Last March I got an email from Adam, Product Manager at Easton/Race Face asking if I would like to take a look at a new hub they were readying for release to retailers and wheel builders like me. Marketed under the Race Face banner, the new hubs are a J-bend version of the straight-pull Vault hubs used on the Race Face Turbine R and Easton EA90 SL Disc wheelset. They wanted the opinion of an experienced wheel builder, and I was happy to oblige. Adam put me in contact with Todd, the Product Engineer who created the hub. He clarified what kind of feedback would be useful and we worked out a timetable for receiving the parts, building and sending them back to Easton/ Race Face for testing. From where I stand, the majority of wheel builders prefer the flexibility of hubs that accept a traditional J-bend rather than a straight pull spoke. Contrary to what contemporary advertising might imply, a well built wheel constructed with J-bend spokes will run problem free for a very long time, will never become obsolete and remain infinitely repairable, should needs arise. Consequently, I was happy when the box of J-bend Vault hubs arrived from Easton/Race Face; it kinda felt like Christmas.
By the numbers; front hubs are available with 15mm thru axles in 100mm and 110mm Boost widths; rear hubs are available in 12 x 142, 12 x 148 and 12 x 150mm (with end cap adaptors to space to 12 x 157). You can opt for an XD driver or a Shimano 11 speed Dynasis freehub.
Spoke holes are 2.5mm in diameter and lightly countersunk on both sides. To ease spoke loading on the hubs’ smaller flange, the spoke holes are drilled at an angle of five degrees from the hub axis. This disc brake hub will never be radial laced, so I doubt the angled drilling will be problematic.
Take a look at the hub profiles:
The flanges on this hub are huge; 66mm and 56.5mm for the front hub, 71.5mm and 61.5mm for the rear (only Industry 9 comes close to these dimensions) and the large conical hub shells should guarantee efficient power transfer. The rear hub travels on four 6902 bearings, a commonly used size in bicycle hubs. The front hub rolls on huge 6805 cartridges, the same bearing size employed in Shimano bottom brackets. Can you say overbuilt?
The end caps are equipped with a substantial bellows seal to prevent the ingress of dirt and moisture:
Here is a weight comparison with comparable King and White Industries hub sets:
|Race Face||Vault J414||Front||194g|
|Race Face||Vault J424||Rear||329g|
|White Industries||XMR Boost||Front||180g|
|White Industries||XMR Boost||Rear||306g|
|Chris King||Iso B||Front||176g|
|Chris King||Iso B||Rear||341g|
If the Vault J414 front hub was equipped with smaller bearings (such as the 17287 cartridges used in White’s XMR) it would weigh around 179 grams. I’ll take the bigger bearings. Mechanically, the J424 rear hub internals mirror those of the Vault 424 straight pull hub. The freehub features the same 60 tooth drive ring and six pawls each with two teeth, ensuring freehub engagement every three degrees.
Only time will tell you if a component is made of the right stuff; intuitively, this hub set feels right; I’m excited to see how it performs a few years down the road.
As a custom wheel builder I’m happy to see companies such as Easton, Mavic and others turn some of their attention back to wheel builders. I make my living constructing each wheelset with a particular customer in mind; the choice of rim, hub, spoke and spoke count are assessed to best satisfy that customer’s objectives. As every customer is unique, there are thousands of variations on the Perfect Wheel Set; it’s a very different world to that of wheel systems, where one size fits all, or most. Not every man fits the same suit. Not every woman wears the same dress. So why the same wheels?