Interesting stuff folks. Suntour is a bit before my time so thanks for enlightening me.
Brucey, sounds like those Suntour Freewheels suits you, sir?
I dodged the 'Winner' bullet and used nothing but New Winners for quite a few years; in their time they were about as good as you could get without spending silly money. There were problems of course but nothing I couldn't deal with until
a) I found it difficult to buy sprockets any more and
b) I realised that if I used a shimano cassette system, I might never break another rear axle
So following a year spent trying to break an MTB with a shimano cassette hub on it, I made a policy to swap to shimano cassette hubs for all my bikes as opportunity arose and indeed I have not broken another rear axle since, not on a cassette hub. To change systems like that was a bitter pill to swallow, since I already had (in fact still have, in a box that is too heavy to lift easily) several hundred pound's worth of SunTour sprockets and freewheel bodies across many different bikes. Not to mention an even larger investment in beautiful hubs such as campag NR etc.
But Sun Tour actually helped me to make the decision; they had by then converted to 'Winner Pro' freewheel bodies and whilst these also accepted 'New Winner' sprockets (which gave vendors the chance to shift the soon to be irreplaceable stock of threaded New Winner sprockets, mainly to folk who had Winner Pro bodies and therefore didn't really need them.....
), New Winner bodies didn't accept the (now splined) middle fitting Winner Pro sprockets of course. So if I'd wanted to carry on with SunTour freewheels, I'd have had to spend several hundred quid on new bodies and these would only be of any use if I could get WP sprockets in the future.
I strongly suspected that the Shimano freehub system was a much better idea anyway, and unless Sun Tour got their finger out PDQ they would be headed for the toilet. If they did come out with their own cassette hub I thought there to be a vanishingly small chance that any of the kit I had would be of any use whatsoever; SunTour's cassette would either have to be compatible with shimano (in which case buying shimano now would not be an issue) or it wouldn't, in which case it might never take off; shimano were already cleaning up. If I'd have been Sun Tour I'd have swallowed my pride and made a freehub system that was to some extent shimano compatible, and then differentiated it from shimano in some other way.
Good to know, any Shimano 7spd hubs out there you recommend? Perhaps an equivalent spec to Tiagra or Deore LX?
STX RC. (FH-MC30 etc). The STX RC 7s freehub body (there is an 8s version too) is still available and fits a lot of different shimano rear hubs. A few wrinkles are that the large sprockets don't sit as close to the spokes on a standard 7s freehub body; I have been known to machine them so that they do, but you can use a dished #1 sprocket instead. Another is that 7s freehub bodies generally don't have a rear body seal, so you need to be more careful lubricating them and keeping the water out. BTW I have yet to find a good way of shortening an 8s freehub body.