DT Hugi Hubs - The ultimate cycle touring hubs? NO!
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Now 20 years old I hope this review still makes an interesting read...
Sadly since writing this review I've had reason to change my opinions... Several correspondents contacted me with problems with the hub, a major tandem manufacturer told me he didn't use them because the axle being split would not hold the dog clutch discs parallel thus failing and lastly after only 2000 miles of moderately loaded cycletouring I had the rear non-drive side flange break. DT's response was that the hubs were not intended for use on touring bikes - QED... The wheel used was build by me with good, not excessive, tension in a three-cross pattern. I've not heard of such a failure so quickly with any other hub though it has been known with some radial spoked wheels particularly on downhill bikes.
Right now I wouldn't recommend these hubs for anything - a great shame.
Recently, I've been musing over the problems associated with
choosing hubs for touring. I've mentioned before that I was using DT's Hugi hubs on
my own expedition tourer. During the test period they've never given trouble, despite heavy loads
front and rear, and the odd pothole... In fact they've become a fit-and-forget item, the only reminder
of their special nature is the rather raucous freewheel which sounds like a noisy fishing reel. Their
construction is unique in several ways, DT having taken the "blank sheet of paper" approach and the
result is as follows.
Firstly the hub shell itself is fairly conventional, but very high quality forged aluminium, stronger
than the often used machined item. The Axle is of 10 mm high grade steel, and internals are sealed
by a complex labyrinth seal. Where things get more unconventional is that the axle is supported by
not two, but four large 6000 series annular bearings by FAG. This is an industry standard size and
so in the event of failure the bearings are easily obtained anywhere in the world. Two of these
bearings are place just to the left of each spoke flange, the other two being at either end of the
freehub body, a combination that gives tremendous strength and should stop the danger of axle
breakage entirely. Having solved one tourists nightmare, axle breakage, DT have attacked the other
main hub failure, that of freewheel pawls breaking or jamming in a typically original way. To my
knowledge all other hubs on the market use variations on the spring and pawl mechanism to provide
freewheeling. Some use two pawls, some three and a few four. Mavic have rotated the pawls
through 90 degrees to increase strength and ease of servicing, but DT have abandoned them all
together. Instead they rely on a "dog clutch" or in DT speak a "Star Ratchet Mechanism". This
consists of two hefty discs with radial teeth which slide over each other in one direction when
freewheeling - the cause of the odd noise, then lock together with all 18 teeth when pedalling. This
is a very strong system, and relies on a simple coil spring to hold the plates together, which is under
little stress and thus unlikely to break. This whole assembly, freewheel mechanism, bearings,
freehub body, can simple be pulled off without tools when any maintenance is finally needed, a
great help to a touring cyclist. The whole thing is massively over-engineered, but only weighs 330
grms, partly due to the use of an aluminium freehub body. This is my only point of concern. It is
easy - if you are ham fisted, to cross the thread of the hyperglide cassette lock ring. DT used to offer
a version with a steel freehub body, and though it brought the weight up to 382 grms it would be my
preferred choice for touring. Sadly this is no longer an option. The matching front hub is more
conventional with two of the 6000 series bearings and a tough 16 mm alloy axle. It is similarly
sealed, light at 160 grms and it too has proved totally maintenance free over the past months.
These hubs are hideously expensive, but if you want the best, most reliable touring hub they cannot
at present be beaten.
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