Evolution of a Plan, Part II: Record Hubs

The most beautiful hub ever built: Record freehub.

Before my dad bought his C-Record Merckx in the late 80's, the family stable consisted of mostly Shimano bits, with a light smattering of Suntour. All these components were things of beauty – after all, there is something of fundemental beauty in any bike part – but none of these trascended time. In a sense, I could imagine how each piece was conceived, and how it might be made.

During the procurement of that Merckx, we made several visits to De Grimpeur, the shop where he bought it. First to admire the frame after it had been picked up by the shop owner over dinner with Merckx himself; again after the gruppo arrived, and finally as the little bits such as the one-off Campagnolo saddle found it's way to the shop and the bike was built. I was wild with anticipation over the fact that this bike was going to have Campagnolo parts; the closest I'd been to a Campy component was reaching out to touch the television screen as Fignon attacked LeMond on Alpe d'Huez.

Seeing the bike built for the first time, the delta brakes changed the way I thought about components. They seemed otherworldly and I couldn't take my eyes off them. They looked as though they might have been crafted in the fires of Mount Velomis itself. But the gruppo's beauty ran way beyond just the brakes; each and every part had a quality that was missing from anything else I'd ever seen. Indeed, the shape and curve of each component seemed to be defined as much by its purpose as by its beauty, and that beauty was punctuated by the luster of the finish given to each component.

It's this finish, more than anything else, that sets Campagnolo appart from other component manufacturers.  In fact, it's this finish that makes me feel a little bit dirty labeling Campagnolo as a “manufacturer.” It's this finish that causes me to bemoan the current trend of producing black components.

The delta brakes were prominent, but there was a more subtle component on the Merckx that I didn't discover until later: the rear hub. This was a thing of unequalled beauty; the way it flared out to the drive side in a luxurious curve of elemental sexiness is a sight to behold. Sunlight twinkled off the hub in that devine way which it can only do off a highly polished, perfectly curved, spinning surface. That twinkle occupied countless hours of my imagination as my dad and I trained together day after day.

As I set about building up my TSX, my attention turned to a set of wheels to match the rest of the bike.  Box rims and a 3-cross laced spoke pattern obviously, but the hubs were a question. I have been spoiled by the ease of sealed cartridge bearings and crave their convenience, but modern hubs lack the beauty of the Old Glory Days; even the current Record hubs look to be made on a lathe rather than by magic, which is a bit sad. Phil Wood, American classic, Royce – they all have amazing hubs – in particular Royce – but they don't capture the imagination the way the old silver Record hubs do.

The truth was unavoidable: I needed a set of old 9/10 speed silver Record hubs. Since the new ones are black and too angular, the search was on. eBay has a healthy flow of these hubs, and although it took some discovery to learn to recognize the 9/10 speed hubs versus the older 8 speed hubs, my watch list was soon brimming with hub candidates.  I let several auctions run out as I tried to get a feeling for the prices the hubs were fetching. I bid on a few and lost out. Then I found a mislabeled set built up with Mavic Open Pros. Because they were labeled only as Open Pros and the auction neglected to refer to the Record hubs, there was very little activity, and they were mine for a bargain.

The amazing thing about eBay is that the patient bidder can come across a dream product for a palatable price. The problem with eBay is you never really know what you're going to get until its in your hands. Mine arrived in absolutely perfect order.  Aside from a thorough cleaning (they were rather dirty), they needed nothing aside from a set of tires. I turned to my old friends the Gommitalia Calypso, and have myself a stunning wheelset.

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Record Hubs/”/]

This Fall, I will tear these wheels down, service the hubs, and build them back up with the Mavic MP4 Tubs that Gianni sent me last year.  The Open Pros will go to another wheelset that is in need of some fresh rims and the cycle will continue.  In the meantime, I'm rather satisfied with the end result, though I have to admit that the Salsa Ti skewers seem a bit out of place at this point; they will eventually be replaced by some good ol' fashioned Campy ones. Everything in it's time.

As I close this chapter, I find myself moving on to the next question: when I rebuild the wheels, which tires will go with them?  Vittoria, FMB? Thankfully, the possibilities are endless; it will take me at least a summer to make up my mind.

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71 Replies to “Evolution of a Plan, Part II: Record Hubs”

  1. Campy Record hubs are THE ULTIMATE hubs. Nothing rolls as smoothly and looks as sexy. Once I started working at bike shops every BMX bike I ever raced on had Record track hubs on them.

  2. Very cool, what a sweet ride you’ve turned ‘er into! The next free Sunday you have with some good weather, you should ride it over to the Ballard Farmers Market to get some wood-fired pizza and a mini pie.

    Though, I notice you are lacking a pie plate on that fine rear wheel. I have a spare one now if you want me to mail it up.

  3. The Road to Velominotopia goes through eBay. It has many switchbacks.

  4. Lovely bike Frank. And congrats on the eBay-Fu. If I might make a couple of respectful suggestions: 1. When you rebuild those wheels, use Sapim C-XRay spokes. They are pricey but worth it. 2. You need yourself a steel fork (painted to match, of course) and a nice, shiny, polished aluminium stem.

  5. @Cyclops

    Campy Record hubs are THE ULTIMATE hubs. Nothing rolls as smoothly and looks as sexy. Once I started working at bike shops every BMX bike I ever raced on had Record track hubs on them.

    The second part is true, but the first part might not be. After you get your Zipps, you’ll be amazed how you can do the Nigel Tufnel and spin it, go have a bite, and it’ll still be spinning when you get back. These Record hubs roll light, but they ain’t like the Zipps.


    The Road to Velominotopia goes through eBay. It has many switchbacks.


    I hadn’t even considered the spokes, just figured DT Suisse was a no brainer. Maybe not. Thank you – seriously – for adding another dimension to the remaining step of the journey. Cheers.

  6. Next time you’re home, you must take me to the place your dad keeps his bikes.

  7. Those are frikkin gorgeous hubs. As for the tires, you can’t go wrong with the Vittorias. But if you can get your hands on some FMBs, you should go for it.

  8. Nate:
    Those are frikkin gorgeous hubs. As for the tires, you can’t go wrong with the Vittorias. But if you can get your hands on some FMBs, you should go for it.

    I run the Vittoria Diamante clinchers. Good value -they can be had for about $40 or so, and I’ve gotten 3000 miles of general training use with few flats. They will run at 140 psi was well.

  9. I’d drink the FMB koolaid if I were you. Just make sure to get 25s or 28s. I love big tires on road bikes.

  10. Frank, I run gum wall veloflex paves or masters on some of my bikes. They are slightly more pricey but roll amazingly and are goodnenough for training and racing. Highly recommend them for this build. You won’t regret it.

  11. Kiwicyclist:
    Frank, I run gum wall veloflex paves or masters on some of my bikes. They are slightly more pricey but roll amazingly and are goodnenough for training and racing. Highly recommend them for this build. You won’t regret it.

    This man speaketh the truth. Superb tyres, and they look so damn cool to boot…

  12. May not be ‘Old Skool’ but the last time I borrowed a buddies bike at the beach for a ride he had a set of 28 mm Tufo tubs on it.

    WOW! the ride is da bomb. Plus he had about 2000k on that set and hadn’t had a flat yet.

  13. @tomb
    Tufos I guess are really popular in the Southwest on account of them being so bomber. My brother lives in Albuquerque and after spending the first few months of living there mending flats, he got some Tufos. Crazy as it sounds, I’ve even considered trying out their tubular clinchers, but it feels unholy.

    It’s funny, so many people are talking about lower pressure in the tires, and wider, wider, wider…and it makes me cringe. The cringe, of course, has nothing to do whatsoever with “facts” or “evidence” as to whether it’s better or worse, just with the fact that I’ve spent eons riding 23mm tires at 120psi. No more, no less (I pump them up for every single ride, no exceptions). I am bigger and heavier than anyone I ride with, and get less flats than just about anyone anywhere. *Touches wood*

    But I’m tempted with the tubs to go to 25’s. One of the big destinations for these wheels will be the cobbles in Belgium next spring, inch’Merckx, so wider seems OK.

    The big issue with tubs, of course, seems to be the cost; you buy three tires, not two, and after a flat you either learn to sew or you buy another.

    Just hopped over to the FMB site, and the cool thing about these, is that they don’t come in anything smaller than a 25. That’s rather telling.

    These are slightly more expensive (like almost 50% more) but have a higher ass-kick ratio, obviously.

    Those Veloflexeseeses look pretty sweet too, and actually that’s the look I was going for when I bought the Calypso’s. Awesome stuff.

    Any other input on spokes? Oli, surely you have an opinion here. How does spoke strength relate across brands? Like I said, I like the DT Suisse spokes, but the CX-Rays get good reviews and seem to be considered a strong spoke.

    I’m about 80kg give or take and the rims/hubs are 32-hole. The goal is primarily to build a bomber wheelset, secondarily a comfortable wheelset, and thirdly a light wheelset.

  14. Awesomeness! Good on ya, Frank, for being a patient lad and letting those auctions run out. I’ll do that too, but it can be very difficult sometimes not to pull the trigger.

    Ha, I usually get pissed with mislabeled auctions, but this one worked in your favor. Nice.

    As for the Record hubs…I have those on my Tommasini. Just rode it on Sunday and headed out with a friend who knows a thing or two about nice bicycle parts. After the ride we were sitting in his garage and he was admiring the bike when he said, “You know what? Those hubs are the most beautiful ever built.” Interesting timing with your score and this article, Frank.

    As for tires – my Tommasini has Record hubs, Delta Strada XL rims, and some Veloflex Master 22s. Very smooth ride. My Casati has Record hubs (newer ones), Open Pro rims, and Vittoria Evo Corsa CX tires. Even smoother!! Those tires on a well-built steel bike are just incredible.

  15. @Cyclops
    Ha! I did my best to crop them out and thought about photoshopping it, but didn’t. The wheels came with a perfect Campy front skewer, but with a Tacx rear. Ugliest skewer ever made. So I put the Salsas in there until I get a rear Campy. Accepting donations the Frank Awesomeness Charity now.

  16. frank:
    Any other input on spokes?

    I’m going to have CX-Rays used on my next wheel build as well, hopefully this summer if I can scratch enough cash together between some trips I have planned. Everyone seems to like them.

    My only (humble) suggestion would be to get the rear wheel 3x laced to take the extra punishment of the cobbles. While looks are important, I think build strength should outweigh aesthetics or weight considerations, as you stated.

  17. @frank
    From what I’ve heard (no personal experience, unfortunately) 25+mm tires are less apt to get stuck between cobbles. You can run a little less pressure in a wider tire too, for more traction on wet cobbles.

  18. Campagnolo aesthetics, panache, lust . . . why even consider another group? My 2005 Chorus hubs have a similar shape, but deep down I know they are inferior because they are Chorus >_<

  19. @frank

    Just hopped over to the FMB site, and the cool thing about these, is that they don’t come in anything smaller than a 25. That’s rather telling

    Yeah, I’d recommend 25s and lower pressure. Riding cobbles with 120psi in your tires will break something, most likely on your body. You will be faster and more comfortable with 25s.

    I’m converting to 25mm clincher tires (michelin pro 3)just so I don’t have to get the shit beaten out of me on bad roads here. Like you, I get pinch flats unless I pump it up but then the ride can be cruel. Right now I just have a 25 on my rear wheel as my alpha q front fork won’t allow it. And the new rear tire just barely clears the rear brake bracket.

    I agree about the silver anodized campy hubs being so beautiful. I became hypnotized riding on my clone’s wheel, the constant bright reflection of the sun coming off the hub for miles and miles and miles. Like the Eye of Mordor.

  20. 25’s for sure. Riding box rims with anything less than a 25 is worthy of a new rule discussion, unless you have a bunch of X’s in your name, wear an orange kit, weigh less than a buck ten and never have a hope of reaching the podium when cobbles are involved, in which case you can ride 23’s because it won’t matter anyway.

    Another worthy mention in this build is the wipperman connex. Since building Il Gruppo Progetto with one last year I’ve become a fan. Looking forward to a write up on the chain.

  21. I’m sure this is just me, but there seem to be a lot of spokes on these wheels. Can a velominatus give the brief explantion why more spokes are better than less spokes? I run 16 on the front and 24 on the back, and I’m a Big Guy (90kg). Never had a tacoed wheel, or any real problems. I’ve been lucky?

  22. @eightzero
    I think part of the reason is the rims have become stronger and better engineered thus requiring less spokes support the weight. In the old days, only a track bike (used for actually riding on a track) would have a radially spoked front wheel. Both wheels would be 36 maybe 32 spokes, 3x, maybe 2x if you were a madman. But the box rims were pretty light so I guess the pendulum has swung the other way to stronger rims and less spokes. That is part of it at least.

  23. Fewer spokes equals higher spoke tension per spoke, usually built into a stiffer rim. If you drink the Mavic cool aid, their Zircal bladed spokes are for aerodynamics, but that’s an argument for another forum. The stiffer the wheel the more responsive it feels to acceleration, but they can feel less comfortable to ride on as they transmit everything. If you have a modern frame with a layup that has some comfort tuned into it, super stiff wheels are fine, but frames without that like an older aluminium frame can ride really harshly with those types of wheels. Higher spoke count wheels have some flex built into the system, without compromising performance given that they are usually in a crossed pattern, and with lower spoke tension per spoke they can feel relatively stiff (again can be dependent on rim) while adding a bit of comfort. And bike shops can usually replace a broken spoke from a standard, whereas with proprietary spokes they can be pricey and hard to get.
    Think that’s covered it, AFAIK. If I’ve left anything out or am grossly misinformed flame me mercilessly.

  24. I’d like to try some 25s on a few of my wheelsets. I don’t even know if they make the Veloflex Masters in that size though. The Vittoria Evo Corsa CXs are not cheap, but they do ride very well. I don’t use them on my high-mileage bike anyway.

    I’d also like to try some of these new wider rims. A friend was telling me about them this weekend, just read about them on here last week. Sounds interesting. Then again, I don’t weigh very much so not sure how much I’d notice. Maybe I would though.

    I have a variety of wheelsets with varying spoke counts but on completely different bikes – carbon, various steel tubesets, so hard to say how they differ in ride quality. I like to ride all my bikes, but for different applications.

  25. Off topic – anyone using the LG Quartz helmet? Seems to look pretty sharp, think that’s the model Voekler is using (maybe all of Europcar?). Kind of cool looking, but you gotta try helmets on to tell. I typically go for Specialized, think their front channel looks the best. But, the Quartz looks pretty cool.

  26. @Ron
    I also run the Vittoria Evo Corsa CXs on one of the bikes and a set of challenge criteriums on my race bike – all pretty damn sweet tires. I ran a set of 25mm vittoria open paves on my commuter pig for a year and a half through winter and they are bombproof – I’m just not entirely sure how they would roll on the roadbike and once you’ve ridden the Corsas, Veloflexs or Challenge tires you get completely spoilt. Chuck a pair of vittoria rubino pros on to compare and they just feel too damn slow and clunky.
    On the topic of tubulars, at least here in Melbourne there is an old guy who still repairs them at a pretty competitive price and can turn them around in a couple of days- the cost is similar to the (full retail) price of a clincher inner tube. So (although I don’t train on tubs) theoretically it wouldn’t be too much of an issue to run them if you could get comfortable with the need to carry a pre-glued tired to get you home. Maybe you could investigate if there is a similar crusty old fella in your town who could do the same?

  27. @Ron, @Kiwicyclist
    I run the Corsas in summer and the Paves in winter (such as it is here — mostly rain). @Kiwi, the Paves are nearly as supple as the Corsas, yet tough as nails. There is a bit of a weight penalty but worth it in the right conditions.

    Also, just got a set of the Corsa Servizio Corses for this summer, which I believe are new this year and feature an old school gum rubber sidewall. Haven’t mounted them yet as the roads are still in crap shape.

    @Ron, Also run HED Bastognes, with 23 mm width rims rather than the standard 19-20mm. It’s a superlative clincher setup — rolls fast, rides smooth and corners great.

  28. Michelin Pro Race 3s (23mm) with Michelin aircomp latex tubes feel like they roll great. I keep coming back to the ProRace. I’ve tried Veloflex clinchers – which I found wooden, although I am probably guilty of overinflation – and Continental Attack/Force, and Open Corsa CXs, which I liked about as much as the Contis, but the Michelins just feel nicer for mine and roll better than my tubs. (Although that’s probably an unfair comparison given the clinchers are on higher quality hubs – with ceramic bearings – while the tubs are Vitt Pave’s (27mm F/24mm R) on box section Ambrosios.)

  29. Maiden voyage on the wheels. The hubs are mezmerizing to watch, and I love the sound the bike makes; the wheels and tires sound like a scene right out of Stars and Watercarriers.

    All that aside, and I love this bike, but all the hype over ride quality and comfort I think is borne from people who haven’t ridden an R3 extensively or a similarly performing modern bike. The steel under performs in comparison in every respect, from comfort to stiffness to weight. I guess that’s why the pros are racing carbon bikes (and winning three Roubaixs in 6 years aboard R3s) and not steel. Even cornering – and the 3cross wheels are RAD in the turns – the R3 is unlike anything I’ve ever ridden; the rear triangle is vertically so compliant (forgive me the Huagnism) that the back end gets loaded like a ski and you can literally carve the bike through the corners if you lean into it right. Incredible feeling, a twisty descent feels like skiing.

    Don’t get me wrong, though, this bike is a complete kick to ride. Absolutely love it. One thing I guess that it does better, but it has nothing to do with materials, is the low BB puts it so nice and low to the road, like I remember bikes used to be. Not sure what the trend is with the higher BB’s these days? Cornering clearance is all I can think of, but man, that low BB just puts that baby on rails. Maybe it’s not as big a deal for smaller people.

    In any case: Awesome.

  30. frank:
    but all the hype over ride quality and comfort I think is borne from people who haven’t ridden an R3 extensively or a similarly performing modern bike.

    I need to get a “Bikes” article together about my new steel bike. Long story short is that I have a modern hi-end carbon bike (not a Cervelo, a Scott CR1) and I have a modern high-end steel bike (including steel fork) that I built up specifically to be a dream to ride on the royally f-ed up roads we have in Mass (no need to go planning a special Roubaix-homage ride here; that’s the only kind we have). What has happened is that I end up riding the steel a LOT more than the carbon, because it is just more pleasant (and it’s a beautiful bike that gets lots of comments). The other thing that is really clear is that while I can ride a faster average for 50K on the carbon (especially if I can find some smooth tarmac to ride on), I can do a faster average for 200K on the steel, because I am fresher and more comfortable at the end. Oh, and the steel bike has 28mm tires (Rivendell) on 23mm rims (Velocity) laced with C-Xray spokes (28-2cross F / 32-3cross R) to Chris King R45 hubs. They rock. If I had to own just one road wheelset, I would take that one over the Zipp 404’s on my Scott.

    Sorry to hijack your thread, Frank!

  31. @blaireau
    Awesome! Write it up!

    The point above, though, that I was making was specifically towards rides like the Scott or even the Cervelo S3 et al; as far as compliance, you just can’t beat that R3’s design, it really is amazing. Other frames are much harsher and in that case, absolutely, the steel would be more comfortable especially in the long term. But when you’ve got the R3 in the stable, the comfort delta just ain’t there.

    Can’t wait for your article!

  32. frank:
    The steel under performs in comparison in every respect, from comfort to stiffness to weight. I guess that’s why the pros are racing carbon bikes (and winning three Roubaixs in 6 years aboard R3s) and not steel.

    I’m not going to say carbon isn’t a fine material – I’d love a full-carbon bike myself instead of the half-breed I currently ride – but I’d argue the peloton rides what they are TOLD to ride, and in recent times carbon has been the hot product pushed by the major manufacturers that supply UCI-approved bikes. I imagine profit margins are much better on carbon bikes than on bikes hewn from solid hunks of expensive alloys. Getting your potential customer base to drool over expensive carbon bikes all year then purchase them sounds like a smart business choice to me.

    So, until we have a series of races where the whole peloton swaps their carbon bikes for full-custom, MODERN steel, I’m going to say that the pro preference has as much to do with business decisions by the bike industry and the UCI as rider preference.

    But that’s just my conspiracy theory.

  33. Several of the pros I know have steel bikes in their home stables, but I doubt many would want to trade their carbon race bikes in. Until steel bikes can be made as light and stiff as carbon bikes it won’t happen – the soulful feel of a steel bike is just for recreational enthusiasts like us.

  34. As Brett already knows, I am about to take delivery of a 1994 steel Bosomworth I grabbed on TradeMe last Thursday. It was specifically built for the guy I’ve bought it from. He’s a bit shorter than me, so I am praying it fits me. Assuming it does, there will be another progetto in progress – il mio progetto per l’inverno (Pedale, did I get that right?). I might even take a few photos for possible future publication. (Oli – I might need to come see you about cold setting the frame to accommodate a wider axle for an 11-speed cluster …)

  35. Oooohhh I’m glad you got that G’Phant, I think I saw that one on Tardeme.
    I have my bike frame sitting next to me at work. Banged a headset into it this arvo, hopefully get to build up the rest of it tonight.
    Which one is it BTW? Does it have like 5 or 6 colours over a white base? And Campy?

  36. Rode bespoke Ti for 7 years, couldn’t imagine why I’d need another frame. Also own bespoke steel with s&s couples as my traveller. The Ti frame is a better bike than I’ll ever justify and has done years of fantastic service without complaint, including P-R sportive and RVV route. The steel frame is a thing of beauty – thin tubes, a glorious paint job – although I am not sure I ride it enough to really appreciate any mythical “ride quality”. Last year I finally gave into the siren call of carbon and bought a carbon frame from a German company that sells wholly over the internet and sponsors a pro tour team that has enjoyed a run of success of late. I went for that particular brand of carbon frame primarily because it was a cheap entre into the world of carbon, which I figured wouldn’t be much different (and maybe worse) than the world of Ti. I have been completely converted. The carbon frame is better. Lighter, stiffer (especially the front end), faster.(Although maybe not better looking.) Ti still comes out comes out (and gets to wear tubs) when the weather is miserable and I feel the need for a true work horse. Steel gets pulled out when the sun comes out and I am not in a hurry to get anywhere other than round the next bend. But now days I pretty much ride carbon as a default.

  37. @minion
    No. It’s white base at head tube and edges of the down, top and seat tubes, but airbrushed through grey into black in middle of top, down and seat tubes.

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