So I’ve been shuttling around on my Alex Rims 26″ front wheel which I had built around a Sturmey Archer X-FD 70mm hub with drum brake. I crossed the 1000 kilometer mark earlier this month so it seems appropriate to write a review of the Hub. What I noticed immediately from the moment it came out of the box was its heft. This is not a brake for the weight conscious. The other feature I liked was the huge diameter of the flange. As a big guy, the shorter the spoke length the better, in my experience.

Once the wheel was built another aspect of the hub became apparent – the need for more clamp options. I use big fat tubular forks from a 1990s mountain bike. The tiny reaction arm clamp SA provides with the X-FD is only suitable for skinny forks. I have it in mind to find a big clamp but for now I’m using galvanized hose clamps to good effect. I had a commentator tell me I needed something more kosher, but 1000 Kms in with 1 snapped clamp and I’m not so sure. The clamp that failed did so because I hadn’t tightened it down hard enough. The reaction arm gradually beat it to the point of failure over the course of nearly 300 kms. I’ve been riding with the replacement clamp since Kilometer 300 and frankly it hasn’t failed or shown signs of coming near since. I use two clamps to hold the arm for added security. So when the first failed I could still use the brake.

 

The first ride came in February 2013 and the first day was a doozey. We had 5 cm of slush/frozen rain on the ground. The brake was confident and responded smartly to my adjustments while my back brake ( a Shimano V-brake ) struggled with the icing conditions on the rim. Road salt and slush makes for hard packed ice on bike rims once the stuff starts to freeze. So safe to say that after that first experience I was sold on the merits of a hub-brake. As I rode the brake in over the next month there is one minor grumble – the damned thing squeals when the weather is slightly humid but cold. I’m thinking I may have some moisture in the drum. I am due to open it up to service before the winter so the problem may resolve itself.

Finally braking power. I’m 300lbs. Add a decent commuting load and the bike easily weights 360lbs when I’m bombing along the streets of Toronto. The brake has had no trouble bringing me to a stop safely in a couple of dicey moments over the past year. The diciest came in September when I had a week of not one but three near doorings. By now I had also installed an S80 on my back wheel so I had two hub brakes working. A car door swung open about 15 meters ahead and I was able to stop within 10 meters giving me about a meter of play (my reaction time ate up a couple of meters. I should add that the driver’s head was just at level with the top of my front wheel. So had I not stopped they would have eaten my tyre. That was a fully loaded kind of day. I had my hands gripping so tight I actually locked up the S80 but the X-FD kept turning in ever slower rotations. Calm. Unflappable. True. Those are the only words that really fit my 1000 kilometers of X-FD love.

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