Drool factor 1 million – Chris King hub strip down
It’s fair to say that of all the shiny bike components that you can buy, Chris King make some of the most drool worthy out there. I remember fantasising about owning a pair the moment I first heard that famous ‘Chris King buzz’, a thought that is probably very relatable to anyone that knows about the iconic brand and its handiwork. The sounds these things make is hypnotic. It’s often compared to being chased by a swarm of angry wasps which is a great way to look at it if you want to go faster.
The reason for that noise is the patented Ring Drive system in the hub which gives the ISO hubs 5 degree engagement which translates into pretty instant power down when you push on the pedals. The way that the system is designed sees it nestled inside the hub body rather than inside a separate freehub which gives more space to create a larger area for the engagement parts to mesh, which means a stronger system that will last longer.
I love working on Chris King stuff. As a bike mechanic and self-confessed cycling geek I’m obsessed with bikes and shiny bike parts and being able to work on stuff of this quality is always an enjoyable experience. You really notice the thought and attention that has been poured into making something when you have to strip it apart and service it.
One of the things that has always struck me about Chris King hubs is that they are totally serviceable, so you don’t just end up with a pile of junked bearings after a winter. No, not with Chris King. They make their own bearings in-house because they couldn’t find anyone else to make them to the standard that they wanted. The thing with these bearings is that they are designed to be serviced. You can easily strip the seals out and clean them and regrease the bearings for years and years without replacing them if you stay on top of your shit. You’ve got to admire that kind of approach to manufacturing bike parts, or anything come to think of it. How easy would it be to stick standard sized bearings from China into your new hub design and let the customer deal with replacement costs?
Yes, the hubs are very expensive, at least compared to some other brands, but it’s one of those situations where they will eventually pay for themselves if you take care of them. We frequently change hub bearings from other manufacturers in the workshop that are sometimes only 3 or 4 months old. They’ve developed play in a hub that can’t preload the bearings and they’re basically goosed; good for the bin and not much else. This is not going to be the case with your shiny anodized Chris King bling. Just pop the snap ring and seal of the bearing, clean it out with some GT85 and regrease it then preload the hub to remove play and away you go.
Another thing that I really like about these hubs is the tooling that you need to service them properly. Now some might say that it’s just another way to fleece money from people, forcing them to buy a specific tool to service their hubs at home. I’m not really of that opinion. I love quality tools and I love owning quality tools. Truth be told it’s right up there with my favourite things about owning a bike workshop. But that’s not the main reason that I don’t agree with those that would slate Chris King for requiring a specific tool to strip its hubs. These hubs are a bit more complicated than your average cup and cone Shimano hub, you’ve got pressed in bearings that can be preloaded and they need to be removed and installed with precision or you risk damaging them and therefore ruining the whole serviceability thing that I mentioned above. Yes you can use other pre-existing tooling to get these things in and out but it’s a bit of a bodge and not the way you should treat something of this quality.
It’s worth being clear here, you can service the bearings in these hubs without any special tools, it’s just full disassembly that requires the proper tool.
All Chris King hubs actually have a break in period which I’ve always thought is pretty cool. It speaks to me of quality, precisely fitting parts that need a little bit of time to bed into each other. Chris King says that this is the seals breaking in and a little of the grease in the bearings being moved out as they are intentionally over packed with grease during production. It’s actually something that I’ve noticed with other hubs from the better brands that use high-quality seals and bearings and it’s certainly nothing to worry about.
The actual servicing of Chris King hubs is really straightforward once you know what you’re doing. The axle comes out and the drive shell can be removed by hand. The drive side bearing is knocked out using the tool shown above and the RingDrive parts sit behind that. After the non-drive side bearing is removed you’re left with a fully stripped hub so that you can inspect for damage and wear, clean everything to remove any traces of dirt or grit, clean and regrease the bearings and then everything presses back together again using the same tool.
For sure that is on the more time-consuming end of hub services but the results speak for themselves. For example, we often get Chris King hubs in for service that have lost their buzz, literally no longer making the noise for which they are so well known. Service time solves this issue and restores the sound that everyone wants to hear.
We’ll do some more of these pieces about the other fantastic stuff that Chris King makes at some point soon.
Let us know what you think of Chris King stuff in the comments.