We took two sets of the new Industry Nine Hydra Enduro wheels on our Eastern Tennessee mountain bike road trip, hitting three epic trail networks in three days.

If you’re considering the latest, greatest, and highest end mountain bike hubs from Industry Nine, it’s important to know how they’re different. There are a lot of major and minor upgrades between these and the outgoing Torch hubs they replace. Some aren’t so obvious. But the sum of the improvements is a hub (and wheelset) that is better than ever, which is saying a lot for a brand that’s been growing quickly on is reputation for quality.

After the TN trip, I headed to Asheville to ride the improved Avery Creek trail with I9’s VP, Jacob McGahey, and see how they held up on their home trails. And pick his brain on the new design. Here’s how it all went…

What’s the difference between I9 Hydra and Torch hubs?

whats the difference between industry nine torch and hydra hubs
Hydra’s improved internals on the left, Torch internals on the right.

You know how sometimes you only notice something’s different when you go to swap parts around and things don’t fit right? Such was my dilemma on the morning of the NC ride with I9. I’d stopped by to grab a Shimano freehub body as I’d recently moved the wheels to a bike with prior generation XT. But clerical errors sent me packing with a Torch FH body rather than the new Hydra FH body. You can see the difference above. The Hydra’s axle is a bit smaller, meaning a smaller inside diameter (ID) on the bearing. Here’s why:

“With regards to the smaller bearing ID, this allowed us to go to bearings with a 1mm larger cross-section height and a much higher load-carrying capacity,” McGahey explains. “One of our main goals for Hydra was to increase bearing life and this was part of what allowed us to accomplish that target. The other element that improves bearing life is the Hydra mechanism itself – as it ensures you will never have one pawl receiving the full drive load (which can create a large cantilever force).

“Additionally, our Hydra front hubs went to a new axle assembly that extends through the inner bearing races instead of acting like a spacer as the Torch axle did. This ensures you always have perfect bearing alignment and improves the front bearing life as well. There were several other small changes we made as well including a double flanged labyrinth style endcap seal (replacing the Torch Teflon seal) on all of the endcaps.”

industry nine hydra hub internals have the most teeth of any mountain bike hub
That’s a lot of teeth.

Brilliant. And especially more important these days with massive 50 and 51 tooth cogs giving riders a tremendous amount of leverage on the system.

OK, how is Hydra better than their 1/1 hubs?

how to industry nine hydra hubs compare to torch hubs

Fair question, considering the price difference. At $425 for 1/1 and $650 for Hydra, there should be a good bit separating the two. Hydra has 690 POE (0.52º), and 101 has 90 POE (4.5º). The Hydra wheels come with lighter alloy valve stems, and 1/1 gets brass stems.

Cosmetically, the Hydra’s additional surface finishing gives them a more polished look, and you can get them with either I9’s in-house machined alloy spokes, or opt for the Classic version to use traditional spokes and lace them to any rim you want. Speaking of, with the standard Hydra, you can choose from any of I9’s mountain bike rims, but with 1/1 you’re limited to either Trail or Enduro alloy rims, no carbon (for complete wheels, anyway…you can get the 1/1 hubs separately and lace them to whatever you want).

Wondering what the 1/1 is? They were originally called 101 but had to switch names. You can read our 1/1 Trail wheel review for the full tech overview on those. There are some other key differences in their manufacturing processes between the two, and we explain it all in great detail in that review.

Industry Nine Hydra wheels actual weights & widths

industry nine hydra enduro wheels actual weights industry nine hydra enduro wheels actual weights

Watts and I both rolled through TN on a set of functionally identical Industry Nine Hydra Enduro wheelsets. Both were 29er, both using I9’s alloy Enduro rims, laced with 32 spokes front and rear. Weights were 878g F / 1007g R for orange hub and accent spokes (1,885g total), and 876g F / 1002g R for blue (1,878g total). So, it’s official, blue is lighter than orange. Both had rims pre-taped for tubeless with alloy valve stems installed.

industry nine enduro alloy rim internal width

Their alloy Enduro rims measured 31mm internal and 35mm external.

How do they ride?

Well, if you’ve ridden their Torch hubs, they’ll feel similar, but better. Honestly, Jacob didn’t give us the full tech explanation of how these hubs were different/better than Torch until after we’d wrapped up our riding on them and started writing this review. So the immediately apparent benefit of Hydra is the insanely quick engagement. It’s imperceptibly fast. As in, zero lag between you starting to pedal and it propelling the wheel forward. Which is good if you’re into things like efficiency.

Speaking of efficiency, one complaint we’ve heard from some riders in the past was that Industry Nine’s hubs felt draggy. After all, even the Torch hubs had a lot of ratchet teeth, and that means a lot of metal dragging on metal. I’d never really noticed it, especially once the hubs’ seals had been broken in from a few good rides. But the complaint was there. If anything, I’d say these are probably less draggy. The teeth and pawls are all much, much smaller. Yes, more of them, but much smaller contact patches. Or maybe more metal. Think what you will, but both our sets of wheels seemed to roll freely right out of the box.

As for the improved lateral rigidity and stiffness, I’ll have to take their word on that. Recent I9 wheels I’ve ridden have felt markedly stiffer than the first generation wheels I had from them many, many years ago. But they’ve also had more spokes. Neither Watts nor I noticed any detrimental flex. And they never slipped or had any questionable engagement on the climbs and sprints. Watts is a bit of a beast, whether he’ll admit it or not. He can hammer. And he had nothing but positive things to say about these wheels.

Combined with the large 29×2.4″ Onza Aquila enduro tires, they rolled smoothly. The wheels never felt harsh on big hits or landings. I’d credit the alloy rims and spokes with this, but still impressive for a wheel build with 32 spokes and tires with beefy casings.

So, worth the upgrade? If you’ve got money to burn, sure, go ahead and sell those Torch hubs and grab these. Or put them on your list for the next wheelset. The 1/1 hubs and wheels are great, but the ultra-quick engagement and flashy rainbow of available colors give the Hydra a real advantage.

If you want to upgrade more, and drop about 200g, check out Zach’s review of the Hydra system with a lower spoke count, enduro carbon rim 29er build.

Where’d we ride them?

Curious about the bike parks we rode? Check out our stories on Knoxville, Windrock and Johnson City to plan your own long-weekend getaway. And check our reviews of the Ibis Ripmo AF, Onza Aquila tires and HT Components pedals to see how the rest of our gear held up!

IndustryNine.com

11 COMMENTS

  1. Even though cassettes now have cogs in the 50T range, because the typical chainring is 30T, the force on the pawl mechanism isn’t actually any greater than when we used to run a granny with a 32 or 36T low cog.

    It takes a certain amount of force to propel us forward, and aside from changing the diameter of the drive ring, the forces will remain about the same, so long as the gear inches do.

    • Completely incorrect. In this case the cog is the lever arm putting force on the driver, if the length of the lever arm increases so does the leverage it applies. Gear inches have literally nothing to do with it.

  2. Did you test the rolling resistance of these hubs? People seem to have a hard on for anything the I9 does so your “opinion” means jack squat. All that horrible noise has to come from somewhere and that noise is not free. It takes energy. I have never understood why people want that much engagement but if you do just go onyx hubs. All the engagement and none of the noise or friction.

    • @Jeff, I have booth I9 Hydra hubs and Onyx hubs on different wheels. Personally, I would take the I9s over the Onyx. I find the engagement on the Onyx to not be as crisp as the I9s, and they’re also substantially heavier, harder to change the freehub assembly, slightly more expensive, and haven’t held up quite as well as my I9 hubs in the long run – two different fat bike wheelsets, the older one with I9 hubs is still going strong, the Onyx set has required a new non-drive bearing. However, if you prefer complete silence, the Onyx is the obvious choice.

      • Interestingly enough I have more i9 customers switch to Onyx and stay there rather than the other way around. The reasons are subjective of course, and depends who you talk to regarding feel and durability. Your observations are an outlier compared with my experiences regarding these two brands.

        • I’m sure a lot of it depends on riding style, location, bike type, and more. I’ve seen comments here about I9 hubs having durability issues, but I’ve never experienced any. I have at least five different I9 hubsets on various wheels (most have been in the line up for years and years) and aside from lubricating the freehub pawls occasionally, I’ve never had to do any maintenance on any of them.

          • Couple things. Despite your army of i9 hubs they are mixed in with your testing other gear. It might be that those wheels don’t see as much action as someone with just one set that doesn’t do gear reviews for an industry rag. Secondly, you and I are really talking about the durability of Torch, because Hydra isn’t even a year old yet. Can only make assumptions about long term durability at this point. Plus, aren’t you in NC? I smell a bit of regional bias!

            • Valid points, and things I considered before posting. But some of those hubs have been in the fleet for 6 years, so even if they have been used at a slower pace (don’t forget we have multiple testers who often ride the same gear), they’ve still gotten plenty of testing by this point. Yes, Torch, not Hydra, you’re correct there – but then anyone else claiming durability issues with I9 is also talking about Torch. And no, I’m not in NC, I’m in Ohio. For me, if I’m going to have an issue with a hub, putting it on a fat bike is the fastest way to find out. That’s where the Onyx had the issue after two seasons, but my I9s in a similar set up have lasted through four at this point. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t just a fluke with a bad bearing, but just my experience.

      • I can say that I have never heard of reliability issues with onyx hubs but I won’t argue that one. I do know that Onyx have been tested to be one of the least frictiony (if that’s a word) hubs out there. So my question still stands as to how they I9s compare objectively in that department?

          • Onyx does have the least amount of drag across the aftermarket hub spectrum. But Hydra’s drag is a noticeable improvement over Torch. I would say a big enough improvement that it’s competitive with Onyx now. It really is amazing what i9 accomplished with Hydra. They’ve pretty much maxed out the efficiency of a pawl-ratchet ring drive chamber.

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