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Hub engagement is an extremely popular topic with manufacturers always trying to top one another. Aside from sounding like the coolest rider on the trail, the high engagement can make light work of a technical climb or a particularly rooty or rocky section. If you haven't ridden high engagement hubs yet, get ready to be ruined. It happened to our friend, Ryan Kupfer, and now he has a completely new bike. Read his review below!
I had not given hub engagement a thought. My last wheelset, Stan’s Flow rims with Stan’s 3.30 hubs, had what it had, never let me down, and to the best of my knowledge, had no option to upgrade the points of engagement. I stubbornly refused to abandon my 26-inch wheels. I was faster than a lot of other riders and ordering tires from Europe wasn’t a huge hassle.
Never ride your friend’s 29 inch enduro bike! The one that broke me was an Orbea Rallon. Two weeks later, I had a Yeti SB150 and my trusty Yeti SB66C was sold on craigslist. Yes, I’m a Yeti fanboy with a pair of turquoise shorts. The geometry is always progressive and they send me free stuff now and then.
The Yeti SB150 comes stock with a DT Swiss M1700 wheelset. It uses 350 hubs with 18 teeth, giving you 20 degrees of engagement. The first thing I noticed about the hub was how quiet it was stock. It was quiet enough that I stopped thinking about building a wheel with a silent Onyx hub immediately.
After sticking with a bike for so many years, I felt fancy with my new bike and felt like it should feel fancy too. So I ordered the 54 tooth upgrade kit when I found out it existed. It gives 6.66 degrees of engagement, which is the number of the beast. It came with the ratchet and enough grease to last a lifetime. Installing the upgraded ratchet was straightforward. I reinstalled the wheel, cranked it up and let the swarm of bees fly.
Then, I took it for a ride around the block. I couldn’t wait to feel every single point of engagement. I found a steep hill and ratcheted my way up, envisioning how much easier it would be to avoid pedal strikes and maintain traction. Honestly, I didn’t notice much of a difference. In fact, I preferred the stock ratchet at that time. It had a quiet, soft chatter that seemed to disappear behind the tire noise.
The 54 tooth ratchet makes its presence known. It’s definitely louder. You can add more grease to quiet it down, but DT Swiss says this might make it slip upon engagement. I do like the tone. It sounds high-end. With wheelsets featuring more points of engagement every year, it should come stock. However, DT Swiss can grab an easy $110 (there’s no way it should cost that much) by not doing that.
On the trail, I noticed a difference. It is definitely easier to keep the pedals from striking the ground while maintaining momentum here in the rooty, rocky, sometimes slimy Pacific Northwest, especially on a long, low bike like the SB150. If you’re feeling fancy, I would upgrade, although I don’t think it’s necessary. Then, you too will feel like the queen bee buzzing down (or ratcheting up) the trail. It was worth it for me.
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