Chris King Classic vs R45 Hubs

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Your bicycle’s wheels rolling is a given and not until things go wrong you even consider that there might be important parts there. Some components that extremely rarely have something go amiss with them are made by Chris King. Hence, it’s no secret I am a huge fan of their products, some of the reasons being the reliability and durability, since I like to use my equipment a decent amount and with some occasional maintenance, not to worry too much about it failing on me.

For Chris King it all started with their indestructible headsets that carry a 10yr warranty, I for one can’t think of anything that has such a warranty today! Subsequently their product line expanded to include the classic hubs and later the R45 models. As someone who has been using both extensively, the goal of this post is to review and compare them as well as answer some questions that you might have concerning your (next) dream wheelset.

Before getting into more specific details, there are two aspects that both the classic and R45 hubs share. First is that they both use in-house built angular contact bearings which means that as they wear in, as all bearings do, you can adjust out the play by pressing the two races together, rather than changing the whole bearing out, hence making the hubs last very very long.

Chris King Angular Contact Bearings
Chris King Angular Contact Bearings

Second, Chris King hubs do not use a standard freewheel ratchet, but a patented RingDrive mechanism that is responsible for the trademark angry bee buzz and ridiculously solid and fast engagement. A simplification of how it works is if you put your palms flat against each other you can rotate them against each other freely. Instead of palms the hubs have two toothed rings and in one direction the teeth slide over each other (buzzing) and engage in the other direction. The engagement is almost instant since there is a lot of surface with a good amount of teeth ‘to bite’ into each other. Classic RingDrive hubs have 72 teeth, r45 have…uhh…45.

Chris King RingDrive r45 Hub (Source)
Chris King RingDrive r45 Hub (Source)

With that being said on to the details….

Chris King Classic Hubs

Chris King Classic Hubs
Chris King Classic Hubs 32h F, 36h R, laced x3 to Ambrosio Evolution rims

After establishing themselves by making extremely durable headsets, Chris King went on to address the other important bearings on the bicycle – the hubs. Hence the Classic hubset was born. First thing that is obvious is that these hubs are solidly built, the driveshell has a roller bearing in the middle so no matter how much torque you can dish out, the hubs respond with no deflection or hesitation. Even so they are not very heavy (136g for the front and 276g for the rear). The seals on the bearings are quite substantial and are most likely responsible for the ‘drag’ that the hubs have even after a lot of miles. On some derailleurs when you back pedal the chain goes slack. Whether that resistance slows you down, is the subject for some of cycling’s many holy wars and the result is unclear. It’s those seals that make the hubs literally buttery smooth and resistant to most of the stuff that you can throw at the bike such as mud, salt, grime and daily washing. Something that I find amazing is that with the exception of the r45 hubs, all other models share the same parts. Hubshells are different, however the internals are all interchangeable. You do need the Chris King Hub tool to perform any major maintenance/parts swap, however, cleaning and bearing regreasing is done with basic tools. Adjusting bearing pre-load is also super easy. In addition you can easily swap axles to meet the different standards so you can keep the hubs if you want to change disciplines; 130m to 135mm, quick release or bolt on, 10 or 12mm thru axle, one-piece or two piece – no problem!!!! – the axles are there and you can easily swap them with a couple of allen wrenches.

Chris King hub Axles
Chris King Classic Hub Rear Axles (L to R, one piece heavy duty Fun Bolts, one-piece heavy duty QR, 10mm thru-axle, 12mm thru axle, 142×12 thru axle)

Therefore there is no discipline that the hubs cannot be used (except fixed gear/track) – road, MTB, cyclocross, single speed, BMX, tandem, touring, rim or disc brake – Chris King got you covered – as well as SRAM XD compatibility. Coming from there is another feature I really like – a stainless steel driveshell – so you can virtually eliminate notching caused by almost all cassettes. It adds 50g, however, for an extremely durable, set and forget wheelset, this is the way to go. The hubs also carry the original Chris King font, which is an aesthetic aspect I really like.

Chris King Stainless Steel Driveshell
Chris King Classic Stainless Steel Driveshell

A somewhat limiting feature is that the hubs come in only 28, 32, 36 spoke hole drillings and radial lacing is not allowed (Google exploding Chris King hubs) even though I have seen wheelbuilders lacing front wheels like that…. Low spoke carbon wheel choices are as a result somewhat limited. Furthermore you can only use Shimano/SRAM 8, 9, 10 cassettes. HOWEVER, you can fit a Shimano 11 speed block by removing a cog and a spacer and using the spacer behind the cassette and readjusting your derailleur limit screws. You have 10 gears with 11 speed spacing and it also is compatible with Campagnolo 11 cog setups (the blasphemy!) that way. I use my Sram Force 22 like this – Yes I love my Classic hubs that much. Use at your own risk=)

Chris King r45 Hubs

Chris King r45 Hubs Turquoise
Chris King r45 Hubs 24h F&R laced x2 front, Crow’s foot Drive and x2 Non-drive to a set of Dt Swiss rr440 Asymmetric rims

The r45 series was Chris King hubset designed for the needs of road cyclists. The hubs are a very lean and less bulky, hence even the Chris King font couldn’t fit on the skinny hubshells, axles are 17mm instead of the classic’s 19mm and the hubs have dropped some weight (103g (-23g) for the front and 221g (-55g) for the rear).

No parts are compatible with any of the classic hubs and there is a special r45 shop tool. Seal drag (or lack there of) is the most noticeable feature. Smoothness is still there, however, it is more like skating on perfect ice type of effortless rather than the hot-knife-through-butter. Due to the smaller axle size, the RingDrive has 45, rather than 72 teeth and while still faster than all other hubs (36 teeth at most), engagement is a tiny bit slower with a slight deadspot as compared to the Classic hubs. Strangely the freewheel buzz is still as loud. Ceramic bearings are available as an option for all you pure performance enthusiasts as well as low spoke counts (down to 16 front, 20 rear) and the hubs are radial lacing compatible. In addition Campagnolo driveshell and Shimano/SRAM 11 speed are available (or conversion kit if you have the older 10 speed version). One thing that I personally would like to see is a stainless steel driveshell, yes it is heavier and roadies are allergic to heavy, however, it is an extremely easy swap and would be the perfect option for training/heavy duty use. Adjusting the bearing pre-load is somewhat more complicated as compared to the Classics since you need to press down the hub on its axle while at the same time tightening the axle collar. Using a vice to hold a 5mm allen key is the preferred method, which is a bit impractical, though you can adjust it “in the field” with some creativity (or a third arm=) ).

For a while the r45 was a new kid on the block for road use only with dedicated parts and service tool, however, disc brake versions as well as thru axles are becoming available, hence cyclocrossers and even MTBers might be interested in a pair. That begs the logical question:

Which model is the one for me?

First, Chris King quality is superb therefore you are already in the right direction. Seals on the r45 are for sure less sturdy than on the classics and even less so on the ceramic versions, hence I would err on the side of caution if you are to be doing mostly off road riding. The r45s were used by the United Healthcare pro team for a while and I did not hear any durability complaints out there and pro racing is notoriously hard on equipment. For me the r45s are on my racing wheels as well as a fair weather wheelset that I also beat around in races (pictured), while my Classics are going on 4 seasons through all conditions with only a driveshell upgrade. If a stainless steel freehub becomes available for the r45 I would definitely think of converting all my wheels to r45 (i currently have 2 sets) so I can exchange parts should I need to and as well purchase the hub servicing tool. That being said if you are hard on wheels and need the extra strength you can get 36 spokes only on the Classics.

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Home » Equipment » Chris King Classic vs R45 Hubs

8 replies on “Chris King Classic vs R45 Hubs”

I did assemble a 24/20 spokes wheelset with Pacenti SL23 v.1 rims and CK 32 holes Classic hubs. Rear wheel pattern is 16 spokes 3 cross on drive side and and 8 radial spokes on non-drive side (not recommended by CK). Front wheel pattern is 20 radial spokes (again, not recommended by CK). This means that 8 holes, one out of two, are not used on non-drive side of rear hub. Also, 12 holes are not used on front hub (6 on each side). Wheels were ridden for more than 3000 km without any issues and lots of pleasure but had to get used to the angry bee sound! BTW spokes are Sapim CX-Ray, alloy nipples and large oval washers everywhere. Total weight is just over 1500 grams w/o skewers & rim tape.

Hi Jean,

It is a creative project for sure. I have seen a couple of CK classic front hubs with broken flanges that were laced radially so I would personally err on the side of caution. Though 20 spokes on such a low profile rim might be too little for anybody but the lightest riders. Angry bee sound is nice, you get used to it and wonder why not all hubs buzz the same.=)


Hello, thankyou for this article, i picked up an older bike with classic hubs and was trying to learn my way around them, this helped!
The bike is an older curtlo mountaineer. I would love to use the 11 speed xt cassette to essentially run my bike as a wide range 1×10. Did you have success with a non indexed shifter, or will the 11 speed indexed shifter work. By your working, it seems it is “11 speed spacing”, so it should work… I just would love to be certain. Which cog did you huck, i believe with the m8000 cassette it would have to be the 15, 17, or 19? there are two spacers with that.

By the looks of it, all 11 cogs may fit if i were to machine the offending 1.85mm off the back assembly, at least on the xt. what do you think?

I wish i could find a way to use my xtr 950 with that setup, but the new m8000 xt seems pretty nice.

thanks again!

Hi Matthew,
Some general considerations when it comes to 11-speed drivetrains.

Shimano/SRAM 11 speed ROAD cassettes (usually up to 11-36 teeth) require an 11 speed hub, HOWEVER, if you have an older 10 speed hub, you can remove a cog and a spacer; put that spacer behind the cassette and install the remaining 10 cogs as normal. You have 10 gears with 11 speed spacing on a 10 speed hub (such as the CK classic or older r45), adjust the derailleur limit screws and you are good to go. As I mentioned make sure the spacer is metal since once you tighten the lockring you might crush it. The 1mm metal spacer that 11 speed hubs come with so that you can use the narrower 10 speed cassette works wonderfully; you can buy it separately from shops. On road cassettes I usually remove the 15 cog.

Shimano 11 speed MTB cassettes (m8000 xt for example) fit on 10 speed hubs no problem. Therefore Shimano XT cassette would fit the CK classic no problem and you will have all 11 gears, no modification necessary.

As far as shifters and such, I am not sure I understand what you want to do exactly. The general idea here is that you need to have the shifters and rear derailleurs compatible. Since I have been a SRAM user for a while i know that as long as the components are ‘Exact actuation’ they will work with each other. Friction shifting on 10-11 speed I have no experience with. Shimano road and mountain derailleurs might not be compatible with each other, do some research.

Good luck with the setup.


Clarification request on the 11spd road hub set with 10 cogs. Once you convert by moving the spacer and removing the cog, you say I am “good to go.” So you are saying that if I wanted to run the new R8000 Ultegra group on my old classic hubs, I would be using the new 11spd SHIFTERs but I would only get 10 speeds as a result of the limit screw?

I am about to rebuild my road wheels and I am facing the question of replacing my Classic hub, so I can run the newer shifter/brake levers and derailleurs.

Hi Casey,
You are correct, you have 10 gears/cogs with 11 speed spacing that will work with 11 speed shifters. One note, use a metal spacer since plastic ones might get crushed. The spacer that allows 11 speed hubs to use a 10 speed cassette works perfectly in my experience. No need to change your Chris King classic hubs for an 11spd road hub. The ultra r8000 can be run that way as well.


If you have the classic and are experiencing drag on your chain when coasting you need to service or replace the large hub bearing. This bearing takes a beating because it goes from 0 mph to 32 mph instantly every time one decides to coast at 32 mph. That is 0 revolutions per second to 7 revolutions per second instantly. Have you ever watched the tires of a Jet plane smoke when it touches the ground on a landing? Same principle.

Hi Robert,

This is an interesting point. Have you replaced the big bearing and solved the drag ‘issue’ if we can even call it that? Though I have a pair of brand new Chris King ISO (same parts as the classic/different hubshell) that have less than 500km in the dry on them and they show the same drag when backpedalling as the Classics (which have many years/kms on them). In addition (and I could be very wrong) airplane tyres are grippy rubber touching down on rough asphalt so not exactly the same case with balls in polished bearing races (+lubrication). I am definitely curious if you have actually tested it.



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