No hope for Hope hub

I've always been rather proud of the Hope hubs on Why?Bike, my 26" wheeled tourer that I bought second hand. Far more classy than common or garden Shimano ones I reckoned. Then this happened.

Hope hub failure 003

I was cycling to work on a lovely sunny morning, not a care in the world, when there was a loud pinging crack as I stopped at traffic lights. I had a quick look while the lights were on red but couldn't see anything so I assumed I had just thrown up a stone. I continued for about half a mile but as I was pedalling up a small hill the front wheel began to catch. I'd fitted new brake pads the day before, surely I hadn't made such a bad job of it that they were now rubbing! Checked the brakes, they were fine. Then I noticed a spoke sticking out. I've never broken a spoke before, I thought. But no the spoke wasn't broken and what's more there were another 3 of them sticking out! I couldn't believe my eyes when I realised that the front hub flange had completely disintegrated and that there was another large crack that was about to do the same. I wouldn't like to have been going fast downhill when this happened.

I had always assumed that, barring accident, there was nothing that could go wrong with a bike that wasn't fixable or could at least be bodged sufficiently to get home. I couldn't even push this properly! I was only a mile or so from work and had to phone my boss to come and collect me in the pick up. Fortunately he used to do a lot of mountain biking so was suitably sympathetic. Dennis was happy to come and collect me at the end of the day.

I sent a photo to Hope Technology that evening and asked for their comments. They replied very promptly but not terribly helpfully

Hello Hilary, sorry you have had an issue with your hub but unfortunately we no longer have any body’s available as the hub is approximately 15 years old. There are many things that can contribute to causing this such as tight spoke tension but I’m afraid we would be unable to replace it I’m afraid.

Surely this should not happen at all irrespective of age. The Dunlop Supalite hubs on my FC Parkes are over 50 years old and still in one piece. I'm no expert but the spoke tension seemed fine to me and it seems unlikely that a wheel would be built using an expensive hub and rim and an incompetent wheel builder. If I'd had the bike from new I would have persued the matter but I have to admit I don't know the bike's full history. However, its a touring bike with woman's geometry, previously owned by a lady older than myself. I doubt if she has tried jumping obstacles on it!

So what to do? I could buy a new hub and try rebuilding the front wheel but I know wheelbuilding is just not my cup of tea. The rims have plenty of life left in them but are doubtless also 15 years old. The rear hub appears to be fine but I'm afraid I've lost all faith in it. The only solution seems to be a new pair of wheels which I've ordered from Spa Cycles. The guy I spoke to described expensive MTB hubs as 'all marketing bollocks'! Perhaps he's right. I'm certainly disappointed with mine!

13 comments on “No hope for Hope hub”

  1. Kern wrote:

    "Nasty" is an understatement – that photo is enough to make the stomach churn. I suppose from an engineering point of view all parts eventually fail, but that's little comfort when you're on the wrong side of the statistics. Thankfully you came through safely.

  2. Chris wrote:

    Ouch. Yes, it's a bit awkward when you're not the original owner, I suppose. Okay, clouds and silver lining time. At least you get to have some sparkling new wheels. And at least it happened you weren't miles away from home or work.

    I don't imagine this incident is likely to make you go want to go any faster downhill 😮

  3. Stephen Almond wrote:

    Glad you only had a bit of inconvenience and cost.
    What (non-bollocks) hubs/rims are your new wheels from Spa going to have?

  4. Mary wrote:

    So glad this happened at a safe moment Hilary!

    15 years for hubs and rims is a long while though.... My Enigma is about to get new wheels her self at the end of summer as the guage markers (finally found it) are almost gone, so I think perhaps the end of this summer they go. After about 9,000 miles only and about 2 years of service.

    Boy they dont make em like they used to. Thats cheap alloys and plastics for you + the throw away society we now live in.

    Just wondering.... I know you were taken by surprise by this incident (I would of been to, but are there specific checks one can do to look out for such moments for the future??)

    Like Chris states, I hope it doesnt put you off the down hillers.

  5. Hilary wrote:

    Mary wrote

    15 years for hubs and rims is a long while though

    Its a long time for rims – they are basically disposable items – the more you use them the shorter time they last. Hubs are supposed to be more durable, they usually give up because of damaged bearing surfaces, the flange is definitely not meant to disintegrate irrespective of age!

    Still the nice man from Spa cycles is building me a shiny new pair with Deore LX hubs (XT are apparently not what they used to be. 'Crap' was the technical term used!) on Rigida Snyper rims. I had ordered new tyres a couple of days before the hub packed up so she will be looking very smart, especially as she is getting a new cassette and chain as well. Not to mention the B17 Special that I couldn't resist for sale on the CTC forum! I did sell one of my reject saddles to compensate! I wasn't intending to spend much on Why?bike this year........ 🙂

    I will in future examine my hubs carefully for any sign of cracks appearing!

  6. Chris wrote:

    I remember reading that Deore LX, although heavier (steel?), are stronger than Deore XT (alloy?) hubs. What with all your other purchases you have been busy, Hilary 🙂

  7. Hilary wrote:

    Apparently XT used to be the best hub for touring but Shimano 'improved' it by making it lighter. This meant a narrower hub body and smaller bearings which wear out quickly. I think they are both alloy.

    What with all your other purchases you have been busy

    Yes, my credit card is still smoking! I've just spent more than I paid for the bike but then I did get it extremely cheap and I have had 2 years use out of it.

    I'm not the one who has just bought a new bike! 😀 😀

  8. Patrick wrote:

    After reading this I won't be buying Hope hubs. They should have sent you a new (different) pair IMO, or offered to send them to Spa. The spoke holes on those look too close together and have too much countersink, so there isn't enough metal. I don't believe the spoke tension argument at all.

    Good luck with the new wheels Hilary. I'm sure they'll be fine. Here's a pic of one of my XT hubs. The spoke holes are much further apart.


    These seem good hubs incidentally. Some people don't like the alloy axle but mine have been trouble-free (as theirs probably have as well).

  9. Kern wrote:

    We took Lady CoMo in to have the cassette changed last weekend. The mech asked me how we liked the DT Swiss hubs. I gave him a blank stare ("It works," I said). He then showed me the internals of a DT Swiss hub versus other brands. The internal ratchet mechanism is engineered completely differently and engages almost instantaneously (versus a one third rotation with other hubs).

    In his opinion, DT Swiss are the best hubs on the market. Hub and rims (I think) are the only components DT Swiss manufacture, and apparently they do it very well.

  10. Cebula wrote:

    The hopeless hub is CNC machined from aluminum billet. "Cheap" Shimanos are cold-forged aluminum. Ask any half-educated metallurgist which is better. The same goes with expensive Rohloff. Google "Rohloff flange failure", and then do the same with "Nexus flange failure" and "Alfine flange failure". You get plenty instances of Rohloff flange failure but no Shimano "Nexus flange failure" or "Alfine flange failure". Rohloff flange is CNC machined from billet, Shimano Nexus and Alfine have cold-forged flanges.

  11. les wrote:

    the Bearings on XT hubs are larger, but the alloy axels cause issues wit correct setting/tension of the bearing surfaces, hope may have the odd issue with cracks

    XT hubs have an issue with the alloy axel, if only they used cartridge bearings!

  12. peter wrote:

    There have been quite a number of these Hope hubs failing in this manner. Hope have previously dismissed these with various excuses including spoke tension, corrosion (how do they know from a photograph?), in fact anything so as not to accept responsibility. Having had a similar hub which had play in it from day 1 (non-adjustable of course) I have returned to (foreign-made) cup-and-cone hubs – i.e. the correct way to make hubs.

  13. Mike wrote: much bad info regarding hubs here.

    XT bearings are smaller not larger. This bothers people in theory but does not cause an issue.

    The aluminum axle does not present problems beyond the need for smaller bearings....again a theoretical issue not one that seems to matter at all

    The issue with Shimano hubs is and has been the freehub. People tend to blame the free hub failures on aluminum axles. They are unrelated.

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