Flanges – The outer sides of the hub to which the spokes of the wheel are attached.
High Flange Hub – A hub with large ends/flanges. In most cases, high flange hubs are drilled to reduce their weight.
Low Flange Hub – A hub with smaller ends/flanges. Currently, this is the most common hub type.
The Benefits of High Flange Hubs
1. Higher Lateral Stiffness
High flange hubs produce a wider bracing angle which results in a larger triangle and subsequently greater lateral rigidity.
2. Aesthetic Points
In the world of cycling, looks are just as important as function. Many cyclists find high flange hubs aesthetic and go for them. Some even custom-paint the hubs to make them even more flashy.
3. More Real Estate
The larger flange comes with more real estate allowing wider spacing between each spoke. As a result, the flange is stronger and capable of accommodating more spokes.
Also, the higher position of the spokes on the hub makes it easier to change a spoke on the drive side because the spokes are further away from the rear cog. (This applies only to single-speed bikes.)
The Downsides of High Flange Hubs
1. Extra Weight
High flange hubs require more material resulting in greater weight. Hence why high flange hubs are drilled out.
The tables below compare the weight of rear and front high flange hubs to that of low flange models.
|High Flange||Weight||Low Flange||Weight|
|Phil Track Hub High Flange||379g||Shimano Dura Ace Track 7710||298g|
|Schindelhauer High Flange Hub||220g||Gran Compe SF||224g|
|Mack High Flange Rear||240g||Mack Superlight||197g|
|NOVATEC A186SBT||233g||Miche Primato Pista||315g|
|Paul High Flange||290g||Phil Wood Low Flange||342g|
|Velo Orange Freewheel Rear Hub||292g||Hope RS4 Road Rear Hub||272g|
|Paul Components – Track Rear Hub||289g||Mavic MR801 Road Rear Hub||245g|
|Halo Fix-G Rear Track Hub||320g||Industry Nine Torch Classic||240g|
|King Kong 219R||379g||Rotor RVOLVER||246g|
Conclusion: Low flange rear hubs are about 10% lighter than high flange rear hubs.
|High Flange||Weigh||Low Flange||Weight|
|Phil Track Hub High Flange||262g||Shimano Dura Ace Track 7710||203g|
|Schindelhauer High Flange Hub||215g||Gran Compe SF||176g|
|Level Components Highest Flange Front Hub||337g||Mack Superlight||127g|
|Gran Compe||277g||Miche Primato Pista||224g|
|Shimano Dura Ace 7600 Series||241g||Phil Wood Low Flange||223g|
|Paul Components – High Flange Front Hub||170g||Mavic Road Front Hub – Disc||103g|
|Halo Track Hub||262g||Hope RS4 Road Front Hub||135g|
|System EX Hub||271g||Rotor RVOLVER Road Front Hub||89g|
|Sturmey Archer HBT30-F||273.5g||DT Swiss 350 Road Front Hub||136g|
Conclusion: Low flange front hubs are about 40% lighter than high flange front hubs.
During the 80s, high flange hubs lost popularity and went into obscurity.
The reasons for this development are:
- Initially, the purpose of high flange hubs was to compensate for weaker spokes, but as bike componentry improved, the extra strength provided by the larger flange became inconsequential.
- Fashion – cycling, just like any other sport, is subject to trends. Eventually, high flange hubs stopped being cool in the world of road cycling. Nonetheless, they remained a tradition in track cycling and continue to be extremely popular in that cycling sector.
Today, high flange hubs are experiencing a rise in popularity thanks to the fixed gear culture which is heavily inspired by track cycling.
For that reason, most of the high flange hubs on the market are track hubs.
3. Less Aero
Technically, the wider bracing angle, the extra weight and the larger flanges make high flange hubs less aero.
Truth be told, however, the effect is too small to matter, especially in the world of recreational cycling. Nobody is losing competitions because they have a non-aero hub.
4. Stiffer/Less Compliant
One of the reasons why track cycling never abandoned high flange hubs is that they create a base for building a very stiff wheel. In cycling, stiffness has a good and a bad side. Stiff components are more efficient because the power loss is minimized. However, they are also harsher on the rider’s body due to the transmitted road vibrations.
The Benefits Of Low Flange Hubs
1. More compliant (potentially)
The smaller bracing angle of low flange hubs against the rim as well as the extra spoke length (with some cross patterns) should, at least theoretically, make it possible to lace a more compliant wheel.
In practice, however, it’s questionable to what degree this occurs because the difference is too slim to notice.
2. Greater Availability
Since low flange hubs are the default standard, you will have an easier time finding one at your local bike shop.
3. Lighter Weight
The lighter weight of low flange hubs is their strongest point. As we all know, road bike fanatics do everything in their power to save grams from every component. As shown in the tables above, low flange hubs help you with that goal.
3. More Aero
The slimmer profile and the smaller bracing angle make low flange hubs more aero. In reality, however, the extent of this effect is non-perceivable by a human being.
The Disadvantages of Low Flange Hubs
Some people consider low flange hubs too ordinary and less aesthetically pleasing than high flange hubs.
2. Less Real Estate
The smaller flange results in a denser spoke area and less flange material. Thus, all things being equal, the flanges on low flange hubs are weaker.
Also, some cross patterns won’t be an option because each spoke will cover the head of the one next to it. During riding the spokes flex ever so slightly. The rubbing between the spokes will file the head of the spokes and cause failure. Of course, this scenario is a bit extreme but not impossible nonetheless.
FAQ: What hub should I choose?
At the end of the day, the flange of the hub is not the most crucial factor.
The parameters below are more important:
If you want a strong hub, you have to go for a known manufacturer to ensure some degree of quality.
2. Spoke Holes
The number of spoke holes should correspond to the number of holes on the rim.
The width of the hub should match the width of the dropouts or fork (depending on where you’re installing the hub.)
4. Threading or Cassette Driver
If you use a freewheel, you will need a rear hub with a thread.
If you have a cassette, the rear hub has to be equipped with a driver of a width corresponding to the number of speeds on the cassette.
If a hub matches the above requirements, the size of its flange is not a crucial part of the equation and more of a personal preference than an important technical aspect.
FAQ: Do high flange hubs use shorter spokes?
If the bicycle wheel is laced radially, the spokes form a straight line from the hub to the rim.
In that case, the spokes on a high-flange hub will be shorter than those on a low flange hub.
However, with cross lacing, the spokes become more tangent to the hub, and the difference in length between high-flange spokes and low flange spokes diminishes.
FAQ: What is a tangent line?
A line is a tangent when it touches only the periphery of a curve or a circle. (image below).
If you draw an extension line from a tangent spoke, it won’t go through the heart of the hub whereas an extension line of a radial spoke would.
A high-flange wheel laced via a 4x crossing pattern will use spokes of length extremely close to that of a 4x wheel with a low flange hub.
This happens because the spokes are tangent to the hub.
If you don’t know what a 3x or 4x cross pattern is, you can consult the following images:
3x – in this case, each spoke crosses three spokes on the same side of the flange
4x – each spoke crosses 4 spokes on the same side of the flange
The image above shows a 4x lacing pattern on a high flange hub. The green spoke crosses 4 purple spokes on the same side of the flange.
As you can see, a 4x lacing pattern results in spokes tangent to the hub.
Having said that, it’s always recommended to use a spoke calculator when determining spoke length due to the great number of variables involved.
High Flange vs. Low Flange Hubs For BMX Riding
The high flange vs. low flange debate is also present in the world of BMX.
The benefits of a high-flange hub on a BMX wheel are as follows:
- A high flange can make the wheel stiffer and more rigid. With modern equipment, however, it’s hard to tell the difference between low and high flange wheels.
- A high flange hub adds an old-school look to a BMX bike
The downsides of a high-flange hub on a BMX bike are:
- The wider bracing angle and the larger flanges make it easier to hit the spokes and the hub during grinds. (A wider, bigger target is easier to hit.) The negatives of this outcome can be diminished by purchasing a hub guard.
- Heavier weight
The pros of low flange hubs are:
- The narrower profile of the hub and the smaller bracing angle make it harder to hit the hub and spokes when grinding. Nonetheless, it’s still advisable to have a hub guard on if you plan on doing grinds.
- Modern look
- More options – a low flange hub is the norm and comes in a greater variety.
- Lower weight
The cons of a low flange hub are:
- Less aesthetically pleasing (it’s subjective)
- Less rigid – theoretically, a low flange hub does not offer the same rigidity as a high flange one. In practice, however, a quality wheel will be strong enough regardless of the hub’s flange size.
Ultimately, it boils down to personal preference.