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Old 04-13-11, 10:48 AM   #1
unworthy1
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Give me a run-down on IG (internal gear) hubs

I need sum edumacating: I have near zero experience with IG drivetrains (helped one friend build up a rear wheel with a Shimano Nexus hub, but didn't pay attention to the details) and have a co-worker who probably will go this route for her daily all-weather commuter, soon.
She has a Univega with 120 or 126 rear and is very maintenance-phobic, plus she rides a hilly route (in the rain) and is a cheapskate: the hub should be as durable, wide geared and cheap as possible...I don't think a 3-speed will be enough and she goes fast downhill so something with a higher-than direct drive high gear is preferred (tall order, huh?).
It will get laced to a 700C rim and doesn't require any built-in brake (she's happy to use a rim-brake)
I know she'll have to make compromises, but there's the starting point.

What's available (I read Sheldon's article, but want to know more)?

What have you had personal experience with and what would recommend for her needs?

Thanks in advance
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Old 04-13-11, 11:03 AM   #2
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I've had experience with the following (other than vintage S-A hubs):

Shimano Nexus 8 speed (not the red-band one)
Shimano Nexus 7 speed
Sturmey Archer 5 speed (the new one)
Sturmey Archer S2C kickback

My favorite of those is the S-A 5-speed, which I'm running with a bar-end shifter. Plenty of gear range for my purposes though the spacing between gears is a bit odd. I never took a liking to those 7- and 8-speed hubs; shifts were inconsistent, and they felt like I was dragging butt.

Neal
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Old 04-13-11, 11:10 AM   #3
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I mostly use IGH's. Most of my riding is on my commuter bike, with the Sturmey Archer 8 speed hub. I really like that hub. It has a bad reputation, and I have had some problems with it, but I repeat: I really like that hub. Other bikes have Shimano Nexus 8, Nexus 4, Sturmey Archer 3- 4- and 5 speed hubs, NuVinci and SRAM S7. I've also used a Rohloff. I have decided I don't like the Shimano Nexus 8 hub much, because the steps between the gears are so uneven. Rohloff and NuVinci are really cool but a pain in the neck to set up. NuVinci is especially large and heavy, but it gives the most pleasant gearing of any bicycle drive system I've ever tried.

Almost all of these hubs come with a shifter that fits 7/8" (22.2 mm) handlebars and can't be made to fit a 15/16" (23.8 mm) bar. Aftermarket bar end shifters (JTek) exist but are not cheap. There's also a brifter-style shifter for the Nexus 8, even pricier. Sturmey Archer now makes bar end shifters for their 3 and 5 speed hubs, which are pretty reasonably priced. So if you want a drop bar or mustache bar, the Sturmey Archer 5 is a good bet.

Most IGH's have a 1:1 gear somewhere in the middle of the range; Nexus 4 and Sturmey Archer 8 are unusual in that they have the 1:1 in the lowest gear. The result of this is that most IGH's can be made to work with an existing crank, but if you want to use 700c wheels with the Nexus 4 and Sturmey Archer 8 speed hub, they will require a really small chain ring, like 25T. If you don't like that, rule those hubs out.

Beyond that, I recommend playing with Sheldon Brown's gear calculator. It will give you a clear idea of the range to expect with different hubs.

I doubt I've answered all your questions... ask again as necessary.
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Old 04-13-11, 12:03 PM   #4
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For anything more than a 3-speed, the cost might be an issue.
I only have direct experience with the Shimano Nexus and Alfine 8 speeds and Sturmey S3X fixed 3 speed.

The Shimano units have proved to be extremely reliable, nearly maintenance free (excepting the recommended re-lube every 5-10k miles), and dead simple to use. Shifter options include trigger shifters and grip shift (flat bar) and bar-end or brifter (drop bar).

An IGH conversion is generally pretty easy to do if you are comfortable working on bikes. The frame will either need to have horizontal dropouts or an eccentric BB, or you'll have to use a chain tensioner.

Quite often, you will find that a pre-build rear wheel will cost about the same as the hub alone, so that would be something to look into.

No matter what, the project will cost some money.

I'm currently looking into 5,7 and 8 speed options for my second bike, and the Sturmey Archer hubs look like appealing options.
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Old 04-13-11, 03:54 PM   #5
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Play with the gear charts and see what works for you.

I have: 2 speed Bendix, 3 speed Sturmey Archers; AW, AG, AWC or TCW III, 4 speed Sturmey Archers; FG and FW. Shimano Nexus 4, 7 and 8 (red band) as well as few Shimano 3 speeds both coaster and non. The SA hubs I can buy parts for, Shimano isn't as easy. I haven't got enough miles on the Nexus hubs to form a solid opinion, but they work well enough for my purposes at the moment. FWIW I have one AW hub with well over 30,000 miles on it and it is the best running of the SA hubs I own.

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Old 04-13-11, 06:25 PM   #6
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thanks to you all for the info...this will give me and her some things to chew on.
I have to confess that the gear calculator on Sheldon's site has not helped clarify anything for me.
I am presently like a chimp pounding a typewriter with that, no clue as to what numbers to insert or what the results mean.
Maybe it will make sense as we get deeper into the project.
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Old 04-13-11, 06:45 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by unworthy1 View Post
thanks to you all for the info...this will give me and her some things to chew on.
I have to confess that the gear calculator on Sheldon's site has not helped clarify anything for me.
I am presently like a chimp pounding a typewriter with that, no clue as to what numbers to insert or what the results mean.
Maybe it will make sense as we get deeper into the project.
See what the manufacturer offers as the largest rear tooth cog and go from there. With a Shimano Nexus it is 22t and that is pretty much the lowest available for all IGH's. For hill climbing you will want a low in the upper 20's to low 30's range and let the high gear fall where it may. Most of my bikes run a 46/22 with a couple running 42/22 for serious uphill work.

Aaron
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Old 04-13-11, 08:12 PM   #8
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I have decided I don't like the Shimano Nexus 8 hub much, because the steps between the gears are so uneven.
This is my only gripe about the Nexus/Alfine 8 speed hubs. I've gotten accustomed to it, but am planning to get an 11sp Alfine or Rohloff down the road.
The sturmey 8 speed looks pretty nice - really nice gear spread from 2-7 with 1st gear bailout and 8th gear "haul ass" steps. The direct drive in 1st could be an issue with chainring/cog options. I haven't heard anything good or bad about reliability compared to their bulletproof 3 speed hubs.
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Old 04-13-11, 08:36 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by unworthy1 View Post
thanks to you all for the info...this will give me and her some things to chew on.
I have to confess that the gear calculator on Sheldon's site has not helped clarify anything for me.
I am presently like a chimp pounding a typewriter with that, no clue as to what numbers to insert or what the results mean.
Maybe it will make sense as we get deeper into the project.
You could start by computing the gearing steps for a bike you currently ride and have a good feel for, then play with the calculator with various hubs until you get it into the same range. Then you could get a feel for what the IG hub would offer--how the total range compares to a bike setup you know, spaces between the steps, etc. Just an idea.

I did NOT do any research before i went out and bought my first modern IGH (the SA 8). Built it into a wheel expressly to retrofit an ashtabula-crank schwinn for my wife. Thought I was so clever. Then I realized that the lowest gear was 1:1, and I had a bike suitable only for going down hills. 0_o

you were smart to come here first.
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Old 04-13-11, 08:38 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
See what the manufacturer offers as the largest rear tooth cog and go from there. With a Shimano Nexus it is 22t and that is pretty much the lowest available for all IGH's. For hill climbing you will want a low in the upper 20's to low 30's range and let the high gear fall where it may. Most of my bikes run a 46/22 with a couple running 42/22 for serious uphill work.

Aaron
+1

Could have easily solved my problem with the SA 8 with a 38 tooth cog, but they only made up to 24, and it's a weirdo size anyway, so there were only like 5 size choices (in consecutive tooth counts 20-21-22-23-24 or something)
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Old 04-13-11, 08:41 PM   #11
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you were smart to come here first.
Not to imply that you weren't, like, already here, man.
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Old 04-13-11, 08:46 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
See what the manufacturer offers as the largest rear tooth cog and go from there. With a Shimano Nexus it is 22t and that is pretty much the lowest available for all IGH's. For hill climbing you will want a low in the upper 20's to low 30's range and let the high gear fall where it may. Most of my bikes run a 46/22 with a couple running 42/22 for serious uphill work.

Aaron
This sounds about right. I just finished building up my wife's new bike, built up around a Nexus 8 IGH. Since we have to tackle hills every day, I wanted to make sure the gearing would go down to the high 20s - low 30s. I went with a 45/21 setup, which for that hub gives a gear inch range of 29 - 90. So I expect that to be a good starting point for gearing.
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Old 04-13-11, 10:49 PM   #13
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This is very interesting. Thx. I have been thinking about building up a road racing type frame with an IGH. Maybe this is a foolish idea. But since I am already riding several single speeds with 70-74 gear inches, I thought it might be fun to have an 3 speed IGH or maybe a kick back with a coaster brake.
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Old 04-13-11, 10:55 PM   #14
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This is very interesting. Thx. I have been thinking about building up a road racing type frame with an IGH. Maybe this is a foolish idea. But since I am already riding several single speeds with 70-74 gear inches, I thought it might be fun to have an 3 speed IGH or maybe a kick back with a coaster brake.
I put a Sturmey Archer S3X in a nice road frame - not full racing geometry, mind you, but the result was quite nice. It is nice to have some gear options. I think a 5 speed would be a good mix of gear range and weight.
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Old 04-13-11, 11:14 PM   #15
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I have an extra Trek 660, presently set up as a SS. Thought this might be an interesting project.

Now, where does one get IGH's? Not the $1400 model.
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Old 04-13-11, 11:21 PM   #16
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I bought an Alfine 8 speed last summer. I couldn't be happier with it. It was easy to install and adjust. It has been 100% maintenance free ever since. It hasn't lost its adjustment, either.

I have a 42T (or so) up front, so I have a very decent range of gears - low enough for the uphills, high enough for the downhills and everything in between.

If she is even half interested in an IGH, get her one.

Last edited by Mike Mills; 04-13-11 at 11:34 PM.
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Old 04-13-11, 11:35 PM   #17
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I bought my Alfine 8 from universal cycles and another Alfine 8 from Chain Reaction in the UK. I got the S3X from Harris Cyclery (their online store).

I bought the hubs separate to renew my dormant love for building wheels, but I quite frankly would have saved money by buying pre-built wheels. The tradeoff is that you may not be able to find exactly what you are looking for (say, silver hub instead of black)

There is a Yahoo Group that is moderated and populated by numerous BF'ers http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Geared_hub_bikes/ and offers a great deal of information and insight on all things IGH.

One thing I like about the Sturmey 3 and 5 speed models is that the bar-end shifter can also be mounted on the downtube.

J-Tek Engineering makes a top quality bar end shifter for the Sturmey 8 speed and the Alfine/Nexus 7 and 8 speed models (a nicer option, IMO to the standard trigger shifters or grip shift). I exchanged e-mails with Ryan (the founder's son), and the shifters are available in a silver finish.
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Old 04-14-11, 12:20 AM   #18
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Before one sets out to build up any wheel and gearing system one should understand some basic gearing theory so that the numbers make sense and I prefer to work in gear inches.

A human being has a very narrow power band and a strong rider can ride over most terrain and do some serious climbing with a low of 50 gear inches and a high of around 95 for solo efforts, gearings over 100 are for descents or very fast pace lines.

Recreational cyclists can usually work comfortably in a range from 40 to 90 and if you are going to be carrying gear as a utility cyclist, touring, towing, or off roading you might want a low gear that is as low as 20.

70 gear inches is a nice gear for cruising down the open road at a comfortable cadence for an average rider.

With all that being said the drive set up should also have evenly spaced gears so that the jumps between them are even to maximize pedaling efficiency although some of us like to rock single speeds and fixed gear bikes for the added challenge and increases simplicity.

A three speed IGH is as simple as it gets and from a durability standpoint is going to be the most robust and with the addition of more gears you add complexity and increase the possibility of failures... the SA 3 speed has one planet gear while the SA 5 speed has 2 and is still a relatively simple hub to maintain and service. When you get into 7, 8 , 11, and 14 speed hubs they get very complex but do offer expanded ranges and more even gear steps and for the most part, tend to be quite reliable. Few hubs can match the venerable Sturmey Archer 3 speed for long term reliability and their service life can be as much as 50,000 miles and then you can overhaul them.

If you live and ride in a flat area a 3 speed hub might be enough and generations of people rode nothing more complicated than this and even toured the world on these simple internal drives.

If you live in an area where there is more climbing an expanded range is preferable and something like the Alfine 8 speed has a nice range for a lot of riding and you might find that an SA 5 speed has enough range. The 5 speed shares the same middle 3 gear as the 3 speed and has a mega low and an extra high gear.

I recently turned my SA 3 speed into a dual drive to make it a 6 speed which has some nice range and no gear overlap... with six unique speeds and nice gear spacing I am usually able to find the right gear for the conditions and maintain a comfortable cadence.

This was a less expensive option than a new SA 5 speed and quite simple to do... my gear range is 43 - 86 gear inches.

Most modern city bikes and hybrids with derailleur gearing have a low of around 30 gear inches and a high of around 110 but I wopuld rarely need a 30 gear inch low unless I was touring and I don't need a gearing over 95 unless I feel like racing.
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