Alto Velo disc brake hubs for super stiff road and cyclocross wheels

We covered Alto Velo’s ultra smooth hub design back in January, and since then they’ve been running full speed with their uniquely oversized flange rear hub to create stiff, efficient road bike wheels. When we spoke to them for the original story, they teased disc brake hub development, and now they’re almost ready. In fact, they’re shooting for an ambitious November timeline.

Not sure what that massive driveside flange is all about or why Alto Velo’s wheels are probably the smoothest we’ve felt? Roll on in for details…

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Alto Velo’s idea is simple: Move the driveside spoke placement outward from the hub’s center of rotation to increase spoke triangulation and create a stiffer wheel. But that only addresses lateral stiffness on one plane. To fix the problem from stem to stern, they looked at how the axles, bearings and hub shell interfaced and made improvements in tolerances, preload assemblies, axle construction and more. The launch story is a good read if the mechanics of hub construction interest you, but suffice to say they’ve eliminated virtually any chance for anything to wobble, lean, tilt or otherwise introduce slop to the system.

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Part of their solution is by integrating one end cap onto the axle itself. That does mean you’ll need to swap the entire axle if you want to switch between QR and thru axle dropouts, but it’s an easy swap.

Alto Velo disc brake hubs for super stiff road and cyclocross wheels

To create the disc brake hubs, the non-driveside flange had to move inward to clear the brake caliper, so they used the same philosophy as on the rear and gave that flange a larger diameter. That kept the tension from side to side at a similar ratio as their standard road hubs. The front hub got the same treatment but with a larger flange.

Alto Velo disc brake hubs for super stiff road and cyclocross wheels

The disc brake hub axles are also one piece with the drive side end cap. Not only does it help make everything stiffer and stronger with fewer pieces, it helps maintain the tight concentricity and tolerances that make their hubs so smooth. They’ll offer axles for 12×142 and 135QR rear, and 100mm QR and 15mm thru axle fronts.

The bearings are the same in the disc brake versions, but they’ll offer two sets of seals – a standard set for road and a heavy duty set for cyclocross. Those heavy duty seals will also be used on a future mountain bike hub set.

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The original rim brake road rims (shown here) were laid up to their specifications, with the carbon plies optimized for the spoke angles that their hubs created. Like with the standard wheels, they’d prefer to sell you a complete disc brake wheelset so that they control the build process from start to finish and ensure you’re getting the best possible system performance. The disc rims will be laid up differently (and come in a bit lighter!) since they don’t need to handle braking forces coming from the rim calipers.

Target launch in November, and they’ll be available as standalone hubs if purchased through an authorized wheel builder that’s approved to build them to Alto Velo’s spec.

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Tubular and clincher will be offered.

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While we patiently wait for a disc brake wheelset to test out, we did give them a spin at their tent and they are indeed remarkably smooth. As in, some of the smoothest wheels I’ve spun in recent memory. And it’s all done with NSK stainless steel bearings, no ceramics. Sometimes, when things roll so smooth, there’s a bit of play at the axle, but there’s absolutely none here.

 

AltoVelo.com

10 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think you can judge much from free spinning a wheel with no load on it. This sort of stuff has to be measured in a lab with machines and protocol. But the large flanges make sense.
    Maybe Cane Creek needs to get back into the wheel business?

  2. One larger flange diameter has been done many times. They are NOT responsible inventing the wheel. These are boring and expensive. You want a dependable hub?, well you can’t beat the basic Shimano design and if you want something exotic then Hadley And Chris king can’t be beat.

  3. Again, radial on the drive side. While that is good for sharing the work required, and to squeeze a little more bracing angle from the right side, torsional stiffness suffers. While it likely doesn’t actually affect performance, it is disconcerting and annoying to feel. It also looks to be a pain to lace the heads-out left flange spokes. I’m sure the left flange is canted, not helping get the spoke past the right flange.
    I do applaud them for securing more of the axle onto the…axle.
    does the non-integrated end thread on, or is it a slip fit?

  4. @greg
    Without much of a fanfare mavic have been radial s poking the drive side of many of their top end wheels for years. I have a set of their kysriums which must be over 10 years old. They’re absolutely fine. Provided the hub shell can carry the torsion to the non drive side the end result is a stiff long lived wheel. With only 20 aluminium spokes and and big guy like me riding it, the proof is there.

  5. @Kevin,
    Good point about Mavic. I was thinking more along the lines of Zipp, although they also didn’t cross the left side very much either, and their spoke tension differential was on the high side. Mavic tension differential is more conservative, leading to less torsional stiffness loss. Shimano also went away from radial right lacing. It all really depends on which attributes you are prioritizing and therefore catering to…

  6. Thank you for the great write up, Tyler! We’re excited to share our new designs with everyone this Fall. And the response to our current product at Interbike has been incredible!

    Just a quick response to a few questions here:
    @whatsoldisnew – our product line averages $700-900 less than our competitors, with retail pricing on carbon models between $1800 and $2000. We have also patented a hub geometry that obtains the best spoke tension balance in the industry by 25%. We think it’s exciting!

    @greg – bracing angles for radial, 1x, 2x, etc are all the same, they do not differ on the x-axis. The reason for our radial/2x lacing pattern is this – the more tangential a spoke is to the hub flange, the more tension is require to dish the wheel. This pattern requires more tension on the non-drive spokes, further balancing the spoke tension between the two sides. When you look at a small segment of the drive flange then you are correct that a 2x pattern is better in torsion than a radial pattern. But when you look at the system as a whole, our balanced radial/2x system tests better in torsion because of the lesser tension differential. We were surprised at these test results ourselves, but you must look at the system when calculating torsional stiffness, not just a single flange. Regarding the heads out lacing – each of those holes is slotted so that you can lace those spokes perfectly without having to bend the spoke around the drive side flange. Finally, the end cap is threaded onto the one-piece axle and tightened with a 2mm pinch bolt. Good questions!

    Thanks for the comments, guys, we love to chat about the technical bits regarding our design and manufacturing work!

    • @Bobby,
      Just saw the answer you gave to Greg, I don’t see how you can say bracing angle is the same when doing radial, 1x, 2x ? For a given flange position and diameter the more you cross the spokes the longer the spokes get, if you are to draw a longer line (spoke) to go from a given spoke hole in the hub to a given nipple hole in the rim the angle has to change doesn’t it ?
      Am I missing something ?

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