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  1. #1
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    Downtube: internal hub or 9-speed?

    I'm a bit new to all this, and I can't figure it out: do the advantages of the internal hub outweigh having that extra low gear? One very helpful review on this site mentioned the gearing on the 8H was a bit odd. I'm very much not (yet) a gearhead, won't be mucking about with adjusting the gears myself, and don't want to watch the low-price incentive of the Downtube trickle away at bike shops.

    I was originally intending to use the bike for light touring -- the BF (that's boyfriend, not Bike Friday, unfortunately) and I mostly do 2-3 day fully-loaded trips. It sounded as though the internal hub was easier/neater to fold, and perhaps better for the kind of frequent weekend train trips we do.

    Ah, but I said "originally." Last weekend, I tried a folder for the first time. See, I'm 4'9", and...wow. It was a totally new and completely amazing experience to ride a bike that fit, for the first time in my life.

    So, now I'm thinking that this DT is going to replace my regular bike for around town, and we live on a big hill, making the extra low gear more attractive.

    Thoughts? Anyone with a 2008 8H found they had to adjust their gearing to conquer hills?

    While I'm asking, what's the deal with the NS being more expensive than the front suspension? I've only ever ridden bikes without suspension, and that was the model I tried out (the only one the store had), and it seemed fine to me, but I figured I'd be getting front suspension just because it seemed nutty to opt for less comfort for long rides. But then I do get suspicious about the higher price of the NS. Other than lighter weight, does it have other advantages I'm not seeing?

    And, finally, Yan -- if you're reading this, thanks for making a short person very happy! But...please know that your website and other sales material variously give the minimum rider height at 4'9", 4'10", and even 4'6". That difference does matter, for some of us. FWIW, at 4'9", I was wishing the head tube was 1" shorter than it was able to adjust, but it was close enough, and certainly an order of magnitude better than what I've been riding.

  2. #2
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    I'm running a ten buck 39t used Ebay alloy chainring that fixed the high gearing of the stock 8H bike. You also have to shorten the chain but not an expensive deal. The stock steel 46t ring is also surprisingly heavy and I got some small satisfaction tossing it in the dumpster. The stock ring bolts were too short to run the chainguard in my application. The 39t gearing changes the bike in a big (and good) way. What hills?

    Note that the suspension/non-susp bikes are different frames, with the latter being shorter wheelbase. The shorter might be ok for your size. You can get all the susp you need by adjusting tire pressure, and save 3 # or so.

  3. #3
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awayatpost View Post
    I'm a bit new to all this, and I can't figure it out: do the advantages of the internal hub outweigh having that extra low gear? One very helpful review on this site mentioned the gearing on the 8H was a bit odd. I'm very much not (yet) a gearhead, won't be mucking about with adjusting the gears myself, and don't want to watch the low-price incentive of the Downtube trickle away at bike shops.

    I was originally intending to use the bike for light touring -- the BF (that's boyfriend, not Bike Friday, unfortunately) and I mostly do 2-3 day fully-loaded trips. It sounded as though the internal hub was easier/neater to fold, and perhaps better for the kind of frequent weekend train trips we do.

    Ah, but I said "originally." Last weekend, I tried a folder for the first time. See, I'm 4'9", and...wow. It was a totally new and completely amazing experience to ride a bike that fit, for the first time in my life.

    So, now I'm thinking that this DT is going to replace my regular bike for around town, and we live on a big hill, making the extra low gear more attractive.

    Thoughts? Anyone with a 2008 8H found they had to adjust their gearing to conquer hills?

    --> The internal hub weighs a bit more than the standard, external derailleur, but they offer many other benefits: 1) a very wide range of gears (300%), more than derailleur; 2) easy for folding, since's there is no external part to bang into; 3) easier maintenance since the internal hub is all enclosed. The "problem" you've read about the gears is that the front chainring is a little large, so the gearing is high. Many of us have changed that original chainring with a smaller one, say with 39 teeth. The result is a very nice gear range, good for hills and for going fast.

    While I'm asking, what's the deal with the NS being more expensive than the front suspension? I've only ever ridden bikes without suspension, and that was the model I tried out (the only one the store had), and it seemed fine to me, but I figured I'd be getting front suspension just because it seemed nutty to opt for less comfort for long rides. But then I do get suspicious about the higher price of the NS. Other than lighter weight, does it have other advantages I'm not seeing?

    ---> The NS is a different, lighter frame. As I recall, it's close to 3 lbs lighter. The frame components cost more, so the bike cost more - no mystery there. One advantage for you is that the wheelbase of the NS frame is 2" shorter than the Front Suspension. But, then you don't get the front suspension. It's a tough call, and a personal one.

    And, finally, Yan -- if you're reading this, thanks for making a short person very happy! But...please know that your website and other sales material variously give the minimum rider height at 4'9", 4'10", and even 4'6". That difference does matter, for some of us. FWIW, at 4'9", I was wishing the head tube was 1" shorter than it was able to adjust, but it was close enough, and certainly an order of magnitude better than what I've been riding.

    --> Are you aware that the Downtube models you're considering comes with an adjustable stem? You can shorten them easily with an Allen wrench.


    Good luck with your choice. Downtubes are a tremendous value and very well built.

  4. #4
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Internal hubs and derailers have their advantages. Roughly speaking, internal hubs are cleaner and more robust in that there is no piece of metal sticking out of the drive side of the bike. Derailer drivetrains are lighter, more efficient, and easier to fix. Note that you can swap the cassette of the bike for a > 300% gear range.

    Personally, I would stick with the derailer if riding 20" wheels. They are durable and easy to fix. The parts are pretty ubiquitous and any bike mechanic/shop will be able to work on it.

    By the way, low-end suspension forks are usually pretty cheap. Probably less than a cro-mo fork.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by awayatpost View Post
    I'm a bit new to all this, and I can't figure it out: do the advantages of the internal hub outweigh having that extra low gear?
    There is not a lower gear on the derailleur version.

    The internal hub has a range of 305%. The derailleur version uses an 11-32 cassette which has a range of 290%. There are extra gears, so the steps between each gear are smaller, but the range is wider with the internal hub.

    Internal hubs make a lot of sense on folding bicycles. They don't get damaged or knocked out of alignment easily like a derailleur. The drivetrain is simpler. The chain doesn't hang down low next to the ground as with a derailleur.

  6. #6
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    Thanks, everyone, for your input. It's sounding as though internal hub is the way to go -- but I hadn't realized the frame sizes on the NS and front suspension are different, and every inch counts for me (even adjusted to its smallest, the NS offered a slightly more upright position than I prefer, but that's a minor complaint). Thus, it looks as though I'm just gonna have to plan a fieldtrip to their Bensalem store and try 'em all out. Luckily, that's not that hard to do from DC.
    Thanks again.

  7. #7
    Hello from Canuckistan! saanichbc's Avatar
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    Listen to this advice.

    He knows what he is talking about.

    I was going to offer similar advice, but "awetmore" did so including much more info than I would have thought of.

    I use internal on my R20. I didn't want the typical derailleur hanging down, just asking to get caught up in something being on a 20" wheeled bike.

    Actually, after using an internal setup, I will be switching my long distance Surly Long Haul Trucker tourer to internal gearing later this year.

    I like being able to change gears when stopped when I have to.

    On a folder, internal hubs just make better sense.


    Quote Originally Posted by awetmore View Post
    There is not a lower gear on the derailleur version.

    The internal hub has a range of 305%. The derailleur version uses an 11-32 cassette which has a range of 290%. There are extra gears, so the steps between each gear are smaller, but the range is wider with the internal hub.

    Internal hubs make a lot of sense on folding bicycles. They don't get damaged or knocked out of alignment easily like a derailleur. The drivetrain is simpler. The chain doesn't hang down low next to the ground as with a derailleur.
    __________________________________
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    My R20 project: http://21oaks.net/r20

  8. #8
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    Internal hubs and derailers have their advantages. Roughly speaking, internal hubs are cleaner and more robust in that there is no piece of metal sticking out of the drive side of the bike. Derailer drivetrains are lighter, more efficient, and easier to fix. Note that you can swap the cassette of the bike for a > 300% gear range.

    Personally, I would stick with the derailer if riding 20" wheels. They are durable and easy to fix. The parts are pretty ubiquitous and any bike mechanic/shop will be able to work on it.

    By the way, low-end suspension forks are usually pretty cheap. Probably less than a cro-mo fork.
    Not necessarily and from what I have found there are many other factors that affect "efficiency" much more than the dérailleur vs internal geared hub. Like wind resistance and weight.

    Aaron
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  9. #9
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    Not necessarily and from what I have found there are many other factors that affect "efficiency" much more than the dérailleur vs internal geared hub. Like wind resistance and weight.

    Aaron
    It is actually pretty difficult to get precise figures for the relative efficiency of derailer versus hub gears -- yes, I have looked at several papers referenced in this forum over the years -- but the final conclusion seems to be that there is a noticeable loss.

    I actually have an internal hub and derailer drivetrain bikes. And they both have their advantages. Personally, I think that derailer damage with 20" wheel folding bike is over-hyped. Consequently, I put little weight to that consideration unless there are special circumstances. Internal hubs generally require more effort to change a flat/tire and that one bring an extra tool to tighten the wheel. I think that it would be easier to have a second chainring that one changes by hand with the derailer bike. Something that comes in handy for touring.

    Anyway, if it successfully gets one around, that is what really matters.

  10. #10
    Senior Member cmcanulty's Avatar
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    I agree I just added a 39T chainring to my Downtube NS, very easy and cost $10. You basically just unscrew the chainring protector and then bolt on the new chainring. I left both rings on but if you replaced the 48T with a 39T you could leave the chainring on. Depends on whether you care about losing the highest gear or two. You also need longer chainring bolts and maybe a spacer if you leave both rings on.

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