GT Ratchet Freewheel
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For at least the last decade, the cassette hub has been the gold standard in BMX. While initially they
were reserved for those upper echelon riders today they are the defacto offering on even modest factory
complete bikes. Checking with most of the major retailers you will find very few hubs setup for a
freewheel. Even from this limited group most of them fall into low-end, entry level category. Not what you
want to put on a good middle level race bike. Compound that with the selection of quality freewheels and
you can see why a lot of riders go with the cassette option.
Okay, even with all of that being said, the freewheel is not dead. Matter of fact one big name in the game
has come out with two brand new models. Another manufacturer has continued to put out a freewheel
that has gained legendary status. A just last year GT released the Ratchet Freewheel.
I know what you're thinking, GT is making a freewheel? Probably a rebadge of somebody else's product.
To be completely honest, I had kind of thought that as well. Right up until I bought one.
It's not like I had to replace the freewheel on my bike. Since I was replacing other parts
of the drivetrain I decided that was something to change as well. I had just happened
onto a review of the GT on a MTB site and it was being compared by some to a White
Industries. Wow! That's saying something there. I purchased a 16t one and have not
looked back since.
One of the biggest arguments for cassette hubs is points of engagement or POE. Quite
a few boast between 96 and 204. Compared to a lot of older freewheels which only had
36 or so. The supporters say that it makes a huge difference in engagement time. I'm a
little dubious of that claim and I don't think you can attribute losses to waiting for your
drivetrain to hook up.
The GT freewheel has 120 POE. Which is right in the mix with the cassettes. When I
first unboxed it I liked the buzz saw looking teeth and a very loud click for every six
degrees of movement. And it is loud. If you're are one of those riders who just wants a
delicate murmur from your back wheel, this is not it. More like the buzz saw reference
above or a very angry RC car. There a a few videos on YouTube where you can check
that out. Other riders certainly know when I'm closing up from behind.
I liked the look from the start. From a purely asthetic perspective, this freewheel looks awesome. It's not just something to put on the bike and
forget about. Outside of apperance the tooth design actually serves a purpose. The unique shape allows the chain to pull hard while you pedal
without slipping. I have never skipped a tooth since I have installed it. It also releases the chain cleanly too. This actually helps to reduce wear on
the chain. It provides for smooth and efficient transfer of power from the cranks and sprocket. Something most riders don't think about until you
have a problem.
So does the 120 POE make a real difference? Glad you asked. Ummm, no, not that I notice. I mean sure, there is a difference in the gate when
you want to move a pedal up just a bit. Frankly, six degrees is about half of the tweleve of most freewheels. Does it make a difference outside of
that? Maybe mathmatically, but not something you can conciously discern. Maybe small fractions of seconds, but for that you would need to
good diagnostic equipment. One of my oldest freewheels had what felt like 30 degrees of rotation before it engaged which was unsettling to me,
but compared of current technology freewheels, the GT is very good but not head a shoulders above them in performance.
The downside of a lot of reviews is a relatively short period of time that the product is tested. I got you covered on that. I have been running this
freewheel since March 2012, so about 10 months of riding. I'm actually impressed with how well it holds up to practice and racing. Not one failure
or misfire the entire time. It is not sealed so you need to keep it out of the rain and keep it clean. I had to replace mine in September after my
bike being rained on for three hours on the way to a race. It still works fine, but it seemed to drag a bit more so I elected to replace it. May have
just been in my head.
I won't pretend to be an expert on BMX hubs or drive systems. I know the basics of how they work as do most of us. I don't have a clue as to
what the engineering magic inside is. Compared to my previous freewheel there isn't a huge difference as far as my performance. So if anyone is
wondering if this is the golden ticket to the podium, no. It won't take you from zero to hero out of the gate.
If you are wanting a top level freewheel this is definately one to consider. At around $30 it is not the least expensive option. In all fairness, it is not
the most expensive either. What you get for your money is a well designed, well crafted freewheel that can run toe to toe with the vast majority of
cassette hubs out there. Hats off to GT on this great freewheel. I give it 4.5 out of 5.