Coinciding with the launch of the new CUES drivetrain family - the brand-new mid-tier, cross-compatible drivetrain system - Shimano has quietly launched some new hubs as well. And not just any hubs, but hubs with sealed cartridge bearings.
Shimano is a brand that has been firmly standing behind the cup and cone bearing system, and the introduction of the new hubs - although not the first featuring sealed bearings - is aimed at the mid-tier markets, catering for those everyday and recreational riders that appreciate durability and no-hassle servicing.
Of Shimano's current extensive component range, we've already seen the Deore 12-speed MT410 hub with sealed bearings available for a while now; but despite Shimano now embracing the benefits of sealed bearing hubs across more of its groupsets, we can't say for sure that cup and cone bearings will be abandoned on all of the brand's hub ranges going forward.
What's wrong with cup and cone then? Nothing, it's just that the cup and cone hubs require a bit more skill to maintain than sealed cartridge bearings. You can open them up to clean and regrease easily, but you need to adjust them properly - which isn't something you need to do with sealed bearings.
Shimano itself says that the cup and cone hubs "effectively displace lateral and vertical loads for smooth rotation and excellent durability --- [and are] easier to adjust and service".
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Shimano is not wrong with that statement, but for a regular cyclist who'd rather forget about their wheel hubs for years, a cup and cone is not always the best option - although they are easy enough to service at home if you know what you're doing and definitely perform great when they're maintained and set up properly.
Cup and cone hubs utilise loose ball bearings inside the hub, and in addition to the need for more regular regreasing, they are a little bit more tricky to set up as you need to get the tension around the bearings just right in order for the hub to spin freely without excessive play.
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Cup and cone bearings can be found across most of the Shimano wheel range, even on the high-end Dura-Ace R9270 road bike wheels, and it's not alone - Campagnolo is also known for favouring the technology.
Sealed cartridge bearings, on the other hand, are favoured by brands like Hope and DT Swiss. Cartridge bearings are pressed into the hub shell with a bearing press and unlike cup and cone bearings, you can’t adjust their preload - and instead of just replacing the ball bearings inside the cartridge, you usually need to change the whole cartridge when the bearings are worn out. While this requires more specific tools for the home mechanic, you won't end up losing any ball bearings under your workbench in the process...
With the short tech insight done, let’s have a look at these new Shimano hubs in more detail.
Shimano cartridge bearing hub lineup
Shimano describes the new hub range as “versatile and reliable mid-range”, and with the new modular and sealed design, they’re catering for consumers that want a product with little maintenance and a long lifespan.
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Shimano’s new sealed cartridge hub range consists of four options with all of the new hubs featuring a modular axle that allows them to be used with either thru-axles or quick release system, and with either Microsplibne or HG freehub body. Although, saying that this is a cartridge-bearing hub lineup would be a lie, as the lowest-tier hub continues to utilise a cup and cone system.
Shimano TC600 hub
The TC600 hub sits at the top of the range featuring twin double-row cartridge bearings and an additional labyrinth seal on the outside of the hub shell for maximum sealing, which should improve bearing life.
This hub is designed for use with thru-axles and the modular hub design means that can quickly change between Microspline and HG freehub bodies.
The TC600 hub has an anodised finish and offers an engagement angle of 10 degrees.
Shimano TC500 / QC500
The second-rung TC500 / QC500 hub features the same sealed cartridge bearings and can be swapped between quick-release and thru-axles. Internally, there is the same labyrinth seal and externally the option to swap from Microspline to an HG freehub body and vice versa.
Again, the hub has an anodised finish and comes with a little less rapid 15-degree engagement angle.
You might gather from the naming that the “QC” stands for quick release, and that means that the QC400 is only compatible with quick-release axles.
It’s a step down in terms of the finish and the number of sealing. The QC 400 hub comes with cup and cone hub shell bearings and sealed inner bearings, meaning that instead of two seals, there is only one. The body shell is painted instead of anodised and the hub comes with a 22.5-degree engagement angle.
The QC300 is the most value-orientated, “Tourney level” hub in the range, and comes with the trusty cup and cone bearings only. The hub is only compatible with a quick-release axle - but unlike the others, you can also fit on a 15mm nutted axle. Like the range above, the 300 range gets a painted hub finish and the same 22.5-degree engagement angle.
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