Parker’s Chris King/Stan’s ZTR Crest 29ers

Parker ordered a new full-suspension carbon mountain bike and this is the wheelset he spec’ed out. Red Chris King ISO disc hubs laced to the lightweight Stan’s Notubes ZTR Crest 29er rims.


What disc hub for cyclocross?

In the era of 11 speed hydraulic disc brake/shifters from SRAM and Shimano found on cyclocross bikes, like my very own Focus Mares CX 2.0, the bicycle manufacturers seem to be charging ahead of most aftermarket hub manufacturers. This makes it challenging when you’re looking for a custom, lightweight, wheelset for cross racing.

Right or wrong, necessary or not, we are in the new world of 11 speed cassettes married to hydraulic disc brake/shifter systems from SRAM and Shimano that are found on modern cyclocross and road bikes, some with modern through-axles and wide 142mm rear dropouts. The mountain bike market has fully spilled over into cyclocross. Why not use common axle standards found on disc hubs used in the mountain bike market? Today, it is very common to see 15mm through-axle front disc hubs, with 142mm x 12mm through axle rears on mountain bikes. Standard stuff, really. But on cyclocross bikes this is relatively new. Quick release axles, those standards found on almost every road bike since Campagnolo invented the QR are now becoming less common on new ‘cross bikes.

Today, in 2014, cyclocross bikes featuring through-axle (TA) hubs include the Focus Mares CX (15mm TA front, 142×12 rear), Norco Threshold (15mm TA front, 142 x 12mm TA rear), and the Giant TCX (15mm TA front, QR rear). In addition, ENVE and Whisky are making front forks with 15mm through axle fronts. But it is the deviation from the quick-release road standard in the rear that has created concerns. You see, not very many brands offer rear disc hubs with through axles that are compatible with 11 speed road cassettes. And if they are, they are often limited in their drillings, the number of spokes needed.

A ‘cross bike ain’t no mountain bike. It doesn’t come with mountain bike group sets, but rather with road group sets adapted for cyclocross – larger cassette ratios, and smaller front chain rings. And those road group sets are, particularly with hydraulic disc braking, 11 speed road groups. Many disc hubs meant for the mountain bike market with through axles do not support road HG Shimano/SRAM 11 speed cassettes. What about SRAM XD? It isn’t compatible with road 11 speed. The spacing is not the same.

Secondly, many disc hubs meant for the mountain bike market have higher spoke counts than is necessary for either road bikes or cross bikes. 28 holes is often the minimum hole count for disc hubs.  Only a few, but growing models offer 24 hole drillings, and fewer still when we add through-axles.

Your dream ‘cross wheelset might be a 24h front 15mm through axle, with a 24h rear 142mm x 12mm 11 speed compatible rear hub. You want light weight. You want colours. You want high-end. Good luck.

Only a handful hub of manufacturers have truly embraced the Cyclocross Moderne with its wide through axles and 11 speed road cassettes. Chris King is particularly slow to respond. If you own a ‘cross bike that uses a 142×12 rear and runs 11 speed shifting, Chris King has nothing for you. Not yet. Tune supports 11 speed for their disc hubs, but a 142×12 is limited to 32 hole drilling only. That’s overkill for a cross wheelset you want to race with.

There are a few brands that do supply what you need for your modern cross bike.  I’ve provided some estimated build weights for these with either Pacenti SL25 Disc rim, a new rim from Kirk Pacenti, or Zed Wheel Works 38mm deep, 23mm wide carbon tubular rim of the CrossRock CX custom build:


Brand Hub Model Front Specs Rear Specs Colours Weights
Weight Drillings Axle Options Weight Drillings Axle Options Freehub Hub set Wheelset: Pacenti SL35 Disc/CX-Ray Wheelset: WC38T CrossRock CX Carbon/CX-Ray
DT Swiss DT 240 SP Centerlock 118g 28,32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 216g 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano, Campy Black 334g 1492g 1298g
Industry Nine CX/Disc 110g 24, 28,32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 245g 24, 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano Blue, Black, Gold, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Silver, Turquoise 355g 1513g 1320g
DT Swiss DT 350 SP Centerlock 130g 28,32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 257g 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano, Campy Black 387g 1545g 1350g
White Industries CLD 145g 24, 28, 32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 265g 24, 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano Blue, Black, Gold, Green, Purple, Red, Silver 410g 1568g 1375g
BHS (Bitex) MTB180 & MTB270 182g (15mm TA) 24, 28, 32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 267g (142×12) 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano Black, Red 449g 1607g 1413g
Hope Pro 2 EVO 181g (15mm TA) 28, 32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 306g (142×12) 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano Blue, Black, Green, Grey, Purple, Red, Silver 486g 1644g 1450g

What about N-1 Velominati?

N+1 be damned… Screech! The sound of the needle on that old Dual turntable scratching across Coltrane. Velominati be damned! Is N-1 the future? Our spouses would love to hear this. For so long, N+1 was the perfect number of bicycles in your stable. N being the number of bikes you currently own, of course.

So, what is the bicycle industry seemingly doing?  We’re converging on similar looking bikes meant for very distinct purposes. We hang our scripted words on this very fact. “Well, honey, you see, of course, I need another bike, you see, because, well, uhm this new bike, you see, is for cyclocross and it,well, uhm, has these wonderful disc brakes that are so necessary for ‘cross.”  Sure. Time to toss that load of bollocks in the trash. You see, now our sacred road bikes will soon have disc brakes too. Heck, even hydraulic disc brakes.  It’s inevitable. It’s coming. No wait, it’s HERE! NOW!

So, what do we tell our spouses? What lies can we muster to justify dropping a few grand on that bike now? Damn new road bike just looks too similar to our cyclocross bike we just managed to convince our spouses we needed. Now what?

focusmarescxdiscFocus-Cayo-4.0-Disc-2015-2Perhaps it’s some backhanded way of getting back at us for a life of lies, a life of ill-conceived stories as to why, oh why, we must, I say must, have that new bike!  Trouble is, now the industry is making them all look much, oh much too similar. I have no idea how I can possibly tell, er convince my wife that I must have that new disc-equipped road bike.  Sure, N+1 is a great laugh, but that formula, that quest, has been refuted,  it seems, by the very industry we love. What gives?

To illustrate, I recently purchased a new Focus Mares CX 2.0 Disc-equipped cyclocross bike from Broad Street Cycles. It’s a dream of a bike. I could go on sharing with you all the reasons I needed it, but I’m sure you’ve got a similar script in hand. Focus is also offering the 2015 Focus Cayo disc-equipped road bike. To us cyclists, they are naturally very different. Very different indeed. For one, clearly one has knobby tires and one does not. Clearly the road bike is a bit shorter for quicker handling and with a slightly lower bottom bracket for improved handling on the road. But, are you kidding me? My wife can’t discern such minute differences?  Ya gotta give me something more than that! What? I’m desperate. I need a story, a lie, a reason, a bonafide believable reason why I need this Cayo disc?

Cayo-Mares-mashupPost your comments, below to help me out. I need a story, and it better be good!

Focus bikes are available at Broad Street Cycles.