Royce Ultra Light Front Hub tested
Royce Ultra Light Front Hub £115
Finally, after several years’ hard riding and a rim rebuild, I have worn out a bearing in a Royce hub. Interestingly, it is an Ultra Light Front Hub, which as its name suggests is very light at around 100g depending on drilling, and is made so by having its dimensions reduced to some kind of absolute minimum. That means the flanges, which have a spoke hole diameter of a mere 41mm (Royce quotes 40.7mm, but who measures spokes that accurately?), the barrels and, as a consequence, the cartridge bearings. Being small, they take a bit more of a pounding than would larger bearings so, despite the fitment by Royce of the finest Swiss-made examples, one of them has given up the ghost.
Replacements cost £22 per pair and fitment is a doddle thanks to the clever design of the spindle and its associated bits and bobs. Machined from ‘aerospace grade’ titanium, it sits between bearings press-fitted into the light alloy hub. On the outside of each bearing there is, firstly, an aluminium spacer and, then, a titanium locknut with a knurled face designed to grip the dropout. The locknuts are threaded and secure the spacers. Once they have been removed, the spindle may be tapped out, pushing the bearing with it.
The locknuts, which lack anything that might make them easy to tighten, are deliberately designed to be done up not much more than finger tight. Royce supreme Cliff Polton recommends wrapping a strip of aluminium sheet, not too thin, around the end of the spindle before clamping it, either with a pipe wrench or similar or in a vice and then nipping up the nut. Obviously, it is possible to tighten both nuts by gripping them and not the spindle, but once one has been loosened, the spindle must be gripped to loosen the other. Since the tip of the spindle is only exposed a little and is hard to grip satisfactorily, I have filed a hex to take an Allen key on the inside of the hollow spindle.
This irritation notwithstanding, the hub’s performance has been excellent. Early on in my tenure, I noticed a ‘clicking’ sound when riding out of the saddle, which was traced to a loose locknut. Once nipped up tighter, it stayed tight but resisted undoing, hence the solution above. The Royce surface finish, which is deep polished and anodised to resist both corrosion and cracking, is incredibly durable and easy to clean, coming up to perfection after even a perfunctory wash. I rebuilt the hub and its partner and noted no sign of cracking at any spoke hole and, apart from the knackered bearing, can report nothing but boringly reliable performance in a hub that was built into a Mavic Open Pro Ceramic rim in order to be used in the worst of winter riding conditions.