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  1. #1
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    Purpose of the thru axle?

    Posting my question here as I think I'd be more likely to get more detailed and reasonable answers from truly knowledgeable experts than answers that originated from speculation and generalized marketing repeating half-truths enough to make some poor interpretations become accepted facts.

    I've pondered the benefits of thru axles like 15QR, 20mm, 142x12, Lefty's tapered axle, and even pondered hub width benefits such as 135mm front hubs and 150m rear, and offset dropouts/dishing (Specialzed gravity rigs), and compared them to older standards like the road QRs. I also pondered the performance of smaller bearings vs bigger ones, and what a rider/bike really gains from using TA and what the performance and weight changes it incurs.

    After looking at the design of some hubs, especially hubs using angular contact bearings and bearing preloader adjusters like Chris King and Shimano, I'm seeing that hubs actually have true axles that are bigger in diameter than the actual TA. In the rear, the bearings might have various diameters and the axle is tapered to it (ex. driveside bearing much larger than non-driveside and freehub bearings), or maybe the axle has the angular race that mates properly with the bearings. In such hubs, the 15QR or 12mm TA are effectively oversized QR skewers, which go through the main axle and secure the wheel. What do these particular thru axles actually do? In comparison, road dropouts were rather simple, being narrow plates with a slot, with the hub axle ends tapering down to fit in that 9mm or 10mm slot in the dropouts, and sandwiching the hub/dropouts through contact points on the inside of the dropout and the outside. Was that not a secure enough connection to consider the fork or rear triangle to move as one-piece, which is what they promote thru axles doing? Specialized tried to maximize the contact point on the inside with their oversized end caps and some skewers worked better than others (ex. Shimano skewers vs cheap open cam skewers). What I do see TAs doing is sort of solidifying the fork or frame's rear triangle, with a wide and oversized brace, which eliminates possible weak points that give under load, like cheap skewers.

    This is where some of my simpler questions comes in, as I'm sure no one likes a big all encompassing question like "what's the purpose of a thru-axle", with people asking me to narrow it down.

    Why rear thru axles on hardtails?

    Why thru axles on rigid forks?

    Why 20mm instead of 15mm on forks?

    Why not wider hubs?

    I will try to answer the 20mm vs 15mm on forks, but the thru axles on rigid forks and hardtails completely baffles me, as if they were trying to move away from QR for the sake of killing QR on mtn bikes. Why 15mm: smaller hub shell size with 15mm, smaller bearings seem to spin faster and longer (see road wheels with super small bearings), already a lot of existing hubs components that can be adapted to 15mm, and is still lightweight and more suitable for XC-based* riding. Why 20mm: bigger bearings less sensitive to contamination, even stiffer "brace", going by the wisdom that bigger diameter tubes and wider spaced load points better handle loads more suitable for gravity-based riding. That is, if 20mm is wider end to end.

    Some assumptions I'm making to make this a bit more simpler to discuss: there's no issues with axles bending on bikes. Flex in hub shells don't cause bearing drag. Wheel build characteristics, in regards to dish, spoke bracing angles, straight or j-bend, flange height, etc. are unrelated to this. All these matter, but to tone down the complexity, I just wanted to focus on thru axles and the immediate benefits. *XC-based riding, in my definition, is riding that is composed of a lot of human-powered speed (pedaling); you can do drops, and jumps, and stick on a dropper post to be really good on the gravity portion, and call yourself AM, but if you had to pedal for more than half, the pedaling-based benefits can't be ignored.

    Basically, I will be sad if 15QR and 12mm in some senseless implementations is basically just them trying to kill QR. I'm getting the impression that the bike industry is just investing in refreshing ideas that stick in order to improve their profit margins, even though it might not be exactly optimized. If it means not needing to separately design a QR version and a 12/15mm version, thinking that 12/15mm will be the new overwhelming standard due to consumers relentlessly demanding it, despite their ignorance, and manufacturers saying that their bottom line is that they can't afford to build everything; are these manufacturers deciding on one that they reason is the best compromise, basically gambling on one thing, at risk of making customers, who think they're being forced to go with this flow, to go elsewhere if they don't like it?

    I'm just kind of confused by why there seems to be so much demand for 20mm and thru axles (and other questionable standards like larger crank spindles), which I'm reminded of after reading news and consumer comments on the new RockShox Pike fork. Some respectable manufacturers seem to be kind of ignoring the demand; did they learn that it's only an outspoken few on the forums demanding this or something?
    Last edited by dv8xin; 04-06-2013 at 04:26 AM.
    I like to jump to conclusions, oversimplify, gossip, and participate in popularity polls.

  2. #2
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    Holy crap is that a long post. I got bored a few paragraphs in but I get your main point. Are TA better?

    First, yes. They add stiffness that you really can feel. I also think the bigger you are the more you'll notice it. On a front hub, the quick release skewer goes through the hub axle and essentially pinches the wheel into the dropouts. You are right in that the axle is actually bigger than the QR skewer. But, you are wrong in thinking that a thru axle is the same, only bigger, and rides inside another larger axle. The TA actually rides on the bearings. Plus, it actually screws into the fork leg, it isn't "pinching" the wheel on. If you watch the fork dropouts on a QR fork, you can see the. Pull the dropouts together as you close the lever. TA is not the same. I can tell a huge difference in fork stiffness to the point that I could make my brake disc rub on hard corners with a QR fork.

    I also think The fork lowers are made stiffer on TA vs QR.

    I have not ridden a TA rear but I gather that it is very much the same as the fork in that you are not pinching the wheel into place. You are literally bolting it in.

    Last point I can make, the axles on a TA front or rear are bigger and therefor should be stiffer in theory. I'm sure someone's done that testing...

  3. #3
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    What kind of stiffness? How much?

    "They add stiffness that you really can feel." That's very vague and not very helpful. Thinking (AKA speculating) isn't too helpful either. That TA screw action does "pinch" the hub, BTW. Thanks for your perspective though, and leading me on another research path. I did my own research and found Fox fork QR -> 15QR tested claimed improvements.


    25% increase in transverse shear stiffness - means the fork legs function as a single unit, improving suspension performance and front end confidence when forces on the wheel are not even on each side.


    15% increase in torsional stiffness



    I'm wanting to ask Fox directly, how did they test? Do they have a machine that connects to the dropouts in place of a hub/skewer? If not, I want to ask what hub and skewer did they use, if they used one?

    With a hub tightly fastened into the dropouts, with the end of the nut and endcaps with serrated grippers, I really don't see how they can slip inside the dropouts. The 15QR has a wider interface, both set wider, and with a wider contact surface, which adds stiffness over the narrower QR dropouts... I'm simply left wondering with a healthy amount of skepticism about what the problem is here. Cheap weight weenie skewers?

    I see that's addressed in these articles:
    - Bicycle Quick-release Skewers
    - AngryAsian: Death To Crappy Quick-release Skewers - BikeRadar
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  4. #4
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    Two things about your response. When I said the hub is pinched into the qr dropouts I was correct. The thru axle does pull the dropouts together a bit but the wheel is not being held in place due to the dropouts being pulled in - the axle is screwed into place. The pinching in a TA fork is mainly removing the play and is not the primary means of retention as in a QR.

    the last point I will make is that you are taking this way further than necessary for 99.9% of riders to worry about. Proof is that I'm the only ******* that's responded so far. And, you're better off just getting with the program. QR as a standard is going away so I'm not sure what your whole point in posting this is. Understanding The stiffness of your fork is a trivial concern when exploring it for its own sake. Why not just test ride one and see if it make a difference in YOUR riding. Base your decisions on its merits by your own experiences.

  5. #5
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    Oh, and I've seen very few people complain about the TA movement. It really is forward progression in the mtb industry. Do you really think that when world class DH riders give their feedback saying that the difference between qr and 20mm TA is huge, manufacturers would dismiss that feedback???

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by dv8xin View Post
    What kind of stiffness? How much?

    "They add stiffness that you really can feel." That's very vague and not very helpful. Thinking (AKA speculating) isn't too helpful either. That TA screw action does "pinch" the hub, BTW. Thanks for your perspective though, and leading me on another research path. I did my own research and found Fox fork QR -> 15QR tested claimed improvements.


    25% increase in transverse shear stiffness - means the fork legs function as a single unit, improving suspension performance and front end confidence when forces on the wheel are not even on each side.


    15% increase in torsional stiffness



    I'm wanting to ask Fox directly, how did they test? Do they have a machine that connects to the dropouts in place of a hub/skewer? If not, I want to ask what hub and skewer did they use, if they used one?

    With a hub tightly fastened into the dropouts, with the end of the nut and endcaps with serrated grippers, I really don't see how they can slip inside the dropouts. The 15QR has a wider interface, both set wider, and with a wider contact surface, which adds stiffness over the narrower QR dropouts... I'm simply left wondering with a healthy amount of skepticism about what the problem is here. Cheap weight weenie skewers?

    I see that's addressed in these articles:
    - Bicycle Quick-release Skewers
    - AngryAsian: Death To Crappy Quick-release Skewers - BikeRadar
    I know you're looking for facts, and they do exist within the World of Physics & Strengths of Materials, but..............


    I think what they're getting at is ... If one side is looser than the other, torsional stiffness is compromised.
    A QR would keep both sides equal ... But a properly tightened TA............

    I'm with you, about them needing to provide more details.
    The outcome seems intentionally skewed toward a QR being better ... I guess it is, for those who can't operate a wrench.

    As to your basic concern,
    I think a lot of it is hype and compromise to overcome various issues ... And I think you nailed the biggest one.
    Weight weenies !!
    Most don't have the budget of a team sponsor, and thus demand strength and durability from a product, while demanding that an extra tenth of a gram be taken out of said product.

    QR is a road-race/track convenience that propagated to the consumer market and filtered into MTB.

    Titanium Skewer ... Anyone ?

    Diameter affects stiffness, but it also affects weight, and any good materials book will tell you that the stiffness to weight ratio of most metals is equal, plus or minus about 2%.

    It's all compromises ... And in the 70's a BMX guy would laugh if you said hey let's put a QR axle on your bike, and they still would today.

    Good luck on your research ... And keep going after Google, because the majority of what you'll read here is, as you say opinion

    /opinion.

  7. #7
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    Re: Purpose of the thru axle?

    Agree with mnigro here.

    Dv8, you're right to be skeptical of new tech and question marketing, i would love to see real stiffness test results, for example placing the fork under static loads in different directions and measuring displacement. But we'll probably never get those from a manufacturer because 1) most consumers don't like math, 2) they may fear they are revealing proprietary I.P. even though its not rocket science and most competitors probably won't be able to get any competitive advantage from it.. Rockshox certainly tests fox's forks and vice versa anyways. And let's say they published these. They are easily manipulated, you could run the test 10 times from 10 different angles till you found the stress vector that beats your competition. Look at motor oil marketing. Every oil beats every other oil, with great graphs!

    But, that shouldn't stop you from buying a TA, since most bike decisions are made without this detailed data anyways. You didn't see these reports before you bought your last frame or wheels right? But you still bought them.

    Besides what mnigro said (or maybe he did tl;dr ), i think its important to add that the TA has tighter tolerance at the contact point with the dropout. When you put a wheel in a qr dropout, the smaller diameter nub on the end of the qr endcap rests loosely in the dropout with a lot of play, and its only the pinching force and the serations on the qr flange that eliminate this. On a TA, the axle fits EXACTLY in the fully round, enclosed dropout.

    Despite buying my first TA without seeing data, its definitely stiffer. My asr5 has dropouts that can be switched back and forth, and my dt swiss hubs have swapable end caps for qr and TA. I tried switching it back as an experiment and i felt that i could feel the difference (though to be fair it could be psychological). But, this is a one piece rear triangle with no cross bracing on the seat stays at all, until it attaches directly the wishbone at the seatstay pivot. Would i notice the same difference on a hardtail? I don't know. The only way to know is to ride lots of bikes till you can feel the difference in these designs.
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  8. #8
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    There's an article at the end of the Sheldon Brown one, which states a problem I've actually faced—cheap QR skewers coming loose due to disc brakes and vibration (Disk brake and Quick Release problem). How tight are you supposed to make them? On hubs that rely on QR skewer tension for preloading the bearings... are there any? I think DT hubs have end caps that have a seat for the bearings and a seat for the end caps, and the step in the end cap seat prevents the end cap from creating preload-related drag, from high skewer tension. Varying skewer tension, and the loose tolerances ddprocter made a point about, seems to affect disc brake caliper alignment too.

    Those QR skewer articles tell a lot about how skewers vary in quality and how they may be a problem that led to this. People have fears about Ti skewers and such and it's also popular opinion that have got them to be accepted by some mountain bikers. My stance on such popular opinion may make me antagonistic, since I consider them to be likely placebo effect, unless they comprehensively considered all possible factors that could have skewed results, and I can say a lot about how marketing efforts can stretch the truth a bit. You know, after all the class action lawsuits on false advertising, I'm surprised the bike industry isn't hit and such legal issues might be what prevents some from sharing test results.

    Note my questions please. I'm aware people go TL;DR and maybe are just trying to answer after reading the topic question and maybe skimming. I'm particularly interested in:

    Why rear thru axles on hardtails?

    Why thru axles on rigid forks?

    Why 20mm instead of 15mm on forks?

    Why not wider hubs?

    What kind of stiffness? How much?

    Santa Cruz has a fairly outspoken engineer by the name, Joe Graney. If you do a search on him, you'd find quite a few interviews on him, and he even has his own "corner" on the Santa Cruz site (Santa Cruz Bicycles COMPANY). The things you find when you search a manufacturer's website, besides going straight to the product pages and looking at simple specs... I learned so much about carbon and such from reading what engineers had to say, rather than marketing. Well, what I'm wondering is what made these guys go back on their word, saying that TA doesn't do anything worth its price and weight increase for the rear of their VPP or CVA swingarms. I can't find anything about why there's a TA on something such as a Niner rigid fork; to me, it looks like that fork was made ultrastiff already and I highly doubt a TA would give it 15% torsional stiffness and 25% traverse, if you foolishly applied Fox test data to it. The Highball carbon and Superfly hardtails also went TA and Trek mechanics have said that it's simply to make it simpler to carry 1 type of wheel (142x12), as the TA actually helps on their Superfly 100 FS models. I believe Niner and Santa Cruz said that 142x12 is simply the way high end race level bikes are going.

    Well, I suppose I can call this a curiosity that I had researched enough to believe/fear that the QR is unrightfully being killed off, more than anything. The basics are, if a rear end or fork was flexy enough to begin with, then it has plenty of potential to be stiffened up a lot by a TA. Those that have already stiffened up their chassis with just more mass or through clever design, probably don't have as much to gain and are probably just "going with the flow", or maybe worse, with lightening it up to allow the TA to provide a benefit while offsetting the TA's weight. With that go-with-the-flow perspective, lets ask the questions:

    Why not go 142x12 on all new high end frames, regardless of HT, FS with fully triangulated 1 piece rear ends, or whatever? Wheel/hub convertibility, cost, and weight seem to be the only issues really on the consumer side. On the manufacturing side, there's new parts and molds, extra labor intensive quality checks that may affect yields... what else?

    I guess MTBR sage advice regarding this could be: K.I.S.S., ignorance is bliss, or maybe a not so well-known Confucius quote, "Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated."
    Last edited by dv8xin; 04-07-2013 at 06:53 PM.
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  9. #9
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    thru axles self align the wheels and the rotor. that alone makes it sweet.

    marketing? if it comes with a new bike, that is the same price as last years model, then its free.

  10. #10
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    When disc brakes on road bikes start becoming ubiquitous, I wonder...
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  11. #11
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    mnigro is right. It's also difficult to explain, it's like explaining Rock'N'Roll to someone who's never heard one before. The answer can be pretty easy just play a song, in your case just buy them all, like me, now I know. It was money well spent, my curiosity was well satisfied.

    Going up in size (diameter, and stiffness) will not provide you an in your face difference on a normal trail riding, til you are going back down to the 9qr, then the difference is quite in your face. The front would feel a bit more squirmy than you are used to with bigger axle format. We are talking about downward force not torsional(twisting) mainly. Torsional force mainly depends on the upper fork design not relying on the aid of axle format.



    The only way you can be sure is to ride with larger format for a few months then switch back, comparing the 2 side by side for the first time may not give you the answer you are seeking. TA makes you go faster because they are stiffer and more stable in the corner, for example.

    Data on paper may show huge improvement but it's the rider who gets to validate the data. It takes a long time for an avg rider to find out about flex and stiffness on his/her own thru riding, the good news is once you know the sensation you can detect much smaller sensation after that. I've been riding one of my bike for years til I confirm the rear end flex, after that I know what to look for. It's not necessary a bad trade, just difference.

  12. #12
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    Purpose of the thru axle?

    Quote Originally Posted by dv8xin View Post

    Why rear thru axles on hardtails?

    Why thru axles on rigid forks?

    Why 20mm instead of 15mm on forks?

    Why not wider hubs?
    Thru axles on hardtails

    Manufacturer's and the public's perception is increasingly that thru axles will be the standard for mountain bikes going forwards. By adopting it now it becomes a marketing tool which could sway some buyers towards a particular brand. Stiffness is one claim but there are some other reasons why you may want front and rear thru axles on a mountain bike also, even if the bike doesn't have suspension.

    http://www.syntace.com/index.cfm?pid=1&pk=1314

    Benefits of a 142x12mm rear thru axle that apply on a hardtail:

    - The wheel won't fall out of the frame if the skewer works loose, increasing safety.

    - Using disc brakes a thru axle makes it much easier to remove and fit wheels without needing to re-align the brake caliper with the rotor afterwards. The thru axle can be consistently tightened so that the wheel is in the same position each time.

    - Wheel interchangeability with other bikes owned. Here's a Trek pro team example from 2012 where they had 142x12mm dropouts on their hardtails for practical reasons. The same thing applies to anyone who owns multiple bikes.

    http://www.bikeradar.com/mtb/news/ar...totypes-33806/

    - Consistency across the manufacturers range where their other frames all have 142x12mm thru axles. eg: Pivot Les 29er hardtail. Bikes such as the Pivot Les 29er hardtail and Intense Hard Eddie hardtail that are available with 142x12mm rear thru axles also have replaceable dropouts for singlespeed conversions. With replaceable dropouts a 142x12mm rear thru axle could possibly stiffen the rear end of a bike like this?

    http://www.pivotcycles.com/bikes/detail/12

    http://intensecycles.com/hard-eddie/

    - Using a 142x12mm rear thru axle also allows the adoption of different rear derailleur hanger designs:

    http://www.norco.com/news/3899/get-t...-here-to-stay/


    Thru axles on rigid forks

    The same marketing, inter-compatibility, safety, and ease of wheel removal benefits apply to a rigid fork as with a hardtail frame.

    Why 20mm instead of 15mm on forks?

    15mm thru axles are intended as being a replacement for the traditional quick release skewer. Longer travel forks (eg: Fox 36 series and Rock Shox Lyrik) have 20mm thru axles because for the added stiffness its minimal weight penalty isn't such an issue on a product that's aimed more towards the downhill market.

    Have a look at these threads:

    http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/tech...._racing_shox09

    Stiffness Quantified Between QR and 15mm forks

    Fox 34 vs Rock Shox stiffness, tested

    ARE YOUR EXSPENSIVE AM 20mm THROUGH-AXLE WHEELS, OBSOLETE WITH QR15???

    Why not wider hubs?

    There are several potential benefits to having a wider hub for the front wheel on a mountain bike. Chances are this is something that will happen in the future. It means that the fork and hub manufacturers have to agree between themselves on what standard to adopt though. I'd guess it's down to that.
    Last edited by WR304; 04-11-2013 at 04:34 PM.

  13. #13
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    Safety is a big reason for thru axle, but I think one side benefit is that old QR dropouts wear over time and then the wheel doesnt line up right.
    whatever...

  14. #14
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    Thanks for that response, WR304. +rep for sure.

    I like German bike mags that post quantifiable test results. Would like to know how they test, such as how they rig up the forks, but the results seem rather straightforward and there probably can't be too many variables that would affect the results that much.

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  15. #15
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    Purpose of the thru axle?

    There's a comment about thru axles and braking performance on road bikes (rigid frames) when compared to QR skewers here:

    Do you see thru axles as improving the road bike with regards to brake performance?

    “We’ve done some testing, but we couldn’t tell an appreciable difference.”
    Paul Kantor, SRAM

    http://www.bikerumor.com/2013/04/15/...s-first-rides/

    There are some rear thru axle links and discussion in this thread too.

    2011 Epic S-Works and S-Works 29

    This test was comparing the stiffness of quick release skewers, thru bolts and thru axles for the rear wheel. (thru bolt is where the skewer threads into a nut, thru axle is where the skewer threads directly into the fork or frame dropout).


  16. #16
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    Why 20mm instead of 15mm on forks?
    This article has a response to the 15mmTA from Rock Shox (see the box in green).

    www.cyclingnews.com - the world centre of cycling
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  17. #17
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    A 29er I had up to last year originally had a quick release reba up front, after a couple months I realized the front end was a little flexy in super technical situations. I bought a reba with a 20mm thru axle and rebuilt the front wheel with the appropriate hub and viola, what a huge difference, I was kicking myself for not doing it sooner. My jump/urban assault hardtail I bought several years ago came with a quick release fork, then I hit a tree and bent it. I upgraded to an argyle with 20mm axle, again, huge difference. There's a good reason why you haven't been able to buy a downhill bike with quick release wheel in like, what, over a decade? IMHO I don't see the necessity for thru axles on my bikes with no suspension, my body is busy dealing with the jolting it's taking from trail trash to notice any flex, and it's possible a little flex might not be such a bad thing in those situations. When I started adding 29ers to my stable years ago I realized those bigger diameter wheels with longer spokes flex a lot more than 26ers and they really do need thru axles. And now with the newer generation of longer travel 29ers, aka longer fork stanchions and chainstay/seatstays, thru axles are a necessity to keep the bike from feeling like it's going to fall apart. If nothing else I like thru axles for the ability to repeatedly self align the wheel in the dropouts, no more setting and double checking to get the rotors and calipers properly aligned, they are infinitely easier to use, and they are idiot proof in the sense that a noob can't have a quick release wheel fall out of a dropout for whatever reason.

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