Monday, 14 May 2018

Soul-Kozak hubs - truly first and patented magnetic hubs!

Cycling market is constantly evolving. New technology allows to achieve much stronger & lighter products than ever before.
In the wheel building world we have an era of carbon rims, aero spokes and super light hubs. 
Talking specifically about hubs the overall construction didn't change since a decade where we have two leading systems, classical pawls and ratchet. This is what most of us think... but is that really the case? 
In order to find out, read more to meet the brilliant magnetic hubs from Soul-Kozak.


I heard about Soul-Kozak hubs already few years back. At that time I was not so deeply involved into the wheel building business so those hubs were out of my radar. 
Today the situation is different. Running "Black cat wheels" company I'm constantly seeking for improvements, innovations and best in class components and therefore I crossed my path with Soul-Kozak products.
At the end, the carefully selected parts and fine craft makes the handbuild wheels so different, unique and valuable.

Since I always like to test and see on my own eyes the components I offer I utilized my latest visit in Poland to meet with the Soul-Kozak's founders and visit their production plant.


Before we deep dive into the factory and manufacturing process let's step back a bit...

It is 1999. Mr. Mariusz Kozak is very skilled Polish engineer and at the same time an active cross and downhill racer. His education and passion to MTB cycling allows him to combine those two worlds which results in the first product - bottom bracket support, patented in 1999. 
Following by first success, in 2000, Mr. Kozak is designing and patenting the innovative MTB air-air suspension fork which gets second place during Young Masters of Engineering competition.
In 2003 the "Soul-Kozak" company is officially founded and the serious work starts from now on. 
Across years 2003-2007 Mr. Kozak is building up the manufacturing plant. Meantime he works on the innovative design of the magnetic clutch for the rear hubs.
In 2008 the brake through happens where the first M-netic hub is released.



M-netic is a revolutionary ratchet gear system using annular magnets whose magnetic force allows a ratchet ring to engage the cassette body with even force.
The idea of a magnetic gear device was born in 2007, when Mariusz Kozak went to Switzerland to visit his brother, a CERN scientist. 
Being in CERN, he had the opportunity to see the Large Hadrons Collider (LHC) and the world's largest electromagnet (superconducting solenoid) which creates a very strong magnetic field in the CMS experiment. 


Situated 100 meters under ground, the LHC is a magnetic tunnel where hadrons beams are precisely controlled by means of magnetic field.
Inspired by the vast possibilities of magnetic field, Mr. Kozak decided to use similar solution in the design of the rear MTB hub. 
After preliminary calculations, a prototype of the magnetic hub with two annular magnets was made. 
Extensive tests proved that the M-netic system is perfectly reliable, even in muddy and wet conditions and at high torque.


Compared to the classic rear hubs with small pawls and springs which are sensitive to fatigue, dirt and moisture, M-netic is much more reliable, lighter, capable of managing higher torque, and the cassette is engaged faster and more smoothly. Unlike the spring-mounted pawls, magnetic field does not corrode. Also, dirt does not diminish the effectiveness of the entire system and does not increase parts wear. Sturdy and tough engaging teeth on the ratchet ring and the cassette, which are made of properly heat treated steel, provide failure-free action of the drive device. M-netic rear hubs consist of fewer parts and their servicing is very easy. 

The story sounds really incredible and therefore I wanted to meet the owners in person and see on my own eyes the production.

First of all, the plant exist and it's real, very real. As soon as you cross the doors of the factory you sense the smell of the metal and see all that complex machinery, engineering drawings and production line. It is totally different world...


Walking through the plant you will find all type of machines and tools allowing to run a complete production of the hubs and other Soul-Kozak components such as stems, end caps and few others.



Tools are world wide high class machines provided by Haas: CNC TL-1, Toolroom Lathe and TM-1 Toolroom Mill.



Laser engraving machine, anodizing plant and DMG’s CTX310v3 machining centre allows Soul-Kozak to be an independent manufacturer.



All this requires deep engineering science, experience and machine park knowledge. Many other brands avoid that and use outsourcing services, but being capable to own the e2e process, Soul-Kozak keeps the quality on the absolute top level. This is the philosophy of the company. 




Talking to Mr. Kozak I got full confidence that he knows the stuff inside out. Being a constructor and MTB rider he knows how the things should work. He also knows the industry very well so all my thousands questions were answered immediately.  
The discussion was mainly focused on the M-netic hubs and the overall magnetic system which was explained to me very clearly.



What struck me is the simplicity of the solution and the very low weight.
Taking as example the rear hub, the construction is the following:
  • 17mm axle + end caps
  • Solid Germany made four bearings 61903 2RS (MTB) and 17287 2RS (Road)
  • Two magnets
  • Ratchet which is somehow similar to DT Swiss but with few noticeable differences
  • Steel free hub body
  • Washers

The drive ring’s teeth, machined vertically, is one piece with steel free hub body. The other half of the drive ring is is floating side to side in the hub shell and the engagement is caused by opposing magnetic forces.
The magnets are used instead of springs, so there are less moving part in the whole system.




As mentioned before, the overall weight of the hub set is really low:

316g for Road Set (100/130 QR)
 336g for MTB set (100x15/142x12 6-bolts disc mount)

This sounds impossible but it is here and it works very well. Usually other brands shave the weight by using smaller bearings which don't last so long and/or aluminum free hub body. In case of Soul-Kozak hubs all components are very solid and guarantee long life cycle in all conditions. 

Worth to highlight that the hub's geometry is well thought. Front hub has pretty narrow flange spacing, especially the road one. It's 31.5mm center to flange where other brands use 34-36mm. The narrower flange spacing helps aerodynamics as the spokes are almost completely covered from the wind by the rim. In today's standards rims are pretty wide so such combination with CX-Ray or Aerolite spokes gives very nice aero results.
Rear hub is not bad too. Even with rim without offset you will get min 55% of NDR spoke tension compering to DR. With the offset rims that value goes up to about 65-70%. That guarantees strong wheel.

To complement durability of M-netic hubs, in 2011 Mr. Kozak created "Factory Racing Program" where professional MTB riders are using Soul-Kozak products during training and racing. More about the teams here

Reading all this you might ask yourself a question, what does it all have in common with Black cat wheels?
Well, today Soul-Kozak is producing and distributing the products  around the world through dedicated dealers. Norway, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Italy. 
"Black cat wheels" joins the family and now Soul-Kozak hubs and all components are available also in Switzerland.
Becoming the Soul-Kozak distributor for Swiss market I'm convinced that I'll be able to provide a competitive, innovative and robust solution, especially for riders looking for light wheelset dedicated to Swiss Alps where performance and durability in all weather conditions is a key.

Road and MTB hubs in various configurations and axle standards are available in my on-line store.
All Soul-Kozak products are available on manufacturers page: http://www.soul-kozak.com/

I offer a comprehensive solutions and service in terms of wheel-building using Soul-Kozak hubs, hubs service and retail/B2B sales. Feel free to contact me using [email protected] in case of any inquiry you might have.
For B2B or large qty orders contact me via email in order to get the discounted price list.

Tomasz
blog-wheelbuilding

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