25 March 2008

Bikefix Initial Review: White Industries Eccentric ENO hub

Single speeds are pretty cool. While I wouldn’t want one to be my only bike, there’s something about the simplicity they provide and the riding style that they demand. Particularly in wetter parts of the world, a single speed mountain bike can get through the winter with minimal maintenance hassles. Similarly, there’s little to go wrong on fixed gear road bikes. For decades, roadies have used them for winter training- they teach the rider what pedaling in circles feels like, something immediately noticeable when returning to a freewheeling rig. And of course messengers chose to ride them for their simplicity, beauty, and of course the macho points gained by riding a brakeless machine in the urban jungle. They improve the rider's low-end torque and high-rpm spin and just look cool.

Unfortunately, unless you can use a magic gear combination that provides perfect chain tension with your bike’s chainstay length, single speeds and fixed gear frames must have some provision for varying that length. The simplest are BMX-style horizontal dropouts, though eccentric BBs and floating vertical dropouts are becoming more popular (and work far better with disc brakes). However, many of us have perfectly good used frames lying around, or can find them easily. Maybe they’re hardtails that were abandoned in favor of full suspension. Maybe they’re older (but still good) road frames that have been set aside for something a bit lighter/newer/stiffer/sexier. It’s for these cases that White Industries have created the Eccentric ENO hub.

It’s a simple idea, really. Rather than having the wheel fixing bolts concentric with the rear wheel, they’re offset slightly. This allows the rear wheel (and attached cog or freewheel) to move in a little circle. Forward a bit and you’ve got a slightly shorter effective chainstay length, back a bit and it grows. Heck, you can even run the hub above the attachment point (for quicker steering and a taller BB height) or below (for the opposite). The hubs themselves are beautifully polished and made in California. Available in flip-flop and disc versions and a variety of spoke drillings and dropout widths, there is a version for most riders’ needs. The bearings are off-the-shelf sealed cartridge units and pretty good sized (to clear the oversized eccentric axle).

When I came across a good road frame for a very good price, I decided to take my trusty Raleigh Team titanium road frame out of road service. It’s a neat, unusual and rare frame, though, and I couldn’t bear to part with it. So, I set about stripping down our test Cayne Uno and building the Raleigh up as a fixed gear commuter (and Alleycat racer). Our local bike shop had been selling a fair few of White Industries’ hubs and talking them up all the while. Charlie has been running one on his Wicked Fat Chance single speed without issue for a while now, so I decided to drop the $160 and give it a go. While not particularly light (322g plus freewheel or cog), the Eccentric Eno is really a beautiful thing to touch and look at. I laced it up to an inexpensive (but light) Sun ME14A rim- the same rim I’ve been running on my 29er single speed for over a year without problems- using DT straight-gage spokes. While not particularly light (I was on a budget), the wheels certainly are stout. White Industries does make a matching front hubs, but I opted to go with a NOS WTB hub off of eBay (hey- it was $9).

My biggest concern was that, interfacing with hard Ti dropouts, the ENO wouldn’t have enough bite to keep from rotating under pressure. While my knees don’t particularly like skid stops, they do happen from time to time, and I was afraid that the hub would rotate in the dropouts, the chain would fall off and I would die. It turns out that this hasn’t been an issue at all- once the 6mm socket cap screws are set (and tightened with a big ass wrench), they don’t move.

This is what we'll call an initial review, as I’ve only got a few hundred miles on the ENOs (most of it in 17mi commuting chunks), so I can’t speak to the hubs’ long-term durability (though Charlie hasn’t had any problems in 3 years). I do have a couple of quibbles, though. First of all, it would have been an easy addition to provide for concentric as well as eccentric mounting. There is already a bolt at the center (holding the end caps in place), and if it were the same thread as the eccentric mounting bolts, it could be used on a single-speed (or fixed-gear) specific frame with fewer hassles (especially rim- and disc-brake related). Also, you may have to fool with your brake adjustment when changing gear ratios. That’s also true with horizontal dropout frames, but worth noting nonetheless. In order to use the disc brake version, you will need to budget for White Industries’ $60 disc adaptor, which is pretty clever (and eccentric as well). Finally, there isn’t a double-fixed flip-flop version- why not? You can run a freewheel on a fixed gear thread, but running a fixed cog without the locknut is asking for trouble. I’d like to throw an easier cog on the opposite side, in case of particularly windy New Mexico afternoons but can’t, which is a bummer. All that said, I’m still thrilled with the purchase. It’s kept a frame with sentimental value in service and helped me create what I think is one of the prettiest fixed-gear cyclocross commuters around. For something made by real people, fairly close by, it’s also a good value.

marc

www.whiteind.com

See our update here.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I found this site using [url=http://google.com]google.com[/url] And i want to thank you for your work. You have done really very good site. Great work, great site! Thank you!

Sorry for offtopic

bikefix said...

Anon- thanks! I'm glad that you found us. Tell your friends and stay tuned for a busy fall/winter. marc

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