Onyx's Radical Rear Hub - Sea Otter 2015

Apr 18, 2015
by Mike Levy  
 
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Onyx's Sprag Clutch Hub


Conventional thinking says that the quicker you want your hub's clutch mechanism to engage, the more drag you'll have to put up with when you're coasting. This is because engagement time is most often associated with the number of points on the drive ring and the number of pawls - the more biting edges on the pawls and the more points on the drive ring, the more drag there will be as they all rub against each other when you're coasting. Having a quick engagement time is nice because then there's very little 'dead spin' in your crank arms, and having no lag in pick-up means you're putting the power down sooner. There are already hubs on the market that offer next to no lag, of course, but they're also plagued by a fair bit of clutch drag, which means that the bike isn't rolling as freely as it could be. That might be small beans for a lot of riders who don't even care if their brakes are dragging, but having as little drag as possible is important to a lot of riders, and especially to cross-country and road racers.

Onyx hub
  The Onyx hubs employ a sprag clutch that allows for essentially drag-free performance when coasting, but also instantaneous engagement when you begin to put the power down. They system is also completely silent when the rider is coasting.


Onyx's rear hubs employ a sprag clutch that runs essentially drag-free when not engaged, but it also manages to offer what feels like instant engagement when it's time to put the power down. That near drag-free performance has made them the choice of some pro racers who, while being sponsored by another hub company, are looking for every possible advantage. Sprag clutches are not new - automotive companies, including Ferrari, have been using them in transmissions - and Onyx has been manufacturing sprag-equipped hubs at their Minnesota factory for four years now, but the system certainly seems to make a ton of sense for use on a bicycle.

Onyx hub
This clear plastic model shows the two sprag clutches that are found inside of the Onyx hub shell.
Onyx hub
The sprag clutches sit at the center of the hub shell.


So, how does the Onyx hub run nearly drag free and offer instant engagement? Think of its sprag clutch as a one-way bearing that employs a number of asymmetrically shaped sprags (the small metal pieces that looks like roller bearings in the photo above) instead of bearings. The shape of the spring-loaded sprags means that they allow for the barrel that's attached solidly to the freehub body to rotate freely in one direction, but they then wedge tightly against the barrel when force is applied in the opposite direction. Onyx says that the system can withstand any sort of torque that a rider's legs could ever apply, and that the mechanism is actually greased for life right from the factory with ISOFLEX LDS 18 Special A grease. In other words, don't mess with it.

The Onyx hub has a lot going for it, but there's no denying that its weight might turn some riders off - it's going to be heavier with the extra steel inside of it that makes up the sprag bearings, and Onyx refuses to use aluminum freehub bodies due to gouging and reliability concerns. A 12 x 142mm Onyx hub with an XD driver and 6-bolt rotor mounting weighs in at 364 grams, while the Center Lock version comes in at 463 grams. Those numbers are a bit higher than other options out there, but Onyx says that the lack of drag is of far more importance than the 50 - 100 gram weight penalty.


Onyx hub
All those separate metal pieces are referred to as sprags, and they allow the freehub to rotate in one direction but wedge tightly against its barrel when torque is applied in the opposite direction.
Onyx hub
The barrel that extends out from the freehub body is what the sprags grab ahold of.


Because Onyx manufactures their own hubs from raw stock to finished product, they're able to offer them in pretty much any configuration that you can think of, as well as loads of different colours and even custom graphics. Want your name on the hub shell? No problem. They offer hubs for road, mountain, and BMX use, as well as front hubs, and pricing for all can be found on their website.


Be sure to check out all of our Sea Otter Classic images in this gallery.
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135 Comments

  • + 200
 But is it loud?? I have to let others within a circle of one mile that I am enduro swag.
  • + 42
 louder the better... might scare the bears on my trails...
  • + 61
 I just greased the shit out of my DT star ratchet and it's dead silent... I never realized how annoying hub noise is, I LOVE only hearing the sound of my rubber on the trail.
  • + 22
 The quieter the better, you could ride in peace without the Bears bugging you if you were silent
  • + 15
 thats true, its always pretty epic in an edit when all you hear is the woosh and VRUUM of the rider and his/her tires
  • - 29
flag zer0c00l44 (Apr 18, 2015 at 18:13) (Below Threshold)
 Yes, new technology is all well and good but any hardcore enduroer worth their salt will destroy the plastic bits in minutes:O
  • + 15
 The plastic hub shell is just a model that lets you see the internals. The production version is made of metal like all hubs
  • + 32
 Yeah, thanks man, thanks for clearing that up.
  • - 29
flag CaliCol (Apr 18, 2015 at 18:58) (Below Threshold)
 "hardcore enduroer," really? How about just hardcore rider. You enduro (watered down downhill) fanatics are something else.
  • + 27
 he's from wales, have you seen how they spell things over there?
  • + 21
 Right under the first photo: "system is also completely silent when the rider is coasting".
  • + 2
 Isn't this just a rip off of the true precision stealth hub? Which is almost 2 decades old?
  • - 1
 @ maxlombardy your a greaser.
  • + 1
 "Spell things over there" wtf is that supposed to mean hills have eys, that's one of the most absurdly ridiculous comments I've ever had the misfortune to read on here, are you retarded. And calicol I would of thought it obvious my comment was non-serious. Jesus Christ there sure are a lot of dimwits on Pinkbike. I weep for the future.
  • + 3
 settle down. all in good fun. also, you misspelled eyes. dry your eyes, next thing you know you'll be quoting dylan thomas.
  • + 3
 These hubs run silent! I have them on all my bikes
  • + 0
 @zer0c00l44
I thought you were joking.
You were joking right?
  • + 1
 yes randy of course I was joking.
  • - 1
 It's incredible how just moments after typing something really funny someone can take it really seriously Frown
  • - 4
flag zer0c00l44 (Apr 21, 2015 at 15:09) (Below Threshold)
 Tell me about it, some Americans are absolutely on the retarded side and just do not get it and then make out we're the stupid ones. I've seen it on here time and time again and no matter what you say or how you explain they just attack you with sheer unadulterated ignorance. No offence to all the rest of you intelligent AmericansSmile
  • - 2
 And still the neg props come (which will look weird if people suddenly start propping us)
  • - 8
flag zer0c00l44 (Apr 22, 2015 at 7:02) (Below Threshold)
 What’s happened is people read my original comment, didn’t get it derrrrr, then read my 2nd comment further down, realised I was actually joking tried to un neg prop me realised they could not so propped my second comment. Then further reading our comments got really mad and went on a neg propping spree. Because they just don’t f*cking get it. This is just the kind of behaviour I am referring to, the banality is mind boggling. This will be my last comment on the subject because you just can’t get it through it’s a complete exercise in futility.
  • - 3
 zero noise from these things but working in a shop I've seen them start to slip when you try to pedal
  • + 4
 Nonsense, they can't slip, the sprags won't allow it, only a failed spring would cause a problem. If you feel some wiggle, chances are the bearing adjuster is loose
  • + 37
 These hubs are seriously the best thing to hit the mtb market in a long time!! I and a few of my riders have been testing these for about a year now, and now we can't even imagine a bike build without them. If it is possible to have a component alone that is addicting these are it! Really cool to see them getting some well deserved press too, thanks pinkbike.
  • + 1
 News Flash: Stealth hubs have been around since 1999 with this technology and are a better version of this type of instant engagement hub. Onxy came from BMX racing and they have a reputation for failing. My old factory team was running Onyx and had endless hub failures. Save yourself the aggravation and go with the true originator of this technology: True Precision Components, their Stealth hub does not fail.
601-A Pine Ave., Goleta, CA 93117 USA, (805) 964-4545
  • + 2
 Stealth hubs are the awesome and completely silent
  • + 9
 Yes Stealth hubs have been around since 99. But in my experience the Stealth's slip on the mtb version due to the leverage of the larger cogs. And yes onyx had a few BMX hubs in their initial run that had problems. In fact one of my customers had a set and ran them for a very long time before having trouble and onyx replaced free of charge. All companies are going to have runs that are not 100 percent perfect, but it is the truly great companies that face a mistake, and make it right with their customers, AND their product. And i am not at all trying to talk down steath hubs at all. they are great but the owner needs to make just even a small attempt to get more hubs on bikes outside the bmx world and update his hub so it doesn't slip under pressure. In my near 10 years in the bike industry i have only seen/ridden one set of stealth mtb hubs which slipped under high torque. And as far as the Onyx durability, I have been BLOWN away by their performance since i got them about year/year and a half ago. I ride about 100 miles a week in dry dusty southern California weather and have never even cleaned them out or re-greassed them once since i got them and never got them to slip once. In comparison to my old hubs (brand not to be named) they would need to be rebuilt on a monthly basis.
  • + 2
 George French (of G-sport/Odyssey bmx fame) once made a hub using one way roller bearings..
  • + 3
 @t-uu

stealth uses a roller bearing clutch. Onyx use a sprag clutch. they're very different designs.
  • + 2
 @Nobble can you give me a simple run down on the difference of a roller bearing and sprag clutch? they are both just one-way bearings right? I would personally get a Stealth because I grew up down the street from them, however I heard they do actually have a lot of drag
  • + 6
 @stinky-fingers-kona

I could try but It would be long winded and inaccurate. These videos give better descriptions (after the filler BS)
Sprag clutch:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fsp3fm4KHs0
Roller bearing clutch:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjR7dimpSJA
  • + 3
 A sprag clutch is generally considered superior to a roller clutch, but both work well and are often interchangeable in industrial applications. In automobile transmissions, hot rodders usually upgrade from roller clutch to sprag clutch, but there are high performance versions of each. Roller clutch equipped transmissions tend to fail catastrophically because the rollers keep riding up the ramps until the race explodes. Sprags will roll over or slip before this happens. But these problems are not going to apply to bicycles unless you are some kind of monster.
  • + 2
 hey thanks guys and after watching the video the Sprag does really seem superior for putting down power, it's cool how it utilizes the maximum amount of contact area. I wonder what the drag ratings are compared to a standard hub design, or if it's even noticeable to an average joe rider
  • + 4
 The drag is SIGNIFICANTLY less than any other hub i have ever had. I have done side by side test of a Onyx and a Chris king and the onyx hub spun 40 percent longer. Both new hubs with 0 miles. I will post up a video of mine as soon as i get some time and put a link on here.
  • + 1
 I don't have as much time on our set, but so far they live up.to the claims. TP makes a good hub, but the Onyx design is better, less friction, more durable. The issue with resistance to water/dirt intrusion will be a test of time and use.
  • + 2
 DT Onyx is not the same as Onyz Racing.

Onyx racing hubs are a new brand, and your BMX buddies haven't been riding them, that's BS. They can't slip.

Look closely at the pictures, the "roller bearings" are the ratchets, they lay flat when the hub coasts, then they ratchet (engage) against the inside of the hub body in drive. The engagement is nearly instantaneous and the coasting is nearly frictionless.

The Stealth hubs use a similar system, though it's not quite as durable and its not frictionless. Stealth makes good hubs, they also started in BMX.

Onyx Racing are the strongest hubs made, I run a set on a fat tandem, no other use could equal tandem torque, and the hub is like new.
  • + 1
 Had a stealth poacher hub on my singlespeed for years now. It can definitely take the torque. Although it could use a rebuild or a bit of service finally. It likes to ghost pedal instead of free wheel when I'm walking the bike next to me.
  • + 41
 I like my angry bees
  • + 10
 Yeah different strokes for diff folks. Some people like hub noise. I like to hear what my tires are doing, and the wind noise, and the outdoor sounds.
  • + 2
 I feel you, but I still get that feeling with my kings, I have a back up wheel set that's a different hub and it's too noisy the kings are just right. I have done some chainless runs on a dh run and I can appreciate that absolute silence without even chain slap.
  • + 6
 Stealth Hubs. Silent like a trail ninja!!!
  • + 36
 My wife is going to be SO PISSED in about 6 months when she finds out how much I spent on a new bike. Hahahahaha
  • + 0
 Pro tip: She's wearing your pants!
  • + 29
 Anyone else read "sprangs" as the southern word for springs?
  • + 29
 yes 'em
  • + 12
 Y'all nodis that too?
  • + 4
 Dang
  • + 0
 Central Florida suburb filled with dudebros, jocks, nerds, and sluts. Marijuana is highly prevalent in this area. "Yo lets just chill in the sprangs tonight
Just to bring the rest of you up to speed .
  • + 19
 I tested a prototype last year and it is the best hub I have ever ridden. No noise, instant engagement and you actually feel the chain stretching when you put the power down. Forget the weight penalty, this is the real deal.
  • + 13
 These Onyx guys are obviously not ready for prime-time.
Their website is a joke - a few haphazard pics of BMX stuff but zero tech info or other mention of MTB models & specs.
  • + 2
 I asked them about this, they are aware of how bad their website is and they are working on a new one. Apparently they are putting a lot of effort into making sure it is a good one. There is some decent info in their current site, but you have to dig deep for it. They are very responsive to email and phone calls.
  • + 9
 So many guys are comparing these to Stealth hubs. Stealth uses a roller clutch which has a TON of drag. Onyx uses a Sprag clutch which has nearly no drag. If you don't know the difference look it up on YouTube So many comments where folks don't know what they are talking about!!!!
  • - 6
flag t-uu (Apr 19, 2015 at 8:07) (Below Threshold)
 I have 3 sets of stealth hubs, no drag, they spin the same as onxy, both use a roller "sprag" clutch system... basically a one way bearing in both hubs, so easy on the exclamation points dirtyduck.
  • + 3
 There is a difference, sprag clutches and roller clutches are superficially similar but actually function differently, sprags are better. Stealth hubs may be good, but check out some Onyx hubs and see how they compoare. Onyx also has some very smooth bearings, the combination of the sprags and the ceramic hybrid bearings makes a hub that is very smooth with minimal drag while pedaling or coasting.
  • + 8
 I've been riding a "home-made" one for a few years. Bomb proof, silent, instant engagement.

www.observedtrials.net/vb/f3/my-diy-roller-clutch-hub-48824

This Onxy design is the best commercial one I've seen.
  • + 2
 That's awesome Alan!! You a machinist true talent to make a hub.
  • + 1
 Observed trials!!! Yeah!!

Sweet project btw tup
  • + 1
 Thank you Alan. Few ppl left that can do this. Or understand it even.
  • + 7
 The same mechanism is used in almost every gym grade fitness machine that involves pedal engagement(even some spin bikes). They are good and smooth up until they wear past the limit, then they get skippy or slippy. How many miles that ends up being on a mountain bike is a question I would like to know. Good news is the clutches are generally not too expensive to replace if they use an off the shelf size.
  • + 6
 @t-uu The Stealth hubs do Not use a Sprag clutch. They use a roller clutch, it's a completely different animal. If you dont know the difference, there are good vids comparing the 2. In short, a roller clutch is always engaged and causing drag.

Again, not the same system.
  • + 10
 @theminsta, liking these before they were cool...how hipster
  • + 1
 Big Grin but wow the 142mm XD version is veeeeeeeeeery light... perhaps time for my third hubset?
  • + 6
 I can dig the steel freehub body, cant tell you what a pain my aluminum freehub bodies are when its time to replace the cassette!
  • + 1
 Yep! Had a crime itself nearly half way through an alloy body. When I claimed warranty the manufacturer said I wasn't using the right cassette. I got a new body replaced on the fact that No where on thier website, hub information does it state that I should only use cassettes with built in carriers
  • + 1
 Cog not crime Damn auto correct
  • + 4
 As much as I would love to buy these for a new wheel build. Their website shows nothing. I also have some trepidation switching from my normal Chris King hubs since they are so freaking solid and reliable after 20 years. The noise of Chris Kings do not bother me at all.
As a rider who climbs lots of mountains and weighs north of 250lbs. I have tested freehubs to the limit. As a result I do not ride 3 pawl/ring gear freehubs. Only DT stars and Chris King. IMO Chris King is the best engineered and most reliable freehub on the market.
  • + 2
 Their website is awful, but from talking to them, they are working on a new one that will make up for how bad the current one is. I also hate pawl freehubs, that was what led me to Onyx, I have a set I am building up. I chose them based on accounts of how the freehub is bulletproof, potentially even more so than a King hub. Looking forward to riding them hard.
  • + 4
 Reading this post is very interesting. Many informed and uninformed comments. Does anyone know why Heinz 57 has the number 57? It took 57 tries to get it right. Also can someone tell me what happened to block buster and why? Stealth and King have awesome products and are well known for it. It also makes them a target for an innovative company to come along and take something that failed in the past and make it great. Sounds like Onyx is just following the American way and came out with a product that works great. I also understand there are people loyal to king and stealth which is also great, but why bash? Just seems extreme. I also believe this article was written by a third party.
  • + 3
 Is 364g a misprint? Everything else I have read says these hubs are 450+. Anyone know the weight of a 6 bolt standard freehub body 12x142? My current Novatec factor hub is around 370g so 364 sounds ok but if it's 500g that's considerably heavier
  • + 1
 Definitely a misprint. 445 grams for an X-D Driver and 6-bolt brake mounts. That's directly from their updated website.
  • + 5
 my friends ride these hubs and they are sweet. especially if you just like to hear tires on dirt and nothing else
  • + 2
 These hubs are amazing! They run completely silent which is scary some times, the instant engagement is great for getting up to speed and are built using the highest grade materials (ceramic bearings). I have 6 of these hubs on all my bikes and I will not go back to any other hub design!
  • + 3
 I have been running the mtb hub since the prototype stages. This hub has been flawless!! It response to everything I throw at it has been amazing. Wanting to pick up the dj hub version.
  • + 2
 How do I get a mountian bike hub?
  • + 2
 How long have you been riding it? How many miles? And have you had any service done to it? Jw about the durability.
  • + 2
 I have been running the mtb hubs for 2 years. I have not had to service them at all. The durability on these are awesome not 1 complaint. You can contact Jim at gerhardt@christianson.com email him and he can give you all the info.
  • + 0
 I hvae a hadley that I haven't had to service in ~7 years despite >2 million vertical feet of descending. 2 years is nothing.
  • + 2
 Hi guys, Onyx didn't claim to invent any new tech to the world. It's their spin on how to apply the existing tech to this product. Weather or not they did it the same as someone else is not really the point here. They have introduced their version of what they believe is a great product, and one way or another, we will all benefit from it.
  • + 1
 The website is terrible, but you can talk to the guys who make the hubs, they will give you personalized service. They got back.to me the weekend after I left an email about the hubs.

The company is an industrial supplier for heavy equipment applications of the sprag clutch, they got into the bike hubs because one if their employees wanted to build a bomber hub.

If you are the kind of person who jumps on new products, the just do it, otherwise you wait with the rest.

The immediate engagement is second only to a muni!

The resistance is only slightly higher than a front hub.

They make no sound other than the sound that spokes make as they whistle in the wind.

Figure on a 100~150gm weight penalty
  • + 3
 The Onyx website only seems to have a "BMX" section. Are the hubs for bmx/mountain the same hubs?
  • + 2
 They have the same internals. The bmx hub is different than the mtb hub on the outside. They can configure the hub any way you need. Top notch customer service. Email them at gerhardt@christianson.com
  • + 4
 But who doesn't enjoy the click click click click click
  • + 4
 Let's talk about an XD driver on a hub that features Centerlock.
  • + 0
 One one hand I like the racket my DT's make, alerts others that I'm up on them... But the silence would be nice to have on those Stealth missions whilst Poaching trail... Six of One, Half Dozen of the other eh?
  • + 3
 Thank you. Engineering, ingenuity, and common sense. More please.
  • + 2
 These guys are all about engineering the best hubs possible. So much research has gone into these hubs.
  • + 1
 FYI. Been riding a true precision stealth hub for a year now - Peak district in the winter and several DH uplift days, so no easy life - and these style of hubs are awesome!
  • + 3
 i like my hub to warn slower riders I'm ready to pass...
  • - 1
 I just don’t buy into this “drag” thing. The only time that “drag” comes into play is when you are not pedaling. Which is what going downhill and coasting on flat ground? And then how much of a benefit will these hubs provide .5 to 1 percent?
  • + 1
 This is a good point, and applies to most riders, but for those who race I imagine drag being an issue still. Not sure if less drag is worth the weight penalty for those who care about weight and drag. I dont race so I just want reliability without to much added weight. Sounds like a solid product but I have to wonder how long the sprags last.
  • + 0
 Drag might be noticeable by people who ride for long stretches of time. Going downhill doesn't last very long really... It could also be a mind thing. And weight (which could also be a mind thing) doesn't matter so much when it's at the middle of a wheel whereas the outside weight makes it super hard to turn when spinning the heavier it is.
  • + 3
 Well if 20% of your ride is spent coasting downhill and on flat ground, and these hub have 1 percent less drag. That would make .002 percent less drag and make you .002 percent faster ;-).
  • + 2
 But I like the noise my Chris King hubs make.
  • + 1
 Need it! Been looking at roller clutch hubs, but they all were around half a kilo. Now this looks much better!
  • + 2
 Do they do any wheel builds or do you just buy the hub and go from there?
  • + 1
 Just hubs no wheel builds as of now.
  • + 1
 Cool idea and will work v efficiently as we used these type of clutches on our 1/8 scale model cars
  • + 1
 It is true about loud hubs scare bears but then again not everyone rides in bear country.
  • + 1
 Stealth doesn't have a fat bike hub, 135mm max width.
  • + 2
 Any idea on price
  • + 1
 Expect $450+ since that's what their BMX hubs are. The other clutch based MTB hubs (True Precision Stealths) are $400+ too, the kind of tolerances and materials needed to make one reliable don't come cheap, especially if you're not outsourcing everything to Taiwan.
  • + 2
 Wow... I suppose u get what u pay for
  • + 0
 Are they quiet? I just had a wheel built with a Hope hub, and I'm hoping I get used to the racket before I go crazy.
  • + 3
 dead silent. its awesome
  • + 8
 they are completely silent. also in the article they say "near instant engagement" when in fact it is instant. As little as you can possibly move the driver in a single movement they engage
  • + 4
 I love the noise of my hope hubs. Haha. Guess it's a personally appeal.
  • + 6
 Pedal more and the hubs will make less noise
  • - 2
 Why would you want a quiet hub
  • - 1
 My thoughts exactly.
  • + 1
 So the hub engagement is faster then myself thinking I need to pedal :/
  • + 1
 What're the differences between this and a freecoaster?
  • + 4
 Free coaster disengages when you are rolling backwards so that the cranks dont spin. Its designed for bmx riders to ride backwards. This just uses a different engagement system than a normal hub which means that there is very little resitsnace when coasting but it engages almost instantly when you start pedalling.
  • + 1
 built with "true precision"
  • + 2
 Want Onyx. Now.
  • + 0
 How many points of engagement?
  • + 1
 Rndrn
  • + 0
 How do these compare to Rohloff Speedups for touring?
  • + 1
 black magic
  • - 2
 Been done before by a couple of other company's, both failed
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