Real life bike and gear tests
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Ambrosio Zenith road hubs
Where bought and price
Parker International (UK online retailer). I don't remember exactly what I paid now, but at the moment (May 2010) a pair sell at Parker sell for GBP83, inclusive of VAT.
How it is used
Used several times each week as my stock road bike hubs. They are laced to some DIY built wheels using DT Comp spokes and Ambrosio Evolution rims.
Description & general
Though badged as Ambrosio, these hubs a rebranded in the UK by some local company/importer that has the UK naming rights to Ambrosio. They are not made by the venerable Italian rim and wheel builders, Ambrosio s.p.a.
The initial indications were that they were made by Taiwan hub maker Formula, but I am recently led to believe they are made by the â€˜otherâ€™ Taiwanese hub maker, Novatec (same company as Joytec), which seems to check out. In another review I have moaned about my cheap Joytec cup and cone MTB hubs, but these road hubs are a different kettle of fish altogether.
In essence the hubs are standard aluminium road hubs with cartridge bearings and are available with Campagnolo or Shimano compatible freehub bodies. Mine are 36-hole, but they are also available in 32- and 28-hole versions. They can be bought in black or silver - mine are black. The front hubs would have the standard set of two bearings, but I am not sure how many bearings are in the rear. A check of similar looking hubs on the Novatech website suggests that there are two bearings in the hub and another two in the freehub.
These are well made solidly performing hubs. Mine have done nearly 5000 kms (not much for a hub) without any trouble.
+ Well made and finished
+ The free hub body is solid and my Campag cassette, which has individual sprockets, has not notably notched the body as happens with some other hubs
+ Good quality bearings (it would seem - Iâ€™ve not cracked them open just for the sake of it). They roll very well.
+ Not quite up to Campag standards but has a nice loud rachet, which I like.
+ Come with QR skewers
+ Black or silver finish means they can bought to match your build â€“ not everyone wants black!
No real negatives but:
- Loud rachet, which not everyone likes
- Weight weenies will think them rather weighty probably
- Spares are an unknown quantity in case you bust a freehub or some such
- No documentation or information is supplied with the hubs
- The Ambrosio labels cannot be made to perfectly line up with valve hole when building due to their location in regard to the spoke drillings (in case you are worried about anal DIY building standards)
These are good hubs and in my research it seems they are recommended by several wheel builders in the UK. If you are looking for a Campag compatible hub they are one of the few reasonably priced options available now that Campagnolo has got out of the mid-range hub game except for their factory wheels. Iâ€™ve found them excellent reliable hubs and I would not hesitate to buy another set.
If you want Shimano compatible hubs the price comparison would perhaps keep you with Shimano 105 or Ultegra hubs, unless you wanted cartridge bearings.
A cheaper alternative would be the Miche hubs that are around. I was looking at the Miche Racing Box hubs but couldnâ€™t then get my preferred freehub/spoke count combo so went with these instead â€“ which were my first choice anyway. These are top hubs and Iâ€™m happy with them. Given the reports of some free-hub notching with the Miche product the Ambrosios seem a good choice.
Value for money
This is an update to my original review given I have now done >10,000km on these hubs and also had to do some maintenance.
First up, as alluded to above, these are rebranded hubs. The Ambrosio Zenith hubs are in fact, as far as I can tell, a Novatec F272SB rear hub and a Novatec A171SB front hub. The Novatec information is here and includes exploded diagrams.
The front hubs contain two 609-2RS cartridge bearings, the rear hub a 6901-2RS (left side) and a 6001-2RS (drive side) cartridge bearing. The Campagnolo cassette body has two 6901 bearings, of which only the outer one is sealed, the inner being an open ‘caged’ type cartridge bearing.
For what it is worth, the bearings in mine were branded Joytec (i.e. Novatec’s parent company), but Novatec makes a bit of how it uses Japanese EZO bearings in its hubs. So, either these are rebranded for use in the Novatec hubs, or Novatec supplies its generic rebranded hubs with a different standard of bearing (or did supply, my hubs are a few years old now).
I recently had to do some work on the rear hub because the cassette body inner unsealed 6901 bearing gave up. Whether my kerosene based chain/cassette cleaning regime had anything to do with that is unknown, but it seems likely. I have replaced it with a 2RS sealed bearing!
This Pro-Lite maintenance video shows you how to take apart the rear hub (Novatecs show up everywhere). The one step it omits is that once you take the left hand axle nut off, you need to stuff a 5mm hex wrench into the left hand end of the axle so that you can use a 17mm cone wrench to get the drive side nut off.
Servicing the cassette body is a bit trickier and there are no YouTube vids that I could find. The inner bearing is held in by a C clip, so you need to get the outer bearing and spacer out first. With that done, you can remove the C clip and then the inner bearing. Reverse the process to get the new bearings in.
I have been very happy with the hubs. They are well made, roll well and do everything that a hub should without fuss. So far I have only replaced the cassette body bearings, none in the hubs themselves. In the early days I was rather vexed at how I might find parts, but the bearings are available anywhere and in researching the recent work I found a Taiwan based online shop, BDop Cycling, that supplies anything and everything that is inside a Novatec rear hub, right down to new rachet rings and cassette body pawls!
Another update. The rebuild of my cassette free hub was not entirely successful. It recently became apparent that the new inner bearing in the free hub had given up less than twelve months since I put it in. Perhaps it was the bearing I used (a not too expensive, but branded one sourced from eBay), or perhaps it was my kerosene-based cleaning routine? Either way, I opted to buy a new free hub this time around.
The new free hub came from BDop Cycling as mentioned in my last post, who have been good to deal with IME (no, I have no affiliation). For reference, the type of free hub required is a Novatec 'A' Type (Campag or Shimano available), and it comes with a new seal to go between the hub body and the cassette free hub.
The old free hub will be refurbished (with good quality bearings) so that next time I can simply swap it over. I will probably replace the pawls and retaining spring too, so it's as much like a new one as possible. I will also be making some changes to the way I clean my running gear to reduce the application of kerosene!
I'm still very happy with the hubs though. The original hub bearings, both front and rear, are still going strong.
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