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Old 09-02-07, 08:11 AM   #1
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Internal gearing -- why?

I've seen a lot of posts making a fetish of internal gearing. Why? Maybe I'm missing something.

As a kid I had a 3-speed that gave me no end of pain. I had to coast to shift, and if anything went wrong it was hidden inside the hub, out of my reach.

When I got a 10-speed I loved it because all the gearing was visible. Problem? I could see it and fix it myself.

Are internals lighter, or more durable, or what? What's with 'em?
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Old 09-02-07, 08:40 AM   #2
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I think it's just pure preference according to how the individual rides and where.

All my adult life I've lived in mountainous areas and have preferred manual transmissions in my vehicles. The manual gives much more control when climbing mountain passes, passing other cars or driving on rough roads. Once into the city and sitting in traffic, I often wish for an automatic tranny to avoid the need for a clutch.

I have bikes with both types of transmissions, as well as single gear bikes...and I like the internal for certain types of riding. It has these advantages:

*Clean look to the bike
*Allows shifting at a stop
*Allows a chainguard or chaincase
*Allows the use of a wider, stronger chain
*Simplifies shifting to a very intuitive interface
*Mechanically simple (until it's rebuild time)
*Nostalgic appearance

Different strokes for different folks.
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Old 09-02-07, 08:42 AM   #3
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From what I understand, internal gearing has improved much over your old three speed. You can change gears while stopped, and they are generally seen as very reliable. I've seen a lot of posts attesting to a relatively low need for maintenance.
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Old 09-02-07, 08:50 AM   #4
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What do Sheldon Brown, Shimano and Rohloff know that you don't? My Sturmey Archer served me well 40 years ago, and is still functioning on the same bike in my barn today.

I've got no use for finicky derailleurs and can't imagine them being used on mountain bikes at all. Such a fragile contraption hanging out where grass and branches can tangle in it, and get knocked by any protrusion from the ground such as rocks and logs. Not to mention out of line chains and constant need of adjustment. If I never own another derailleur it will be too soon.
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Old 09-02-07, 09:01 AM   #5
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From what I understand, internal gearing has improved much over your old three speed. You can change gears while stopped, and they are generally seen as very reliable. I've seen a lot of posts attesting to a relatively low need for maintenance.
What needed improving on? I have 35+ year old SA hubs still in daily use, I actually have one 4 speed that is over 45 years old that is getting built into a new wheel in the very near future. The ones that need the work are the ones that were not taken care of or abused. They are really a very simple machine and require little other than a bit of TLC comprising of a shot of light oil every week or so. I agree that the Rolhoff is an improvement in that it contains more gears...but they aren't for everybody, they are more complicated, very expensive and heavier. Another issue I have discovered is parts availability for the Shimano or the Rolhoff (hopefully you won't need them) as well as finding someone competent to work on them. I can still purchase parts for my 40 year old FG hub, but have problems getting even a shifter for my 20 year old Shimano...not a good situation in my book. Give me my SA's any day!

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Old 09-02-07, 09:08 AM   #6
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What needed improving on? I have 35+ year old SA hubs still in daily use, I actually have one 4 speed that is over 45 years old that is getting built into a new wheel in the very near future. The ones that need the work are the ones that were not taken care of or abused. They are really a very simple machine and require little other than a bit of TLC comprising of a shot of light oil every week or so.
A shot of oil every week? Wow, you really pamper your wheels. A drop or two, once every year or so worked for me on the SA hubs I used for 30+ years. My Sachs 3 speed Torpedo and 7 speed Spectro hubs take no oil and haven't needed any maintenance in the 7 or 8 years I've had them on my current bikes.
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Old 09-02-07, 09:13 AM   #7
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What needed improving on? I have 35+ year old SA hubs still in daily use, I actually have one 4 speed that is over 45 years old that is getting built into a new wheel in the very near future. The ones that need the work are the ones that were not taken care of or abused. They are really a very simple machine and require little other than a bit of TLC comprising of a shot of light oil every week or so. I agree that the Rolhoff is an improvement in that it contains more gears...but they aren't for everybody, they are more complicated, very expensive and heavier. Another issue I have discovered is parts availability for the Shimano or the Rolhoff (hopefully you won't need them) as well as finding someone competent to work on them. I can still purchase parts for my 40 year old FG hub, but have problems getting even a shifter for my 20 year old Shimano...not a good situation in my book. Give me my SA's any day!

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Hmm... Actually, I wrote that not really knowing what I was talking about, having never ridden an old 3-speed or on a bike with a Rolhoff/Nexus . That said, I have never heard a complaint about "having to coast to shift" with the new internal gearing. In that sense, at least, they are "improved". Anyway. I'll be quiet now
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Old 09-02-07, 11:37 AM   #8
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As others have said, SA hubs are bulletproof. They require essentially no maintenance, maybe oil the chain and hub once a year, whether it needs it or not. Thats compared to my road bike, which to keep the index shifting running perfectly, I need to do chain maintenance every time I ride (very minimal, just wipe the chain after every ride with a rag and oil every other ride, which takes less than a minute, but its still something I have to futz with every time I ride.)

And you don't have to coast to shift gears with an SA, just remember there is a neutral midway between 2nd and 3rd on most SA hubs.
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Old 09-02-07, 01:44 PM   #9
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As a kid I had a 3-speed that gave me no end of pain. I had to coast to shift, and if anything went wrong it was hidden inside the hub, out of my reach.
Very few people have ever seen something go wrong inside the hub of a 3-speed.
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Old 09-02-07, 02:01 PM   #10
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Very few people have ever seen something go wrong inside the hub of a 3-speed.
...unless it's a Shimano '333' 3-speed.
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Old 09-02-07, 02:16 PM   #11
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What do Sheldon Brown, Shimano and Rohloff know that you don't? My Sturmey Archer served me well 40 years ago, and is still functioning on the same bike in my barn today.

I've got no use for finicky derailleurs and can't imagine them being used on mountain bikes at all. Such a fragile contraption hanging out where grass and branches can tangle in it, and get knocked by any protrusion from the ground such as rocks and logs. Not to mention out of line chains and constant need of adjustment. If I never own another derailleur it will be too soon.
Maybe in a few years when the price, range and weight of internal hubs improve compared to their derailleur counterparts if that's even possible. I really don't see a need for an internal on my mountain bike. My deore/XT(mid-upper level) transmission shifts well and it takes a pretty extreme drop for me to lose my chain which more than half the time I don't even realize because I just have to pedal for the chain to slip back on.

Internal hubs are great for around town. They have no place in the sport riding world though. Road or mountain.
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Old 09-02-07, 02:29 PM   #12
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My wife's Townie 3S has a Shimano Nexus 3 shifts under heavy pedal load just fine. The only thing that sucks is that for someone like me, it doesn't have nearly the gear range that I'd like. For real, though, I haven't tried a Nexus 8 or a Rohloff 14 speed, but I can only imagine that they'd be great. You get one efficient chainline, and nothing gets gunked up. Keep it adjusted, and everything is alright.
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Old 09-02-07, 02:36 PM   #13
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Maybe in a few years when the price, range and weight of internal hubs improve compared to their derailleur counterparts if that's even possible. I really don't see a need for an internal on my mountain bike. My deore/XT(mid-upper level) transmission shifts well and it takes a pretty extreme drop for me to lose my chain which more than half the time I don't even realize because I just have to pedal for the chain to slip back on.

Internal hubs are great for around town. They have no place in the sport riding world though. Road or mountain.

I think there is a valid place in mountain biking for a Rohloff. Having spent a ton of time in the upper midwest there's a fairly large freeride scene that plays on the local ski hills. They aren't very large, but there is at least somewhat of a considerable uphill to get to the top. It's nice to have gears, but also an incredibly tight chainline on the descent. There is the most obvious place, IMHO.

With the weight consequences you will never see an IGH win an XC race or a road race, granted, but they're so incredibly maintenance free and watertight that it's not even a question for the all around commuter/city rider or even someone who wants to do some touring. I've heard numerous accounts of folks in Europe riding Rohloff's on trans-alps tours. beautiful.

As for the weight, it's barely more than a full derailleur setup, though you do get fewer gears. EVen the Rohloff, while it has the same range, doesn't have as many specific gears meaning it's hard to find the ideal gear for a specific incline. touring it doesn't matter as much, but in a race it's sure nice to be able to push it without overheating, not just one or the other.

As for cost, the Nexus 8 is 150 as a hub. That's not much more than a 105 shifter/lever. I think the cost there is way better than a ful derailleur system.

Also, I abhor slipping. I just can't stand it when I'm trying to crank out of the saddle and my chain frickin' slips. IGHs make this a problem of the past.

I think the only reason I would ever have a derailleur system again is if I were doing some serious road riding or racing. Even on my Mt. bike if I could afford it I would put on a Rohloff and for everything else an Nexus 8 or just ride it SS or FG. I don't ride roadie style...mostly a commuter/touorer.

Anyways, I hate derailleurs...FWIW
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Old 09-02-07, 02:36 PM   #14
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Internal hubs are great for around town. They have no place in the sport riding world though. Road or mountain.
Very well put Industrial. I think term 'sport' qualifies where hubs belong. However for the less serious non-competitive trail and mountain bike riders hubs have real advantage too. This is due to the point Ornery raised about outcropping rocks etc. I think you are both right depending on the context of the riding.
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Old 09-02-07, 02:40 PM   #15
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Vermont did it for me
I couldnt keep up with the maintenance of an open cluster drivetrain
in the winter. Absolutely impossible unless you wanted to devote hours
a week to it. I wasnt any match for cinders and road sploodge.
Even here in FL., I wouldnt even consider a bike with an open cluster.
Single speed or hubgears only, for me
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Old 09-02-07, 02:55 PM   #16
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They don't get fowled by road grime or rain or snow.
If your bike falls over you don't get a bent (or broken) derailuer.
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Old 09-02-07, 03:24 PM   #17
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Internal hubs are great for around town. They have no place in the sport riding world though. Road or mountain.
Here is a hint: This is the commuting forum.

Bicycle Commuting is "for around town." Road and mountain cycling by "sport" riders is something else. Try not to confuse them.
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Old 09-02-07, 03:29 PM   #18
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I've seen a lot of posts making a fetish of internal gearing. Why? Maybe I'm missing something.

As a kid I had a 3-speed that gave me no end of pain. I had to coast to shift, and if anything went wrong it was hidden inside the hub, out of my reach.....

Are internals lighter, or more durable, or what? What's with 'em?
Internal hubs will shift standing still now, the only time they won't shift is under pedaling. So if you're in an urban riding situation where you end up making frequent stops (for traffic or whatever) it's nice to be able to switch back down into a lower gear while standing still to get rolling again.

There's also often some maintenance advantage--but in more agreeable climates that's negligible. I lube my external-gear bikes maybe once every two months, but I don't ride in the rain or snow.
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Old 09-02-07, 03:36 PM   #19
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...unless it's a Shimano '333' 3-speed.
Won't argue that point, though I can only recall one 333 that I ever had that went bad. We have one floating around here that was on my sister's bike and it was ridden daily for quite a few years and was still working when the bike frame broke. But as I mentioned earlier...try to find a shifter for those...

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Old 09-02-07, 03:38 PM   #20
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I think it's just pure preference according to how the individual rides and where.

All my adult life I've lived in mountainous areas and have preferred manual transmissions in my vehicles. The manual gives much more control when climbing mountain passes, passing other cars or driving on rough roads. Once into the city and sitting in traffic, I often wish for an automatic tranny to avoid the need for a clutch.

I have bikes with both types of transmissions, as well as single gear bikes...and I like the internal for certain types of riding. It has these advantages:

*Clean look to the bike
*Allows shifting at a stop
*Allows a chainguard or chaincase
*Allows the use of a wider, stronger chain
*Simplifies shifting to a very intuitive interface
*Mechanically simple (until it's rebuild time)
*Nostalgic appearance

Different strokes for different folks.
Well Put! My sentiments exactly
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Old 09-02-07, 03:50 PM   #21
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Internal hubs will shift standing still now, the only time they won't shift is under pedaling. So if you're in an urban riding situation where you end up making frequent stops (for traffic or whatever) it's nice to be able to switch back down into a lower gear while standing still to get rolling again.

There's also often some maintenance advantage--but in more agreeable climates that's negligible. I lube my external-gear bikes maybe once every two months, but I don't ride in the rain or snow.
~
Mine shift just fine while pedaling, they won't shift under full pedal load you just have to ease up a bit, but keep on pedaling. I have one Raleigh Sports that has well over 30,000 miles on it. It was my daily commuter and only bicycle from 1982 until around 1989, then my brother used it from 1989-1992 as his campus/commuter bike, it came back home and was used again fairly regularly until 1997 when it entered semi-retirement and was in storage until this year. All I did was put air in the dry rotted tires, replace the missing oil cap on the rear hub, add a bit of oil, adjust the gears and rode it about 5 miles with no issues. It is going to get a complete tear down after I get some other projects out of the way first. For in city riding and even rambling along country roads the ease of use of an internal geared bike is hard to beat. I have ridden mine over 50 miles in a single day with no issues and would do so again. It takes a bit of fiddling to get the gear ratios in a range that you are comfortable with. But once done it is like a pair of comfortable shoes that you reach for first.

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Old 09-02-07, 04:37 PM   #22
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1937 will be remembered by gear-head cycle historians as the summer the derailleur made a belated return to the Tour de France after a 25-year absence. While derailleurs ruled in France, across the Channel there was a completely different type of multi-gearing system that had been in use for over 40 years. These two approaches to multi-gearing had a unique meeting in the same competitions under the same rules just before WWII, with results that will surprise modern riders.

Unlike France, in the UK there was little massed start racing in those days. Cycle sport was by-and-large time trialing and point-to-point records, and because of its length and variation of terrain and weather, the Land's End to John O'Groats record was the ne plus ultra event. Cyclists began tackling the big ride in the 1880s, and the Road Record Association was formed in 1888 to lay down rules for comparison and to document results. The RRA's rules contained little in the way of equipment limitations.

Fast-forward to the 1930s and a dynamic time in British cycling. Time/distance and point-to point records, long the domain of athletic competition, proved to be an excellent vehicle for commercial
promotion. The derailleur had been re-introduced after spending some 3 decades exiled to France, and was challenging the ubiquitous Sturmey Archer internal-gear hub for the enthusiasts' market. Derailleur importers, using the services of some of the best Commonwealth riders, began to have records set using their equipment. When world-famous Australian Hubert "Oppy" Opperman took the End-to-End record using a four-speed Cyclo derailleur in 1935 it was the final straw for the men in Nottingham.

Jared Diamond wrote about having just the right amount of competition for progress. Sturmey-Archer had experienced less-than optimum competition since the Great War, and these imported derailleurs prompted them to begin to innovate for the first time in over a decade. It also prompted parent company Raleigh to assemble a team of top British cyclists to test, prove - and market - these innovations on the road.

In 1936 Raleigh retained Charlie Holland, who had ridden on the U.K. Olympic team in Los Angeles and Berlin, to ride for them. They were rewarded when he won the inaugural massed start Isle of Man International Road Race on a Raleigh bike with Sturmey-Archer gears. In 1937 Holland moved on to the continent and was the first British rider in the Tour de France (using that year's famous derailleurs, and with a result of DNF-mechanical). Back home, the torch was passed to Sid Ferris.

Sid Ferris came from a cycling family. His brother, H.E.G. "Harry" Ferris, set a number of time/distance records on three wheel cycles and later ran a bespoke cycle shop offering silver brazed frames. Sibling Sid didn't really look the part of a lean and hard cycle racer; he was quick with a big smile and, oddly for a speed and distance man, had rather boyish cheeks. On the bike, period photos show Sid arched over his Lauterwasser bars somewhat asymmetrically, with his head turned to the left and his right shoulder a bit low. He had only one eye, and wore an eye patch on the left.

Lean and hard he was, however, and while some of Raleigh's other long distance men had used a medium range or even a wide range hub, Sid rode across the hills, moors and highlands using S-A's new ultra- narrow range (+7.2%, -6.8%) AR three-speed. During the long summer days of 1937 he toppled all the RRA's premier records that had been recently set on derailleur machines: Edinburgh-London, 24hrs and 1000 miles. That July he rode the 870 miles from Land's End to John O'Groats in 54.5 hours*, besting Oppy's mark by two and a half hours and setting a record that would stand for a remarkable 21 more years.

While other British riders would continue to race time trials and set time/distance records using internal-gear hubs into the 1960s, Ferris' ride would be the last time a rider using Sturmey-Archer gears would lower the End-to-End record. The door opened on WWII and closed on Sturmey-Archer's most impressive period of innovation, and their failure afterwards to keep pace with the ever-evolving derailleur would result in history being rewritten and the remarkable competition of the 1930s to be forgotten. Of all the records set using that company's hub gears in the 1930s, only Tommy Godwin's year mileage total (75,056 miles, 1939, Raleigh bicycle with Sturmey Archer AF hub, besting Ossie Nicholson's 62,856 miles on a Cyclo derailleur equipped Malvern Star, 1937) has never been bettered by a rider using derailleur gearing.

TCS

*16.0mph average. For reference, Hubert Opperman won the 726 mile 1931 Paris-Brest Paris at a 14.7mph average.
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Old 09-02-07, 04:55 PM   #23
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Here's a question: when said that internally geared hubs aren't good for sport riding, it's because of weight, right?
Because I really like the clean looks of the single speed track bikes I see in the SSFG forum, but where I live there are too many hills for fixed or single speed to be practical. I plan on eventually getting a road bike, but would an internally geared track bike (I'd add the hub in myself, obviously track bikes ship fixed) have road bike like performance? I'm 6'6", 205lbs, and don't care about weight. I just want something with a good downhill/ sprinting gear, a good climbing gear, and some in-between. I'd like it to perform like a ss track bike would, basically just with more range.

Tall order, but I just thought I'd ask.
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Old 09-02-07, 05:05 PM   #24
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By the way, this is the bike I'd be using, I'd like to have a different back wheel with the ss hub in it, so I could switch it out at will:
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Old 09-02-07, 05:22 PM   #25
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Its not just the weight, they are not quite as efficient as derailleurs.
Neither of these points is significant on a commuter though.

Outweighing everything Wordbiker listed of course, is the coolness factor.
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