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. I think I saw one of these rear hubs yesterday, I grinned with glee as I chased it along the road.

    In this picture it looks like there is a glass window panel showing some kind of internal electronics, it’s so so shiny.

    Also, this is my first post as a velominati, this site rocks!

  2. @G’phant
    Cool, I’m around Oy Yer Bike a fair bit so there’s a good chance I’ll get to see check it out if Bretto’s working on it for you.

  3. @minion
    There’s a fair chance you’ll get to see it, then. I’m going to try to do as much myself as is sensible. Which I suspect will leave quite a lot for the experts …

  4. New old stock, 8 speed 28°, in a bin in my basement since I got them. Never had a spoke pulled through em.

  5. In the current bind I’m in financially I’d be willing to part with those for a fair offer slightly below fair market price or trade for a big boy crank 53/39/170mm, compact is coming off.

  6. Not trying to sabotage the sale, but would be remiss if I didn’t point out that those hubs have the old freehub spline that is incompatible with any 9/10/11sp cassettes, and finding the old pattern 8sp cassettes can be problematic too. I got my last one from Branford Bike about 9 years ago and it was so pricey I decided it would be easier and cheaper in the long run to convert my hub and Ergolever to 9/10sp…

  7. @Oli Brooke-White
    Yeah, noted. Though I’m not sure, I did figure out during the procurement of my wheels that the new 9/10/11 freehub bodies are silver, not gunmetal like these.

    I don’t need a 10spd one. I dont’ need a 8spd one, either, but I imagine this might be a nice start to that delta brake 8 speed DT shifter dream I’ve got.

    I really, really, really, really, really, really, really hope my VMH isn’t reading this. Patient and supportive as she’s been, this might be the last straw.

  8. @Oli Brooke-White
    I agree, I’m also sure that’s an 8spd.

    My question was, do all 9/10/11 spd hubs have the silver colored body, or are some of them also the dark one? That’s how I’ve been telling them apart, but maybe that’s not 100% reliable.

  9. Oh, that wasn’t clear. Some of the cheaper 9/10 freehubs have the “gunmetal” steel freehub bodies, but Chorus and Record don’t. The way to tell them apart is that the old spline is obviously much shallower than the modern one, more akin to the Shimano spline (not that they are compatible!).

  10. After doing a very superficial Google image search, these are shallow.

  11. A little team, but not necessarily shitty. Even small teams have their vital place in the scheme of things. Although they may well actually be a shitty team for all I know…

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