, this takes the sting out of a possible rim failure. A warranty like this shows that the guys at We Are One Composites have ultimate confidence in their work. $$$$
FSE: This acronym stands for Filament Spun Evolution. A new manufacturing technique that exploits a different rim construction method of stranded carbon done by machine rather than sheets of carbon done by hand. To my knowledge only two rim makers are using this method to produce their rims. This approach promises tighter tolerances, greater strength and much better quality control. FSE has both gravel and MTB rims that are definitely worthy of your next custom wheel build. $$$$
AForce: Designed in the Netherlands, AForce has a very well made rim that I have personally tested that I feel is an excellent choice for a gravel set up with alloy rims. The AForce Ai 33 is a very robust rim that has used AF9X T6 alloy, something I have not seen used on bicycle rims before and I feel is an upgrade from the more common choice of 6061 alloy. Its weight of 485 grams is ideal for a gravel rim and it also happens to have a very aerodynamic shape as an added bonus. Its 32.5 mm deep which will impart some additional stiffness. The width is 26.2mm and has an internal of 19.2mm. The ceramic coating and shot peened surface also add strength. $$$
Nextie: These rims are made in China and I was pleasantly surprised at the finish and quality considering how very affordable they are. I built up a pair of very wide MTB rims recently that really impressed me. These rims could very well be a cost effective way into the carbon rim world for many riders on a tight budget. Nextie offers a very large number of models with numerous options for spoke count and decals. Asymmetric rims are also on offer which is impressive. If money is tight look no further. $$$
H Plus Son: Looking for a rim for a budget set of gravel wheels? The H Plus Son Hydra disc rim might just do the trick nicely. A mid weight 700c rim at 455 grams made from strong G609 alloy thats tubeless compatible. Its 23mm deep and 25mm wide. Its got a proper welded rim joint and they build up very nicely. A perfect choice for a low cost build for either your gravel machine or you winter bike. $$