If you’ve ever thought that there’s nothing new in bikes then this 120-year-old hub design kind of proves you right.
- How this engineering student has reinvented the wheel
- Shimano electronic gears could soon charge themselves
- How road buzz could be turned into free energy
Spotted on the Speedplay Component Museum Flickr, this all-steel, solid axle front hub is in some respects very much of its time; the main body is a simple steel tube with what appears to be a grease port, and it looks like a standard cup-and-cone design with lock-nuts and cones threaded onto the axle.
The flange design however is achingly modern — instead of the usual flat discs drilled for J-bend spokes, the Mather hub has funky offset lugs for straight-pull ones.
In it, William H. Mather of Cleveland, Ohio proposes an invention relating “to the hubs of wheels having wire spokes which are attached at their inner ends to projecting flanges on the ends of the hub, and more particularly to wheel-hubs having flanges provided with perforated radial lugs for receiving tangent spokes with straight ends.”
What he was describing is hardly different to the straight pull hub designs favoured by many manufacturers today, and the thinking behind it isn’t completely alien either.
In addition, straight-pull designs make for very rapid lacing, which is an important consideration for mass production, so cheap manufacturing remains a valid justification for using this approach.
Even leaving aside lacing considerations, the appeal is obvious. They look cool and with no spoke elbow to contend with, the most common point of breakage is eliminated.
I do wonder if Mather anticipated the use of bladed spokes however, or if indeed they existed back then. The one real issue with round straight-pull spokes is that if they seize at the nipple they are very difficult to release, because there’s not much to grab onto.
In any case, it’s fascinating to come across a design as forward-thinking as this, from an age long before the invention of derailleurs, or even quick-release skewers.
Thanks to Speedplay for kindly allowing the use of images from its museum.