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Internal gear hubs

Old 02-25-13, 12:33 AM
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And just to get on everybody's bad side, I'll argue with, well, pretty much everything here...

Weight - steel shell IGHs are pretty heavy, and the weight is concentrated in one area, which makes it more noticeable. Aluminum shell IGHs can actually weigh less than all the stuff they replace, but at the sacrifice of ten or more gear ratios. By the time your aluminum shell IGH has more than five or so gears, it's back to weighing more than a derailleur system. My Rohloff bike, for instance weighs about a pound-and-a-half more than it would with a high-end derailleur set-up. That dosn't matter to me in the slightest, but it is a fact.

The Rohloff, BTW, is fourteen speeds, not twelve.

I don't understand the comment that chain and cog wear are "almost nonexistent" on an IGH. My chains last about the same whether on an IGH bike or a derailleur bike. And my cogs have to be replaced much more often on an IGH bike because the one cog is the only one being used.

Nor do I get the argument that derailleurs are "complicated, noisy, difficult, dirty, short life, inefficient and if the chain jumps off = possibly dangerous". Derailleurs are nowhere near as complicated as IGHs. Properly adjusted they are quieter than my Rohloff (the grinding sound in certain gears) or the S-A (the ticking sound in most gears). They are spectacularly easy to use. I have derailleurs that are 50 years old and still work wonderfully. They are proven more efficient than most IGHs - the S-A AW can often beat the efficiency of a good derailleur system, and the Rohloff is more efficient in some gears than a derailleur system in some gears - but at best the IGH can offer insignificantly improved efficiency, and at worst it can offer very significantly decreased efficiency. And losing a chain can be a big deal on any bike - and I certainly would rather drop a chain on my derailleur bike than on my coaster brake bike!

S-A hubs, while typically reliable, are certainly not "indestructible". Older (pre-Taiwan) ones in particular will often be found worn or damaged and needing service before they can be useful.

Again, I'm a big IGH fan - I ride daily, doing everything from fast club rides to long off-road trips in the mountains - and it's been several months since I rode a derailleur bike. But glossing over the very real drawbacks of IGHs doesn't do the OP any service.
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Old 02-25-13, 04:02 AM
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Although, the Rohloff uses a 3/32" sprocket, right?

The wear advantage over a derailleur system comes from using 1/8" - single speed - sprockets and chain. (Of course, that's also where a lot of weight disadvantage comes from. My trike, which uses approximately 2.5 chains, weighs almost 2 pounds more because of using single-speed chain.)

In any case, Sheldon Brown's recommendation for gearing configuration on an AW hub was not the standard, 1st for bail-out, 2nd for cruising, 3rd for downhill (or worse, 3rd for slight downhill, 2nd not quite enough for cruising, which is common, too). He recommended both 1st and 2nd as bail-out gears, 3rd for cruising, and just freewheel downhill if you can't keep the cadence up.
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Old 02-25-13, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy
Are any of you riding bikes equipped with an internal gear hub? I'm interested in going that route for a bike to use around town, especially in winter conditions, but I'd like to know about the advantages and drawbacks of such a system.
I've been using a Shimano Nexus 8 for awhile, it did ok when I was out on the coast with better roads, but it only took a few weeks on Eugene's potholes before it started grinding and clanking. I'm going to switch it out with an N360, I think. The advantages are that it's simpler, I love being able to shift while I'm stopped, the main disadvantage is the blank look LBS's give you when you ask them if they can service planetary gears.
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Old 02-25-13, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Weight - steel shell IGHs are pretty heavy, and the weight is concentrated in one area, which makes it more noticeable. [SKIP]That dosn't matter to me in the slightest, but it is a fact.
It doesn't matter to me neither.
I think that for the purpose of transportation cycling (i.e. not for club rides, touring, long trips) the "extra weight" of IGH's CAN be glossed over. When the bike is equipped for commuting, grocery hauling, and with lights, fenders, etc.,as well as a rider dressed for all weather commuting, the added weight of an IGH is insignificant.

Originally Posted by Six jours
[SKIP]They are proven more efficient than most IGHs - the S-A AW can often beat the efficiency of a good derailleur system, and the Rohloff is more efficient in some gears than a derailleur system in some gears - but at best the IGH can offer insignificantly improved efficiency, and at worst it can offer very significantly decreased efficiency.
I think for the purpose of transportation cycling the so-called "efficiency" disadvantage of IGH CAN be glossed over.
Originally Posted by Six jours
[SKIP]S-A hubs, while typically reliable, are certainly not "indestructible".
I've never had a problem with the S-A AW, FM or S-5 hubs in the 30 years I've used them. The TCW 3 speed coaster did require an occasional adjustment of the internal parts. Never have had a problem with the Sachs Torpedo 3 speeds,and had to have one maintenance job on a Sachs Spectro 7 coaster with close to 60,000 miles on it. Never had any IGH failure that disabled any bike while in over 50 years of use.

Originally Posted by Six jours
[SKIP] But glossing over the very real drawbacks of IGHs doesn't do the OP any service.
The only real drawback of an IGH for transportation cycling is possibly not having a stump pulling low gear desired for very steep hills. The range of gears higher than the lowest gear or within the cruising range is not much of a "drawback" in transportation cycling. The range of gears needed to maintain a specific "cadence," especially for riding down hills is also not much of a drawback.
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Old 02-25-13, 08:22 AM
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And, in a smaller-wheeled bike (let's say a 38-559) with the minimum allowable gearing for the Sturmey-Archer 8-speed (30/25), you get a range from 29.8 to 96.7 gear inches.

(Of course, that hub is actually meant more for folding bikes and such. The same 30/25 gearing on my trike would give 22.4 to 72.6 gear inches.)

Shimano allows 38/20 as the minimum gearing for the Alfine 11 (you can get larger sprockets, but because 21 through 23 * 1.9 is not even, 38/20 is as close as you can get), which gets you 24.9 to 101.7 gear inches on the 38-559 tire.

And then you get the mack daddy of IGHes, the Rohloff Speedhub... 2.1 is the minimum ratio for cyclists under 100 kg (2.5 for tandem or for cyclists over 100 kg), which allows 36/17, or a stump-pulling 14.7 to 77.3 gear inch range.

Last edited by bhtooefr; 02-25-13 at 08:31 AM.
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Old 02-25-13, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
I think that for the purpose of transportation cycling (i.e. not for club rides, touring, long trips) the "extra weight" of IGH's CAN be glossed over. When the bike is equipped for commuting, grocery hauling, and with lights, fenders, etc.,as well as a rider dressed for all weather commuting, the added weight of an IGH is insignificant.
I don't think the additional weight is significant for anything other than maybe a mountain time trial, so agree with you. But maybe the OP doesn't, so the weight should be included in a list of potential negatives.

Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
I think for the purpose of transportation cycling the so-called "efficiency" disadvantage of IGH CAN be glossed over.
Maybe. Some IGHs are spectacularly inefficient, especially in certain gears. I recall a Journal of Human Power test which showed a particular gear in a particular hub was so inneficient that you were better off using the next larger gear: the lower gear actually required more power to go slower! I'd want to know that sort of thing before buying.

Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
I've never had a problem with the S-A AW, FM or S-5 hubs in the 30 years I've used them. The TCW 3 speed coaster did require an occasional adjustment of the internal parts. Never have had a problem with the Sachs Torpedo 3 speeds,and had to have one maintenance job on a Sachs Spectro 7 coaster with close to 60,000 miles on it. Never had any IGH failure that disabled any bike while in over 50 years of use.
I've had several AWs with problems. The FM skips under pressure in "high". That's just the way it was designed.
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Old 02-25-13, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Maybe. Some IGHs are spectacularly inefficient, especially in certain gears. I recall a Journal of Human Power test which showed a particular gear in a particular hub was so inneficient that you were better off using the next larger gear: the lower gear actually required more power to go slower! I'd want to know that sort of thing before buying.
The Journal findings on gear "efficiency" may be just that, found in the lab; difficult if not impossible to discern for a rider on the street when riding a grocery-getter bicycle whether for groceries or routine commuting.
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Old 02-25-13, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
The Journal findings on gear "efficiency" may be just that, found in the lab; difficult if not impossible to discern for a rider on the street when riding a grocery-getter bicycle whether for groceries or routine commuting.
Mostly. But again, when a lower gear consumes more effort going slower than does a higher gear going faster, that's significant to me, regardless of what I'm doing with the bike.
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Old 02-25-13, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Mostly. But again, when a lower gear consumes more effort going slower than does a higher gear going faster, that's significant to me, regardless of what I'm doing with the bike.
Last on this subject. I think the only worthwhile test of IGH gear efficiency is on the street in typical use. I have found IGH gears to be efficient enough to do their job with ease and reliably with little to no care for decades of use. I don't let findings found in obscure Journals cloud my enjoyment in the use of IGH equipped bikes.
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Old 02-25-13, 11:42 AM
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What journal was this study in? Is it accessible online?
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Old 02-25-13, 11:55 AM
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I think I mostly agree with you, ILTB. Folks argue about a a couple of percentage points of efficiency as though they're the whole world, when in fact a good derailleur system will vary by 2% just from gear to gear. My beloved Rohloff appears to average about 2% less efficiency than a good derailleur set-up, but that's unimportant to me. It might be important to someone else though, and the OP did ask for potential negatives...
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Old 02-25-13, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody
What journal was this study in? Is it accessible online?
https://ihpva.org/HParchive/PDF/hp52-2001.pdf
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Old 02-25-13, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy
Are any of you riding bikes equipped with an internal gear hub? I'm interested in going that route for a bike to use around town, especially in winter conditions, but I'd like to know about the advantages and drawbacks of such a system.
Third year on the Alfine 8. I've seen a lot of bike gear come and go, but this hub is brilliant. Zero maintenance so far, even though this is the hub on my rain bike. I've replaced the cable housing and the chain 3 times, but these are things I would have had to do anyway.

The shifting is far better than any other derailleur-based system I have ever used. Zero missed shifts, ghost shifts, in-between cogs etc. that you would experience on even the best deraillerur-based drivetrains. You can shift while stopped - a key advantage for riding in the city. And my Alfine 8 has a silent roller clutch, which means no clicking while coasting.

If I had a limit of just one bike, it would be the $1,500 Alfine 11-based bike sold at MEC. Looking at them on Saturday - perfect spec for the Wet Coast - very tempting.
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Old 02-25-13, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by bragi
My only serious concern with IGH is hills. I live in a very hilly city. With derailleurs, I have many gears to mess with, and I know I can climb pretty much any hill I encounter. I'm not so sure about dealing with Seattle's terrain with only 7 IGH gears to work with.
When I was a younger woman and did not know better, I felt very similar to you and lived, attended school, then later worked in the more hillier areas of Southern California. All of my bikes had derailleur gears totaling 10 or more gears. The past bikes also had at least 2 chain rings as well. That all changed when I bought an beat up vintage Phillips UK made bike with just 3 speeds with an equally old old AW hub in the mid-1990s. I rode the same streets with the same hills with this particular bike. The difference in an far older body than my younger years. I discovered that I did not need all those gears and chain rings like I thought I did. I just love that vintage old IHG bike (and others like it even now). I pedal up the hills without leaving my saddle or becoming breathless. I did not need to worry about adjustments more than once a year. I always seem to adjust the derailleurs far more than that. The IHG system is far more easier to maintain and keep clean-a big plus especially if you use the bike like the more cultured Europeans do with regular street clothing, especially skirts for women & dress pants for men.

So, out went the old derailleur bikes and I have the bikes I prefer and need now. Give those old-even new ones with the same IHG system-bikes a chance! You just might surprise yourself.

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Old 02-25-13, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours


I've had several AWs with problems. The FM skips under pressure in "high". That's just the way it was designed.
What kind of problems with AW's? I have never had issues with any of mine. I have inherited a few that needed some TLC but once taken care of they have performed flawlessly. As stated earlier I have one that has well over 35,000 miles on it. The ONLY repair has been to replace the pawl springs a couple of years ago, just because I had it torn down. This hub is undated but based on the bike it came on it is probably a 1970 or so. It was kept oiled and the bearings greased and adjusted annually when I was using it as a daily rider. I have had an issue or two with a couple of TCW III, but they were known to have issues. I don't have an FM but I do have FG and FW's, biggest problem with those has been the shifters wearing out and not wanting to hold low gear.

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Old 02-25-13, 09:35 PM
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I've had a couple that would slip in low under any kind of pressure (broken pawl springs) and one that wouldn't engage high because of a broken pinion pin. And of course it's not at all uncommon to see used AWs which don't work properly because the oil has turned to varnish and gum.

None of which should be taken to mean that I think the AW is unreliable. I just don't buy the argument that they are indestructible, especially if one is buying used.
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Old 02-25-13, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Thank you. That's an interesting journal.

What do you make of this quote from the journal? They seem to be saying that an inefficient machine would be MORE of a problem for a utilitarian cyclist than for a racer. I had always assumed that it would be the opposite. (I am far from an engineer, so I might be misconstruing this.)

With commuting riders who travel 24 kph (15 mph), instead of 54 kph (33.6 mph), it only gets worse. A 2% drop in efficiency would lead to an 800-meter gap (about 2 minutes). The reason for the increasing gap is that the slower cyclist spends much more time on the course [3]. The point is, why waste energy when it is unnecessary.
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Old 02-25-13, 10:12 PM
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The key is that "the slower cyclist spends much more time on the course". In my racing days it was acknowledged that you were better off putting out a big effort to go 12 MPH instead of 10 MPH up a hill than putting out a big effort to go 42 MPH instead of 40 MPH down it, because a mile at 10 or 12 MPH takes a lot longer than a mile at 40 or 42 MPH.

There also is the fact that wind resistance increases by the cube of velocity. As speed increases wind resistance begins to dramatically outstrip everything else. A 2% loss of drivetrain efficiency looms much larger when aerodynamic drag is 50% of total resistance than when it is 95% of total resistance.

All of that, of course, assumes that the commuter gives much of a damn to begin with...
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Old 02-25-13, 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
All of that, of course, assumes that the commuter gives much of a damn to begin with...
I don't know, when I'm running late for work, a minute or two makes a big difference. I hate being tardy.
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Old 02-25-13, 10:34 PM
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I'm firmly in the "not giving much of a damn" camp myself. Especially when realizing that individual gears in a derailleur drivetrain can vary in efficiency by five percent or more, and that different tires can vary by more than ten percent.

But again, the fact is that most IGHs are less efficient than most derailleur systems. Regardless of my opinion, some people do think that's important.
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Old 02-25-13, 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
All of that, of course, assumes that the commuter gives much of a damn to begin with...
I've been outed... I normally travel at about 12 mph. Happy to do so. Still kicking at 59.5 years.

My work is also pretty flexible. I normally try to arrive between 8 and 8:30. Occasionally, I'll take the long route in, which adds 2.5 miles... through a gorgeous park and no car traffic.

I don't have an IGH drivetrain, but if I did I could deal with it's inefficiencies.
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Old 02-26-13, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
But again, the fact is that most IGHs are less efficient than most derailleur systems. Regardless of my opinion, some people do think that's important.
I think you will find more of the people who think that extra smidgens of "efficiency" are important when bicycling in the Road Cycling or Racing Oriented Lists. Maybe also in the Commuter lists among those commuters who believe that every ride is a competition event (with cars, cyclists, buses, anything that moves as an opponent.)
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Old 02-26-13, 11:39 AM
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I was just trying to divorce my opinions from actual facts. I think we share similar opinions on these (and most other) topics, but that doesn't mean the OP does too. So I figured to give him the facts as I understand them and let him form his own opinions. Which, if he has a brain in his head, will be just like ours, eh?
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Old 02-26-13, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
Which, if he has a brain in his head, will be just like ours, eh?
That goes without saying. Hey now you have the spirit.
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Old 02-26-13, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
I don't understand the comment that chain and cog wear are "almost nonexistent" on an IGH. My chains last about the same whether on an IGH bike or a derailleur bike. And my cogs have to be replaced much more often on an IGH bike because the one cog is the only one being used.
I beg to differ here. I have run the same chain / cog setup on my bike for about 5 years and feel they are likely the originals to the bike (about a 1995 city bike). Though I run a full chaincase, so the entire drivetrain is sealed.


Originally Posted by Six jours
Nor do I get the argument that derailleurs are "complicated, noisy, difficult, dirty, short life, inefficient and if the chain jumps off = possibly dangerous". Derailleurs are nowhere near as complicated as IGHs. Properly adjusted they are quieter than my Rohloff (the grinding sound in certain gears) or the S-A (the ticking sound in most gears). They are spectacularly easy to use. I have derailleurs that are 50 years old and still work wonderfully. They are proven more efficient than most IGHs - the S-A AW can often beat the efficiency of a good derailleur system, and the Rohloff is more efficient in some gears than a derailleur system in some gears - but at best the IGH can offer insignificantly improved efficiency, and at worst it can offer very significantly decreased efficiency. And losing a chain can be a big deal on any bike - and I certainly would rather drop a chain on my derailleur bike than on my coaster brake bike!
I also have to argue here. I have had 2 derailleur based bicycles and they required constant adjusting. Seemed every week or so the system needed adjusting to keep it from skipping gears. I also had to replace on average a chain every 2 - 3 months and a rear cog every 6. I ride an average of 300-400 miles a month in the winter and much much more in the summer.

Also because one can't run a chaincase with a derailleur, that left my jeans exposed to the chain, eating many pairs alive. That alone makes the derailleur a bad choice for me.


Lastly sheldon brown has this to day about the IGH...
Originally Posted by https://sheldonbrown.com/internal-gears.html
Since the first decade of the 20th century, internal-gear hubs, usually 3-speeds, have offered a practical, reliable gear-shifting option to the cyclist. With the popularity of derailer gears taking off in the early 1970's bike boom, internal-gear hubs went out of style in most US markets. This is unfortunate, because many casual or utilitarian cyclists are best served by this type of gearing.

Internal-gear hubs are more reliable than derailer systems, and require much less maintenance. The step-up ratios of their top gears make oversize chainrings unnecessary on small-wheel folding bicycles. Unlike derailers, internal hubs can shift at a stop, very nice in stop-and-go urban traffic.

Internal-gear hubs tend to be heavier than derailer systems, and are slightly less efficient in some gears. The direct-drive middle gear can be more efficient than in a derailer system, as there is no drag from derailer pulleys. Most internal-gear hubs cannot have a quick-release axle.
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