I recently installed the newly released Nuvinci N360 Hub http://www.fallbrooktech.com/08_bicycle_n360.asp
, thought I would give a review.
I have been running a Cyclone kit on a Glorious Fortune cheap chinese dual suspension bike (it isn't really called that, I think it is called EzBike, and it says "accept no limits" on it - awesome), I actually bought it cheap and used from the guy in Australia who sold me the cyclone kit. It is the 960W/1200W controller, and I was running on 36V lifepo4, but have just moved to 48V Lipo. Even at 36V I found the Cyclone tore through derailluers, I was up to my third when I decided to try the new Nuvinci N360 Hub.
I paid $399US, and got it shipped from Smart Bike Parts in the US, and built into a wheel here in Australia. I presume everyone here is familiar with the product, I know quite a few users on this forum have the old version (the N171), but thought I would give my thoughts on the new N360. For those not familiar with it, it is a continuously variable transmission hub, so it is a case of turning the dial, and setting your gearing within a range of 360%, rather than a fixed number of gears. It has an increased range compared to the previous hub (it has 360% range), and reduced weight. Other acknowledged features are that the amount of turning required on the dial is reduced compared to the old one (which apparantly was a tad impractical in terms of the required turns), and the ability to change gear ratio under load is improved.
Most of the installation was straightforward (cutting cable housing, setting cable length etc..), but I ended up having a few dramas with resetting the overdrive. Basically when installing it you have to "reset" the overdrive, by turning the axle against the hub and getting two marks to line up, you then attach the interface. This is what effectively sets the interface and the hub to its overdrive setting. I could reset overdrive, and then install the wheel, but once I shifted further to underdrive, it would not go back to full overdrive. This meant that once I actually installed it, I was only getting about 60% of the range I should have been getting (I could get full underdrive, but only about 60% of the way back to full overdrive. I would pull the wheel off, reset overdrive, reinstall, and the same thing would happen. Then other times I would go through the process, and it would give me the other 60% (ie, full overdrive, but only 60% of the way to full underdrive). I was tearing my hair out, as I was sure I was doing everything right. I ended up emailing Fallbrook (the manufacturer) about it, and they gave me a few processes to try to get it to work (I can detail these to anyone who experiences the same problem), but none of them worked for me. They acknolwedged that in the first run they made, there were some teething problems with range (they asked me for the serial number to check if it was in the first production run). So in the end I gave up, and just rode it with the 60% range I needed (which was full underdrive, and only 60% towards full overdrive). After riding for a while the range increased (without me doing anything), and I now have about 95% range, which suggests perhaps that it just needs to "break in" a bit. In any event I am happy now because it is pretty much perfect.
Apart from those initial installation difficulties I am extremely happy with it as a product. It has taken me ages to get used to it mentally, it is really weird turning a dial, and adjusting the gear ratio without any cracking gear change. I had read a lot of other reviewers criticise the claim that it changes smoothly under load, but I have to disagree. It does "stick" a little bit under load, but I was suprised that even under full power output, I can change the ratio as I ride, which is really useful. It isn't completely smooth under load, but you definately can change under load as you accelerate.
Apparantly the manufacturer suggests using the Surly Singulator chain tensioner, but one upside to the Cyclone (it has to have some upside after all), is that it acts as its own chain tensioner.
When I ordered the hub, it hadn't yet been released, and because the old Nuvinci required a freewheel to be added to it, I lashed out and bought a ENO 16 tooth freewheel, only to find when the hub turned up that they have now installed a freewheel inside the Nuvinci, so you only have to provide a sprocket.
It has made the world of difference to the cyclone setup, as previously I was constantly having the chain come off, or having the derailluer bend (or in one case explode). The Cyclone setup puts the standard derailluer type setup under way too much strain in my opinion. I have probably put about 60km on it, and haven't had the chain come off once or skip a beat. With the previous setup I could not change gear under power (without causing all sorts of consequences), and even without changing gears, I was constantly waiting for the chain to fly off or problems to happen. Now I can change under power, and set the gearing to just the right ratio, even under power.
I have a 16 tooth cog on the back and 44 tooth on the front, and I can peddle and add to the thrust at about 35km/hr under full overdrive.
All in all I can highly recommend it to other Cyclone users. My only issue now is getting a steel mounting motor bracket made up to replace the Cyclone aluminium one, as it long ago started to bend under the load. I must say my cyclone has been a constant battle of maintenance, I recently installed a BMC V3 on a recumbent trike, and I am starting to see the attraction and simplicity of frock motors. Having said that, my cyclone can pull a trailer with my two kids and a full load of shopping up steep hills on 48V, which the BMC would eat its teeth trying to do i suspect.
Conclusion and info for others considering the N360
-In my opinion the claim that it can change under load and power is true (there is a slight stick, but you can change)
-unlike the N171, it does not need a standalone freewheel, it has its own freewheel built in (you only need to supply a sprocket)
-resetting overdrive can be a chore for initial install and problematic (but mine seemed to improve over time)
-Overall I highly recommend it if you can spare the cash to get rid of your derailluer maintenance