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Single Speed v. 3 Speed v. 10+ Speed?

Old 05-27-10, 08:25 PM
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westBrooklyn
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Single Speed v. 3 Speed v. 10+ Speed?

Better commuting bike and why?

Would like to hear your preferences.

This is my situation:

I am new to biking. I have a single speed. I'm not in shape and I'm finding the hills to be a bit more challenging than I would like. Part of me wants to tough it out and get in shape and make it easy. But I'm considering other options.

One option is to convert my bike to a 3 speed. I think that the 3 gears would be plenty for my need: simplicity, but a variation for hilly areas.

I am leaning against going with a 10+ speed. The whole gear system just seems like it is tougher to maintain and a bit overkill for somebody in my situation.

Are the 3 speeds easy to maintain? How do I go about finding the 3 speed hub/wheel? All the "wheel builders" think they deserve more for their effort than my attorney or accountant costs. When I look for some online, most of the 3 speed wheels have coaster brakes (not what I am looking for). Any ideas where I can find that type of wheel for a reasonable cost?
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Old 05-27-10, 09:02 PM
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Here's an 8 speed IGH wheel for under $400: https://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/wheelsint.html

I'm not sure what type of bike you're interested in but you can find bikes that only have gears in the rear (no front derailleur) for not too much money. After the initial break in period (after which the bike shop should make adjustments for free), they really aren't hard to maintain.

I guess I would be tempted to give yourself another couple of weeks to see how much difference improved fitness makes. Then you'll have a better idea if a single speed is going work for you or not. Whether or not you'd be happy with a 3 speed depends on how you like to ride. If tooling along at a relaxing pace is your style then a 3 speed could be right up your alley.

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Old 05-27-10, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by westBrooklyn View Post
How do I go about finding the 3 speed hub/wheel?
What size wheel?

https://www.velo-orange.com/distaraw3wh.html
https://store.somafab.com/igthwhset.html

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Old 05-27-10, 09:45 PM
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700c wheels. I don't want a coaster brake though.
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Old 05-27-10, 09:58 PM
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What gear ratio? just gear down...
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Old 05-27-10, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post
What gear ratio? just gear down...
Wow. A little too complex for me with that one. How do I "gear down"?
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Old 05-27-10, 10:32 PM
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I've never considered derailleur systems to be high maintenance or difficult to work on.
IGHs have their merits, but IMO derailleur systems offer the most bang for the buck. If an individual item should become worn or damaged, it is relatively inexpensive and easy to replace.
As for range of gearing and spacing between gears, I think you'd have to really work at finding a derailleur setup with less of the former and/or more of the latter than an available IGH.
In summary, don't let your immediate perceptions dissuade you from considering a derailleur system. They have been the most cost effective solution for most cyclists for many decades. An attraction of IGHs to the layperson may be that they appear to be simple on the outside, but they are rather more complex on the inside, whereas with derailleur systems, what you see is more or less what you get.
I'm not saying IGH's don't have their place in the grand scheme of things, but I think they offer a false attraction of simplicity, that belies reality, to the layperson.

My remarks may provoke a debate; so be it. I don't deny IGHs their merits, but I don't consider them ascendant over derailleur systems for general use.
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Old 05-27-10, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by westBrooklyn View Post
Wow. A little too complex for me with that one. How do I "gear down"?
Just a guess here, but try putting either a smaller chain ring (up front) or larger cog (in the back).
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Old 05-28-10, 06:20 AM
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How much maintenance do IGHs require? Do they need regular adjustments?
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Old 05-28-10, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by KrautFed View Post
How much maintenance do IGHs require? Do they need regular adjustments?
Current greased IGHs do require regreasing at 3000 to 5000 mile intervals normally speaking. Some owners shift to oiling through the shifter hole in the axle with good results. Shimano sells a oiling kit which requires partial hub disassembly if you follow their published procedures. Older IGH units with an oiling port in the hub normally required a few drops of oil every week to month or so depending on mileage ridden.

Other than lubrication maintenance is minimal normally speaking. Very occasional shift cable adjustment may be required, particularly after wheel removal and reinstallation.
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Old 05-28-10, 10:14 AM
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Gears = efficiency

First of all, it is supposed to be FUN, so if your ride isn't workin' out for you, change it out or change it up.

Single speed is the slowest, with the most effort, but lowest maintenance.

I have tried a series conventionally geared road and mountain bikes. The maintenance level is highest. The speed is highest with the least effort, but not by much compared to the internally geared hub.

I've logged the most miles on an internally geared hub bike with 8 speeds. Maintenance? I choose to forgo maintenance for the most part. I just hop on and go; yet this bike just keeps on rollin' along. It gets washed when it rains. It gets the chain oiled a few times a year. It has steel cogs and a straight chainline. I've never even replaced the chain!

Once the initial cable stretch happened, the bike hasn't required any more adjustments to the brakes or Internally geared hub shifter. Changing a flat on the rear wheel is Much more work than on a "10" speed or a 1 speed. "slime" (I use Truegoo because it is a Colorado company) solves MOST of my flat tire problems.

The effort level with the IGH is slightly higher than the "10 speed" bikes and the speed is slightly lower, but the lack of required maintenance makes it my favorite choice. Plus, the chain guard means I can ride around in normal pants without getting grease on them!


Summary: It is supposed to be FUN. If you think more gears would make it more fun, then do it. 1-3-10 speeds are also hard-easier-easiest in terms of effort and Lowest-low-highest in terms of maintenance.

Today's Internally geared hubs have up to 10 speeds. You are not stuck with just 3 speeds. Try out the bike on a commute if you can or be ready to go through a few different bikes before you settle on the ride that suits your commute, budget, fitness level, and style of riding.

Last edited by Leiniesred; 05-28-10 at 10:22 AM. Reason: spelling.
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Old 05-28-10, 10:29 AM
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Wow, those are pretty nice.
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Old 05-28-10, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by westBrooklyn View Post
I am leaning against going with a 10+ speed. The whole gear system just seems like it is tougher to maintain and a bit overkill for somebody in my situation.
I'm not sure what situation gears aren't appropriate for, but you know it more than I do. While I don't use most of my 18 gears regularly ( there seems to be a small handful I mostly stick to ), I love being able to shift to a lower gearing when I'm climbing, or fighting a headwind, and a higher gearing when I'm spinning out at 20 mph. It's a little hard for me to picture giving that all up. But I'm doing 500 miles per month, and haven't needed any maintenance to the derailleur.

Anyway, I wonder if you could rent a couple of bikes on a couple different days, that are already set up with 3 and 10+ gears, and have some fun at the park, before deciding what to spend your money on?
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Old 05-28-10, 10:48 AM
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I can't remember how hilly Brooklyn is (I was there once), it's pretty flat? I ride in Chicago and we are pretty flat. I have a few 5,7,8 and 9 speed IGH bikes. I find a 5 speed is more than enough for my roads....My big hill is the bridge over over I-90
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Old 05-28-10, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by westBrooklyn View Post

I'm finding the hills to be a bit more challenging than I would like.
Depends on the hills. I can tell you a 3 speed will offer some help for smaller hills, but derailleur systems (or a Rohloff) can make all the difference for real hills.
That being said, a lifetime ago I toured from southern Germany to northern Italy (a few little hills on that route) on a three speed with coaster brakes. It certainly works, but there are better suited bikes for tour like that.
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Old 05-28-10, 11:13 AM
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I have a 24 speed and I've never had a problem with my gears (and I bike through the Winter). I think sometimes the maintenance required to maintain a geared bike gets fairly overblown (especially by people listing the pros of getting a single speed bike). I suppose it does add an element that could go wrong but at least for me it never does.

Heck when I was younger I rode an 18 speed mountain bike for years (until the frame broke at one of the welds). The gears were still working perfectly .
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Old 05-28-10, 11:34 AM
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If you're concerned about steeper or longer hills, 3-speed is not the best option. They tend not to have very low "hill gears." But other than that, they are great. Occasionally, If find myself missing some between gears, but the only one I really miss is the hill gear. The first gear on my two 3 speed bikes is low enough to climb hills if I stand up and pump. As I get stronger, that is less often.

Yes, internal geared hubs (IGH's) are less maintenance and more durable than external derailleur type gear systems. There's no doubt about it. I also like that most IGH bikes have an option for a chain guard, but they're also more expensive, so you have to decide how much that maintenance time is worth to you. For example, a Trek Allant commuter with 21 speed derailleur costs less than a Trek Belleville, with 3-spd IGH.

I think it's nice to have some of each. Bikes are cheap enough we can have more than one. It's just a matter of deciding which one to get first. In that case, I recommend the multi-speed derailleur bike first, as they are just more versatile and offer more for the money. You will never wish you had more gears, and you can cope with the extra maintenance easily enough in the meantime.
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Old 05-28-10, 01:04 PM
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I have a 7 speed IGH Nexus on my Breezer and an 18 speed on my Giant Rapid, and ride a work bike that has a 3 speed Nexus hub.

The hubs don't need maintenance. Some will say otherwise and maybe they have some other experience, but i've never oiled my 7 speed hub and have about 11k miles on it (my odometer died about 2 yrs ago). the only maintenance is with the chain. Use kevlar belted tires to reduce the chances of a flat and you'll love the IGH.

My Giant is a faster bike, anyway you slice it. That's fun. But, I need to carefully strap my pants and I don't have fenders on the bike. It's a road bike, so it should be fast, but it's my fair weather bike only.

Derailers, imo, require more tuning and I don't like the exposed chain. You can drop a chain much much more easily that you will on an IGH bike. That said, if you are just looking at 3 speeds, which I think is a good option (my work 3sp bike is fine when I go up a fairly steep but short hill), you could compare that to a 7, 8, or 9 speed rear derailer and a single chainring--no double or triple--on the front sproket. A 1x9 is nice, efficient and has decent range. Rear derailers are ok with me--the chain doesn't drop. My 7 speed hub can go up any hill, almost as readily as my 18 speed. I don't notice the difference, but I don't live near a mountain.

But, for me, a bike with a chainguard is the one I'll always ride the most. Chainguards and fenders are key for bike riding on most days in Cleveland.
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Old 05-28-10, 01:51 PM
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I think the best bang for the buck on maintenance, utility, and versatility comes from a modern, good quality, derailleur setup combined with spending 50 extra bucks for Gore Ride-on sealed shift cables. $50 might seem like a lot, but it's money extremely well spent for someone who might otherwise spend hundreds of dollars on tune-ups at the LBS. Once your cables are set up, you will not have to adjust them ever.
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Old 05-28-10, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by RaleighComp View Post
I think the best bang for the buck on maintenance, utility, and versatility comes from a modern, good quality, derailleur setup combined with spending 50 extra bucks for Gore Ride-on sealed shift cables. $50 might seem like a lot, but it's money extremely well spent for someone who might otherwise spend hundreds of dollars on tune-ups at the LBS. Once your cables are set up, you will not have to adjust them ever.
Educate me, as this sound fascinating: How is it that they never need adjustment? How do they work and how are they built? Are they made out of some type of synthetic that won't rust?
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Old 05-28-10, 02:27 PM
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I ride them all here...

For getting around my "as flat as you want it to be city" I can ride my old Raleigh club bike with it's SA 3 speed and maintain good road speed and still manage some decent grades.

IGH hubs need very little to keep them running smoothly as they are sealed against the elements and as such remain highly efficient in the worst environments that will cause degradation in derailleur equipped bikes which do require more cleaning and service and do not enjoy the same working life. The old SA AW is said to be good for 50,000 miles which is something no derailleur equipped bicycle can match.

My fixed gear and ss bikes are also geared to give that nice balance of speed and hill climbing ability and have a little edge over the three speed as even my fixed gear mtb is lighter.

For simplicity I have a Peugeot UO8 with a simple 6 speed derailleur setup and it will take me anywhere but does lack a little top end and will be getting fitted out with a double to make it a 12 speed.

When I want to go faster and know I will be dealing with longer hills and longer distances where I might be battling strong winds I ride my hybrid which is a 24 speed or my 24 speed touring bike.

As far as derailleur gears go... I am thinking that no mortal needs more than 8 speeds in the rear and for most a well set up 6 speed would be just fine.
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Old 05-28-10, 02:30 PM
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New Shimano hubs need to be serviced at 1000 miles but this is a really simple procedure and after that they should be cleaned and re-lubed once a year if they see normal commuter mileage.

This will ensure a long working life... prior to Shimano changing their service requirements many people were only seeing 10,000 miles from their 7 and 8 speed IGH hubs which is simply not acceptable.
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Old 05-28-10, 02:35 PM
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I have a 20 speed road bike, and only use 10 of the gears - never get fast enough in traffic to get onto the big front ring. I have a fixed speed which still allows me to go fast but obviously requires a bit of effort up the hills. I have a 24 speed hybrid and again don't get onto the big ring, just use the 2 small rings.

FWIW my average speed over a 9.5 mile commute is around 14-15mph, max speed around 25-28mph and this is in heavy traffic with some minor hills and pretty poor road surface on both a hybrid and a road bike - haven't done it on my fixed speed!

I'd suggest a 1x9 for you - easier maintenance and some gear selection. Derailleurs don't require too much maintenance.
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Old 05-28-10, 02:35 PM
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I've been riding a fixed gear for commutes and general urban riding. I'm surprised to report that I'm no slower than on my geared bikes and it's not particularly hard to ride a fixed gear after a week or two getting used to it. I've climbed all the steepest climbs in my area using my fixed gear and although it's more effort for any given second of climbing the climbs are over a lot faster than if I was gearing down on my other bikes...overall I don't get to the top of a steep climb any more tired than before.

If you've got a single speed and you are not in shape just keep riding it...you'll get stronger quite fast.
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Old 05-28-10, 02:46 PM
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Don't you guys using fixed gear bikes ever miss coasting? ...or did you mean 'single speed?'
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