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Beach Cruisers Do you love balloon tires and fenders? Do you love riding the simplicity of a single gear and coaster brakes or a single gear cluster? Do you love the classic curves in the tubing of a cruiser that takes you back to the 1950's and 1960's, stylistically? Here's your home! Welcome to the Beach Cruisers and Cruisers forum!

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Old 06-25-16, 10:17 AM   #1
ReubenH216
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Converting a single to a three speed

I have a chance to buy two used men's 26" single speed cruisers one being a Trek Classic ($180) and the other a Elektra Ratrod ($220). Both have normal wear and tear but the Ratrod has rust everywhere where the Trek has no rust.

Both bikes ride about the same with the Ratrod edging out the Trek for comfort but not by much.

The problem for me is I really want a 3 speed for when the family and I decide to venture further outside our comfort zone and leave the flat top surface and start riding in more areas with hills and the like.

So being on a budget and not wanting to spend my hard earned money on big box store bikes I was wondering a few things. 1) the cost involved in converting one of these bikes into a 3 speed, 2) what will be needed in parts to do a conversion.

Any information and suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thanks for your time.

Reuben
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Old 06-25-16, 12:10 PM   #2
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I'm a huge cruiser proponent and have been for many decades. I own a couple and will never be without one.

That said, cruisers are very bad hill bikes because of the riding position. The modern "crank forward" frames like the Electra are even worse. Cruisers are designed for slow, leisurely, comfortable, low effort riding on flat land. They do that job wonderfully. Climbing hills while seated will suck, regardless of the gear ratios available. And climbing out of the saddle is horrible on a cruiser.

My recommendation is don't do it.

If you chose to go for it the costs associated with the project will partially depend on whether you do the work yourself or have your LBS do it. You'll have to buy an internally geared rear hub and new spokes, completely disassemble and reassemble the rear wheel. Or, buy an entire rear wheel already assembled. Then there is mounting the shifter, and routing, cutting, crimping, installing the cable.

If the bike has a coaster brake you will lose your rear brake and need to buy a rear or front wheel hand brake. Meaning more shopping, brake selection, lever selection, cable work, pad adjusting etc.

Then there is the frame spacing at the rear drop outs. It is probably 110mms for it's current hub. Internally geared hubs have a wider Over Locknut Dimension. So you will need to "Cold Set" (bend) the frame (rear triangle) to accommodate the bigger hub. You'll need to be able to do this while maintaining accurate frame alignment. Or, you'll have to pay a shop to do it.

If you do the work it'll be $$$, if you have a shop do the work it'll be $$$$$$.

This why I don't understand the whole multi-speed cruiser thing. All of the above can be done. I've done it. But what you'll end up with is a tool that does it's job poorly.

My recommendation is to look for a hybrid. They have upright comfortable riding positions, multiple gears, and most will accept large tires for a comfy ride.
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Old 06-26-16, 12:56 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by ReubenH216 View Post
I have a chance to buy two used men's 26" single speed cruisers one being a Trek Classic ($180) and the other a Elektra Ratrod ($220). Both have normal wear and tear but the Ratrod has rust everywhere where the Trek has no rust.

Both bikes ride about the same with the Ratrod edging out the Trek for comfort but not by much.

The problem for me is I really want a 3 speed for when the family and I decide to venture further outside our comfort zone and leave the flat top surface and start riding in more areas with hills and the like.

So being on a budget and not wanting to spend my hard earned money on big box store bikes I was wondering a few things. 1) the cost involved in converting one of these bikes into a 3 speed, 2) what will be needed in parts to do a conversion.

Any information and suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thanks for your time.

Reuben
You'll need a 3-speed hub with a coaster brake if your bike has a coaster brake now. You'll need a shifter and cable plus the appropriate cable housing guides.

The hub will need to be laced to your rim and that can be done with your existing spokes IF the hub flange diameters are the same. If you do the wheel build yourself there's not much expnse other than the hub. When I change hubs but use the same spokes I colour code the inbound and outbound sokes of each side. If you aren't going to rebuild the wheel yourself then it might be cheaper to just buy a new 3-speed coaster brake wheel, shifter and cable.

Cheers
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Old 06-29-16, 05:02 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by SquidPuppet View Post
I'm a huge cruiser proponent and have been for many decades. I own a couple and will never be without one.

That said, cruisers are very bad hill bikes because of the riding position. The modern "crank forward" frames like the Electra are even worse. Cruisers are designed for slow, leisurely, comfortable, low effort riding on flat land. They do that job wonderfully. Climbing hills while seated will suck, regardless of the gear ratios available. And climbing out of the saddle is horrible on a cruiser.

My recommendation is don't do it.

If you chose to go for it the costs associated with the project will partially depend on whether you do the work yourself or have your LBS do it. You'll have to buy an internally geared rear hub and new spokes, completely disassemble and reassemble the rear wheel. Or, buy an entire rear wheel already assembled. Then there is mounting the shifter, and routing, cutting, crimping, installing the cable.

If the bike has a coaster brake you will lose your rear brake and need to buy a rear or front wheel hand brake. Meaning more shopping, brake selection, lever selection, cable work, pad adjusting etc.

Then there is the frame spacing at the rear drop outs. It is probably 110mms for it's current hub. Internally geared hubs have a wider Over Locknut Dimension. So you will need to "Cold Set" (bend) the frame (rear triangle) to accommodate the bigger hub. You'll need to be able to do this while maintaining accurate frame alignment. Or, you'll have to pay a shop to do it.

If you do the work it'll be $$$, if you have a shop do the work it'll be $$$$$$.

This why I don't understand the whole multi-speed cruiser thing. All of the above can be done. I've done it. But what you'll end up with is a tool that does it's job poorly.

My recommendation is to look for a hybrid. They have upright comfortable riding positions, multiple gears, and most will accept large tires for a comfy ride.
test
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Old 07-03-16, 07:16 PM   #5
ReubenH216
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Ok
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Old 07-28-16, 08:35 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by ReubenH216 View Post
I have a chance to buy two used men's 26" single speed cruisers one being a Trek Classic ($180) and the other a Elektra Ratrod ($220). Both have normal wear and tear but the Ratrod has rust everywhere where the Trek has no rust.

Both bikes ride about the same with the Ratrod edging out the Trek for comfort but not by much.

The problem for me is I really want a 3 speed for when the family and I decide to venture further outside our comfort zone and leave the flat top surface and start riding in more areas with hills and the like.

So being on a budget and not wanting to spend my hard earned money on big box store bikes I was wondering a few things. 1) the cost involved in converting one of these bikes into a 3 speed, 2) what will be needed in parts to do a conversion.

Any information and suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thanks for your time.

Reuben
Prices seem a little high for a rust bucket. Older Electra's are better than the current manufacture. SquidPuppet brings up a good point though about using a cruiser for hill climbing unless you talking about minor inclines then a 3 speed Shimano internal hub could be a good fix and has a coaster brake built in. The problem is they are not cheap and usually it's just better to start with one that already has it than to modify a single. The way I remember it they are interchangeable and mounting the shifter and routing the cable are the only problems. I have one of each right here so I guess I should get out my gauge find out for sure. I own two of these bikes an Electra and a Schwinn and both are among my favorites. On Ebay a complete rear wheel and shifter is @ $150 ($115 + shipping) so finding one in the $200 range and restoring it sounds like a better idea.

After measuring both there is a 1cm difference between a coaster and Shimano 3 speed hub sorry SP

Last edited by Crossthreaded88; 07-28-16 at 09:04 PM. Reason: Correction
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