Do you notice hub engagement?

#keeppedaling #workhardriderharder #myi9

Hydra 4

Check out Industry Nine over at Jenson USA (affiliate JKW link!):

Podcast with Jacob McGahey, Industry Nine vice president:

Industry Nine Torch vs Hydra hubs – how are they different on the trail?

What’s up guys!  Some of you might be obsessed with fast engaging hubs.  Me?  Well, I’m going to admit something here- I’ve never been much of an “engagement snob”.  And today, I want to test the new Industry Nine Hydra hub against the older I9 Torch hub.

Hydra 3

What is hub engagement?  Bikes have evolved from the historical fixed gear designs, which meant that the pedals were always moving in conjunction with a wheel.  Sometimes the pedals were on the front wheel, like on a Pennyfarthing, and sometimes they were connected with a chain to the rear wheel, like the fixie bikes that the kids ride in the big cities.

For all of us single track connoisseurs, well thank goodness, we have evolved to where bikes are now, with a ratcheting system that allows the rear wheel to spin independently of the pedals.  This system is possible with what we call a free hub, or free wheel, that’s built into the bike’s rear wheel.   Most ratcheting systems have a small bit of free play between starting a pedaling motion and actually driving the bike forwards.  This free play is the result of the drive pawls of the ratchet needing to span the distance between the teeth they engage to then drive the bike forwards.

So why have I not been an “engagement snob”?   I tried to explain the reasoning behind this to the I9 guys at Sea Otter, and they looked at me like I’m crazy!  I mentioned my theory of why, and while they understood my hypothesis, they were pretty adamant that with all my trials and tech climbing, that the difference is pretty noticeable.

I started thinking about how I could do a test to see how noticeable engagement actually is.  With the new Hydra hub design, everyone has been talking about engagement, so this should be a cool way to bring the tech into a real-life application and see how it feels in the dirt!

My idea for today is to try some weird rock line stuff that doesn’t have a ton of space to really mash on the pedals.  Theoretically, this will be the spot where higher engagement will be most noticeable.

For some context, I’ve been riding the Industry Nine Torch hubs for two years now, and for three years prior to that, was riding Shimano XT M8010 hubs.  The XT hubs had 36 points of engagement, and the old Torch hub had 120 points of engagement.  The new hydra has 690 points of engagement!

So why have I not been an engagement snob?  Well , due to my small size and resulting fast cadence pedaling style, it would make sense that I don’t notice engagement as much.   I’m only around 155lbs, and I don’t have much power.  As a result, I use a pretty low gear and spin a fairly high cadence.  I’ve always hypothesized that this high cadence, low power style is why I’ve never had a big issue with “only” 32 POE.

I do think that beyond 120 pts of engagement, returns are diminishing.  If the 120 POE Torch hub was “all I had”, I  would NOT be complaining!  The difference, to me, between 24 pts of engagement and 54 pts, is far more noticeable than 120 vs 690.  Again, that’s just my own perspective.

While I could still get through everything in this video with the slower engaging hubs, the Hydra hub feels more confident. The thing that I like most about the Hydra is that the drive is applied to the wheel just a hair softer than the torch.  How is this?

On the Hydra, Industry Nine used some very clever engineering to turn a potential problem into a huge benefit.  Jacob told me about this during our podcast at Sea Otter, and I think it’s a genius idea.  On just about any hub that uses a traditional pawl/engagement tooth design, If you ever go to pedal and you hear a loud “clang” slightly after you started pedaling, well, that’s because a pawl or two that didn’t engage fully when you first started pedaling and finally slammed into place once.  Bikes flex quite a bit, and even with a modern through axle, hub axles can flex.  When they flex enough, only one (or two) pawls can engage.  If there is too much flex, then a lone pawl can rip out of the freehub body, and ruin the drive ring and the hub as a whole.  This has sent me OTB and I’ve even DNFd races after such failures!

The Hydra design is super clever.  It is intentionally designed so that only one pawl engages initially.  Then the following (and not-yet-engaged) pawls are designed to be able to flex enough to seat themselves fully.  This is why 690 engagement teeth are more reliable than say, 24 really big teeth.  The Hydra pawl that is snapping late into its engagement tooth will have a lot less force on it when it travels that small distance and finds its home.  This also means that the slightly softer engagement will be more forgiving on low traction environments.  That’s a super cool strategy!

Big thanks to Industry Nine for their support this year!

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