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  1. #1
    extra bitter kyselad's Avatar
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    Internally geared hauler

    I'm looking to set up an internally geared bike with decent carrying capacity, and this seems like the forum where folks might have suggestions. Mostly, I'm confused / overwhelmed by hub options. I like the idea of a simple system, but I want it to be functional.

    So here are my questions:
    (1) 3-speed. Good enough? Will I regret passing up a 5, 7, or 8?
    (2) Nexus? Spectro? Sturmey Archer (the new stock from Asia)? Are they all fairly reliable at this point or should I heed the old horror stories about slipping into freewheeling in top gears?
    (3) Coaster brake on the rear hub -- bad idea? I've read vague complaints about their performance.
    (4) Hub dynamo and drum brake in the front hub. Both seem like good ideas, but not the most common setup, which makes me wonder.

    Any input is most appreciated. If I've missed a thread with this info, please point me towards it and I won't get pissy.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyselad View Post
    I'm looking to set up an internally geared bike with decent carrying capacity, and this seems like the forum where folks might have suggestions. Mostly, I'm confused / overwhelmed by hub options. I like the idea of a simple system, but I want it to be functional.

    So here are my questions:
    (1) 3-speed. Good enough? Will I regret passing up a 5, 7, or 8?
    (2) Nexus? Spectro? Sturmey Archer (the new stock from Asia)? Are they all fairly reliable at this point or should I heed the old horror stories about slipping into freewheeling in top gears?
    (3) Coaster brake on the rear hub -- bad idea? I've read vague complaints about their performance.
    (4) Hub dynamo and drum brake in the front hub. Both seem like good ideas, but not the most common setup, which makes me wonder.

    Any input is most appreciated. If I've missed a thread with this info, please point me towards it and I won't get pissy.

    Are you looking for a heavy "commuter" or a tourer? In either case, I would suggest as wide a range of gears and as many gears as possible in that range. I would not recommend three speeds if you have hills or wind or have to carry extra heavy loads or tow a trailer. I suggest a Nexus eight-speed at a minimum. (Is this an extracycle-type design? If so, you might want to go with an MTB derailleur system or if you have a mind to break the bank, a Rohloff.)

    I suggest a disc brake with either front or both wheels. A coaster brake is not a good idea; there are far better non-rim brake choices.

  3. #3
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what CHenry thinks is so bad about coaster brakes. They might be a bit heavier than a rim brake+cable+brake lever, but not much. Coaster brakes can overheat (and then they won't work), but that's a problem which I believe requires the brake to be in constant use for 60 seconds or more. I have a 3-speed folding bike with coaster brake and the coaster brake performance is flawless. Considering how idiot-proof, durable, and quick-stopping a coaster brake is, I can't see the appeal of trading it in for another brake unless a couple ounces really matter (and if you're talking bike+rider+cargo that weighs 200+ pounds, a couple of ounces could only matter in a race).

    As for picking a 3-speed hub over a hub with more speeds... don't. If you live somewhere that's really flat, 3 speeds will be enough. Otherwise, you'll be wishing you had more gears for uphills and downhills.
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  4. #4
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Honestly, given that the rear brake isn't of great use anyway except when you're on an unstable surface or just want to generally slow down a bit (not stop quickly), ISTM that a coaster brake on the back would be ideal. I'm going to go with a coaster on the back, a Nexus 8, and front disc when I finally build my perfect commuter.
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  5. #5
    extra bitter kyselad's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'm not so worried about the rear coaster being a lousy brake per se -- I don't put much stock in rear stopping power and view it as a backup for a front brake failure and for sloppy conditions. I'm more worried about the alleged performance hit with the hub using a coaster, the nature of which I'm unclear about. Braking-wise, I'm more concerned with the front drum. I like the weather resistance, but I've never tried one and I'll skip it if it's sloppy. I'd love a disc, but like the Rohloff, I don't envision that kind of cash going into this.

    fwiw, this would be a short-distance commuter / grocery basket in mildly hilly southern Indiana. Not my daily commuter, so it doesn't need to be amazing, but I do plan to saddle it up pretty well when shopping.

    Thanks for the advice so far. Any other thoughts much appreciated.

  6. #6
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    I run the Nexus 8 currently in a Bianchi San Jose frame.

    I like it so far (this is my first year with it) but I did have an issue the first day it was cold (~15F). I could shift up in gears, but not back down. When I finally got to work the cable end was out of the shifter. It would seem that the cable froze up and not the hub itself, but I'll figure that out over the winter.

    The only other issue is that here in flat Michigan I usually like to run a very tightly spaced group on a cassette - like 13-21 over 7/8 speeds. I just don't need granny gears or high speed stuff so I'm happier tight spaced for very constant pedal speed. The Nexus is geared with bigger gaps than I'm used to.

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    I'm a big fan of internal hubs. It will be two years in February and have few complaints about the hub change. I originally got a roller brake with my Nexus 8. I thought it worked well, but had it removed because I could not figure out how to remove the wheel in case I got a flat. The one thing I wish the hub had is one more gear.

    As far as the number of gears goes, I think that would depend on the steepness of your hills. Also using an old SA 3 speed with a modern frame is going to be a little tricky as axles were shorter and their diameter was smaller. I think it can be done, just don't expect it to be super easy.

    Sorry to make this more confusing, but SRAM also makes internal hubs. And they got a 9 speed. Recently there was a thread here about a Cadillac bicycle which had an internal hub. It was basically a cheap bike, but someone pointed out that it was cheaper to buy that bike whole then to buy the internal hub separately. I think it was a SA 4 speed. Do a search with the word "Cadillac".

    There are lots of threads about internal hubs here. But if you do a search just type "internal" as the word "hub" occurs in every other thread. Other words that are only used in discussions about internal hubs are "Nexus" and "Sturmey".

    Oh. Have you ever used Sheldon Brown's gear inch calculator? This one is important because it will really help you find the number of gears you'll need.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Jeffbeerman2's Avatar
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    There are tons of threads about the small advantages and disadvantages of various hubs here.

    They are nice with a few drawbacks, but cost wayyyy too much. A nexus 8 hub is $250 and you must use their twist shifter, which is a pain if you have drop bars. (you're looking at $350-$450 for a rear wheel / shifter).

    If I had to do it again, I would have kept my deraillur because the cost wasn't really justified. Deraillurs work very well too, and are much more affordable.

    +1 for using the Sheldon brown calculator to determine what gears you'll want/need

  9. #9
    shaken, not stirred. gnome's Avatar
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    I don't have any experience with modern internal geared hubs but I do have a combined drum brake and dynohub. I am running it on a 20 inch wheel on my RANS rocket though.

    The hub dynamo is great although I'm currently blowing bulbs because I'm over spinning the hub (It is designed for big wheels not small), with marginally noticable drag with the lights on and is nice and quiet.

    The drum brake is ok and has stopped me when going down hill. I find that it requires a fair amount of pressure to apply when the hub gets really hot (downhill). It is good in the wet and is easy to fit mudguards around and the shoes seem to be lasting well. I've done over 1000km since fitting the drum/dynohub and I have only used up about a quarter of the available adjustment.

    I personally would go to disc brakes and a SON hub next time. Discs are also very good in the wet, don't wear the rims away and provide lots of stopping power.

    I would like to try a modern internal gear hub one day, but I will settle on getting my Sturmey Archer 3 & 4 speeds working properly (I commute in a flat city).
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  10. #10
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    I've commuted on my 3sp Swobo twice here in hilly DC. It sucked because it's geared too low for most of the downhills,and for the one uphill I could've used a lower gear. I also have a Nexus 7 on my Surly and had a Nexus 8 on my old Milano. Both do just fine around here.

    For the riding you described,I'd suggest a Nexus/Alfine 8 or SRAM iMotion 9. Actually,I'd go with the SRAM;the shifter cable has a nicer connector which makes wheel removal/installation easier. I also wouldn't go with a coaster because of the load you'll be carrying. Coasters don't have the modulation of other brakes,and I had a scary moment coming down a hill when I locked the Swobo's rear. And I totally rock discs over all other brakes.

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    as others have said, the wider gear range of the 7, 8, and 9 speed hubs can be really nice in hilling areas, but honestly a 3 speed can be enough if you are willing to stand on the biggest hills and coast on the downhills. i had a long cargo bike that i ran with an old sachs 3 speed coaster hub and it worked great! i live in a pretty hilly area too and can say that the 3 speed was enough for all the uphills with up to about 50 lbs of weight and the coaster held up fine with the occasional use of front v brake on all the down hills with up to about 150 lbs of weight. as for new hubs, ive worked on and off in bike shops for last 7 years or so, and have ridden most of the new hubs, and found that the new sa hubs are horrible. the shifting is slow and hard, the pedaling feels bad, and the brake is useless, which is sad because the old hubs were pretty ok. drum brakes (at least the newer ones) are pretty similar in performance. the lever pulls a lot of cable, but doesnt seem to pull enough, and the brakes just feel underpowered and mushy, not something id want on any bike.
    conclusion: new internal hubs aside from sa= good
    coaster brake with additional front = good
    drum brake = bad
    hope this helps!

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    So here are my questions:

    (1) 3-speed. Good enough? Will I regret passing up a 5, 7, or 8?
    The way I see it, the goal is to arrive at the office without being sweaty or tired. A wider gear range helps with this. The 7 and 8 speed hubs cost only a bit more than the 3-speed ones, so why not get them? A Rohloff is best, unless you live without wind or hills, but the extra gear range costs a lot.

    (2) Nexus? Spectro? Sturmey Archer (the new stock from Asia)? Are they all fairly reliable at this point or should I heed the old horror stories about slipping into freewheeling in top gears?
    The Nexus-7 has been dead reliable for me over six years of all season, every day riding. I can't speak for the others, because I have not used them.

    (3) Coaster brake on the rear hub -- bad idea? I've read vague complaints about their performance.

    The weight transfer on deceleration means that the front wheel will always be able to provide more stopping power than the front. Any coaster brake will be able to lock the rear wheel, which means that it has more than enough performance. For urban riding, you really want a front brake as well. A coaster won't soil your trousers with black dust or require frequent pad replacement. No cable to adjust or freeze up in winter. The drawback is that you can't position the pedal by rotating it backwards.

    (4) Hub dynamo and drum brake in the front hub. Both seem like good ideas, but not the most common setup, which makes me wonder.

    They are both very common in Europe, probably because bikes there are serious transportation, rather than toys. I've got both and like them. Bottle generators are a fiddle and slip in rain and snow, plugging in rechargeables is too much of a hassle, and battery lights are even more of a hassle, plus being too dim. I wouldn't consider a car that lacked a generator; why accept a bike with similar deficiancies?

    Drum brakes require more force than rim brakes. However, rim brakes require too much maintenance and have problems in ice and snow. I decided that rim brakes were unacceptable, drums acceptable, and disks best.

    Paul

  13. #13
    extra bitter kyselad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisible View Post
    hope this helps!
    That helps immensely. According to Harris, SA quality was sagging horribly but improved when they recently started Taiwanese manufacturing -- are these hubs similarly problematic? Basically, if I were to go 3-speed, the SA geared and dynamo hubs are both cheaper than the rest, and I don't really dig the twist shifters on the other models. If the quality gap is still a serious one, I'll upgrade to SRAM or Shimano.

    The drum brake sounded nice b/c it's enclosed, with the foul weather advantage similar to the internal gearing. I'd read about problems with the old Shimano drums and some sort of intentional brake dampening system, which sounds like an over-reaction to the myth of countless cyclists flipping over their handlebars -- I cannot fathom a dumber "safety" mechanism (it ain't no ABS). If there is indeed a general problem with drum brake sponginess, I'll definitely pass on that since I use the front brake almost exclusively. I'll dream about a disc, then accept financial reality and throw on a rim brake.

  14. #14
    extra bitter kyselad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH View Post
    The weight transfer on deceleration means that the front wheel will always be able to provide more stopping power than the front. Any coaster brake will be able to lock the rear wheel, which means that it has more than enough performance. For urban riding, you really want a front brake as well. A coaster won't soil your trousers with black dust or require frequent pad replacement. No cable to adjust or freeze up in winter. The drawback is that you can't position the pedal by rotating it backwards.
    Couldn't agree more -- if the power output of the coaster isn't substantially diminished, it seems quite adequate to me. And I ride fixed much of the time, so hopefully I won't miss coasting too much. Of course, that might change with enough of a load.

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH View Post
    Drum brakes require more force than rim brakes. However, rim brakes require too much maintenance and have problems in ice and snow. I decided that rim brakes were unacceptable, drums acceptable, and disks best.
    Have you had luck with a drum brake? If so, which brand? I'm curious whether any are decent enough to serve up front.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by kyselad; 12-03-07 at 01:32 PM.

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    Senior Member thdave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH View Post
    So here are my questions:

    (1) 3-speed. Good enough? Will I regret passing up a 5, 7, or 8?
    The way I see it, the goal is to arrive at the office without being sweaty or tired. A wider gear range helps with this. The 7 and 8 speed hubs cost only a bit more than the 3-speed ones, so why not get them? A Rohloff is best, unless you live without wind or hills, but the extra gear range costs a lot.

    (2) Nexus? Spectro? Sturmey Archer (the new stock from Asia)? Are they all fairly reliable at this point or should I heed the old horror stories about slipping into freewheeling in top gears?
    The Nexus-7 has been dead reliable for me over six years of all season, every day riding. I can't speak for the others, because I have not used them.

    (3) Coaster brake on the rear hub -- bad idea? I've read vague complaints about their performance.

    The weight transfer on deceleration means that the front wheel will always be able to provide more stopping power than the front. Any coaster brake will be able to lock the rear wheel, which means that it has more than enough performance. For urban riding, you really want a front brake as well. A coaster won't soil your trousers with black dust or require frequent pad replacement. No cable to adjust or freeze up in winter. The drawback is that you can't position the pedal by rotating it backwards.

    (4) Hub dynamo and drum brake in the front hub. Both seem like good ideas, but not the most common setup, which makes me wonder.

    They are both very common in Europe, probably because bikes there are serious transportation, rather than toys. I've got both and like them. Bottle generators are a fiddle and slip in rain and snow, plugging in rechargeables is too much of a hassle, and battery lights are even more of a hassle, plus being too dim. I wouldn't consider a car that lacked a generator; why accept a bike with similar deficiancies?

    Drum brakes require more force than rim brakes. However, rim brakes require too much maintenance and have problems in ice and snow. I decided that rim brakes were unacceptable, drums acceptable, and disks best.

    Paul

    Good post, Paul. I agree, although the cost for a 7 or 8 speed might be more than a "bit" more than a 3 speed. Another point of interest is the cable connection to the hub. It is significantly easier to unhook a 3 speed Nexus than it is for a 7 speed. If you need to service a flat in the cold or in the dark, you'd wish you had the 3 speed.

    Because of that, I bought a Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. No flats since I did that.

    I have a bottle generator on my Breezer, and after riding it about 5 minutes in the rain it slips and fades. Hub dynamo is the way to go.

    Also, sometimes it's tough adjusting rim brakes in the winter. Sometimes I hear rubbing when I'm standing and pumping hard up a hill. What a pain. If ice or snow develop, then I'm rubbing, too. If I readjust, I can't brake quickly enough. Bottom line: if you get V brakes, which work great when adjusted properly, replace the pads right before winter. Be patient--they are difficult to adjust-- and allow more stopping time.
    Cleveland, OH
    Breezer fan

  16. #16
    Back after a long absence joelpalmer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyselad View Post
    (4) Hub dynamo and drum brake in the front hub. Both seem like good ideas, but not the most common setup, which makes me wonder.
    I'm running a three speed with a dynamo/drum brake front hub. I love the set-up and the lights work great for normal city commuting. My $0.02.
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  17. #17
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Disc up front needn't be expensive. I just converted my front to disc. It cost me about $100 to build the wheel, and $60 for the brake itself. The wheel would have been about that much anyway (maybe $10 or so cheaper). The Avid BB7 mechanical that I got for $60 is great so far.
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  18. #18
    extra bitter kyselad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Disc up front needn't be expensive. I just converted my front to disc. It cost me about $100 to build the wheel, and $60 for the brake itself. The wheel would have been about that much anyway (maybe $10 or so cheaper). The Avid BB7 mechanical that I got for $60 is great so far.
    Hmm, that might be within reach. But that assumes I have disc tabs on the fork, correct? I'm looking around for an old, slack frame (possibly a mixte), though perhaps I can find a cheap fork to match.

  19. #19
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    Here's a frame that should have some carrying capacity, disc tabs on the fork too.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Rick Smith's Avatar
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    The Nexus 8-speed I'm running (and its accompanying grip shifter) are temperamental. I enjoy riding the hub because of the low amount of cleaning and the ability to change gears at a full stop, but I've found myself needing to service the hub extensively (getting the gears back in order by matching the lines up at 4, stretching the cable when I need to push the hub back with a stretched chain, and even taking it in for service when it refused to switch gears at all).

    I'd still recommend it, but it's high maintenance.

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    I have a 3 speed hub in a hilly area and regret not getting more speeds. At first, I had a short, flat commute of about 3 miles roundtrip and 3 speeds was easy for that. In fact, it was a little too easy so I had the rear cog replaced to get better gearing on flat areas.

    Then I started going on longer trips with more climbs. Also, my commute went from 3 miles roundtrip to about 25. I'd think carefully about the type of commute you are doing. A few small hills or even just one big one on a 30 minute commute would not faze me on a 3 speed. But with an hour-long commute one way and several hills, 3 speeds may give you more of a workout than you want and/or put some stress on your knees. Some days I just walk up one of the steeper hills.

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