Are Chris King hubs truly the stuff of legend, or is it just a name? Ben tested a set of their legendary ISO hubs laced to some Stans Flow MK3 rims to find out.
Chris King set the standard for hubs and headsets that last forever, and Ben has been running their current ISO hubs to see if they really live up to the hype.
- Chris King ISO Boost hubs
- 29” Stan’s Flow Mk 3 Rims
- 29mm internal rim width.
- 1962 grams with tape and valves
- 5 Year hub warranty
- About £1000 depending on spokes and build cost
Chris King is a brand known for its high price, high quality and timeless appeal to tech loving cyclists and mountain bikers. With a focus on engineering precision, serviceability and performance, Chris King are unashamedly high end and an aspirational product for most riders.
Back in the winter the guys over at Saddleback, UK distributor for Chris King, sent us over a hand built set of Stan’s Flow Mk3 alloy-rimmed wheels to test out.
Coming in at around a grand they are about as expensive as alloy wheels get but are still about half the price of carbon wheels of the same level.
These wheels have been fitted to 3 different test bikes from 130mm to 160mm travel and have been ragged around my local loop, sent laps at bike parks, ridden through the worst of winter and even hucked over dirt jumps and off senders. Sometimes I ran tyre inserts and sometimes I didn’t and the good news is that they remain straight as an arrow and have not needed a single turn of a spoke key to true them up.
When you first ride this wheelset you are aware that it is well built, with a nice blend of direct and precise steering without being stiff or harsh over roots and trail chatter. This is partly down to the profile and construction of the Flow rims and partly down to the skill of the wheel builder to correctly tension the spokes.
The other thing you notice is the iconic buzz of the rear hub as you freewheel down the trail. It sounds like you are being chased by bees and as you ride past other riders you sometimes notice them nod as they acknowledge to themselves and their mates that that was a Chris King hub. Personally, I like the sound it makes, and don’t find it too noisy or distracting. It also signifies that the hub has 72 points of engagement, giving quick power transfer when you hit the pedals hard.
Despite multiple jet washes and wet wintry rides the hubs and freewheels are still running smoothly and have not needed any attention. On that note, Chris King hubs are completely serviceable, extending the life of an expensive product and helping to increase its value over its life-span.
So, it is clear that these wheels are very good quality and offer a genuine upgrade over most OEM wheelsets fitted to production bikes. The question is, why spend £1000 when you can get basically the same on trail performance for less by building the rims with quality hubs at half the price? On the same note, why spend £2000 on carbon when these are probably just as good? Confused? Maybe… Here are my thoughts…
If you are the sort of person who highly values engineering, the build process and top finishing quality then paying top dollar for US made Chris King might make sense. They have a 5 year warranty and I know people who have been running the same Chris King headset or hubs for way longer than 5 years as they simply outlast the other components on their bikes. You are not buying a cheap, mass-made, disposable product, you are investing in the long term performance of your bike, and possibly your next bike too.
Thankfully (hopefully) hub standards seem to have settled down and we seem to be sticking to boost spacing for now and even if it did change, these hubs have adaptors available for every ‘standard’ going so your hub should never become obsolete.
What do we think?
If you are building your dream bike or simply upgrading your current one, and if you can afford them, then a premium wheelset running on Chris King hubs is a great long term investment that should give you many years of trouble free performance.
It feels good knowing you are rolling on the best kit and as you roll down the trail the distinctive buzz of the rear hub will remind you that you are not riding just any old wheelset, but one with a real MTB pedigree.
- Direct, stiff wheels
- Instant engagement
- Compliant enough to deal with trail chatter
- Quality feel
Could do better:
- You can buy entire bikes for the price of these wheels