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  1. #1
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    NuVinci N360: Amateur Review

    DISCLAIMER: I am not by any means an expert rider and I have not tried every piece of equipment out there or ridden every type of trail. The premise of this review is to provide observations of the real-world performance of the NuVinci N360 hub with as much detail as possible. It is not meant to be an endorsement or advertisement, just data for people to draw from, with a few of my personal opinions along with it. Yes, the hub is heavy. No, it's not for everyone. Just don't give me crap because I write way, way too much or have stupid opinions.


    BACKGROUND: I'm 6'3", 215 lbs and like to break things. My singletrack bike is a large Surly Karate Monkey with a Fisher Rig build kit and a Fox F29 80mm fork. It's been set up mostly as single speed, but also ridden with a 1x9 setup for a while. As a SS it weighed in at just under 30 lbs. I built up the N360 hub to a Stan's ZTR Flow rim with a way-fatter-than-2.35 Bontrager FR3 tire. The whole setup brought the complete bike weight up to 33.6 lbs. There really isn't a single part of this bike chosen for weight reduction or speed, more for comfort and durability.


    WHEEL BUILD: A friend at my LBS helped me string up the wheel. I'll spare the details except for one anecdote: every time my friend lifted it out of the truing stand he kept thinking it was stuck, only to realize that it's just way heavier than an average cassette hub. Listen to the NuVinci recommendations and lace 2x at most (for 36h), because the diameter of the flange is so large it will be even stronger than a 3x Alfine, in fact because you end up with shorter spokes it's a lot like a 26" wheel laced 3x-4x on a standard hub. Otherwise, it builds up really easily. I noticed that the wheel has a significant amount of extra drag on the truing stand compared to a basic freewheel hub, but it is not really noticeable on the bike and that resistance drops as the hub goes through it's "break-in."


    BIKE SET-UP: Installing on the bike is straight-forward. Make sure the yellow marking on the hub are lined up, put the shifter mechanism in full overdrive, and line up the slots. There are manufacturer recommendations for the length of cable that needs to be showing out the end of the housing when the ends are installed (this is a two-cable set-up) with simple instructions that will get you in the ball park...follow those directions. Once everything is routed and (likely zip-tied) in place, shift the hub to full overdrive and check for cable slack, then do the same for full underdrive. Cable slack WILL screw up the shifter (more on that below).


    TEST RIDE: After installation and cable tensioning, a quick trip around the parking lot is a good idea to make sure the shifter is working properly and you're getting the full range of motion. I had some slack in both cables at first, which will cause the grip shifter to click and make noise and not behave properly. After adjusting the stops at the end of the cables, then tightening up the barrel adjusters on the shifter, all the clicks went away and everything works flawlessly. I recommend checking for cable slack after the first several rides, especially if you get any noise from the shifter, that will likely solve any problems.


    FIRST RIDE: I took a loop that would involve about 10 miles of speed road riding, with about 2.5 miles of flowy singletrack in the middle at Lake Crabtree. Nothing crazy, just wanted to see how the gear range felt, and how it felt on the road and on the trail. Mine is set up with a 32T front ring and 18T cog, making for a total range equivalent to 32:36 up to 32:10. On downhills I could spin out the top gear, but never needed to go any faster than I was going, then on the trails I ride regularly there aren't any climbs that I need a lower gear for. This is all the range I need for what I ride, but you can figure out if that's enough range for you.


    RIDE IMPRESSIONS: I'll say this first: after letting about 10 other people tool around on my bike and play with it, the first two words without fail they use to describe it are "weird" and "smooth." It's very appropriate. First, shifting is as you would expect (except that twisting forward shifts to a lower gear), you twist and it shifts. There is no grinding, crunching, or clicking...you're pedaling cadence just changes, making for a surreal feel over even the other IGHs. There is zero noise, no jerking forces on your legs, no missed shifts, no out-of-gear or ghost shifting sensation...it just shifts, is always in gear and works. My friend commented, "it's weird riding with you and being able to hear you shift gears."

    The added resistance of the hub is barely noticeable, but it is there. The added weight is only majorly obvious when you pick the bike up (remember, that's from my perspective, I'm not a weight weenie). During the first couple rides, the only odd feeling I noticed was when the bike was in full underdrive (32:36) and I was mashing up hill, I could "feel" the fluid in the hub. It wasn't a grinding, more of a swishing feeling that has since faded, as I suspect it is some break-in related symptom (note: there is no malfunction or slippage in this condition, just and odd feeling at first). I did put markings on the tire and test for slippage by checking rotation ratio under no load by just rotating the cranks freely with the bike in a stand, then did the same with extreme torque, mashing scenario. RESULT: there is zero slippage in this hub. You may perceive something as slipping, but I assure you that is not the case. Inefficiency via drag, sure, but you will not make it slip.

    This specific feature is one of the reasons I wanted to be an early adopter. It really is never out of gear, no jerking or sharp forces during shifting, you just pedal along so no matter what when you step on the pedal, you know what to expect. Already my knees feel better riding on this than they did on the 1x9. Of course, this is personal preference, so I'll leave it at that.

    So far, this bike has ridden like a SS. No drivetrain or chain tensioning issues, I can just spray it down after a ride if I want, no maintenance. I wail on wheels, not because I'm so skilled, but because I'm big and lack finesse. The point is, you'll break something else before you ever break anything in this hub. The next test is to go outside the NuVinci recommended gearing range and put a 22T cog on the back and start piling on the torque on the steepest climbs I can find (they say it should be at least 1.8:1 chainwheel/cog ratio as a very generic guideline). From my testing so far I am fairly confident in saying the hub is plenty stout for any type of riding you would do.


    SHIFTER: I'm putting a whole separate section for the shifter because in many ways it's the most used and most critical part of this whole set up. If not set up properly as discussed earlier and cable slack is not eliminated from both cables, then you will have shifter issues. For argument's sake, let's say anyone that has this hub will know how to turn a barrel adjuster and it will be set up properly. What I was interested in was how it shifted in different riding conditions. The gear indicator with the little cartoon dude on the hill is pretty awesome if you're goofy like me (I almost never look at it while actually riding anyways).

    First, you can shift at a dead stop. This can be handy for obvious reasons and it's very light pressure to shift, however if you are completely stopped then it will only shift through about half of its range before you're met with a ton of resistance. NOTE: do not wrench on it to try to get it to shift the rest of the way through, you will just stretch the cables. If you just rotate the rear wheel at all (i.e.- start moving) then you can just as easily shift through the rest of the range. Not a performance issue, just something to be aware of. Where I find the shift-anytime feature most useful is when descending, knowing I'm about to hit a steep climb and I need to be a lower gear to maintain my momentum. I can be standing up, focusing on the descent, just twist the shifter a quarter turn, and when I start pedaling I'm already in that gear, period. Once I got used to doing this and how far to turn the shifter for an approximate gear change, it became super easy and comfortable (and it can bail you out of sloppy riding with immediate shift response).

    Normal riding and shifting is extremely easy. There really isn't a better word for it than "smooth." It just works, try one and you'll get it, instantly. Now, what people are more concerned about is shifting under load. The best way I can describe it is that there is a limit to how quickly you can shift under a really high load. If you're loading the pedals to the maximum you will be met with a ton of shifter resistance, so you don't want to be really cranking on the pedals and the shifter at the same time, but it will work. If you let off for even just the top/bottom of your pedal stroke for just a fraction of a second, the shifter will loosen up and change gears easily. I found that it's easy to shift while climbing, particularly if shifting to a lower gear, but you do have to use more force on the shifter to get it to obey you. That will likely be another personal preference thing, because for me I'd trade a little extra wrist force for continuous, uninterrupted power transfer/gear change, instead having the crank slip a 1/8 turn while shifting or the sudden change jerking on my legs (again, this is a personal preference).


    OVERALL OPINION: Yes, that says opinion, because this is how I feel about this hub:

    If you have a chance to ride one, DO IT.

    Chances are you won't love it. It's not meant for everyone, but it is totally cool. The majority of riders, particularly trail riders, aren't even going to be able to get past the additional 3-4 lbs of weight. Obviously, it's aimed at recreational riding, not performance/racing and as my riding buddy says, "you'd have to be nuts to think I'm adding weight to my race bike." Granted, but that's not the point of this hub from a mountain/trail bike perspective.

    I love this hub because it's: (A) easy to use (2) unbelievably predictable, (d) 100% reliable, and 4) I'm a big dude. I am the opposite of a weight weenie and am not a racer, so my bike is outfitted to be bullet-proof and fun, while allowing me to get a workout. Adding 2% to my total rider + bike weight? Not a problem to me. What I always hated was the way that derailers shift, the effect it has on your legs and pedal stroke, and the risk of damage to cages, chain slap, ghost shifting, adjustment and maintenance, etc. If you don't have a problem with derailers and prefer race-ready components, you likely will not be a huge fan of this hub. If you hate derailers, you'll probably fall in love with it instantly. Either way, it's completely fun and totally different from any other gear system out there.



    Hopefully the length of this post hasn't deterred people from bothering, I tend to ramble, I just figured that someone out there might actually appreciate knowing some of this stuff if they can't actually test one for themselves. If you're in the Raleigh, NC area I tend to ride at Lake Crabtree during lunch whenever I can, I'm always happy to talk about bikes and let you check it out. Pictures of my bike are attached below.

    -Tom
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails NuVinci N360: Amateur Review-img_3705.jpg  

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    NuVinci N360: Amateur Review-img_4445.jpg  

    NuVinci N360: Amateur Review-photo.jpg  


  2. #2
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    I can confirm the swishy feeling upon cranking in granny ratio when the hub is still young. Didn't affect my speed or anything, and it's diminished a bit since. Example: on something pretty steep, lowest ratio, seated, stomping on it will result in an expectedly awkward wheelie, not slippage.

    I'd honestly like to see what a racer could do with it. I swapped bikes with a pal of mine on some really twisty singletrack. I kept up with him, barely, while riding my own bike. When I took his bike, he took a few turns getting used to it, and then he was VERY hard to keep pace with out of the corners. If you transition the ratio evenly, you can keep a really steady cadence without letting up for indexed shifts.

    The only complaints I have so far:

    1) The weight makes for bunny hops that feel a little different. This was detectable on a Surly Pugsley that was 33 lbs as a single speed. I use the manual-rotate method of bunny hopping, like on a BMX bike. With the more rearward center of gravity, instead of feeling the bike rotate around the middle, it feels more like I'm sort of dragging the rear end up instead of flipping it up. Now, I don't really notice it. I can still do endos with it.

    2) That the shifter indicator can't be reversed. Personally, I didn't care for the shift direction, and decided to swap the cabling so that it's more like a SRAM grip shifter. This is a nitpick, because I also rarely look at the indicator while riding.

    3) Needs more shift range for road riding, or if you're a really fast rider. My fitness is increasing every month, and it's starting to get to where the hardest ratio isn't hard enough, and I find myself spinning a high cadence to get above 20 mph. Then again, I'm running a 32:20 ratio. I'm probably going to drop it to 32x16 or harder next spring.

    I think if it gained more range and lost another two pounds, it'd sell like hot cakes. I really like mine, though. Won't be going back.

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    Good points you make there. For me, the Karate Monkey's center of gravity is about 1/2" in front of the BB now, so it's kind of balanced out nicely with the rear weight addition. I haven't noticed any type of handling difference, but I'll switch back to my single-speed wheelset sometime soon and see if I notice anything going back.

    You're probably right about the range. It's the equivalent of a 10-36 cassette (which I guess would be a 1x11?) which I find to be way more than enough for trail riding, which is all this one hub will be used for right now, though I plan on getting another soon to build into a road/touring bike. Having it at 32/16 instead of 32/20 would certainly help you with road speed, but it depends on what you're using it for. Just riding around NC countryside roads testing out the hub I haven't needed anymore range on either end, but I'm also not going 30+ mph (so I could spin out the high gear, but that's normally just on downhills for me).

    I agree completely with your assessment though. If it basically became the Alfine 11, but a CVT, then it would certainly sell like some hot, hot cakes. But for the people that really want this or will fully appreciate the benefits, the weight and range won't be major detractors.

    Side note: I want your Pugsley. Nice build.
    "I applaud your stupid idea because it is genius." - Eric Sovern, Surly

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the user's view report, Tom. I can see one in my future.

    Drew: like the John Deere look of your build. The Pugdozer 'Cat' look is cool, too.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the comprehensive review...
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  6. #6
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    Tom

    Need some help, PM sent. Nice write up.

  7. #7
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    Reply sent, let me know if it helps.
    "I applaud your stupid idea because it is genius." - Eric Sovern, Surly

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    I just joined this forum, in spite of not being a mountain biker, so I could chime in. Largely because I thought I had only Nuvinci in Raleigh. Hey, Tom, I'll have to keep an eye out for you. The hub does attract some attention, and just this morning someone was questioning me about mine when I stopped for coffee. I don't have the N360, though. Mine is the previous model.

    When I read reviews before buying my hub, I read about "squishiness" in the lower end of the gears. I didn't think that description conveyed anything helpful... until I rode my bike. Yeah, in the lower end of the range it's squishy. Doesn't slip, just squish. I didn't realize that it went away as it got broken in. I thought I just got used to it.

    I made my wheel 3 times because I thought I could do a 3 cross on a 700 rim, and then because I didn't pay attention to the suggestion that all the spokes exit the same side of the flange on a side. Finally got it right and it's been solid.

    On gear range: You can run it with front gears. This requires a chain tensioner and takes a lot of single-speed simplicity out of the set up, but I used this in a bike with horizontal drops, so I needed a tensioner anyway. It was tricky getting a front derailler with enough reach given that the Nuvinci pushes the chain line out pretty far, but I got it working, and it worked fine. That said, after several months, I removed the front derailer. I just wasn't using it enough. Even the old model has enough of a gear range for my pokey self. If I was going for speed, it would be nice to have more range, but I rarely run out the top end, and when I do, it's time to coast and relax, which is what I do best.

    Great review, and I'm glad to find a fellow, local, Nuvinci rider.

  9. #9
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    I'm so tempted to pick on up for my cargo bike, but I want a lower gear. I've got an original Nuvinci on the bike now and I'm hurting on moderate hills while carrying a load. I purposely avoided a pricey Rohloff Speedhub on this bike because it's for around town and subject to being locked up, but I'm afraid the Rohloff is the only hub with a low enough low gear.

    If anyone has severely undergeared their Nuvinci, I'd love to hear from you.
    speedub.nate
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedub.Nate
    .... I purposely avoided a pricey Rohloff Speedhub on this bike because it's for around town and subject to being locked up, but I'm afraid the Rohloff is the only hub with a low enough low gear.

    If anyone has severely undergeared their Nuvinci, I'd love to hear from you.
    I have the original (Non-ATC made) NuVinci on a tandem (posted in the Tandem forum), it's running the equivalent of 1.87:1 ratio on a daVinci (no relation) independent pedal system. We have done many standing climbs (some we've made), and it's holding up pretty well. Keep in mind, we are not what I would consider a "good" tandem team, but we'll try anything.

    This, and the folks that have been using this hub for powered applications, indicates to me that it's somewhat over designed. I can't advocate that you under-gear it, but I'm considering lowering the gear ratio on our tandem.

    I believe the main failure mode has been the steel balls developing flats - the transmission depends on friction, and the harder you load the drive, the higher the pressure is on the balls.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedub.Nate
    I'm so tempted to pick on up for my cargo bike, but I want a lower gear. I've got an original Nuvinci on the bike now and I'm hurting on moderate hills while carrying a load. I purposely avoided a pricey Rohloff Speedhub on this bike because it's for around town and subject to being locked up, but I'm afraid the Rohloff is the only hub with a low enough low gear.

    If anyone has severely undergeared their Nuvinci, I'd love to hear from you.
    What's the lowest gear inch you can "legally" setup for a Nuvinci on a 26" wheel [say with a 2.0" tire]?

    I've been under gearing my Alfine with a 22T cog x 32T ring for a couple years now with no harm done.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
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  12. #12
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    The original hub suggested 2:1. I believe the new hub I think drops that just a smidge, but their website will say for sure.
    speedub.nate
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    I could have sworn I replied to this yesterday, but I guess it didn't take...at any rate:

    As far as my experience goes, I've had a lot of time on it now and it's all been just beating the crap out of it, awful miles. I've got it geared 32/18, so it gets me the equivalent of a 32/10 down to a 32/36 gear....and I don't think I would gear it any lower. The NuVinci guideline is at least a 1.8 gear ratio, but that of course depends on your size, your crank arm lengths, and how hard you mash, it's just a general guideline to start with according to NuVinci. With my size, standing up and mashing on that thing in the lowest gear you can feel the hub being affected by the torque on it. The design is still such that it is impossible to break and it's much more efficient than the first-gen under normal riding, but I get the feeling that the harder you load it the less efficient it gets (in the lowest gear). It's not a huge difference, but it's noticeable.

    That being said, I don't think it's in danger of failure in under-geared scenarios and would love to see what a 32/22 gear would do to it or if it feels any more or less sluggish. For me, I love it anyways, worst case scenario is it's keeping me in better shape.
    "I applaud your stupid idea because it is genius." - Eric Sovern, Surly

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    Shifter on drop bars?

    Hey guys, great information. I want to take my first foray into IGH and I'm trying to decide between the Alfine 8 and the Nuvinci. I wanted to run a mountain dropbar type set-up, something like the Salsa Woodchipper or On-one midge.
    My question is there enough adjustability in the twist shifting mechanism to fit on a non-MTB sized bar which usually has a smaller diameter?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by TBMD9er
    My question is there enough adjustability in the twist shifting mechanism to fit on a non-MTB sized bar which usually has a smaller diameter?
    No, the difference in bar size is substantial. Here's what I did:

    My Alfine 8 speed hub does dual duty on my El mariachi. In mountain guise I run flat bars with the shifter and Xtr calipers/levers. In road guise I run drop bars, drop V levers, bb7 calipers, and another alfine shifter that I've enlarged to fit.

    The enlarging takes quite a bit of filing/dremelling. You are removing ~1.5 mm from the clamp I.D. You'll get metal filings into the shifter bits if you don't wrap it up really good with tape or plastic. I wrapped mine up half-a$$ed and got filings inside it.

    I don't beleive you'd be able to make a gripshift work.

    Drew
    occasional cyclist

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    Alfine Brifters

    With a drop bar set-up there is the Versa VRS-8 brifter option as well. Have you tried these or just your modified one? Does anyone know of a drop bar in a MTB 25.4 mm diameter?

  17. #17
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    As far as getting a NuVinci to work on drop bars, I imagine another approach would be to replace the cable actuated shifting mechanism at the hub with a small electric motor, controlled by two buttons at the bars.

    (I didn't say it would be easy.)

  18. #18
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    I am not sure if this is a help or not.

    They are considerd road bars but in the commute section they were in a continuum with Mustache bars at one end these at the other and the On One and Gary? and I suppose Woodchipper in between. I have the widest version on a randonneur and think I will use them again as a drop on a trail bike.

  19. #19
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    What did you notice as far as the "efficiency"? I had the original, first NuVinci, and I didn't mind the weight so much, but it always felt like I was pedaling through thick pudding. A lot of effort, and no go. I wonder how this new one compares? Thanks for your review.
    - recognize

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    Short Answer: The N360 is way better than the N171, but it's still got some drag in lower ratios/high torque.

    Longwinded/Overdetailed Answer: I tend to agree that the weight of the hub is not all that detrimental to performance. Personally, I don't notice an extra 3 lbs climbing, but I'm neither small nor an olympic athlete. As for the "thick pudding" feel, this is still prevalent, but from my perspective it's only significant in the lowest gears when really grinding or putting heavy torque on the hub. No slip, you pedal and it moves forward, but it does drag more in the lowest ratios, the more torque you put on it.

    As a result, in riding with a group of my friends I can keep up no problem on a leisurely trail ride. However, if everyone is pushing it then I'll keep up with everyone through any part of the trail until we hit a hill, where they all very quickly drop me off the back. Basically, the hub is great for several things: epic-length rides where you want ultimate durability, riding for fun/leisure, commuting, and training. Three of the last four group rides I've been on with friends (only 4 or 5 of us each time) someone else has broken a derailer or had serious chain-throwing issues that have ruined their rides (and in some cases their entire bikes with the derailer getting sucked into the rear wheel)...that sucked for the ride, but made me feel better about my single-speed drivetrain simplicity.

    But enough of the anecdotes, if you want a bike to ride around that you can beat on without having extra parts to break or come out of adjustment, basically just something that works in all conditions no matter what that will also make you work a little bit harder in some sections, then the N360 is great for trail riding IMO. Not what you would want for racing (except maybe supreme endurance or something...maybe), or if your supreme goal is efficiency (but if that was the case you wouldn't consider a 5-lb hub), but its got its place.
    "I applaud your stupid idea because it is genius." - Eric Sovern, Surly

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    Great points, but most of those attributes are held by the Alfine as well. You give up Continuous variable for a lighter weight - and just as reliable and simple. With one less cable going to the rear hub as well.

    I think the NuVinci would be well-suited to a cargo bike, where weight is not a concern. If weight is ever a concern at all, like MTB up hills, I think the Alfine would be the better choice - unless you're dead-set on needing that continuously variable thing, which lost it's hype rather quickly for me. Maybe it was the drag I felt, but I was so excited about this new technology, but the excitement wore off very quickly when I had it.

    I went from the N171 "down" to a Nexus 7sp + roller brake, and it was a night and day difference, as far as speed, and ease of pedaling, and feeling that torque at the rear wheel.

    I'd still like to try the N360, but I don't have high expectations. Maybe one day they'll make the inside of it with hollow titanium spheres filled with helium or something. It's still new technology (even though DaVinci invented it a long time ago), and I'm sure it will keep getting better. They'll be Shimano XTR CVT's in eleven years.
    - recognize

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    Again, generally I agree. The Alfine 8 has been battle tested by many with fantastic results, it's serviceable by switching to oil bath for further decreased frictional drag, it's cheap and works well in all climates, and is two pounds lighter than the NuVinci. For all those reasons I will have one on my full-suspension bike build up that is meant for much more speed than my tank of a workout bike. It has enough range for my typical singletrack use (not as much as the N360, but I'm not looking at the 11 until it's been tested a bit).

    For you, no reason to go to the NuVinci. For me, the CVT characteristics are not a novelty and I still am extremely happy that I have that ability (I don't care so much about having infinite control over the specific gear ratio, more that no matter what I'm in gear at all times, that I'm not going to have to wait for a gearshift, that there's no "jerk" in the shift). For me, there is a significant difference between the Alfine and N360 shifting and I am willing to take on the other efficiency penalty for the benefit, at least for the applications I listed in my last post.

    Now, you did mention you haven't tried the N360, just the old N171, which is an entirely different hub and much improved in all aspects. Still doesn't get rid of all the issues you have with it, but you bring up another good point that this is just the second iteration of the hub. In a few years they will have shaved off another pound or two, increased the range, and improved the efficiency even further...maybe even fill it with titanium and helium. For what it is, I think it's pretty impressive, but what you say is right in general, and thus it's probably not going to win you over.
    "I applaud your stupid idea because it is genius." - Eric Sovern, Surly

  23. #23
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    Any experience with the N360 in winter (below freezing) riding? Thinking of using it on a commuter that doubles as an errand bike where the 1 x 9 is wide enough, but where a tweener ratio would be nice.

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    I don't have any experience commuting with it, but I've been riding here in the snow and on trails in the 20s F with no issues on rides up to 2.5 hours. The hub has drag to begin with but it doesn't increase in any noticeable way when it's cold out. No failures, slippages, or lack of movement or anything like that, it just keeps working the same as before. Not a scientific sample, but it's something. If you like it in the warm you shouldn't have any problems in reasonably cold weather (sub-zero F temperatures pending testing).
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails NuVinci N360: Amateur Review-photo.jpg  

    "I applaud your stupid idea because it is genius." - Eric Sovern, Surly

  25. #25
    mtbr member
    Reputation: BrianMc's Avatar
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    Jan 2010
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    3,595
    Thanks. Good to know it is consistent. Loaded with goceries, riding uphill, heading home into the wind, the on-power and continuous smooth shifting in my power band will more than offset the weight. Also considering that application can introduce it to my spouse as she dislikes the complexity of shifting cogs and she is not in condition nor is this the place for SS. I'll start saving for it.

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