- Shimano Saint hubs
- £64.95 (front); £110 (rear)
Shimano has always stuck by good old cup-and-cone hub bearings, and Saint nearly continues the tradition. The rear hub is essentially business as usual. The only major difference (aside from a chunky hub shell with a splined Centerlock disc fitting on one end) is the axle. Rather than a 10mm hollow axle with a quick-release skewer through it, the Saint hub has the bearings running on a rather larger axle with what is, in effect, a 10mm steel bolt through it to hold the wheel in. It's not really an axle but we'll refer to it as such because, well, that's the obvious thing to call it. It tightens up from the disc side and threads into the Saint derailleur on the other side - the derailleur doesn't mount to the gear hanger on the frame as normal. All of this makes getting the the back wheel in and out an activity akin to juggling with randomly-tethered balls, but rapid puncture repairs aren't really a priority for the sort of applications that Saint is designed for. At 600g it's no lightweight, but a lot of that is the axle.
Owners of certain DH bikes will be disappointed that the Saint rear hub is only available in a conventional 135x10mm size, but for 2005 there'll be a 150mm over-locknut version with a 12mm axle for really big bikes. There'll be an accompanying chainset with a longer axle to make everything line up.
The front hub is a little different. It's only available to work with a 20mm through-axle, which has led Shimano to use a sort-of cassette bearing. They're still described as cup and cone angular contact bearings and you can still adjust them (with the aid of some special tools) but each bearing is a self-contained unit that threads into the hub shell. It's 250g, which isn't too shabby. The size of the axle dictates that the Centerlock disc fitting is a larger diameter than that found on XT and XTR, so the disc rotors aren't interchangeable. The hubs come with rubber covers to keep gunk out of the splines (and make them look neater) if you're running rim brakes.
In use they're, well, Shimano hubs. They spin merrily away and keep doing so. Once you've tasted the stoutness of a 20mm front axle you'll be reluctant to go back to quick-releases, and the rear axle is both reassuring to snug down with an Allen key and is very unlikely to bend. The popularity of the rear hub is likely to be limited by its symbiotic relationship with the Saint rear derailleur, though - if you have one you have to have the other. Similarly, you can currently only get 160mm or 203mm Centerlock rotors to fit these hubs, which limits your choice of brakes somewhat. Magura make a Centerlock-to-six-bolt adaptor, though.
Positives: All the good things about Shimano hubs in a burly package
Negatives: Rear hub and rear mech are totally interdependent, limited brake options
You really can't go wrong with Shimano hubs, but if you want to use non-Shimano brakes you'll have to fiddle around a bit and if you want to use a non-Saint rear mech then the rear hub's out completely. They're decent value, though.