Last year, when venturing into a custom wheel build for my then new Trek Farley, the strategy was simple – turn this fat bike into a never ending roll machine. Good hubs equal better rolling momentum.
In speaking with Pete Hamer of Freewheel Bike in Minneapolis, MN, we reviewed just about every manufacturer that buillt fat bike hubs at that time. We casted our final votes for Fatback’s—Made in the USA—Hadley Hub. From dialoging with our group of local Cuyuna riders, and with Pete’s daily ridership in Minneapolis, we both felt this would be a good investment.
If I knew then what I know now, I’d make this purchase again in a heartbeat. There are some critiques you’ll read below, but I’m ok with these points when I compare it against the performance of the hubs.
Here’s the good news on the hubs:
1) They roll like the wind blows on a February winter night in Cuyuna. Fast, mean, and strong. You keep rolling, and rolling, and rolling. With just a slight downhill angle, these wheels are off and running. Might it be the ball bearings? Maybe? Might it be the color? Doubtful. Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine and I were both rolling down a dirt road at the same speed, and within seconds my bike pulls ahead, by a large margin. This might not sound newsworthy, but the bike my friend was riding had a purchase price twice the value of my fat bike. Invest wisely! Invest in good hubs!
2) The hubs click really loud when you’re coasting. Some folks might not like this. I do. I’ve always considered the louder the click the better the quality. It’s nice to know that the clicking could also keep the coyotes, wolves, whitetail, bears, and yeti of Cuyuna off the trails, and in the woods where they belong at night.
3) They are red. Customization and personalization, that’s what makes fat bikes so much fun.
4) They are made in the USA.
Ok. Everything can’t be roses though, right? The following notes are a few real-world critiques against the hubs just so we can have a well rounded review, and not a Fatback Hadley Hub love fest.
Pete from Freewheel Bike, wrote in the following critiques after bringing in the hubs for maintenance following a full winter and summer season of shredding the red dirt and white snow trails:
1) Only one of the rear hub bearings was worn, but Hadley hubs are just about the trickiest to service. They’re pretty complex with a bearing placement unlike most other hubs.
Pete’s comment about the Hadley hubs being about the “trickiest to service” intrigued me, so I replied:
“Are the Hadley’s hubs trickiness of service worth it in the performance of the product, or is it just designed poorly in retrospect? Meaning, what does a cyclist benefit from hubs that are tricky to service versus hubs that are easy to service?”
To which our main man, Pete, replied:
“I think the hubs held up fine. Hadley hubs are more difficult to service due to available tools and maintenance instruction available. We’ve seen all combinations of short-vs-long bearing life with various service intervals. Just getting Hadleys cleaned and ready for bearing replacement took much longer than, say a DT Swiss hub.”
“Very interesting,” I thought to myself, “and something to consider the next time I purchase hubs.” It would make sense to ask maintenance in addition to sales what hubs are the easiest to maintain with the largest performance gain. I also asked Pete, “did the difficulty in servicing the hubs end up costing more in the maintenance?” Again Pete commented, “Yes and no.” “Yes, the Hadley hubs are generally more expensive and trickier to service than some other hub brands (DT Swiss). The Hope fat bike hubs have not been holding up as well as your Hadleys (in general).” Meaning, I spent a bit more to maintain the hubs, but I saved a buck in not needing to rebuild the hubs.
I finished up my dialog with the following question. “What would have happened if I didn’t get my hub serviced and kept riding it?” And again, Freewheel replied: “The biggest benefit of service, is keeping the salt and water at bay. Just removing, inspecting, and lubricating helps immensely. Winter in Minnesota will always win. Water, salt, and other contaminants will eventually destroy almost anything, no matter its design.”
I’m happy with the purchase and performance of these hubs. It was fun to purchase the hubs direct from Fatback in Alaska. They went out of their way to get me the hubs when they were technically out of stock on their website. Their customer service was impeccable, and in my opinion, the hubs might be tricky to service, but watch this bike roll on the single track. It’s well worth the trickiness.
Great review Aaron. In our opinion, Hadley makes the highest quality hubs on the market. They have proven themselves countless times in the most extreme conditions. Regarding ease of maintenance, it is possible to do with normal shop tools, but much easier with the $120 Hadley tool kit. With this kit, they can be overhauled in a matter of minutes. Under normal winter use, annual clean and lube is usually all that’s necessary.