January 7, 2016

Jamie Barnhart: Insight on the Profile ZCoaster

This review of Profile Racing’s Zcoaster hub is going to cover a number of things that that make this hub unique and hopefully help get a better understanding of the function and things to expect. The Zcoaster is unlike any hub prior and cannot accurately be compared to either a cassette or a freecoaster. The design of the hub will be touched upon, but most of the review is going to be surrounded around the different slack settings, pros and cons of each, and what ultimately led me to the slack option that I chose. This hub caters to all types of riders both in function and design. There are options for everything from 14mm solid axle and cromo bolts, to hollow titanium axle with button head bolts and a 3/32 driver. There is even an mtb option with disc brake mounts. The slack setting range from 20°, 33°, 45°, 60°, 75° and 90°. Profile Racing comes through with all the options as always.

The design of the hub makes the function and maintenance easy to understand. The first time I opened the hub up to change slack rings and check the internals out I was a bit intimidated. I was immediately surprised to find out that the entire mechanism is within the driver and very easy to understand. There are only a few pieces that make up the entire mechanism. It was very reassuring to know that I wasn’t entering the disaster zone known as traditional freecoaster internals. The spring/pawl design makes this the most crisp engagement freecoaster hub that I have ever felt. Eliminating the clutch bearings really gives it a true cassette feel while the hub is engaged. The pawls feature rounded edges that seem to act as a fail-safe against too hard of engagements. The pawls actually allow a bit of a slip to the next engagement point without breaking any thing which is matched with a loud popping sound that resembles a slipping pawl in a cassette. There is nothing wrong with this, just something to anticipate. Another interesting part of the function of the hub is that it will build up to disengage with bitch cranks. Basically, regardless of the slack setting, you will always have a limited amount of bitch cranks.

While I was trying out all the slack settings a few different things started to shine through that made me determine what setting I felt would work best with me. First and foremost, I needed to be able to trust that the hub would remain engaged or disengaged as I wanted it to. I realized I wanted to ride the hub without thinking too awfully much about changing the way I always did my tricks because of the way the hub would respond. I also saw that my actual body motion had a lot to do with how the slack allowance would act.

I feel that it is important to understand my perspective is as a goofy footed rider with what I would consider a well rounded riding style of park and technical street riding. This plays importance due to the fact that I have more foot motion to account for than a normal footed rider. I really want to stress that it is very important to understand that the tricks that you want to do, as well as how you perform it, have an affect on how the different slack allowances will work. This is part of the Zcoaster that you have never had to consider with any other hub.
20° is the smallest slack setting available. This slack setting was very fun to me because I was able to do flat ground 180s and the hub would disengage upon landing just from that shift in body motion, while being able to cab and start cranking right away. I was also able to pedal into the slack while going fakie to manipulate pedal pressure. The issues I started getting from this setting came down to precision use. When I would go to attempt a tail tap on a quarter and settle my weight back would cause the hub to disengage. 180 fakie manual 180s also would not work well because when I would pull up the front end the hub would engage and stop the bike. I also noticed i could not do straight fakie hops well because the hub would engage from pulling the front end up. I feel as if a beginner or someone doing less technical fakes could get good use from this setting.

33° was an interesting one for me because I thought that it would alleviate the issues I was having with the hub unintentionally engaging, but what I found was that it was an awkward amount of foot movement that made it really hard to determine how to set my feet in order to keep the hub engaged for tricks like tail taps or disengage upon fakie. I had the hardest time riding this slack amount because there was a ton of thinking about footplacement. I noticed that on smith 180s I had to leave my hub engaged during the trick so that it would disengage. I could not learn to trust it was engaged or not, and it made me have to try tricks in a different way to make the hub act the way I wanted it to.

45° was a very nice reliable slack setting. I was able to trust that it would remain disengaged for a high speed fakie with a little bit of room for play for my body to make adjustments. There are a few tricks that would make the hub engage when I wanted it disengaged. Manual 180s did not worked if my body position was not perfect and Smith easy 180s also would engage, because of the amount you step into the cranks and well as pull up on the bars. The reason I couldn’t settle with 45° came down to the fact that it would not remain disengaged for all tricks. When I would do Smith 180s the mere amount of body motion would cause the hub to engage upon landing, even if I felt as if I did the trick perfectly. I feel as if 45° would work well for most riders that aren’t doing as technical of tricks that require lots of foot motion.

60° was also another interesting one that I kept finding myself comparing to 33°. I could never fully trust that the hub would be disengaged or not depending on what trick I did, and for me, that’s too much to worry about when I’m about to try something where I needed to trust it. Most tricks required some kind of special footplacement or pull on the bars to make the hub act how you wanted it to.

75° absolutely hit the nail on the head. I can completely trust that it will be disengaged or engaged no matter what tricks I did. I can do every trick the way I learned it without any special foot placement or much thought. Any tricks that I wanted to use forward pedal pressure, such as tail taps or 3 tap manual 180s, were completely trustworthy. Any time I was wanting to go backwards the hub would remain disengaged regardless of what trick I was trying. The only drawbacks to 75 are the fact that a random slip of the slack can suck, and coming out of a fakie has a bit of a crank to re-engage. 75* was the first time I could keep the hub in the mode I chose at all times. 75 was the first setting I was able to completely trust would act the way I wanted it to.

90° feels almost identical in function to 75° except you have more slack allowance for bitch cranks and play for fakie. The two modes are the most distinguished with this setting because of the larger crank to disengage as well as engage. This setting would be great for someone who uses a lot of forward pedal pressure, as it has the most room for bitch cranks as well as the most play while disengaged.

My final choice, 75 degrees. I chose this setting because it allowed me to trust that I was in the mode I thought I was in, which is important, imagine going for a high speed half cab second guessing that the hub may engage because of the way you do your 180. I could ensure that the hub would remain I the mode I put it in because it allowed the body motion that any trick would call for. It does not matter what trick I would try it would always remain in the same setting. With every setting other than 90 degrees I experienced some kind of difficulty getting to the hub to work the way I wanted it to. 75 degrees fully allowed me to ride it as a cassette forward and a freecoaster backwards.

January 7, 2016


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