I didn’t know whether to put this in the tech blog, or the home page. I chose to put it in the tech blog though, so, here it is.
All the time, you hear the same question. How can I make my hub louder? Well, that’s what this is about. Fan or not, they have to be addressed.
Now, first, I want to acknowledge WHY we make cassettes louder.
1 – Faster engagement. There is less slack in the pedals when you start pedaling.
2 – To judge your speed by the sound of it, so it has to be audible.
3 – To be safe, and heard, in case there are cars and pedestrians around.
4 – To be trendy and to have a loud cassette.
Now, numbers 1-3 are excuses for #4. And here’s why:
#1 – Faster engagement
A quicker snap back will not create less slack in the cassette. Cassettes are usually designed to have 32 teeth, and however many pawls you have (3, 4, and 6 are popular numbers). What this means is that the most rotation you can have in your cranks before the teeth engage with the pawls is 1/32 of a rotation of the driver (not necessarily 1/32 of a rotation of the cranks, because of the gear ratio). Because you have the maximum of 1/32 of a rotation, how can we decrease that maximum to say, 1/64 of a rotation? Well, think about it. If you want the pawls to engage faster, how is them springing back into place FASTER and HARDER going to get you 1/64 of a rotation? It isn’t, it’s only going to get you 1/32 of a rotation with a louder click. If you want less slack, you need a different hub with a different amount of teeth. (The word “teeth” commonly refers to the gear ratio, however on the inside of hubs, teeth are the notches in the hub/driver that the pawls interact with).
To be fair, this is the only one that cites a technical reason. Albeit false, it is still a technical reason, rather than something that has nothing to do with technical reasoning, such as:
#2 – Judging speed
Am I saying that you cannot judge your speed using your cassette’s buzz? No, I’m not. This was brought up the other day as a reason, and I laughed at first. Then I thought about it, and I guess I as well judge my speed using my cassette’s buzz. It isn’t my only way of judging it, BUT I guess somewhere in the back of my head, I do use it to judge my speed.
This reason is a stupid excuse too. If your hub isn’t loud enough for you to hear it without making it louder, it’s broken. I have an unmodified shadow raptor hub. I listen to music while I ride, and I can still hear it just fine. If you have a problem hearing it, then you either ride in the jetwash of a 747 (which, come to think of it, could be fun if you set up some ramps the right way…./random thought), or have no ears.
Even if you cannot hear it, you should not be depending on it as a tool to judge your speed. If you are, then you need to stop doing that. Mostly because hubs can fail, hubs can make different noises, other hubs around you could confuse you, etc etc.
Not to mention freecoasters. A little known fact about a freecoaster is that they make NO NOISE. Which is a problem if you want to ride on the road, bringing up the next problem with a quiet cassette:
#3 – Safety and Visibility
Stop trying. If your reason for a louder cassette is to be seen/heard by cars/pedestrians, then you live in the wrong place. Let’s tackle them separately.
Cars – A driver will not hear your cassette. Break it down into 2 different scenarios, though.
Windows up: Hah! If you think a driver can hear your cassette with the windows up, you are sadly mistaken. Especially with today’s “quiet cab” technology going into cars, a cassette buzz is too quiet to hear.
Windows down: The wind will make a louder noise than your hub. Sorry buddy, even with the windows down, your hub won’t be heard.
Either way, why does the car need to hear you? If you think the car needs to hear you coming up behind it…they don’t, mostly because if you are overtaking a car on a bike, a small, single gear, BMX bike, they are stopped, or you are iron man. If you think the car needs to hear you while it’s coming towards you, well, that’s why we have eyes so we can see. Either way, you should work on being SEEN, instead of heard.
Pedestrians – If a pedestrian doesn’t hear you coming, good for them. They should have been looking before crossing the road. If you do hit them, and you had the right of way, and you have working brakes on your bike, congratulations, you have a reason to have a loud cassette…that wouldn’t have worked in their ignorance to see you in the first place.
If you want to be seen/heard by drivers, wear a bright orange safety vest – and for those who want to ride at night, make sure you get a reflective one!
So, to summarize:
1 – Faster engagement: false. Your hub will not engage any faster. It will only engage louder, because the amount of rotation it takes for the teeth to lock up with the pawls does not change.
2 – Judging your speed: false. If you use your hub to judge your speed, then hubs are loud enough as they are to be heard.
3 – Safety: false. A loud hub will not save you from a car/pedestrian that fails to see you.
Hubs are made the way they are for a reason. A company like Odyssey, or TSC doesn’t just take a hub and throw random springs in there without testing it or having an engineer do some math for the hub. The hubs are well planned, and tinkering with the spring tension also messes up the other tolerances in the hub.
Your hubs will wear out quicker, and will develop more problems if they are altered to be louder.
If you think you have a justifiable reason for altering a hub to make it louder than factory stock, send it my way. I would LOVE to hear it.
Thanks for reading, and leave a comment if you have any questions about the article, or would like to complain about me bashing a stupid trend.