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Long-winded 3 speed question(s)

Old 03-19-22, 10:11 AM
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bnagle
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Long-winded 3 speed question(s)

I'm thinking about putting together a 3 speed bike for a relatively flat area with the occasional hill + kid hauling duties. I really like the conceptual simplicity of a 3 speed, and imagine I'd be spending 95% of the time in one gear with the occasional bailout (2 speed would likely work too).


My priorities are:
  1. A wide-ish range to baby my spoiled flatlander legs
  2. A serviceable setup for when things get out of whack
  3. no loud clicking
  4. preference for friction shifting


I'm looking to decide between the following options, and would appreciate input:
  1. An internally geared hub: I really like the simplicity of the setup but have concerns about the serviceability of the hub without unlacing/relacing the wheel, constant clicking noises, and a limited choice of shifters
  2. 2/3 chainrings with a tensioner: I like the wider range and the simplicity of a front-derailleur, though kind of inelegant with the tensioner
  3. 3 cogs: I'm most drawn to this solution, but I am unsure about the hub spacing + most examples I've seen have a pretty limited range


I know this seems like a lot of work for less gears, but I really do enjoy the simplicity of a pared down setup. Also, I'm really not too concerned about getting the just-right-gear, just looking to huff around in relative comfort.


Which approach would you all recommend? Are my assessments off-base? Is the whole project doomed? Any input greatly appreciated!
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Old 03-19-22, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by bnagle View Post
I'm thinking about putting together a 3 speed bike for a relatively flat area with the occasional hill + kid hauling duties. I really like the conceptual simplicity of a 3 speed, and imagine I'd be spending 95% of the time in one gear with the occasional bailout (2 speed would likely work too).


My priorities are:
  1. A wide-ish range to baby my spoiled flatlander legs
  2. A serviceable setup for when things get out of whack
  3. no loud clicking
  4. preference for friction shifting


I'm looking to decide between the following options, and would appreciate input:
  1. An internally geared hub: I really like the simplicity of the setup but have concerns about the serviceability of the hub without unlacing/relacing the wheel, constant clicking noises, and a limited choice of shifters
  2. 2/3 chainrings with a tensioner: I like the wider range and the simplicity of a front-derailleur, though kind of inelegant with the tensioner
  3. 3 cogs: I'm most drawn to this solution, but I am unsure about the hub spacing + most examples I've seen have a pretty limited range


I know this seems like a lot of work for less gears, but I really do enjoy the simplicity of a pared down setup. Also, I'm really not too concerned about getting the just-right-gear, just looking to huff around in relative comfort.


Which approach would you all recommend? Are my assessments off-base? Is the whole project doomed? Any input greatly appreciated!

The Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hub, by far the most popular one, was durable and, easy to maintain and rebuild. The model name, AW, actually stands for "Type A, Wide-Ratio" but legend also expands it to "always works." How many millions of 3 speeds were in use by kids that never ever got serviced and are still around?
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Old 03-19-22, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by dedhed View Post
The Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hub, by far the most popular one, was durable and, easy to maintain and rebuild. The model name, AW, actually stands for "Type A, Wide-Ratio" but legend also expands it to "always works." How many millions of 3 speeds were in use by kids that never ever got serviced and are still around?
Thanks. I notice you're using past tense, is this meant to suggest the current model isn't the same quality? (I see there are a bunch of vintage ones still available and going strong)
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Old 03-19-22, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by bnagle View Post
My priorities are:
  1. A wide-ish range to baby my spoiled flatlander legs
  2. A serviceable setup for when things get out of whack
  3. no loud clicking
  4. preference for friction shifting
1. Common 3-spd internal gear hubs from SRAM (discontinued), Shimano and Sturmey-Archer are all about the same overall range, in the neighborhood of 180%. The middle gear is direct drive.

2. Sturmey-Archer 3-spd hub internals are easy to remove, straightforward to work on and every internal component is available as a spare part. Sturmey offers trigger, thumb, twist, rapid fire, bar end and downtube 3-spd shifters. The Shimano Nexus offers only the entire internal works as a spare in the N.A. market. Shimano has a twist and rapid fire shifter for their 3-speed.

3. No 'loud' clicking &
4. Friction shifting.

3-spd IGHs click as the high gear drive overruns the direct drive. Many riders don't notice this, but it's there. 3-spd IGHs have been index-shifted since 1902.

According to your parameters, I'd suggest a NOS Shimano Silent Clutch rear freehub, a Shimano (single speed) cassette spacer kit, three suitable cassette cogs and basically any derailleur and friction shifter to suit.

Fun fact: Three-speed derailleur gearing is alive and well and living in Asia.


Last edited by tcs; 03-19-22 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 03-19-22, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by bnagle View Post
Thanks. I notice you're using past tense, is this meant to suggest the current model isn't the same quality?
"In any case, the quality of Taiwanese production from SunRace/Sturmey-Archer so far has been excellent, generally better than the quality of later English production. Sturmey-Archer's selection of multi-speed hubs is much wider than that of the other manufacturers. Some folks don't believe that the Taiwanese can make stuff as well as the British did, but there's no factual basis for that belief, and in many cases this attitude may be traced to racism." - Sheldon Brown
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Old 03-19-22, 12:58 PM
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I've ridden and serviced several AW 3 speeds, and I agree with the 2nd poster. I would get an AW (to be clear, i have not ridden a modern 3 speed hub), get it laced into an aluminum rim, and head off. You will need the right kind of frame with dropouts that allow enough vertical movement, but it should be simple enough. They require very little once they are set up - less than a tensioner and derailleur in my experience. There's a co-op style place near me with bins of them for $10 each, but I would look for a bike with a working hub AND the shifter.
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Old 03-19-22, 01:03 PM
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SA 3 speeds ARE 100% wonderful, I know because I do hundred mile rides on mine at 50 lbs with drinks/ coat. I service/ take apart mine once a year, it was new in 2017 and is a drum brake version. Grease on the bearings and a couple spoons of oil inside. My GIs are about 49 to 87. You can easily lower that to 40 to 69 with 44/23T cogs. My bike is 100% silent, only somebody riding behind might hear the ticking. NO hub is quieter.

However your ideas are 99% harebrained. You can't just take any derailleur bike and switch. Get a bike old or new that already is a 3 speed with a 120 mm dropout. Derailleurs were never easy IME.
I also have a Nexus 7i that is pretty good, but has a roller brake that drags like hell.

Last edited by GamblerGORD53; 03-19-22 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 03-19-22, 01:34 PM
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If you're going to have a rear derailleur anyway, why not just go with 5 speed?
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Old 03-19-22, 03:02 PM
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Thanks everyone for the info, this is really helpful for me. The AW definitely seems like a strong contender.

Originally Posted by tcs View Post
According to your parameters, I'd suggest a NOS Shimano Silent Clutch rear freehub, a Shimano (single speed) cassette spacer kit, three suitable cassette cogs and basically any derailleur and friction shifter to suit.

Fun fact: Three-speed derailleur gearing is alive and well and living in Asia.
The silent clutch freehubs seem cool, I didn't know about those. Looks similar to the Onyx hubs with the sprag clutches? Also, I wonder if one could track down one of those Asian 3 speeds in the states.

Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
However your ideas are 99% harebrained. You can't just take any derailleur bike and switch. Get a bike old or new that already is a 3 speed with a 120 mm dropout.
Ha, I won't argue about the harebrained ideas... luckily no bike is purchased yet and I'll make sure to keep the dropout width in mind.

Originally Posted by Jeff Neese View Post
If you're going to have a rear derailleur anyway, why not just go with 5 speed?
Right, this is me being a little neurotic, but I like the simplified approach. 3 speeds in particular feel like a tidy package where each gear has it's designated function (downhill, flat, uphill or easy, uphill alone, uphill with kids).
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Old 03-19-22, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
According to your parameters, I'd suggest a NOS Shimano Silent Clutch rear freehub, a Shimano (single speed) cassette spacer kit, three suitable cassette cogs and basically any derailleur and friction shifter to suit.
Sorry, one more question about this. About how many teeth difference is feasible between cogs? Would it depend on the derailleur?
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Old 03-19-22, 05:15 PM
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Hey, you want what you want. I've made some suggestions without judging whether anything is a reasonable idea or the best idea and without injecting my paradigms & prejudices.

Originally Posted by bnagle View Post
Sorry, one more question about this. About how many teeth difference is feasible between cogs? Would it depend on the derailleur?
A bit on the derailleur, more on the cogs. I'm guessing based on your initial parameters you'll be friction shifting and feeling the shifts in. Additionally, how fast do you want it to shift?

FWIW, I've got a Shimano Megarange with a factory 24T to 34T jump that shifts okay.

A little light reading about cog design:

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_ho-z.html#hyperglide

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/k7.html#hyperglide

I'm guessing modern design cogs will shift a bigger jump than your legs will be happy with.

Food for thought: those three-speed internal gear hubs from different companies that all have about the same jumps and total range? Yeah, they came up with that over 100 years ago and it's stayed in the market because it's a good, workable compromise.

Last edited by tcs; 03-19-22 at 05:19 PM.
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Old 03-19-22, 05:31 PM
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my 2cents and worth all of it,

If you are using a rear derailler, I don't see any benefit to keeping it at just a 3 cogs, and you never now when you get a head wind and need a bit lower or need the extra gear to beat the young guy racing you

if you do not do IGH, just do a 1x setup. 1x5or7or8 with a simple friction shifter. Thumb shifters are great for this
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Old 03-20-22, 10:25 AM
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Three-speed freewheels. Get 'em on eBay or Amazon.

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Old 03-20-22, 10:49 AM
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The Sturmey Archer AW, as has been said before, is almost indestructible when properly set up. The set up is so easy that small children can do it! Parts are ubiquitous and inexpensive as it may have been the most widely distributed IGH the world. A simple look on eBay will display endless spare part offerings. A worse case scenario, the internal mechanism can be swapped out completely without rebuilding/respoking the wheel. The only part that I have ever seen fail are the pawl springs. And this was once in my 40 year experience with these hubs. There are dozens of YouTube videos and on line resources to rebuild these hubs.
If you are worried that any clicking sound might disturb any sleeping child in the trailer, the clicking sound is actually soothing and more like white noise.
The only caveat is that most three speed Sturmey Archer hubs have too small a rear cog (i.e., too high a gear) for most people. Cogs, however are simple and easy to both find and install to improve the gearing range. The AW may be the easiest piece of equipment to maintain- a tablespoon of light oil squirted annually in the rear hub will ensure effortless operation for dozens of years.
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Old 03-20-22, 07:54 PM
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Depending on how much cycling you do, most Sturmey Archer AW hubs were always equipped with the wrong sprocket. Most I've seen came with 18T sprockets. A larger one can be obtained online, usually 21T or 22T will do it. You'll need to add a link or three to the chain though, but a whole new chain is always a worthy purchase. The majority of sprockets have a snap ring and just pop off, but much older ones are threaded.

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Old 03-20-22, 09:07 PM
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Start reading this thread. There's only about a thousand pages or so. Piece of cake.
For the love of English 3 speeds...

While you're doing that, search Craigslist for an old Raleigh (or any brand, really) 3-speed with a Sturmey rear hub. Whatever might be wrong with a used bike, the hub itself is probably in decent shape. No kidding. You can find them for very cheap sometimes and riding it will let you know if you want to get in deeper and build a nicer one.

Where are you located? One of us might be nearby and can advise in person and offer test rides from the fleet.
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Old 03-21-22, 07:32 AM
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Thanks again for all the info, it seems like the Sturmey AW or a 1x setup is the way to go.
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Old 03-24-22, 01:01 PM
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this may be of interest from,


https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...GZxhd1WdyVTi-h
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