Ok, so that’s a terrible pun. But terrible hubs, the Project 321’s are not.
Arriving just in time for Christmas, a pair of understated white boxes arrive on the office doorstep that we were expecting to hold printer ink cartridges or tax returns, or some other boring stationary-related object. With Project 321 stamped on the outside however, we knew that there was something far more interesting within those plain cardboard walls.
Opening up the dull boxes however, we had to shield our eyes from the burning shine emanating from within, as the gold anodized hubs beamed back at us. Holy Cow these are blingy! Sure enough, it was a set of Project 321 disc hubs that had been sent down to us by Aido at RLC Sport in preparation for a special wheel building feature that you’ll hear more about very soon…
Back to the hubs; Project 321 is a relatively new company in the world of wheels, though their beautiful attention to detail, US manufacturing and high-quality internals means they’re going straight after the big guns such as Chris King, Hadley, DT Swiss and Industry 9. Previously making their mark with the excellent Lefty fork adapters (allowing you to run them on non-Cannondale frames) Project 321 is a brand that clearly has no interest in constructing flashy packaging, but instead creating very, and I mean VERY, flashy hubs!
We got a set of front and rear Project 321 Disc Hubs to fit our longtermer Santa Cruz Tallboy, with a QR15 front and standard 135mm quick release rear setup. Like all good hubs these days, the 321’s feature interchangeable end caps to fit different axle standards, though you’ll have to specify your required setup when ordering, or purchase the end caps aftermarket. Good to know you can change them around, and especially so if these last as long as they’re meant to. Bearings are a high-spec Enduro ABEC 5 cartridge number, and like the rest of the hub construction, are very much oversized.
Beautifully machined alloy hubshells that feature oversized flanges to reduce spoke length and build a stiffer wheel.
While Project 321 may be going after Industry 9 in the high-end hub market, they’ve actually sought after their competitors freehub system for use on their own rear hubs. The I9 freehub mechanism utilises a unique 6-pawl system for an industry-leading 120 points of engagement! This means the hub picks up every 3 degrees of rotation for very little lag. Project 321 aren’t the only ones licensing I9 internals, with fellow US boutique brand Paul Components jumping on board too. We’ll be very interested to see how the mechanism holds up to regular riding and washing and will keep you posted in a future review in Enduro Magazine.
That is one fat hub! The rear 321 hub isn’t superlight at a claimed 345 grams, but it is designed to build up a stiff wheel.
A photo of the Industry 9 freehub internals. Note the enormous cartridge bearing that supports the cassette carrier and the hub shell.
You’ll be able to see the Project 321 hubs as part of our Wheel Building article in the upcoming Issue #24, which will be followed up with a long-term review down the track. (Hint: It may have something to do with those Blue Titanium spokes there…)
On face value, the Project 321’s certainly deliver the wow factor. We’re excited to see how the I9 freehub mechanism holds up on the trail as well as seeing how easy they are to disassemble and service.
Ah, and the colour! While these will easily match your gold teeth, there are a whole host of other sweet anodized colours available including Pink, Green, Blue, Purple, Red, Black and Silver.
They’re priced at a very reasonable $185 for the front, and $389 for the rear – not bad for boutique US made hubs that come with a 3-Year warranty, though if you really want to spend more you can shell out $89 per hub for a Ceramic upgrade.