What to choose: freecoaster or cassette hub?
In this Q & A with our team rider Martin Paarup, we try to give you the answer about whether you should choose a freecoaster or cassette hub for your BMX setup. Get the answer here.
Are you in doubt about what the difference between a freecoaster hub and a cassette hub really is, and also about what the pros and cons are between the different hub types? Get the answer below.
So Martin, tell us what's the benefit of riding a freecoaster?
"A freecoaster hub gives you the freedom to ride backward without pedaling, this also means that you can ride with a higher speed. If you are into fakie tricks, a freecoaster hub is a must-have. You don't have to time your balance with the alignment of the pedals before you jump, which really does something for the timing"
It all sounds great, but aren't there any cons of using a freecoaster on your BMX bike?
"Unlike cassette hubs, freecoasters have "slack". This is the amount of play in the clutch of a coaster before you can create the force to pedal forward. You need to be aware of that because if you pedal full force forward due to the lack of resistance, you risk flying over the handlebar or hit your knee against the bar."
So, what should I consider before getting a freecoaster?
"Well, freecoasters can be used by street, park and dirt riders. Just try it to see if it's for you. If you have a friend that has a bike with a freecoaster, take it for a ride. Some people love it from the start, others need to get used to it. I also know a guy that brought a freecoaster, road it once and switch back to a cassette hub"
So, if I'm a beginner, should I just go for a freecoaster right away?
"Yes, you could do that, but I would rather recommend starting on a BMX with a cassette hub. It's just easier to learn the basic stuff such as bunny hops and manuals, and also riding backward because you can brake by pedaling forward."
So why not just keeping a cassette hub instead of a freecoaster?
"The downside with a cassette hub is the timing. You always have to pedal around and jump at the precise moment where your right and left feet are perfectly aligned. If you miss that moment, you need to pedal for another round, and that means a lot if you are on your way down to a ledge or obstacle!"
But is a cassette hub primarily ridden by beginners then?
“No, not at all! A lot of park, flow, and dirt riders are using a cassette hub because they need to be able to go full throttle from the first stride. Furthermore, they also need to be able to trust that their pedals aren’t moving when they take their feet off them in the air. Tricks like tail taps are also easier with a cassette than with a freecoaster.”
Want to try riding a freecoaster hub? Find it right here.
The wait is over. We are beyond excited to announce that our highly anticipated SEISMIC Cassette Hub is now available!
The SEISMIC Cassette Hub utilizes a new internal mechanism, which we’ve been working on for the past few years called TCS (Toothed Coupling System). Inspired by systems used on high-end road and mountain bikes, we’ve managed to re-design this system to work inside a BMX cassette hub with a 14mm axle and a 9t driver, something which was never possible until now.
Instead of the typical pawl based cassette hub, the SEISMIC hub uses x2 coupled toothed ratchet rings, which are inside the hub and the driver. The two rings are pushed together with a very special design of spring, which allows the hub to transfer power in one direction, and “freewheel” in the other.
In a nutshell, it’s a much stronger internal mechanism, which can’t fail even after years of heavy use. No more skipping, slipping or popping, you can really crank this thing as hard you want and it’s not going to fail. Even after years of heavy use, this hub was designed to keep going on and on.
Our top choices
Behind the bike frame, I think that a bike hub is the most important part of a BMX bike. It’s the main connection between the frame and cockpit to the wheels and the floor. If you don’t have a good set of hubs you’ll be much more likely to break spokes or bend your rims. Cheap versions of BMX parts can be used quite effectively in a lot of places on a BMX bike but I would definitely advise against going the cheap route with a BMX hub. It doesn’t by any means need to be the most expensive or most complicated on this list but you should definitely think about the riding style you have and what hub will match that style the best. For example, if you’re a street rider, a freecoaster hub may be the best choice for you. On the other hand, a dirt jump rider could never ride effectively with a freecoaster.
Keep reading to learn about the different types of BMX hubs you can buy and also the best hubs for each riding style.
The main difference between a freecoaster hub and a normal one is the ability to freewheel while going backwards. On a cassette hub, if you push your bike backwards without being on it you will notice that the pedals will start turning anti-clockwise along with the rotation of the wheels. On a freecoaster hub, this won’t happen and I will get onto why in the next section.
Along with the method mentioned above, there is one other extremely easy way to distinguish a freecoaster hub from a cassette hub and that is the noise. Freecoaster hubs make barely any noise whereas cassette hubs make that clicking noise you recognise whenever a bike rolls past you. The reason for this the pawls on the freewheel hit the splines when the wheel is turned and they pass over the engagement surfaces.
You will also notice that higher end, more expensive BMX hubs tend to be much louder than cheaper ones. One obvious reason is riders just love to have loud hubs and to them and on film, it makes the rider and the bike stand out more. The real reasons though come from them just being built better. The pawls will be higher, there will be more of them and more engagement points on higher quality hubs or the company might just use less or different grease to give the hub less resistance. If you don’t understand the points above, I will explain. To fully understand you need a basic understanding of how the hub works. As you can see in the image below, which shows the pawls on the right and loads of teeth on the left. When you’re freewheeling these teeth pass over the pawls very easily and very smoothly. They are both facing the same way and the pawls are on springs that bend that way in order to make it easier. When the wheel is turned the opposite way, though the teeth and pawls will clash against each other and not be able to pass, this is called engagement. This is what enables you to pedal forwards and make the wheel move with your pedals. Now in order to make a higher end hub, companies will often add more of these pawls to make the distance between the teeth and the pawl shorter wherever the wheel is positioned. This means there will be less time between the rider starting to pedal forwards and the wheel coming along with it.
If you read the section above you will probably understand quite a lot about how the freecoaster is different from the regular hubs. If you aren’t I will still explain here. Freecoaster BMX hubs are usually used by flatland and street riders. These are the types of riders that commonly do tricks that include riding backwards, usually called a fakie. A freecoaster is used so that when doing a fakie you don’t have to pedal backwards and can just freewheel while going backwards.
If you haven’t ridden a freecoaster then you’re probably thinking that a freecoaster sounds great, but as always, there are some things that don’t make these hubs as attractive as regular cassette hubs. Firstly, freecoasters aren’t as reliable or as tough as regular hubs. They’re much newer and the technology included inside is far less refined than the solid cassette hubs. This fact also means that freecoasters are much more expensive in comparison to cassette hubs so you’ve got to be sure it’s right for you before you go spending that amount of money.
The second problem I have found is doing stalls that include using the cranks to balance you. These are tricks like a rear wheel stall on top of a quarter pipe.
The main problem that comes with riding a freecoaster hub is the engagement lag. When you start pedalling on a normal bike you will notice that after an inch or two of movement the wheel will start turning and the drivetrain will be engaged. Well, with a freecoaster you will need to move the cranks between approximately 45 and 90 degrees before you will even start moving. This is very distracting and annoying when you first start riding these types of hubs. Many a time, I have jumped on a freecoaster equipped bike and forgot about this and continued to nearly fall off because of the slack in the crank.
How to service your bike hub
Servicing your BMX hub is quite important in order to keep it running smoothly. If you do a lot of big drops or ride on dirty, dusty surfaces then you’ll be torturing your bearings and the insides of your hub. If you ride for too long without replacing your bearings or adding some extra grease you’ll definitely notice the difference in the sounds of the hub and the way it runs. In this section, I’m going to teach you how to service the hubs on your bike.
Firstly you need to take the wheel off and remove the lock nut in order to gain access to the insides of the hub. Remember that the threads on the lock nut are commonly opposite to usual so turning it to the right will loosen it. It is done this way so when you’re riding the nut won’t loosen off.
Now the lock nut is taken off you’ll need to take note of what came off when and how it all needs to go back on. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to put your hub back together and then finding a rogue spacer you forgot about.
Now you’ve got inside your hub you can start cleaning. Use something like a cloth or a paper towel to start with in order to get all the old grease off. You can also soak the insides in something like WD-40 to fully degrease.
After you’ve gone over the full hub and taken everything you can out and cleaned it, it’s time to start putting it back together. Start by adding a generous amount of grease to the inside of the hub casing before putting anything back in. Start putting things back in as it came out while wiping any WD-40 residue off and adding grease to each part.
After your hub is back together you’ll definitely notice the difference in how smooth the bike rides.
1. Primo Freemix BMX Hub
Primo is a renowned brand that is ridden by many riders from all over the world. The freemix freecoaster hub has been reviewed as one of the best hubs on the market. The Freemix hub is an amazing new hub. Primo has released this hub along with a complete wheel featuring it. It’s a gorgeous Primo VS rim laced to the Freemix hub.
The hub has been in testing for over a year in order to get the rim to the standard it needs to be to keep up with the new growing demand among BMX street riders. Rich Hirsch says the hub is designed around his regular hub. He prefers a large engagement gap without loads of added technical pieces susceptible to malfunction and extra weight. This hub might not be suited to people who aren’t totally sure on how they like their setup as you can’t change anything and there are no unnecessary parts. On the other hand though, if you know exactly how you like your freecoaster setup then this could well be a good purchase for you.
BMX riders often end up damaging frames when trying to squeeze hub guards between the hub and the inside of the frame. Honestly, I think a lot of bike companies forget about riders that use a hub guard or two. The way a lot of hub guards have to be fitted, it’s almost impossible to get them in sometimes. Primo seems to have resolved this problem pretty effectively by including a push on hub guards. These hub guards will fit flush with the edge of the hub and not protrude into the frame, which commonly results in bearing and frame damage.
- Hub Type: Freecoaster
- Axle: 14mm Male
- Driver: 9 tooth
- Spoke Holes: 36 holes
- Weight: 709g
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2. Profile Elite Bike Hub
I have to say that Profile is one of my favorite BMX part manufacturers. Profile has been dominating the BMX market for years and making a lot of money doing so. Profile is somewhat of a controversial brand in BMX. Many people do love the products and will keep riding them but I have come across many people that think they are vastly overcharging for their products and the brand has been hyped up to make people think they make better products than they do.
I personally don’t have Profile hubs on my bike but I do love them. The noise is amazing and the technology on some of the newer versions are incredible. That being said though, they are very expensive and you have to be committed to the hub for a long time to make it worth the money.
As I have mentioned before. Profile offers you a lot of options when you buy your BMX hub, some of them include Hub colour, spoke holes, drive side, axles, axle bolts, cassette driver and cog. I don’t know of many other hub manufacturers that offer that amount of variety and still keep the perfect quality like the profile elite.
The elite hub was designed predominantly for racing, due to it’s lightweight and quick engagement speed of a massive 204 engagement points. You can just as easily use these hubs very effectively on trails and parks as long as the riding isn’t too brutal.
- Pawls: 6 pawls
- Engagement: 204 points
- Axle: 3/8", 14mm & 15mm/20mm Oversized
- Driver: RHD/LHD 9t Only
- Spoke Holes: 36h or 28h RHD Only
- Width: 110mm Rear / 100mm Front
- Weight: 231g
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3. Chris King Rear Hub
The Chris King Rear classic BMX hub is an engineering masterpiece. It’s strong, light and easily serviceable needing only an allen key and a pen knife to get inside the hub. The Chris King glides on a premium quality needle bearing that is fitted to a nice heavy duty steel axle. The bearings included in this hub are thoroughly tested and proven to be some of the most reliable bearings available. I am also extremely surprised by the amazing weight of this hub. Weighing only 346 grams (including BMX axle bolts that are 44 grams.) it is one of the lightest freecoaster hubs available.
If you service and fix your hubs a lot yourself then you might have had to deal with ruining the threads on your axle. You won’t have to worry about double threading your hub here as you are supplied with threaded aluminium inserts that can be replaced in minutes and very cheaply, eliminating the need to buy a whole new axle like a lot of other hubs.
If you’re looking for a hub set, there is also an amazing Chris King front hub available that would match brilliantly on any bike.
- Axle: 19.5mm Hollow
- Engagement: 72 Simultaneous Points
- Chainring: 12t - 18t
- Weight: 125g
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4. Profile Z Coaster Freecoaster Hub
As you have seen in the section a little higher up, I am very passionate about Profile, so much so that I’ve included their product twice on this list. Sorry to add another freecoaster to this list, but this is different The Profile Z-Coaster hub is truly one of the most advanced and sophisticated pieces of engineering for a bike in years.
The Z-Coaster is actually a Cassette hub with the ability to be disengaged into a freecoaster, giving you the great noises from a cassette hub along with the functionality of a coaster. If you don’t understand why someone would want a hub like this then I will explain with an example. On a regular freecoaster, due to the engagement time, you aren’t able to use pedal pressure when doing a trick. If you don’t have brakes then pedal pressure is very important to keep yourself balanced when doing stalls on the back wheel. You will now be able to do this and at the same time coast backwards without having to worry about your legs.
There are four different engagement lengths to choose from when building your Profile Z-Coaster. Oh… didn’t I say? Profile let you customize basically everything. From the Drive size to the bolts and the slack ring. Just go through the form on their or one of their retailer's websites and customize the hub exactly how you want it. Unfortunately, this does mean the price is a little harder to stomach and will take up to three weeks to build but if you have the money to spare then it’s definitely worth it.
- Slack Options: 20/33/45/60/75/90/115 deg
- Engagement: 48 simultaneous points
- Hub Type: Cassette & Freecoaster
- Driver: 9t 3/32" / 1/8"
- Driver Side: RHD or LHD
- Spoke Holes: 36h
- Weight: 583g
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5. Federal Freecoaster V4 Hub
Federal just released the fourth version of their freecoaster hub, now being provided with hub guards. Federal designed this freecoaster in a very similar way to the previous three versions with upgrades such as upgraded spacers for adjustable gaps. They managed all this by upgrading the previously reliable hardware. Unfortunately, you can only buy this in a 9 tooth version but I don’t see that as too big of a problem for many regular riders.
You may not be able to customise the hub and buying options as much as the Profile Z-Coaster but Federal still offer you something to work with. You can order this freecoaster with it set up to have a gap of x-large, large, medium or small. Try and make sure that you get this decision right before ordering unless you want a difficult job on your hands as altering these hubs are notoriously difficult.
- Axle: 14mm
- Driver Pawls: Freecoaster Clutch
- Spoke Count: 36h
- Driver Size: 9t
- Weight: 669g
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6. Stranger Ballast Bike Hub
One of the only cassette hubs on this list, the Stranger Ballast is a gorgeous hub, being made in some gorgeous colours. Also, unlike a lot of other hubs out there, Stranger include some high-quality Primo Hub guards for your hub. I like this because you then won’t have to worry about getting the right ones or the right sizes, you can simply ‘plug and play’.
The hub uses the proven driver and technology from the Mix hub, also made by Stranger. Stranger has done a great job at keeping the strength and reliability throughout the transition between the Mix hub and the Ballast hub.
The light aluminium shell rotates around a heat treated CrMo axle that features sealed bearings, manufactured extremely accurately to improve the reliability and lifespan. The hub driver us a polymer with four high-quality pawls attached to it.
If bearings aren’t accurately designed and manufactured then it’s only a matter of time before dust, muck and dirty water will start getting in the bearing casings and wearing down the ball bearings. Once this happens the wheel may start making a slight noise and will probably be slack. If you move your wheel side to side and it wobbles then it’s a good sign you need new bearings.
- Hub Type: Cassette
- Axle: 14mm Male
- Driver: 9t
- Spoke Holes: 36h
- Weight: 587g
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7. Hope Pro 2 Evo BMX Hub
For a long time, Hope has been dominating the mountain bike parts market. They are some of the most reliable and high-quality parts you can buy for a mountain bike. After their amazing success in the mountain bike and road bike scene, Hope started to entertain the BMX riders. This Hope Pro 2 Evo is the rear hub to the duo they have released. Currently, Hope only manufactures a front and rear BMX hub.
The Pro 2 Evo definitely looks a little different to a normal hub in that it appears to have the sprocket mounted on something resembling a disk brake rotor mount.
This hub has unsurpassed reliability. Every aspect just builds up to making the hub as good as it can be. You can definitely tell that Hope are genuine players out to try and progress the BMX scene and not just make a quick bit of cash by adopting the same technique as certain car and phone manufacturers have now. The technique I’m talking about is building a good looking product that has an unreasonably short lifespan. This results in millions of people buying the product as soon as it’s launched and then wanting the next model a year later.
Anyway, back to the Hope Hub. The hub has key features of sealed stainless steel cartridge bearings, a six bolt sprocket driver that has a built-in ratchet, and a shell intricately machined out of forged aluminium billet.
As I mentioned above and is evident from the above image, the sprocket on this hub is different to many others. It’s attached to a ratchet with six allen bolts. Some people may not like this way of building a hub but I happen to think it’s quite clever. The sprockets can be bought extremely cheaply and just bolted straight on without having to disassemble the hub and risk bearings going everywhere. The hub is delivered with a 16 tooth sprocket already fitted but can be changed to a 15, 17 or 18 tooth if needed.
If you’ve read the paragraphs at the top of the page about cassette hubs then you will understand the meaning of engagement points and such. The Hope hub comes with 80 points of engagement with 4 pawls and just a 4.5-degree rotation needed before engagement.
Another amazing note to finish on is the fact you can buy this in street or race versions. There isn’t much difference to explain to you apart from the fact the race hub is 18 grams heavier, weighing in at 438 grams.
- Hub Type: Sram XD
- Bearing Type: Stainless
- Hub Body: 2014 T6 Aluminum
- Ratched Type: 4 pawl, 40t engagement
- Weight: 285g
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8. KHE Reverse Freecoaster Hub
Bruce Crisman and KHE bikes aren’t the most well-known people in BMX but after researching this hub I won’t be forgetting them in a hurry. Bruce is an American freestyle BMX rider. Crisman is an accomplished x-games rider and has won multiple gold medals. Along with being a great BMX rider, Bruce is an artist and a musician.
The KHE Reverse freecoaster hub is one of two signature parts that Bruce has helped to create. This hub, the KHE Reverse Freecoaster, features a hollow 1 piece CrMo axle instead of the stud system that’s found on some of the other KHE freecoasters. Unlike normal ball bearing freecoaster hubs, the Reverse hub has four sealed bearings, one under the driver and two larger sets inside the body. Designing bearings to fit this way keeps the driver mechanisms very strong and precise. As I mentioned above, freecoaster hubs have a certain amount of slack from when you start pedalling until the drivetrain engages. The Reverse Freecoaster hub has three different amounts of slack that the rider can choose from. Every rider and riding style will prefer a different amount of slack and the Reverse hub is great for those people who like to change up the amount of slack.
Weighing in at 650g and available in 36 or 48 hole versions, it is an all-around good hub. This hub is similar to the Geisha hub, also made by KHE. Crisman decided to change the axle into a 1pc hollow CrMo axle like I mentioned above.
- Axle: 14mm 1pc hollow CrMo
- Driver: 9t
- Spoke Holes: 36h or 48h
- Weight: 650g
- Colours: Black, White
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9. Odyssey Antigram V2 Bike Hub 2021
I’ve mentioned it many times before, Odyssey is a great BMX brand that builds and sells great high-quality BMX parts. The Antigram has been so successful the brand has released a second improved version.
This hub is a strong but light 36 hole rear cassette that will be great for dirt and park riding in 2021. This new version now comes with a replaceable Antigram hub guard, making it even better for street riding.
The Antigram has a great small, symmetric design with thick flanges. While thick flanges are great for the strength it can prove to be a bit difficult when lacing spokes through the hub. Once you or your local bike shop has managed to force your spokes through their respective holes you shouldn’t have any more problems.
Interestingly Odyssey has used a square toothed pawl design that allows the hub to be switched between right and left-hand drive easily. This is similar to the G-Sport Ratchet hub if you are familiar with that. Unlike most other hubs, the teeth inside the hub body are square. The hub pawls push against these square teeth and mean you can simply unscrew your driver switch it around and go on your way, no need to build a new wheel.
- Hub Shell: 2014-T6 Aluminum Hub Shell
- Driver: 9t, 3-Pawl Independent Spring Design
- Drive Side: RHD/LHD
- Hub Guard: Replaceable Hub Guard
- Weight: 411g
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Have you ever wondered what kind of riders run a cassette hub? Cassettes have been in BMX for a long time, and are still a huge part of the sport. The cassette is what gives you the ability to pedal forward and roll backward. Some cassettes are noisy and some are quiet. Let’s take a look into what will be best for your riding style.
What is a cassette?
A cassette is a hub that goes on a BMX bike. This hub allows you to pedal forward and roll backwards by engaging pawls into notches with springs. While moving backward on a cassette, you need to pedal backward. Unlike a freecoaster where you do not have to pedal backwards.
Different cassettes have different points of engagement, making some more responsive and durable than others.
How it works
To understand how the cassette works look at this video and see the hub taken apart.
The metal pawls are held upright by springs. When you pedal, these pawls catch notches in the hub and turn the wheel. When you are not pedaling, the notches go over the pawls the other way and the springs allow them to be pushed down.
- You need to pedal backwards while doing a fakie.
Do I need a cassette?
If you are the kind of rider who likes to do a lot of tire taps and likes to flow bowls, get a cassette. I personally ride a cassette, because I hate that freecoasters have slack. I like that my cassette has instant engagement and I can pedal around and tire tap.
Most cassettes are the plain 2-4 pawl hubs. This makes them normal sounding.
Profile Elites have 6 pawls and this makes them extremely loud. They say that the benefit is faster engagement, but it isn’t noticeable and they are sooo expensive at over $300 for a rear hub.
Fly Magneto Hub is a hub the works with magnets instead of springs and pawls. This is a unique ide that took them over 10 years to develop. I have no idea how the quality is or the noise level. As more stories develop I’m sure it will be easy to find more information about them.
Wethepeople Supreme hub has pawls on the hub body instead of on the actual cassette. This is interesting but it makes sense. The whole point of this is the ability to add more pawls (up to 6) and you can flip between rhd and lhd pretty easily. There is a whole post on it here.
The Difference Between a BMX Freecoaster and a Cassette
A freecoaster, unlike a cassette for a BMX, does not require pedalling to go backwards. This usually makes performing certain tricks or stunts on a BMX significantly easier due to the lack of having to multitask.
A cassette and a freewheel function identically. They actually both allow freewheeling, which means you can coast when going forward. The main difference between the two is that a cassette is splined and fits centrally on the freehub section of the hub, but the freewheel usually threads directly onto a hub body. It’s worth noting that a higher price is usually consistent with free coasters due to their complexity.
The moving parts inside a freecoaster do not come without issue as they are less consistent than cassette hubs and skip or jam up far more frequently.
How a freecoaster works
The normal freecoaster functions from a screw-type mechanism. On the hub, there is a driver and this will link a screw into the hub itself. The free coaster has a clutch on the inside, so when the rider starts to pedal, the driver is turned.
The process of this motion from the rider will cause the clutch to move towards the driver. In almost all coasters the clutch is made to not move forward with the driver by a spring inside the axel. This spring plays a crucial role as its main objective is to ensure that the threads of the free coaster driver will pull the clutch in.
When the clutch moves into position, it aligns to one of the many ridges on the clutch and the hub will begin to turn.
When the clutch is in a ridge and the rider is pedalling, the BMX will propel forward due to the driver not being able to slip outside of the clutch.
This allows for the rider to ride the bike normally and leverage a free motion when the bike is not being pedalled. As the rider stops pedalling, the movement of the hub will then push out the clutch from the driver thread to disengage, leaving the driver to be left to glide over the threads as the hub and axel continues to move.
Some users complain about the slack on a free coaster and this is down to a rational gap in the clutch.
This is the slight movement between the driver hitting the closest ridge on the clutch. The reason why there is a greater amount of slack in because a normal cassette with take up to a 20th of a turn to engage, whereas a free coaster could take a 10th of a crank turn, thus causing a bigger delay in engagement.
Image courtesy of // bmxunion.com
How a BMX cassette works
With a cassette hub on your BMX, you’ll notice that when your bike moves backwards the pedals begin turning the opposite way to which you usually pedal.
As the wheels turn backwards, so will the cranks. This is a particularly easy way to understand the difference between a free coaster and a cassette.
A cassette is a hub that can be recognised by it’s clicking sound when the bike is propelled forward. This sound is created by the pawls on the freewheel hitting the splines inside the hub when the wheel is turned.
The click comes from the passing over of the engaged surfaces.As the pawls are always in contact with the splines, the pedals of the bike will always be engaged when the hub rotates the opposite way to which a rider pedals.
The better the build quality of the cassette hub, the stronger the material inside meaning that there is a louder sound that comes from the bike when moving. We notice this on more higher-end, top quality bikes.
Whilst a cassette hub engages quicker, sometimes riders have to find the perfect feet positioning to perform a jump or stunt. If you don’t have the perfect feet alignment riders would have to pedal a little extra to get their feet to a comfortable position to carry out the jump or trick. This can be a particularly big ask, especially if you’re already halfway over an obstacle or on a ledge.
If you land with your feet in the wrong position, it makes it harder to land backwards and begin to rotate the cracks anti-clockwise.
Drawing Board: Profile Cassette Hub
BMX bikes have come a long way over the past 20-30 years, from rattling 1 Inch Threaded Headsets and shin searing Beartrap Pedals to investment-cast Dropouts and Pivotal Seats. Along the way there have been several products which have been instrumental to the improvement of our bikes, and at the top of that list is the Profile Cassette Hub. 15 years ago the guys at Profile took a technology used on high-end road bikes and used it to create, what is still to this day one of the most reliable and functional Bicycle Hubs in existence. This week I catch up with Profile Racing‘s Matt Coplon and Corey Alley to find out more about the beginnings and background story one of the most iconic products in BMX. After you check out the interview, don’t forget to check out the PHOTOGALLERY showing you the history of Profile’s hubs!
So to start off you guys brought out the very first Cassette Hub way back in 1997 and it was a pretty revolutionary thing for BMX, how did the idea come about? Who was involved?
Corey Alley: I had been riding MTB and Road for a couple years and got the idea to use a cassette on a BMX hub. There were some companies that did a cassette in the late 70’s/early 80’s but it wasn’t very reliable.
Creating a whole new concept of Hub must have been very difficult from an engineering point of view, I can’t imagine you were able to hit the final design right away, how long did it take until you had a Hub you were happy with?
Corey: The first prototype took about 2-3 weeks and worked well on first go. I thought out the design for a while and was able to produce all the parts in a couple of days. I tried to keep the design simple and maintenance free.
The Hub has been hugely successful ever since its initial introduction, and has somewhat of a cult following amongst riders. I know these days it’s pretty hard to go to your local skatepark and not find at least one person running one, what can attribute this to? Why is the Hub so popular compared to its competitors?
Matt Coplon: That’s a good question? We’re thankful for it (Thanks to everyone out there for the support) but I’m really not sure why?
I guess we could speculate? And this is my personal opinion trying to look at it from the outside. I’m assuming Profile’s longevity in the BMX Industry has something to do with it. I would trust a company a bit more that’s been around for a while/has history.
Specifically on the hubs, considering we control production in-house, it is much easier for us to offer numerous colors/finishes. With that in mind, we can do really small runs of wild variations. We like to mix it up as much as possible to keep things fresh and interesting.
And with our hubs comes a “crash replacement warranty.” That warranty is a “refresher” that covers a discounted rate on hub shell replacement (if broken), new bearings, and labour. It’s a nice little service to have waiting on the backburner if you terrorize your hub. The rest is conjecture…
When you guys first started playing around with the idea of a smaller drivetrain did you ever think it would really catch on? I know I can think of a few famous riders that snubbed the idea of “micro-drive” when it first started to surface.
Matt: I remember a couple conversations I had with riders. Ty Stuyvesant in particular (If anyone knows where he is these days, please let me know! Ha.). He has/had this way of responding with kind of a mumbled, animal type sound build up to “Yes”! He was the first rider to get on it, soon after Mulville and Kevin Porter followed. I truly had no idea it would catch on as well as it did. Funny thing was, the three of them all jumped up to higher gearing eventually. 25/9 is definitely not the most opportune ratio for riding trails.
As far as snubbing the idea, from a technical/physics stand point, they were right. A 25/9 definitely applies more pressure on your drive train. With that in mind, teeth on your sprocket are more susceptible to breaking and chains are more apt to pop. But those factors also depend on how you ride. If you’re an ape, and you really torque down on your drive train (like Mulville), things might not be so good (hence his 30/10). But for most of us, a 25/9 shouldn’t be an issue at all.
How many Cassette Hubs do you guys produce a year? How many do you think have been sold to date?
Matt: I went around the machine shop and tried to gather some info on this. The only thing I could come up with was “a lot.” One of our Euro-techs runs 8 hours a day, 5 days a week producing only hub shells.
Profile is synonymous with producing its products in a wide variety of colours and styles. What have been some of the more memorable finishes that the Hubs have been produced in? What is your personal favourite?
Matt: My personal favourite is black (Ha!). I would say the most impressive colour (giving props to our anodizer) was a one-off Rasta hub we did about 4/5 years ago. It was triple dipped and had three layers of colour: One side was dipped yellow, the hub was then dipped a little farther into the blue tank (making a green centre), then it was flipped and the end was anodized red. Symmetrical, and close to perfect. It was cost prohibitive though, I think our cost (just for anodizing) was $20 a hub.
You are one of the only BMX companies still keeping production within the USA, how important is that to you? Have you ever had any problems with the manufacturing process as you are not based in Taiwan?
Matt: Very important! It keeps all of us employed here at the shop!
With that in mind, production tends to sap at least half of most everyone’s day here. Each of us contributes to an aspect of a part getting out the door: loading in materials, machining, de-burring, preparation for anodizing/painting, and finally the building/packaging of the actual part.
It’s been fifteen year’s since the original Hub was released, how much has the Hub changed in that time? How different is the original when compared to the must current version?
Matt: The biggest change was in 2001 when we stepped down from the High Flange cassette hubs and made the Mini Cassette hub. Converting to the mini shaved a good bit of weight. Soon after, 9t drivers and 14mm axles in titanium were introduced. Now, we’re seeing a lot more 3/8 go out the door (especially with the production of the 3/8 peg bolt).
Other than that there have been small modifications over the years on the driver, springs, paws, and cones. And about 5 years ago we switched the rear spacing from 113mm to 110mm.
Despite a few brands playing around with various different ideas, Hub and drivetrain design has been very standard for years now, can you see any major advancements or changes happening in the near future?
Matt: We’re always toying with ideas here. To make a free-coaster cassette would be the holy grail of bmx, but it just seems so involved: so many potential parts that could very well potentially break.
We’ve been fooling with the idea but nothing has metamorphosed yet.
I remember years ago people tooling with the idea of belt drive. It’s catching on in the MTB scene but wouldn’t that almost defeat the purpose of a bike. The chain is such an imperative part. After all, if you haven’t christened your knee with a bash to the stem (after a chain snapping) then you haven’t lived bmx (Ha!).
Any weird stories or tales involving the Hub you have heard over the years?
Matt: Shane, our warranty guy (sitting next to me), just reminded me of some classic hubs sent in for warranty.
We have had hubs sent in for crash replacement where people have made springs and spacers out of coke cans. Considering our springs are made from brass, it’s amazing that the hubs worked with something as soft as aluminium powering the pawls reflex.
We’ve seen hubs come back that resemble old bomber videos from WW2. You know the ones where a plane comes in with wings blown off, engines missing, etc…but the plane is still somehow flying. It’s incredible really the abuse that hubs can take.
You guys are responsible for some of the most iconic components in BMX, what are you guys working on these days? Do you have anything else in the pipeline?
Matt: About a year and a half ago we introduced the Elite rear hub. With 204 points of engagement, it’s going to be hard for us to modify anything more closer to an instant engagement. As far as hubs go, there is nothing immediate in the works.
On the crank spectrum, we have plenty of new ideas in the works for both Profile (freestyle and race) and Madera.
Actually, as this post, you will probably see the press release for the new Madera HT cranks which we will release first.
Now, check out the PHOTOGALLERY showing you some of the different hubs Profile have created over the years.
Be sure to head over to ProfileRacing.com to find out more about their Cassette Hub and other Profile Products.
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ELITE BMX DISC BRAKE CASSETTE HUB
ELITE BMX DISC BRAKE CASSETTE HUB
***All Elite Hubs(regardless of color) are built with BLACK anodized Volcano & Cone spacers***
BUILD YOUR OWN HUB (BYOH)
Choices for following:
-Axle Bolts: Choose any Chromo bolt option at NO EXTRA CHARGE!
-Profile Racing designed Elite Cassette BMX Disc Brake Hubs to be the best racing hubs available.
- 6 pawl driver for 204 points of engagement means instant forward motion at the first application of pedal pressure.
- ISO Disc Brake
- Black anodized Volcano cones and aluminum cone spacers with hardened CrMo knurls to bite into dropouts.
- Aluminum threaded axle only.
- Bolt choices for 3/8″ threaded aluminum axle:
-Standard 3/8 socket head bolts(8mm hex)- come with anodized Volcano cones
-17mm Hex Head outer w/8mm internal hex
-Button Head w/8mm internal hex
- CrMo or Ti one-piece drivers.
- Aluminum or Titanium splined drivers for Profile Cogs.
- Standard CrMo Cogs, or upgrade to Aluminum or Elite CrMo Cogs.
- 36h RHD only
- Standard BMX 110mm hub width
- Disc rotor not included
Colors: Red, Black, Blue, Polished, Gold , Green, Purple, Aqua, Matte Black
Elite Cassette Hub Weights:
Hub w/ 3/8 CrMo bolts, Alu Driver, 16t CrMo Cog: 15.15oz / 430g
Hub w/ 3/8 CrMo bolts, Alu Driver, 16t Elite CrMo Cog: 14.80oz / 421g
Hub w/ 3/8 CrMo bolts, Alu Driver, 16t Alu Cog: 13.95oz / 396g
Hub w/ 3/8 Ti bolts, Alu Driver, 16t CrMo Cog: 14.3oz / 406g
Hub w/ 3/8 Ti bolts, Alu Driver, 16t Elite CrMo Cog: 14.0oz / 397g
Hub w/ 3/8 Ti bolts, Aluminum Driver, 16t Aluminum Cog: 13.05oz / 370g
|Dimensions||11 × 9 × 7 in|