Internal Gear Bicycles

Internal gears mean that the bike's gear selection mechanism rests inside the rear wheel hub of the bicycle instead of mounted exposed on the bicycles frame. We refurbish English and Japanese three speed bicycles and custom build high quality bikes using hand-built wheels with two-, three-, five-, and eight-speed hubs.

Advantages:

Internal gear bikes have huge advantages compared to derailleur-equipped bikes.

1. Riding Convenience: The main on-the-road advantage of hub gears over a derailleur system is the ability to shift while stationary. If you've ever stopped in high gear on a derailleur bike and struggled to get going again because you can only shift a derailleur while the chain and rear wheel are rotating, you can appreciate this. While stopped with an Internal hub, you can just change to an easy gear and then get going.

2. Reliability: Internal gear hubs are set and forget; they will work reliably for years in all sorts of weather regardless or how dirty the outside of the bike becomes. They are highly resistant to water entry, and do not come out adjustment nearly as frequently as derailleurs.

3. Low Maintenance: Cleaning and tuning up are much easier and less frequent than derailleurs simply because there are fewer places for dirt and grit to hide. You have only one chain ring on the crank and one cog on the hub to wipe clean. All the fiddling parts that give you the multiple speeds on an internal gear hub are INTERNAL-running in oil inside the rear hub. On the Sturmey-Archer hubs we prefer for three-speed bikes, the internal gears require only a monthly oiling with about a half-teaspoon of oil.

4. Less Vulnerable: The most common repairs we see are the suite of catastrophes that can befall the rear derailleur if the bike simply falls on its right side: derailleur or frame bent or broken off, derailleur shifted into the spokes, bent chain. With all the gears tucked safely inside the rear hub, none of the these mishaps ever occur.

5. Durability:

a. The hub: Internal gear hubs last an incredibly long time. I am currently using a Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hub that is as old as I am - - we were both made in 1956, and the hub is in better shape than I am. In both cases, it's not the years but the miles that matter, so users who kept track of their mileage on internal gear hubs claim no significant wear after 50,000 miles for a Sturmey Archer 3 speed and 8,000 miles for a Shimano 8 speed. In all my years of bike tinkering, out of dozens I dismantled and inspected I have encountered only two Sturmey Archer 3-speed hubs that were actually worn out. As with any mechanism, the simpler versions (i.e., 2- & 3- speeds) are more robust and reliable than the more complex versions (5-, 7-, 8-, 11- speeds).

b. The chain: The standard chain for internal gear hubs is thicker (1/8” wide vs.' 3/32” wide for derailleur chain) and therefore stronger than derailleur chain,. Furthermore, since it always runs in straight line, rather than having to bend sideways to run on the extreme ends of the cassette and chain rings, it wears more gradually (700-10,000 miles  for the chain, twice that for cogs).

c. The spokes: The non-dished rear wheel of a three speed hub is stronger than a derailleur rear wheel because all the spokes carry the load instead of only the drive-side spokes. I have never seen a broken spoke on an internal gear rear wheel.

6.Performance: For many of our customers the three-speed is the Goldilocks bike-just right for their urban biking needs on the flat terrain along the south shore of Lake Erie. Even the lowly three speeds are capable of much greater adventures, however. We set them up with top gear as the level-ground gear, giving two lower gears for climbing hills, and voila! you have gearing that will conquer any hill you could encounter in much  of NEOhio. See the "CYCLING ADVEURES: page for an account of a 100 mile Metroparks circuit of Cleveland that Kelly and I did on three speeds.

Disadvantages: 

1. Compared to a 3x9, 3X9, or 3X10 derailleur system a hub gear has a smaller gear range.

2. The weights of internal gear hubs range from marginally to quite a bit heavier than derailleur gears. The weight penalty for increasing numbers of gears is more severe for internal gears than derailleurs.

3. While the simple 3-speed is as efficient as a clean derailleur gear system (95-98% efficient), the hubs with more gears suffer more frictional losses, with efficiencies in the 80%-90% range.

4. In the rare event that they break down, they are more difficult to service than a derailleur, probably requiring a trip to the bike shop.

5. Fixing a flat tire is a bit more of a challenge with an internal gear hub because the shifter cable is always attached to the hub itself.

6. Aside from us, bike shops mechanics tend not know much about internal gear set-up and repair.

The upshot: If you buy Sturmey Archer 3 speed, or 2 speed bike from us, we guarantee the hub for life. If it ever fails, we will replace it for free.

Sturmey Archer AW

 (wide ratio) 3 speed hub

Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub
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Shimano Nexus 8 speed hub

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