Bicycles

GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles aims to give bearings a break

The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
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The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
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The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
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The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
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The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
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The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
The GOKISO Aerospace Hub features a spherical nut and washer, to keep the hub straight regardless of the orientation of the dropouts (Image: Kondo)
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The GOKISO Aerospace Hub features a spherical nut and washer, to keep the hub straight regardless of the orientation of the dropouts (Image: Kondo)
The GOKISO Aerospace Hub has 0.5mm of play between the axle shaft and the hub body, to keep the bearings from being compressed (Image: Kondo)
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The GOKISO Aerospace Hub has 0.5mm of play between the axle shaft and the hub body, to keep the bearings from being compressed (Image: Kondo)

If you've ever watched the Tour de France and winced as all those skinny-wheeled racing bikes bounced over the cobblestone roads ... well, you were right to do so. Not only are such hard, rough surfaces capable of bending rims, but they're also hard on hub bearings - as the axle shaft flexes ever-so-slightly in response to hitting bumps, the ball bearings that encircle it are pressed against the hub's bearing races, both causing friction and potentially damaging the bearings. Japan's Kondo Machine Corporation, however, has created a product that is claimed to minimize this problem. It's the "jet-engine-inspired" GOKISO Aerospace Hub, and we spied it last week at the 49th Paris Air Show.

The big secret to the GOKISO hub is its ability to spring under pressure. In a traditional hub, the axle shaft is unyieldingly connected to the rest of the hub. This means that any time the shaft flexes, it immediately presses against the inside of the hub. At either end of the GOKISO, however, there's a half-millimeter of space between the shaft and the hub body. While that might not sound like much, it's reportedly enough to allow the shaft to deform under pressure, without coming into contact with the inside of the hub.

The GOKISO Aerospace Hub has 0.5mm of play between the axle shaft and the hub body, to keep the bearings from being compressed (Image: Kondo)
The GOKISO Aerospace Hub has 0.5mm of play between the axle shaft and the hub body, to keep the bearings from being compressed (Image: Kondo)

The Aerospace Hub also features two sets of deep-groove bearings at either end of the shaft (for a total of four per hub), whereas most hubs just utilize one shallow-groove bearing per end. Although deep-groove bearings are able to handle heavier loads, they are also less tolerant of misalignment. The springing action helps keep such misalignment to a minimum, but so do the hub's unique spherical nut and washer.

With a regular hub, there is absolutely no play between the axle and the bicycle's frame. According to Kondo, this means that the hub can be deformed when the wheel is mounted on the bicycle, as the axle bends to accommodate the inside angle of the dropouts. The Aerospace Hub's spherical nut and washer, however, are able to slide up and down against one another, instead of simply locking up face-to-face. This means that even if the front fork dropouts are splayed into a V-shaped orientation, the axle will still run straight between them, instead of bowing.

The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)
The GOKISO Aerospace Hub for bicycles is designed to keep bearings from getting compressed when the axle shaft deforms under pressure (Photo: Gizmag)

All of this innovation does come with a slight weight trade-off ... depending on what you're comparing it to. The front Aerospace Hub weighs 240 grams (8.5 ounces), with the rear tipping the scales at 455 (16 oz). By comparison, a Shimano Dura-Ace front hub weighs 125 grams (4.4 oz), while the rear sits at 254 (9 oz).

If you're interested in becoming a cycling pioneer, Kondo is currently selling a test batch of the GOKISO hubs on the company website. A front and rear hub together will set you back 150,000 yen, or about US$1,849.

The video below explains how the hubs work, in more detail.

13 comments
Slowburn
I was hoping that it would be magnetic bearings.
Mark A
I was hoping for 250kph.
greytoma
Cup and Corn bearings!!! presume cup and cone
Renārs Grebežs
And again, and again - why the draconian price tag?
Gadgeteer
A very expensive solution in search of a problem. Riders go thousands of miles on each set of cartridge bearings in conventional sealed bearing hubs. Water and dust contamination are the major causes of bearing wear and failure, not some insignificant axle flex. If axle flex was really a problem, just use oversize hollow axles like the old Phil Wood hubs or put a third bearing dead center in the hub shell to provide additional support against deflection. This is even more pointless than replacing steel bearings with expensive ceramic bearings.
PeetEngineer
I agree with Gadgeteer on all but the ceramic bearing comment. Yes, ceramic bearings are more expensive, but lower friction coefficients and thus less drag, less wear can be achieved with ceramic bushings/bearings that with steel bearings. Also, designing in some freeplay in order to reduce bearing loading is admirable, but using a better bearing and race which can cope with the loading in the first place is a better solution. Leave the \'suspension\' up to the tyre/spokes/fork. Hubs should be rigid. Personally, I love my durace hubs on my roadbike, but I also admire Chris King products; http://bertiebuck.co.uk/files/2011/05/Chris_King_rear_hub_cutaway.jpg A real aerospace solution would be to use a fluid film bearing, if that could be done...
Jay Finke
wow , just what we got to have, more bearings. how about a synthetic grease for the old bearings.. when was the last time you burnt out a set of bearing on your bike ? the hub on a bike turns so SLOW in the first place, the only place I could use a better wheel hub design, is on a wheelbarrow ! .. jay the pool pump motor repair guy in longwood Florida
Tylus
This looks like a two-grand Rube Goldberg contraption. Why not just use beefier axle and bearings to eliminatae the flex during shock loads?
conrad
Serious bikers pay a high premium to reduce weight. I don\'t think anyone would pay a premium to add weight just so a part that rarely wears out would very rarely wear out.
epochdesign
OVERKILL PLUS! This is exactly what happens when an aerospace engineer designs a bicycle part. I\'ve seen it many times before. And sure I need a $1600 bearing for my $80 wheelbarrow. Right. How about an unobtainium shoehorn? Cute idea but bad business decision. And what a waste of resource and money.