Custom BMX Race Wheels - What’s Good? Onyx is! And carbon rims
Without doubt, our race wheels are where we sink the most amount of our hard earned into, and for good reason. BMX tracks place much higher performance demand on wheels than ever before! With asphalt and concrete turns, combined with higher speeds and bigger jumps, your wheels are under constant stress for the whole lap.
Along with the rim material, the rear hub is crucial in taking the power generated by your legs and connecting it to the tyre to drive you forward. When the gate drops the hub has to sustain forces unlike any application seen in the bike racing world where a low gear and long crank combine to accelerate the racer down the hill. Failure of the hub at this point can, at the very least, cost you the race win, and at its worst, result in injury as you OTB on the second or third pedal.
Whether you’re upgrading the wheels from your “off-the-shelf” race bike, or building a set of wheels for your new custom race bike, LUXBMX has had plenty of experience in this area over the past 5 years through its involvement of BMX racing, and over 10 years of building wheels for freestyle riders who place a lot of faith in their wheels for differing reasons. Like taking the hit from a 20 stair to flat jump. We know how to build tough wheels.
Let’s start with choosing your hubs.
ONYX BMX hubs have become a staple of wheel building here at LUX and we can confidently say that there is no one else out there building hubs with the precision with this American company currently is. 100% manufactured in Minnesota, Onyx builds all of the hubs under their roof, with the exception of the hardening process, which they outsource. They aren’t simply “assembling hubs made from components brought in. They CNC the hub shells from raw stock and processes like anodising are all carried out in their factory. This allows Onyx to tightly control the quality of their products and as Australia’s approved service and warranty provider, we’ve seen less than a handful of hubs come in for warranty. Sure we do things like replace bearings that have seen muddy or dusty tracks, but other than that, these hubs are among the most reliable we’ve seen.
From the Mini 28 hole OHM hubs, to the top of the range Ultra SS, we’ve built wheels with every BMX hub variant Onyx produce and while there are cheaper alternatives out the on the BMX race market, we can confidently say that starting your wheelset with a pair of Onyx hubs will mean that you’ll never have to buy another set of hubs again. Unless of course you are moving to a disc system, or moving up out of a 28 hole hub to a 36 hole variant.
Here’s your guide on the the Onyx range of BMX hubs
For starters, the Onyx BMX range can be split roughly into 4 categories, then the variants of these branch off into different axle configurations of 10 and 20mm (for the front series) and add in a 15mm option for the Ultra HG and Ultra SS hubs.
- “Youth” hubs, basically the OHM series and 28 hole Pro HG (rear) hubs,
- Front hubs - Helix and Solid designs.
- “Pro” series of rear hubs in 36 hole, Pro HG, Ultra HG and Ultra SS
- Disc versions of the Pro HG, Ultra HG and Ultra SS.
With the exception of the OHM series, all Onyx hubs are sold separately to allow for maximum compatibility of the frame and fork options out there in the BMX race market. Both front 100/10mm hubs can be configured as a 10mm bolt-up hub, or as a 20mm thru-bolt hub. In the rear hubs, the Pro HG is only available as a 10mm bolt-up hub, while the Ultra HG can be configured as a 10mm bolt-up, or 15mm thru-bolt hub. The Ultra SS can be had as a 10mm bolt-up, or a 15 or 20mm thru-bolt hub. Plenty of versatility, and just a little confusing, but we’re here to guide you through with this article, then also in person if you have further questions.
Starting with the OHM series, these mini 28 hole hubs are aimed at the young racer that is under 50kg and running a mini or junior frame. They deliver the same instant engagement as their bigger brothers, and with low drag and lower weight, you can combine them with titanium spokes and carbon rims to have a set of wheels for your young shredder that is both lightweight and pretty bomb proof. At this age they are starting to explore manualing and jumping, which is why we recommend the strength of carbon rims over alloy as they can sustain weeks of cases before ever needing straightening. If you are wanting to shave some bucks off the wheel build and go alloy rims, make sure they are a good quality double walled rim to give you some durability. Though if they are young and likely to be on a 20 x 1-1/8th or 20 x 1-3/8th tyre for a while yet, then definitely consider a quality carbon rim like the Spectre 451mm for a long lasting wheel build.
Stepping up to the next level in the Onyx range, and as mentioned before, you’ll find that the rear and front hubs split here and you’ll need to purchase the front and rear hubs separately. Let’s look at the front hub(s) variations.
Helix Hub - these are the Onyx hubs you’ll see with cut-outs in them. This design reduces a little weight, while adding a uniqueness to the look of the hub. Available in a 8mm or a 10mm flange diameter, the 8mm Helix hub is a smaller design and 10mm bolt-up option only. While the slightly larger 10mm flange size hub is configurable as a 10mm bolt-up, or 20,, thru-bolt hub to suit the eternally popular BOX One X5 forks, or other 20mm forks out there on the market like the Avian Versus series.
Solid Hub - This version of the front is as the name suggests, a solid hub shell and the options and variations mirror the Helix hub above.
Rear hub models.
The Onyx BMX Pro HG Series is the company’s original BMX Racing hub. Best suited for teenage riders and smaller adults, it’s available in 28 spoke and 36 spoke configurations as a 10mm bolt-up hub. ISO disc version is available in both 28 and 36 spoke counts and compatible with Shimano type (Hyperglide) cogs. With silent and instant engagement of its bigger siblings, the Pro HG series is perfect for the rider that is coming out of the 11 or 12 year old age groups and staying on a 28 hole hub, or if they’re a little older, jump onto a 36 hole hub set up for a stronger wheel build for the rider pushing the limits.
Next up in the range is the Onyx Ultra HG hubs which are the popular choice for the majority of racers 15 years and up and are producing a lot of torque and force through the drivetrain. With a larger and beefier clutch than the Pro HG to withstand the higher stresses produced by more powerful riders, configurations include 10mm bolt-up and 15mm thru-bolt options. And like the Pro HG, the Ultra HG hub can be had in a ISO disc version. 36 hole only in this level and up.
Finally the Onyx Ultra SS hub which steps up the size of the shell to accommodate Onyx’s strongest clutch, which is larger again when compared to the Pro and Ultra HG hubs. Oversized bearings are used in this design which helps spread the torque forces that a powerful rider can produce. These two features combine to produce a hub that is trusted by elite riders the world over. 36 hole only, one thing to keep in mind is that the Ultra SS is a tad heavier than the two hubs that sit under in the Onyx BMX range. Though they sit untouched at the pinnacle of BMX race hubs with proven reliability at the highest level of BMX world cup racing. They are also the most versatile Onyx rear hub due to their ability to be configured as a 10mm bolt-up hub, 15mm thru-bolt, or 20mm thru-bolt hub. And like the Pro and Ultra HG, are available in a ISO disc hub shell.
What riders rave about once they’ve made the switch to Onyx is that they’re amazed at the instant engagement of the hub, both as they stomp it out of the gate, and as they start cranking out the turns. What we rave about here at the shop is that when we’ve pulled apart the hubs to change out an axle configuration, or to replace ceramic bearings, is the absolute precision of the components and how well engineered they are. Light years ahead of any other race hubs we see.
Rims - Is carbon virtually indestructible?
Over the previous 12 months here at LUX, the number of custom race wheelsets we’ve built using carbon rims far oustrips the number of builds using alloy rims by about 3 to 1. Customers are specifying carbon rims, citing the strength and stiffness being the main reasons behind their decision. We can certainly attest to the strength of carbon rims, especially those from Spectre, as we rarely see these wheels come back into the shop for trueing. Sure we see the wheels for follow up to run the spoke tool over them to tighten them after initial bedding in, but outside that, our workshop doesn’t see these carbon wheelsets back in for straightening.
One of the benefits of our race guys hitting a lot of races across the country is that we get to see the wheels we build in action. From the big stages like the Sleeman SX track in our backyard of Brisbane, to the tracks we visit on a regular basis that are more your typical everyday BMX track, we get to see our wheels tested week in, week out.
Aside from the elite riders hitting the pro straights, you know who really gives these wheels a workout? The kids in the 8-12 age group who are learning to jump. And if you know anything about this development phase of a rider, you know that case jumps a lot! These kids are more often than not only on a 28 hole rim as well, and while these kids are lighter than adult riders, some of the hits we’ve seen these wheels take would see a flat spot in a double walled alloy rim.
Some will question if carbon rims are worth the 2x/2.5 x the cost of alloy rims, but we can speak from our experience of building and supplying these wheels that they sure are. From their performance advantages, to their durability traits, carbon rims are light years ahead of their alloy counterparts.
By far the most wheels we’ve built come from the Spectre range, in sizes from 28 hole 451mm rims (20 x 1-1/8th and 20 x 1-3/8th tyres) to 406mm (20 x 1.5 and up) and up to 507mm (24 inch cruiser rims). We’ve yet to see a rim fail in race trim and as mentioned, we hardly see them come back for straightening.
Around 75% of the race wheels we build are laced up with titanium spokes, with these being exclusively supplied by Spectre. At a 30% weight saving over steel spokes they offer the performance advantage of reducing rotational weight and with so much emphasis on results based upon your start and hill time, the youngsters are the ones that really benefit from the weight savings of titanium spokes as their power-to-weight ratio is so low. Every gram they can save on their wheels has direct performance advantages. Add in the strength from carbon rims, of a wheelset built with carbon rims and these kids can send it to the moon.
That rounds out our recommendations on custom BMX race wheel builds. Based upon what our customers have been asking for, and having built, by far the most popular combination has been Onyx hubs, carbon rims and titanium spokes. We’ll throw links to the product pages on our site below and if you’re unsure of the compatibility of hubs and rims, or the suitability of the hub for your rider, then by all means hit up the team here and they'll guide you through the process of choosing the right combination. We realise that this will be the biggest investment that you will make, so we’ll make sure your build meets your needs.