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Internal gear hubs

Old 02-23-13, 01:35 PM
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Newspaperguy
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Internal gear hubs

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.
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Old 02-23-13, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
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.
Always, have since I was a kid. For the last 15 years various German bikes equipped with Sachs/SRAM 3 and 7 speeds, all with coaster brake. Prior to that I used S-A 3 and 5 speed IGHs on Schwinns and Raleighs. I prefer the ability to stop no matter what I am carrying in my hand. The coaster brakes are unaffected by cold, wet weather, snow or slush. The IGH mechanisms also works reliably in the same conditions, shift easily while stopped, require almost zero maintenance, and have always been 100% reliable.
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Old 02-23-13, 02:38 PM
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I think it's important to find out what gear you like riding in your current bike in inches. The reason I'm saying this is that many people buy a hub geared bike and don't ride it much because it's too heavy, slow or high geared. What happened was the bike did not have their favorite gear but this can be uncovered using Sheldon's calculator.

For example, I'm riding a three speed bike at the moment and it has a fairly low second gear at 54 inches. I can ride that bike all day long with that low gear without wearing out my knees. However, it did not come with this gear and was originally 58 inches. I had to buy a larger rear cog to reduce the gears but I'm happy now.
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Old 02-23-13, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
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.
Most of my bikes are IGH. To me the single biggest advantage is minimal maintenance. I have one Raleigh 3 speed that I purchased in 1982 for the princely sum of $25, it has been ridden some 35,000 documented miles and probably has more like 60,000 on it. Other than the occasional chain, tires, tubes and brake blocks it has seen no major work. It has spent much of it's life out of doors locked to bike racks, apartment balcony railings and on porches. The Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub on it is one of the smoothest of the ones I do have. I also have 2 speed, 4 speed, 5 speed, 7 speed and 8 speed IGH bikes.

I have one of my wife's bikes set up with a 3 speed coaster brake and it is by far her favorite.

The only down side and I don't consider it much of one is you are stuck with the ratio steps that come in the hub. You can swap cogs and chain rings around to get your most favorable gears. FWIW most of my bikes also have chain guards/cases, fenders and such to help keep the maintenance down.

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Old 02-23-13, 05:28 PM
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One more vote here for IGH for urban riding, for all the reasons mentioned above. Since sudden stops are such a common feature of rides on city streets, the ability to shift from high to low gear while you're stopped is particularly useful. One might also mention the reduced wear and tear on chains, all the more so if you have a chain guard.

Since the OP asked about the drawbacks, we should note that a commonly cited one is that IGH units are heavier than derailleurs. Obviously they are not a good idea for racing, but for riding around town I have never found this to be a problem.
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Old 02-23-13, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
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 never owned an IGH-equipped bike, but I've ridden a few, and I suspect that they'll become the norm for non-racing bicycles in the near future. They are a bit heavier, but if you're already hauling groceries or books, an extra half-pound is a non-issue. They have a lot of advantages, such as low maintenance and a pronounced lack of oil stains on one's pants after a sloppy ride. More importantly, they're the only type of gearing that's compatible with belt drive systems, which, once the glitches are worked out, will almost certainly make chains obsolete.

Last edited by bragi; 02-23-13 at 10:52 PM.
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Old 02-24-13, 01:18 AM
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I have two bikes, and both of them have Shimano Nexus 7-speed IGH's. I love the IGH's, they are perfect for my purposes. I am a daily bicycle commuter in a fairly flat city, on 30 mph streets with stoplights, stop signs, and such. If I were racing or doing serious hills, IGH might not be such a perfect match, but for me it is perfection. The best thing I love is being able to shift while stopped. Low maintenance is nice. Not having something on my bike whose purpose is to derail something is nice.

In fact, when I was shopping for my second bike a couple of months ago, I specifically wanted a 7-speed IGH because I loved it so much on my first bike. My LBS is a Jamis dealer, and I ended up special ordering a 2013 Jamis Commuter 3. It's like the bike was designed specially for my commute - 7 speed IGH, and it came equipped with color-matched fenders and rear rack.

If your uses are commuter/utility, and you don't intend to do racing/centuries/vertical challenges, you should consider IGH as a good option.
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Old 02-24-13, 03:16 AM
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I just purchased an IGH bike. It's my winter commuter since I live in the PNW. I've had it now for a week and have logged about 60 miles on it. I have ab 11 spd IGH though and its smooth, real smooth especially with a gates carbon drive. The gearing is spaced apart nice and I notice when I'm riding I stick between 6-9. I did use 11 going down a hill once but hardly ever get to it other then that one time.
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Old 02-24-13, 04:20 AM
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One day I'll buy a NuVinci if they keep making them. I hope they're around long enough for me to get one. They're super expensive. They have a nearly infinite set of ratios so you'll always have the right gear.

With regular IGHs on lower priced bicycles it is difficult to tailor the RPMs since the front sprocket is usually the old style fixed one piece crank. I tried a few three speeds at shops and none of them had a gear I liked for cruising. I always checked the rear sprocket tooth count and they were always at 22. I don't know of anybody who makes bigger ones for such hubs. That leaves the front which is welded to the cranks. Thus no sale. The seven and eight speed models all cost at least another hundred dollars. Now there are the eleven speed models and the Rohloff twelve speed models ($1200+). That's out of my range. I would hate to have a bike with one of those stolen. Ouch.

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Old 02-24-13, 05:57 AM
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The good news is, most 3 and 5-speed IGHs (for decades) use the same sprocket format, whether it's Sachs/SRAM, Sturmey-Archer, or Shimano. And, Shimano has a 3/32" 23T sprocket. Smaller is more common, but you've got options.

The higher ratio count IGHs use different sprockets, though. My trike has a SA 8-speed, with 46/25 gearing. Interestingly, the "single-speed" crankset they used was actually a mountain triple with bashguards installed in place of the inner and outer chainrings, so that'll be an easy ring swap and chain shortening to go to 36/25.
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Old 02-24-13, 06:29 AM
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I tend strongly toward IGH bikes for pretty much all the reasons above. I also like the clean chainline an IGH affords, since derailleurs sort of mess up the aesthetic purity of a bike. The bike I ride most often these days for club rides is a 1950 Norman Rapide which has a Sturmey FW hub.
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Old 02-24-13, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Pobble.808 View Post
One more vote here for IGH for urban riding, for all the reasons mentioned above. Since sudden stops are such a common feature of rides on city streets, the ability to shift from high to low gear while you're stopped is particularly useful. One might also mention the reduced wear and tear on chains, all the more so if you have a chain guard.

Since the OP asked about the drawbacks, we should note that a commonly cited one is that IGH units are heavier than derailleurs. Obviously they are not a good idea for racing, but for riding around town I have never found this to be a problem.
In reality the weight differential between a derailleur drive train and a IGH one is usually only a matter of a few ounces, what most people notice is the weight balance. However on a bike being used for city type riding it is a moot point IMHO. As far as racing, the IGH hubs have been used in the past for racing, IIRC they were even used in the TDF back in the 1930's.

Chain and component wear on an IGH bike is all but non existent, I don't recall the last time I had to replace a cog. On my MTB I have had to replace the entire drive train once and some components a couple of times.

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Old 02-24-13, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
I tried a few three speeds at shops and none of them had a gear I liked for cruising. I always checked the rear sprocket tooth count and they were always at 22. I don't know of anybody who makes bigger ones for such hubs. That leaves the front which is welded to the cranks. Thus no sale.
I was making this same point in my response. I got the "cruising" gear for my 3 speed and didn't need to purchase the more expensive but heavier 7/8/11 gear hubs. For regular city streets, those hubs force you to carry alot of weight on the rear wheel when it's unnecessary. There are only a couple of time where I feel the extra gears would be beneficial during a ride. My Shimano Nexus 3 speed hub makes the bike feel like a single speed with out having to drag a mulitspeed heavy hub after every stop light.

Should I feel the temptation to head for the mountains, I'll take a derailluer bicycle.

I also have a 5 speed hub bike but guess which one gets more use? The 3 speed.
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Old 02-24-13, 10:30 AM
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I have never used good IGH, but I have no doubt that they're as great as everybody is saying. Maybe my next bike will feature IGH.

But I still want to give a shout out to the good old derailleur. It's difficult to spell and it's impossible to pronounce correctly if you're not French. There isn't even a nifty abbreviation for such a lengthy word.

The skill of using one is difficult to master, but once you know how, they do work smoothly and almost effortlessly. They require a bit of forethought--you must shift just before a stop or a steep hill--but I think planning ahead is a good quality to practice. I guess some of the IGH fans have had issues with maintenance of a derailleur, but this has never been such a burden to me. In fact, I don't remember ever even having to adjust one until just before it was time to replace it anyway. Routine upkeep is also pretty simple, and adds maybe 30 seconds to the chain cleaning and lubing routine that I have to do anyways.

Most of all, I love the way that derailleurs work so nakedly. I enjoy watching the rear ones spin with silvery brilliance. Even more, I know nothing more satisfying than the satisfying clunk of the chain dropping down onto the smaller ring, or the controlled chaos as the chain defies gravity to shift into a bigger ring.
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Old 02-24-13, 10:48 AM
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My primary bike uses a derailleur system and it is ideal for most of the riding, especially the touring and longer trips. The bike is a pleasure to ride. In winter, I don't want to use this bike since the sand on the roads works itself into the drivetrain, doing its damage and requiring expensive maintenance in spring. In the past, I have gone with a single speed bike for winter riding. It's been a better solution, even here in hilly country. That bike has had numerous other issues and is now past the point where it is practical to keep it running.

i have been looking at the gearing on a couple of IGH bikes. The range is not as great as on my touring bike, but in town I do not need to use the extremely low gears I use when I'm carrying a load and riding a mountain pass.
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Old 02-24-13, 12:41 PM
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I used an oil filled SA XL-RD5w drum brake last year for 2800 miles, with long 180mm cranks. Also had a front XL-FDD dyno. I will NEVER go back to complicated, noisy, difficult, dirty, short life, inefficient and if the chain jumps off = possibly dangerous derailleurs again. I did 11 day rides 97 to 125.5 miles including my all time record speed of 44.63, so that totally debunks the BS about heavy IGH = slow. I had it apart for year end service and you would almost need a microscope to find dust or wear on either brakes or gears. After 1500 miles or so it does need to have the brake side opened to look for grease squishing into the drum side. The oil is good for 3 times that.

The TdF uses their stuff once prolly, in real life good luck in muck. I used to clean/lube my chain before every century and it WAS necessary for sure. My SA 1/8 chain will do 500 miles no problem. Another spring day I was splashing (with fenders) thru snow slush and muck and the rear Der + chain was totally unrideable after I got home after 30 miles.

For Newsie, The SA 3 is great but kind of thin for those mountains near by. My 5 sp would be good for almost any hill there with say a 46/21T at 37.2 to 95.2 GIs. I was using 46/18 and it beats all but my 30/30 Der gear out of 24. Keep the SA 1 to 1 gear for flat land/normal use where it belongs. I would say SAs are third, only behind fixie and SS for performance. The only slight con is the gap between 2nd and 3rd. Of course the 5th gear is only for downhill, same as most of the 50T gears. My SA5w will beat that any day of the week.

I find that thumb shifters are easy to take apart and almost unbreakable.

The Alfine8s have some advantages on paper, but brakes, life and service are NOT.

My SA bike does "feel" heavy, but at the end of the day my computer says different.

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Old 02-24-13, 03:02 PM
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+1 Photogravity --- Triple Deraileur bikes are soulless vacuum cleaners, like Velouria suggests
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Old 02-24-13, 05:03 PM
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Very interesting thread. Lot's of useful information. I have 3 bikes and none of them have gears, they're all fixed gear and singlespeed, most days I ride fixed gear. I hate deraileurs...I was feeling very tempted to build a wheel using a 3 speed IGH hub, just to try something different. The thing is I don't have a clue about which 3 speed hubs are most reliable ? How difficult it is to set them up and adjust them ? What about removing/installing the wheel if you get a flat ? How complicated is that ? What about maintenance such as oil changes, is that a simple DIY job ?
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Old 02-24-13, 05:27 PM
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My understanding is, Sturmey-Archer has good parts support (and the AW family is legendary for its reliability), Shimano has some parts support but very poor, and SRAM doesn't even know that they sell any IGHes in North America (but the old Sachs 3-speeds, which is what older SRAM 3-speed hubs were rebranded versions of, were also legendary for their reliability). And then there's Rohloff (where, for the longest time, they couldn't even quote an expected lifespan because none had failed, and they reportedly have excellent support), but you pay for that, big time.

Of course, if you usually ride fixed gear, your best bet is probably the Sturmey-Archer S3X - that's the only fixed-gear IGH option.

Setup and adjustment depends on the hub, and wheel changes depend largely on what you do for a rear brake (and those steps would apply whether you had an IGH or not). So, my trike has an 8-speed Sturmey-Archer with rotary shift (and any rotary-shift hub such as the Sturmey-Archer RS-RF3 and RX-RD3, or the SRAM i-Motion 3, is the same way). What this means is, when removing the wheel, you shift to the appropriate gear (depends on the hub) and lift the cable up out of its receptacle, that's the only additional step over any single-speed or fixed-gear bike with the same braking system. (In my case, no braking system on the rear wheel, it's downright dangerous on a trike to have a rear brake.) Installing, you get to reinstall the cable, and pay attention to the anti-rotation washers. Adjusting the hub is as simple as shifting to the appropriate gear (usually 2nd on a 3-speed, IIRC), and turning a barrel adjuster until a yellow dot is visible and centered in the hole it should be in.

External shifting setups can be a bit harder, although I know a Shimano Nexus is as easy to adjust (but harder to remove and install the wheel due to the bellcrank). A Sturmey-Archer or older Sachs/SRAM 3-speed is harder to adjust as I understand, but easy to split the cable from the indicator chain.

Lubrication... as far as I can tell, this can start holy wars. Most modern hubs (with the exception of the Shimano Alfine 11 and the Rohloff Speedhub) are grease-lubricated, and are only intended to be serviced at major service intervals... but some hubs require more maintenance than that (Shimano has processes for a frequent oil dip of the hub internals for some of their greased hubs, and it can be a bit of a pain), some hubs are fine with that. Some hubs can be modified to oil lubrication (and some (like most of the Sturmey-Archer 3-speeds) were previously sold oiled, and now are greased), some can't really. As I understand, you didn't do so much as an oil CHANGE on a vintage Sturmey, as an oil REPLENISHMENT.

As far as I can tell, though, nobody makes a bad 3-speed hub nowadays. Myself, I'm debating between a Sturmey 3-speed and a vintage Sachs 2-speed kickback for my folding bike. (Speaking of which, the Sturmey 2-speed kickbacks have a horrible reputation, although the SRAM Automatix (which is a recreation of a 1960s Sachs 2-speed automatic, a close relative of the 2-speed kickback I'm looking at) has a good reputation once you tweak the shift point.)
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Old 02-24-13, 06:02 PM
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ea6krXSs-lc

Here is a great SA 3 demo strip. Sturmeys are by far the easiest to service and get parts for, from SJS cycles in UK.
Others like Sheldon Brown's shop have half the selection, while having a $50 minimum for outside USA.

I use a wad of synthetic grease on + behind the bearings that seals the oil in. Use 30w non-detergent lawnmower oil.
It will be good all year, maybe 2 after 4,000 miles or so. Messy but gets easier after a few times. The pawl springs are rather dainty/fickle. A shell cracker tool helps alot. My SA 5 needs a spring-clip spreader plier.
The important thing to understand is how much play in cone setup. 1/4 or 3/8 or 1/2 turn from tight. Carefully confirm this the first time you disassemble your hub. There are good descriptions for the 3 sp hubs in SA docs..

A flat tire requires untwisting the indicator chain and unbolting the brace arm. The drum brake cable disconect is child's play, no adjustment required. The basic difference is needing 6 or 8 tools. The only adjustment is lining up the line at the end of the hollow axel.

Not so easy with retrofitting SA hubs is getting the flat hole anti-spin washers to hold firm in 3/8" DO slots. Some genuine SA washers are too small and brittle, they crack like potato chips. Most post 1995ish bikes have axel notches, not 1"+ slots. Horrible for IGH.
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Old 02-24-13, 07:12 PM
  #21  
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Also, I take that back - apparently, the S3X doesn't hold up to how many fixie riders nowadays ride their fixies, so it might actually be a bad 3-speed (for the application). The reviews are certainly mixed - some hubs failing within single digit miles, some hubs lasting a long time.
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Old 02-24-13, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
Very interesting thread. Lot's of useful information. I have 3 bikes and none of them have gears, they're all fixed gear and singlespeed, most days I ride fixed gear. I hate deraileurs...I was feeling very tempted to build a wheel using a 3 speed IGH hub, just to try something different. The thing is I don't have a clue about which 3 speed hubs are most reliable ? How difficult it is to set them up and adjust them ? What about removing/installing the wheel if you get a flat ? How complicated is that ? What about maintenance such as oil changes, is that a simple DIY job ?
most reliable?
S-A and Sachs Torpedo 3 speeds are indestructible.

How difficult it is to set them up and adjust them?
If you can operate a screwdriver and adjustable wrench, no problem.

What about removing/installing the wheel if you get a flat? How complicated is that?
Simple. Alleged problems have been reported by those who apparently can't handle carrying or using a 6" adjustable wrench and must have quick release axle nuts so they can "efficiently" change a flat like the pros do on the TDF.

What about maintenance such as oil changes, is that a simple DIY job?
Little to no maintenance; maybe once a decade a cable in the shifter mechanism may need attention and is a 10 minute job to replace.
Oil changes are unnecessary and are only done by people who must tinker with things that operate just as well if not better if left alone.

The above comments do not apply to the esoteric hubs like the Rohloff.
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Old 02-24-13, 10:21 PM
  #23  
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I am an avid, and now sole, user of folding/separating bicycles for almost 10 years. My present 3 bicycles are all Internal Hub Geared with the vintage 1970s Raleigh Twenty and the 2005 Brompton both using the 3 speed Sturmey-Archer AW hubs and the German made vintage separating framed Rallye Royal Sport Jet Star bike now sporting a Sturmey Archer kickback 2 speed S2C (coaster brake included) one.

One advantage that was not listed previously in the other posts is the smaller wheeled bikes that collapse into a smaller package like all of mine really needs the physical protection of the enclosed hub offers. I never worry about deraillers getting bent out of shape or the chain popping off at the wrong time (when the bike is being transported in a bag). Derailleur gears do appear to have far more gears by count compared to Internal hub ones overall. But that is not really the case. Some of the gears actually overlap, some are rarely used at all, plus you always have to watch out for crossovering your gears (i.e. largest chain ring with smallest cog or smallest chain ring with the largest cog). I never have to worry about crossovers anymore with my bikes anymore. Plus each gear is used and no waste like the derailleur system seems to have.

Last edited by folder fanatic; 02-24-13 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 02-24-13, 11:46 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
I have never used good IGH, but I have no doubt that they're as great as everybody is saying. Maybe my next bike will feature IGH.

But I still want to give a shout out to the good old derailleur. It's difficult to spell and it's impossible to pronounce correctly if you're not French. There isn't even a nifty abbreviation for such a lengthy word.

The skill of using one is difficult to master, but once you know how, they do work smoothly and almost effortlessly. They require a bit of forethought--you must shift just before a stop or a steep hill--but I think planning ahead is a good quality to practice. I guess some of the IGH fans have had issues with maintenance of a derailleur, but this has never been such a burden to me. In fact, I don't remember ever even having to adjust one until just before it was time to replace it anyway. Routine upkeep is also pretty simple, and adds maybe 30 seconds to the chain cleaning and lubing routine that I have to do anyways.

Most of all, I love the way that derailleurs work so nakedly. I enjoy watching the rear ones spin with silvery brilliance. Even more, I know nothing more satisfying than the satisfying clunk of the chain dropping down onto the smaller ring, or the controlled chaos as the chain defies gravity to shift into a bigger ring.
If you use derailleurs in friction-shifting mode, there is almost no adjustment/maintenance necessary, other than cleaning and lubing the chain, and occasionally making sure your limiting screws are set properly. Indexed gearing, though, takes a lot more time and effort; before I went back to friction shifting, it seemed that I was making adjustments a few times a week, which I found to be highly annoying. I can see why many people are giving IGH a serious look.

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.
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Old 02-25-13, 12:01 AM
  #25  
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I have significant experience with three: the S-A AW (standard three speed) the S-A FM (four speed medium spacing) and the Rohloff.

I don't like the AW much. I suppose it's okay for flat roads where I can pretty much use "medium" all the time, but for any kind of hills I find "low" inadequate and "high" too big.

The FM is great for moderately rolling terrain. The gears are nicely spaced and I can be comfortable from about 7 MPH to about 25 MPH. Two key downsides: you can't apply much pressure in "high" or it will skip, and it (along with the trigger) can be tough to find. But I am very pleased with mine in moderate terrain.

The Rohloff, of course, is fantastic. The range (21 inches to 110 inches, the way I have it set up) is adequate for nearly anything, and you don't have to worry about breaking it with too much torque. There are downsides, though: horrifically expensive, kind of loud in some gears, can't shift under pressure, and need a special frame (or several bodges on a standard frame) to make it work.

On the whole I am an IGH fan, but I honestly can't make a case for them being generally "better" than a derailleur system. They are better in some ways and worse in others, and it's up to the individual to decide if the trade-offs are in their favor or against it, for that individual's needs.
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