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A Shimano Dura-Ace freehub Nabe 01 KMJ.jpg
A Shimano Dura-Ace freehub

A freehub is a type of bicycle hub that incorporates a ratcheting mechanism, and the name freehub is a registered trademark of Shimano. [1] A set of sprockets (called a "cassette") are mounted onto a splined shaft of the freehub to engage the chain. The ratcheting mechanism is a part of the hub, in contrast to a freewheel, an older technology, which contains both the sprockets and a ratcheting mechanism in a single unit separate from the hub. In many high-end and midrange bicycles, freehubs have replaced freewheel systems.

Bicycle Pedal-driven two-wheel vehicle

A bicycle, also called a cycle or bike, is a human-powered or motor-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A bicycle rider is called a cyclist, or bicyclist.

Ratchet (device) mechanical device that allows continuous linear or rotary motion in only one direction

A ratchet is a mechanical device that allows continuous linear or rotary motion in only one direction while preventing motion in the opposite direction. Ratchets are widely used in machinery and tools. The word ratchet is also used informally to refer to a ratcheting socket wrench.

Shimano, Inc. is a Japanese multinational manufacturer of cycling components, fishing tackle and rowing equipment. It produced golf supplies until 2005 and snowboarding gear until 2008. Headquartered in Sakai, Japan, the company has 32 consolidated subsidiaries and 11 unconsolidated subsidiaries. Shimano's primary manufacturing plants are in Kunshan, China; Malaysia; and Singapore.


A freewheel mechanism allows a rider to stop pedalling whilst the cycle is still in forward motion. On a cycle without a freewheel mechanism, the rider has to keep pedalling whenever the cycle is moving.

Comparison to freewheels

Freehub vs freewheel hub Labeled Bicycle Hub Comparison-en.svg
Freehub vs freewheel hub

The freehub concept answers several drawbacks encountered with the freewheel design:

Screw thread helical part of screw

A screw thread, often shortened to thread, is a helical structure used to convert between rotational and linear movement or force. A screw thread is a ridge wrapped around a cylinder or cone in the form of a helix, with the former being called a straight thread and the latter called a tapered thread. A screw thread is the essential feature of the screw as a simple machine and also as a fastener.

Bicycle pedal part of a bicycle that the rider pushes with their foot to propel the bicycle

The bicycle pedal is the part of a bicycle that the rider pushes with their foot to propel the bicycle. It provides the connection between the cyclist's foot or shoe and the crank allowing the leg to turn the bottom bracket spindle and propel the bicycle's wheels. A pedal usually consists of a spindle that threads into the end of the crank, and a body on which the foot rest is attached, that is free to rotate on bearings with respect to the spindle.

Torque tendency of a force to rotate an object

Torque, moment, moment of force or "turning effect" is the rotational equivalent of linear force. The concept originated with the studies of Archimedes on the usage of levers. Just as a linear force is a push or a pull, a torque can be thought of as a twist to an object. Another definition of torque is the product of the magnitude of the force and the perpendicular distance of the line of action of force from the axis of rotation. The symbol for torque is typically , the lowercase Greek letter tau. When being referred to as moment of force, it is commonly denoted by M.

Beyond removal from the hub and of the cassette, there is limited, if any, access for cleaning and lubrication. The part can be fabricated relatively inexpensively and is not intended to be serviced or disassembled with hand tools. The latter is only possible by means of specialized or shop equipment. The outer cup covering the ratchet pawls and bearings is pressed into place at the factory, secured by interference fit, leveraging the same inner threads of the shell into which the cassette lockring normally screws.

An interference fit, also known as a press fit or friction fit is a fastening between two parts which is achieved by friction after the parts are pushed together, rather than by any other means of fastening.


The concept of a freehub was devised and manufactured by British company Bayliss-Wiley in 1938 [2] [3] and won the Cyclists Touring Club (CTC) award for that year. On the Bayliss-Wiley design the freewheel unit was threaded to accept the sprockets. A different four speed design was manufactured by BSA Cycles Ltd in 1949 to accompany their BSA 4 Star derailleur gear. The BSA design had a splined freewheel unit (BSA part No.8-1913) which attached to the hub shell (BSA part No.8-701) and carried four sprockets. [4]

Shimano made their first freehub in 1978 in both the Dura-Ace, and 600 (later known as Ultegra) models. It was a significant improvement. [5] [6] It proved to be the first widely used commercially successful freehub.

Freehubs, manufactured by various companies, are now common on mid- to high-end bicycles today. Nevertheless, freewheels continue to be fitted on some new bikes, especially single speed, and cheaper models of derailleur bicycles.

See also

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Derailleur gears variable-ratio transmission system commonly used on bicycles

Derailleur gears are a variable-ratio transmission system commonly used on bicycles, consisting of a chain, multiple sprockets of different sizes, and a mechanism to move the chain from one sprocket to another. Although referred to as gears in the bike world, these bicycle gears are technically sprockets since they drive or are driven by a chain, and are not driven by one another.

Hub gear Device for changing gear ratio on bikes

A hub gear, internal-gear hub, or just gear hub is a gear ratio changing system commonly used on bicycles that is implemented with planetary or epicyclic gears. The gears and lubricants are sealed within the shell of the hub gear, in contrast with derailleur gears where the gears and mechanism are exposed to the elements. Changing the gear ratio was traditionally accomplished by a shift lever connected to the hub with a Bowden cable, and twist-grip style shifters have become common.

Crankset bb set

The crankset or chainset, is the component of a bicycle drivetrain that converts the reciprocating motion of the rider's legs into rotational motion used to drive the chain or belt, which in turn drives the rear wheel. It consists of one or more sprockets, also called chainrings or chainwheels attached to the cranks, arms, or crankarms to which the pedals attach. It is connected to the rider by the pedals, to the bicycle frame by the bottom bracket, and to the rear sprocket, cassette or freewheel via the chain.

Bicycle chain

A bicycle chain is a roller chain that transfers power from the pedals to the drive-wheel of a bicycle, thus propelling it. Most bicycle chains are made from plain carbon or alloy steel, but some are nickel-plated to prevent rust, or simply for aesthetics.

Bottom bracket bicycle part that connects the crankset (chainset) to the bicycle and allows the crankset to rotate freely

The bottom bracket on a bicycle connects the crankset (chainset) to the bicycle and allows the crankset to rotate freely. It contains a spindle that the crankset attaches to, and the bearings that allow the spindle and cranks to rotate. The chainrings and pedals attach to the cranks. The bottom bracket fits inside the bottom bracket shell, which connects the seat tube, down tube and chain stays as part of the bicycle frame.

A groupset or gruppo is a bicycle component manufacturer's organized collection of mechanical parts. It generally refers to all of the components that make up a bicycle excluding the bicycle frame, fork, stem, wheels, tires, and rider contact points, such as the saddle and handlebars.

Sturmey-Archer manufacturing company based in the United Kingdom

Sturmey-Archer is a manufacturing company originally from Nottingham, England. It primarily produces bicycle hub gears, brakes and a great many other sundry bicycle components, most prominently during their heyday as a subsidiary of the Raleigh Bicycle Company. In the past, it also manufactured motorcycle hubs, gearboxes and engines.

Single-speed bicycle type of bicycle with a single gear ratio

A single-speed bicycle is a type of bicycle with a single gear ratio. These bicycles are without derailleur gears, hub gearing or other methods for varying the gear ratio of the bicycle.

Fixed-gear bicycle

A fixed-gear bicycle is a bicycle that has a drivetrain with no freewheel mechanism. The freewheel was developed early in the history of bicycle design but the fixed-gear bicycle remained the standard track racing design. More recently the "fixie" has become a popular alternative among mainly urban cyclists, offering the advantage of simplicity compared with the standard multi-geared bicycle.

Various bicycle tools have evolved over the years into specialized tools for working on a bicycle. Modern bicycle shops will stock a large number of tools for working on different bicycle parts. This work can be performed by a trained bicycle mechanic, or for simple tasks, by the bicycle owner.

SunTour (Maeda) was the most important Japanese manufacturer of bicycle components based in Osaka until 1988, when Sakae Ringyo Company, a major Japanese maker of aluminum parts, particularly cranks and seat posts, bought what was left of the bankrupt SunTour, and the combined companies are now known as SR-SunTour. SunTour reached a zenith of sales and commercial success from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. Its products range from suspension forks to derailleurs.


On a bicycle, the cogset or cluster is the set of multiple sprockets that attaches to the hub on the rear wheel. A cogset works with a rear derailleur to provide multiple gear ratios to the rider. Cogsets come in two varieties, freewheels or cassettes, of which cassettes are a newer development. Although cassettes and freewheels perform the same function and look almost the same when installed, they have important mechanical differences and are not interchangeable.


Biopace is a tradename for a type of ovoid bicycle chain ring manufactured by Shimano from 1983 to 1993 The design was intended to help overcome the "dead zone" where the crank arms are vertical and riders have little mechanical advantage.

Bicycle gearing

Bicycle gearing is the aspect of a bicycle drivetrain that determines the relation between the cadence, the rate at which the rider pedals, and the rate at which the drive wheel turns.


Hyperglide is the name given by cycling component manufacturer Shimano to a sprocket design in their bicycle derailleur tooth cassette systems. It varies gear tooth profiles, and/or pins along the faces of freewheel or cassette sprockets, or between the chainrings in a crankset, to ease shifting between them.

Precession (mechanical) mechanical displacement of an axis

Precession, also called epicyclic fretting precession, is the process of a round part in a round hole rotating with respect to that hole because of clearance between them and a radial force on the part that changes direction. The direction of rotation of the inner part is opposite to the direction of rotation of the radial force. Fretting between the part and the hole is often a result of this motion. "In machinery, fretting is the micro-motion of tightly fitting parts that superficially appear immobile with respect to each other."

Bicycle drivetrain systems

Bicycle drivetrain systems are used to transmit power on bicycles, tricycles, quadracycles, unicycles, or other human-powered vehicles from the riders to the drive wheels. Most also include some type of a mechanism to convert speed and torque via gear ratios.

Quick release skewer Bicycles wheel attaching mechanism

A quick release skewer is a mechanism for attaching a wheel to a bicycle. It consists of a rod threaded on one end and with a lever operated cam assembly on the other. The rod is inserted into the hollow axle of the wheel, a special nut is threaded on, and the lever is closed to tighten the cam and secure the wheel to the fork. Wheels equipped with quick release mechanisms can be removed from the bicycle frame and replaced without using tools by opening and closing the cam lever, thus more quickly than wheels with solid axles and nuts. On the negative side, a quick-release hub renders a wheel more vulnerable to theft and care must be taken to ensure that the mechanism is properly tightened.


  1. Brown, Sheldon. "Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary: Freehub". Sheldon Brown. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
  2. "Bayliss-Wiley unit hub". Archived from the original on June 2, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  3. "Bayliss-Wiley hubs" . Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  4. Bicycle Replacement Parts - Catalogue of Genuine B.S.A Spares for B.S.A., Sunbeam and New Hudson Bicycles. B.S.A. Cycles Limited. 1951. p. 87.
  5. Berto, Frank J.; Ron Shepherd; et al. (2005) [2000]. The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle (2nd ? ed.). San Francisco, CA, USA: Cycle Publishing/Van der Plas Publications. pp. 263–264. ISBN   978-1-892495-59-4 . Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  6. Berto, Frank J.; et al. (2016) [2000]. The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA, USA: Cycle Publishing/Van der Plas Publications. ISBN   978-1-892495-77-8 . Retrieved May 30, 2017.