Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ZhERO, My Hero.

My Hero.
There's a new "secret weapon" out there to make you faster than you ever knew you could be. In fact, this revolutionary "secret weapon" earns you more speed with no additional effort, simply by tackling a problem that is so huge that most people probably had no idea it was a problem -- hub lag. That's just how outside the box the creators of the ZhERO hub are. And keep in mind that people who think outside the box don't say things like "outside the box." Given that I've just said "outside the box" four times in three sentences, I believe I have just placed myself squarely inside the box.

One of the first things you'll notice about the hub is its quirky-clever name. ZhERO. Kind of like "Zero - My Hero." How wonderful you are.

Caution: The song kind of sticks with you.

All kidding aside. This hub will revolutionize the bicycle. It makes you faster. Not just faster, but much faster. I know this because they say so in their Kickstarter ad. Just take it from Ed O'Neill, TV's Al Bundy:

See how fast the word "faster" looks in italics? If that ain't proof then I just don't know what is.
By the way, I loved this guy on Married With Children.

So, how does the ZhERO hub deliver power you didn't even know you had in you? By eliminating that annoying, power-robbing "lag" when you transition from "power off" to "power on" -- that is, from coasting to pedaling. You see, most other rear hubs have as much as 10 degrees of lag (or even more -- I'm looking at YOU Campagnolo!) from the moment you start to pedal to when the power actually gets applied to the rear wheel. Here are some numbers:

And here's what it looks like:
Every millimeter counts.

And here are some graphs that prove everything:

Notice that the graph line marked "time" doesn't actually indicate any specific units of measurement. Are we talking minutes, seconds, milliseconds, millenia? But the red line clearly "lags" about 11 behind the white line. Can't argue with that.
Oddly enough, there is NO mention, no pictures, no graphics of any kind that give an indication of how the makers have come up with a freewheeling hub that has no lag, considering that lag is simply a function of how any ratcheting mechanism works. The "lag" is a direct result of the size of the teeth in the ratchet. Do they use really tiny teeth? And if so, how durable can they be? Or is it some kind of spring-loaded friction clutch? There isn't even a hint.

The Aussie company that makes the ZhERO has no less a celebrity retired bicycle racer to endorse them than Australian Robbie McEwen. He has 3 x Green Jersey's, by the way. (And no, that is not how one uses an apostrophe.)

"Throughout mah career Ahve ridden just about every wheel tahpe that's ever been made." (those aren't typos - that's just mah lame attempt at capturing McEwen's accent)

McEwen stresses that those 10 degrees of lag -- which can be as much as 4 mm (!) -- are 10 degrees that you're missing out on when you could be generating powah. McEwen adds that that powah is coming on all the way through the pedal stroke, even when your foot's at 12 o'clock. Nevermind that nobody is getting much power to the pedals at the 12 o'clock/6 o'clock position, and it isn't because of hub lag. It's just the basic physics of a bicycle crank. No - if you're truly serious about eliminating the "dead spots" in the pedal stroke, you need one of those Dpardo Sickle Cranks, or some Cranktip swing-arm pedals. Maybe throw in some oval chainrings, too. There's no shortage of questionable technology with promises of huge performance gains that can separate the performance addict from his money.
"This is going to revolutionize cycling."
"Whether you're climbing, or sprinting, or riding a time trial -- I see big differences there, too." Says McEwen. "Teams talk about going for marginal gains, finding every improvement in performance . . . Well, this isn't just a marginal gain. This is going to revolutionize cycling as far as drivetrains go."

See that? We're not just talking "marginal gains" here -- we're talking MILLIMETERS, people! Actually, I think this pretty much defines the term "marginal gains."

Lest you think that the ZhERO hubs only give a racer a few millimeters of an advantage, the company also claims all kinds of biomechanical and medical benefits, too. For example, you know that terrible shock that shoots through your legs and back every time you apply power to the pedals and the torque takes those several millimeters to to take hold? It can be debilitating. . . Okay, not really. But the makers of the ZhERO hub claim it "eliminates the shock of lock up through your muscles and joints."

"Your muscles are switched on earlier with each pedal stroke forcing both legs to work as one. Hill climbing you can dance from pedal to pedal equally without experiencing any form of lag, one experienced rider liken (sic) it to running on the bike." The only "lag" I've noticed when climbing is my legs when I'm dead tired at the end of a long ride and still have to get up that 18% grade of a hill to get home. And why would somebody compare it to "running on the bike" when a more natural simile would be that it feels like riding a fixed-gear?

And it's not just for racers, either. "From a Social rider to Road racing, Triathlete, TT specialist or Criterium the mechanical precision that the ZhERO brings will increase your endurance, performance & all round wellbeing on the bike." (really Questionable capitalization in that Sentence, by The way). I'm glad to know that the ZhERO hub will improve my wellbeing. That's perhaps the most unusual claim I've heard applied to a bicycle component.

McEwen isn't the only endorser of the ZhERO hub. There are also several triathletes you've never heard of who can attest to how this hub will change your life:

"Having tested the ZhERO & knowing that it takes 54,000 pedal strokes to complete the 180ks bike leg in a Ironman" (but who's counting?) "it is a no brainer for me I'd choose the ZhERO hub ever (sic) time because not only am I more efficient on the bike, my legs would be more balanced, less fatigued & fresher for the 42ks run."

Another says, "Having tested, trained & raced on the ZhERO from its early conception it's been a secret weapon that I would NEVER start a race without. The gain in efficency (sic) has only enhanced my cycling & triathlon career."

From conception? Okay.

Remember: Fred-dom begins at conception.


  1. the hyperbolic claims are kind of deja vu -- but I haven't written about the zhero hub before.

  2. Hub lag. So that's why I never won the Tour de France...

  3. Maybe they invented the track cog. No pesky ratcheting pawls or lost motion there.


  4. From looking somewhere on the zHero page it mentions they are using needle rollers and cams , which means a roller clutch - as used in such ground breaking racing equipment as Torpedo coaster hubs! In fact Sheldon's page on those hubs explain how it works better than zHero.
    Playing with a topedo hub, it does have an amazingly small amount of back lash, but once you've started pedaling who cares. If your pawls need to reengage every pedal stroke I think your style needs more work than your hub.

  5. More than you wanted to know about roller clutches in bicycles.....

    1. I wondered if it was some type of clutch mechanism. Thanks for that link -- very informative.