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Singlespeed vs 3-speed internal gear hub

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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

Singlespeed vs 3-speed internal gear hub

Old 06-17-18, 08:23 AM
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Jonneh
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Singlespeed vs 3-speed internal gear hub

This might not be the most appropriate forum to post such a question in, but I think my cycling mentality is by and large one that fits with one many people here will share.

So, I currently ride a‎ multi-speed road bike, multi-speed mostly by default - it belongs to a friend. Rides are mostly a rolling 18-mile commute to work - a fairly high-speed one with very little stopping and starting. I like to ride intensely, with lots of standing up sprints, and then recovery, still at a decent clip. I know it's not the safest or most efficient style, but it's what gives me most of my cycling enjoyment. Over the past couple of years (on two different, and frequently-maintained bikes) I've had two or three nasty accidents, and many more near-misses, all caused by chains slipping or snapping while sprinting uphill or on the flat, or spinning downhill.

I suspect a single chain-line set-up would save me some grief on this front‎ (deep-toothed sprockets and no shifting under force). I love the sound of the fixed gear experience, but steep cornering with wide pedals (I don't wear SPD shoes) sounds dodgy without the possibility of keeping the inside crank high.

Single-speed with a freewheel makes a lot of sense - I never use any other than the 50-tooth chainring, and from the times I've tried such a set-up out, I think I'd be more or less happy only using the 15-tooth cog (even if 90% of a typical ride is spent with the 12-tooth one.).

Still, there are a couple of steep bridges, and one 3 km climb that would be extremely grindy with 50-15, and I'd like to be able to use the bike for the odd triathlon and mountain ride‎. So I'm just playing with another possibility here (and I'd happily go singlespeed and put up with the minor inconveniences otherwise), but what do you all think of 3-speed internal gear hubs (simpler mechanism than IGHs with more gears)? 3 gears wou‎ld be enough for anything I can imagine, and I would keep the main benefits of a single chain-line set-up.

Anyone had issues with skipping or other sudden loss of transmission? How else do these hubs compare to single-speed in terms of general bombproof-ness and low-maintenance requirement?‎

Thanks for any insight!‎
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Old 06-17-18, 09:58 AM
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I’d stay away from an IGH if you intend to ride with significant power; a good SS freewheel like a White Industries ENO will be much more robust. Also, a 3-speed IGH has huge jumps in gear ratios, so if you do plan to go that route then get something like an 8-speed Shimano Alfine. When it comes to riding SS, get the highest gear that still allows you to handle the most challenging part of your route, and develop a higher cadence for the faster sections. It’s not a crime to coast on downhills.
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Old 06-17-18, 12:28 PM
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Totally hear you about the sketch factor involved in taking corners at speed on the fixed gear. It's simply another facet of the fixed riding experience, love it or hate it. That said, personally, I find it to be a rich part of the tapestry of a fixed ride, the fact that you have to flex your mind and instincts calculating just how much one can lean into a turn and the computing power needed to sense when one can begin the lean so the inside pedal is approaching the azimuth of its stroke when one is most leaned in and then either the slight bob back into another (x)degeee arc of a turn to complete the turor the correction back to upright as the turn is terminated.

In regards to an igh, remember that as you add artifice to this type of machine, namely in the form of f/r derailleur or an igh, one introduces some useful functions but also a number of, what amounts to be failure points, ones which you yourself have mentioned to be quite troubling and dangerous. Not inherently dangerous functions, but ones which can and will fail. Fixed gear or ss machine too have failure points but imo those points are more robust and less likely to fail. For that reason I'm sure you understand why I would suggest just sticking to fixed or ss and finding a good ratio that suits how you want to ride.
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Old 06-17-18, 12:34 PM
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Well, that's good to know, cheers Tejano. It's also too bad - I thought that might've been the ultimate solution. ;-) I suppose it's an extension of the old engineering adage: 'light, strong, cheap: pick two.'. Do you know if it's the clutch mechanism that limits robustness, and therefore if the middle (direct drive) gear would be unaffected? I think I would be fine with the large gear intervals, but I agree about the coasting. I'd probably set it up so that the high gear was a toughish but not absurd one, that would get the most use. The others would be for hills of varying steepness and length. Coasting down a hill with a breeze in you hair is one of life's many pleasures, after all!‎If singlespeed is the answer, any advice about chainring and cog sizes at a given ratio? I suppose having both larger and therefore more links enmeshing with the teeth is a good thing (stronger, less wear per link and per tooth), but perhaps there are other factors.
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Old 06-17-18, 12:55 PM
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I just don’t see an IGH working for the way you want to ride, and you will probably experience a short lifespan with one. They are just not designed for anything other than light loads, and are prone to slipping and false neutrals. Also, unlike a derailleur system, you cannot shift under load.

As to chainring and cog sizes, remember that the smallest freewheel cog size is already 16T, so you will not see much reduction in wear if you go larger.
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Old 06-17-18, 01:46 PM
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@Tejano


Fair enough, point taken. Come to think of it, when I've seen them, these hubs coincide almost completely with baskets, which should tell us enough.‎

With regards rings and cogs, not much to choose between 48-16 and 54-18, for example, then?‎


@Duop

Oh, absolutely. I've tempted fate enough with arcs, parabolas and perfect turns to have come a cropper more than once. Still, a given speed requires a certain lean, so you're effectively speed-limited on corners with a fixed gear (although you can certainly play with going right up to this speed consistently).
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Old 06-17-18, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Jonneh View Post
Fair enough, point taken. Come to think of it, when I've seen them, these hubs coincide almost completely with baskets, which should tell us enough.‎

With regards rings and cogs, not much to choose between 48-16 and 54-18, for example, then?‎


1975 Schwinn Speedster 3-speed


The only reason to go with a 54T chainring is to impress the ladies.
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Old 06-17-18, 03:36 PM
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Got it. I've decided to go for a 58-11 set-up. I'll just need to grin and bear it on the hills. It'll be so worth it though.
Thanks for your help.
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Old 06-17-18, 04:05 PM
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I'll second what TT said about IGH. I can tell you from experience they're not great for the kind of riding you enjoy. I have an old steel road bike that I've ridden as a fixed gear, a single speed, and now with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub. With the 3-speed, it's a nice, low performance ride. Great for commutes, casual cruising around the neighborhood, and even longer rides at moderate pace. For various reasons, it's not good at higher intensities.

I enjoy the same style of riding as you--10 to 20 miles (sometimes more) at an aggressive pace, preferably on a simple, durable machine. I would recommend you choose one of the following:

- A fixed gear setup. Learn how to spin on the descents, and how to negotiate corners safely. (Consider switching to some narrow clipless pedals, in spite of your preference to the contrary, and choose a frame with a high bottom bracket.)

- A single speed. (Accept the necessary complexity of two brakes.)

In either case, choose a gear ratio that allows you to cruise fast on the flats like you enjoy doing but still be able to handle the climbs. Since you like to sprint, this is doable. It will be a ratio a little lower than ideal for flats and quite a bit higher than ideal for moderate climbs. Long, steep climbs might be out of the question, but this is a sacrifice we sometimes have to make. I have a bike like this and really love it. Admittedly, it's one of four in my fleet, and I wouldn't want to settle for it as an only bike, but as I learn to play by its rules, it's turning out to work quite well for me. (It's a lot more fun than the 3-speed.)
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Old 06-17-18, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Jonneh View Post
Got it. I've decided to go for a 58-11 set-up. I'll just need to grin and bear it on the hills. It'll be so worth it though.
Thanks for your help.
LOLOLOL so much gold on this forum lately.
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Old 06-17-18, 10:31 PM
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Originally Posted by seau grateau View Post
LOLOLOL so much gold on this forum lately.
You said it, brother!

He's decided to just go with a 55x11.
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Old 06-18-18, 03:33 AM
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Did you consider a 2- Speed? I've run an SRAM Automatix pretty hard on both of my road bikes, and I'm not a lightweight. No issues at all, it is as fast as my previous derailleur setups. I recently converted one of these to a Sturmey Archer SRC3, no issues with it either.

Although the Automatix is no longer in production, Sturmey Archer still makes their 2-Speed kickback hubs, with or without coaster brakes.

Sturmey-Archer | Products

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Old 06-18-18, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by seau grateau View Post
LOLOLOL so much gold on this forum lately.
Well, you know, there's the grinding vs spinning debate, then there's sowing one's oats. I'd 'sooner grind twice than spin once' (as a great sage once said), if you know what I mean.
Originally Posted by Broctoon View Post
He's decided to just go with a 55x11.
58. It has to be 58. I live near a velodrome and standards for impressing have been raised (arms race, runaway selection etc.). 54 used to turn heads, now only the 60s give real returns. That said, the keepers with good taste pay more heed to the 11 at the rear, so I'm banking on this combination.Thanks for the other advice Broctoon - nice to hear such a set-up can put a smile on a sprinter's face. And one that isn't completely wiped off by the hills.Given that we have a similar riding style, may I ask: 'what's your ratio?' (for the bike you mention). Is that for an area with rolling scenery?I suppose one solution for the long, steep hills, to avoid walking up them, would be a quick release flip-flop hub with a significantly larger cog on the other side. How much play do you need in your dropouts for this to work? That is, is a16T and 20T pair realistic? For horizontal/track forkend/White Industries Eccentric ENO?
Originally Posted by pcf View Post
Did you consider a 2- Speed?
I wasn't really aware of their existence. I mentioned the 3-speed for their simplicity vs hubs with more gears. If the 2-speed is porportionally more robust, then sure, it would be an option. I have zero experience riding hard on bikes with such hubs, so it's hard to judge either way. I did read a couple of bad experiences with the SA 2-speed, and others saying they'd gone through several in the space of a few months. The SRAM Automatix seems to be said to be more reliable.
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Old 06-18-18, 11:55 AM
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To switch between a 16T and a 20T cog only requires the rear wheel axle to be moved 1/2” in the dropouts, so it should not be a problem with either horizontal dropouts or track ends, but I don’t know if it will work with an ENO hub.
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Old 06-18-18, 12:30 PM
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Oh my god, I'm leaving this place and never coming back. Can't handle the stupid anymore.
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Old 06-18-18, 02:18 PM
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Thanks TT for the helpful information. I'll look into the difference in cog sizes compatible with that eccentric hub - I'd quite like to just adapt my road bike frame with its vertical dropouts. Then I suppose it's a matter of doing some extensive testing in various single gears, and seeing which one could work for this particular ride. Glad to be on the way towards setting such a machine up!

Seau, not sure what's up with you. Look back and see if you might've taken a joke seriously before being so abrasive.
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Old 06-18-18, 03:28 PM
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Sorry, Jonneh. 58 tooth, not 55. My mistake.
I think Seau believes there's no way you'll push that ratio on the street, even on flat ground, let alone any kind of ascent. I tend to agree, but if you think you can handle it, then go for it, tiger!

To answer your question, I have 47x16 on my Parallax. I used to ride it with 49x16 but found that a bit too high. I ride it on mostly flat terrain and sometimes on rolling hills. I average 18 or 19 MPH, almost regardless of distance. It's just a fun bike to ride fast, like it wants to go at that pace.

My other fixed gear is a Surly Steamroller, much heavier and more upright. I have it set up with 46x18, and I ride it at 14-15 MPH. On flat ground, this is hardly even a workout, only slightly more strenuous than sitting on my couch watching TV.

My road bike has a compact crank (34/50), because I occasionally want to climb a big, steep canyon, where even 34x28 is barely low enough for my chicken legs. At the other end, 50x12 is plenty high. Going back down the aforementioned canyons, I can make use of it, but on any other kind of road, I seldom use the little 12 and 13t cogs. I ride with some pretty strong guys, too, and see what ratios they prefer. This is what makes me doubt any real, mortal human needs 58x11 on the street. For some kind of phoney aesthetics-based cred at the track, fine. Let's be real, though.

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Old 06-19-18, 04:36 AM
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Thanks Broctoon.

Just to clear things up, what followed TT's comment about 54T rings being for impressing the ladies was all a joke. ‎I thought it might be obvious given that I'd been talking earlier about 50x15 being an potentially appropriate ratio, but I suppose people are reading many threads in quick succession, and memories are short. To be extra explicit, the 'sowing one's oats'/velodrome stuff was completely tongue in cheek too (up to 'Thanks for the other advice...')! Perhaps I should be more liberal with the emoticons to make things clearer, but give me the benefit of the doubt! I'd be surprised if such a caricature actually exists outside of Ali G. Perhaps in Seau's L.A. they do, but I'm from a small English mining town... Without a velodrome.

‎Anyway, thanks for the information about your bikes and their ratios. I suppose since it's the rear cog whose differences most impact overall ratio (as discerning ladies know ), the 49x16 you were riding mightn't be a world apart from 50x15. I did a serious test of 50x16 today, and it was pretty much as close to ideal as it will get with how fit I am at the moment. Long, steepish hills were tough, but doable, moderate ones were perfect, and flats were spinny, for what I'm used to, but also doable. I can tell I'm going to miss beast-mode sprints on the flat with 50x11, but I also like the way singlespeed enjoins a focus on one's weaknesses, be they leg speed on flats or power on the uphills. I, for one, have plenty of room for improvement on both fronts.

My commute happens to be mostly (albeit gently, overall) uphill, and then the same route back down at the end of the day. So I could plump for a 16 cog for the uphill leg (the one I tried out today), and a 13 for the downhill (with a 50 up front). Any recommendations about fixed gear (which I would be keen try out on one of the sides of the hub) with regards to cog size? Put another way, is fixed gear most appropriate for flat and downhill, or flat and uphill? (I'd go for a SS FG combo).

EDIT: I'm remembering TT's comment about the smallest (commonly available) cog freewheels being 16T. So I'd have to adjust the size of the chainring, but the aforementioned ratios stand.

Last edited by Jonneh; 06-19-18 at 06:22 AM.
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Old 06-19-18, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Jonneh View Post
Just to clear things up, what followed TT's comment about 54T rings being for impressing the ladies was all a joke. ‎I thought it might be obvious given that I'd been talking earlier about 50x15 being an potentially appropriate ratio, but I suppose people are reading many threads in quick succession, and memories are short. To be extra explicit, the 'sowing one's oats'/velodrome stuff was completely tongue in cheek too (up to 'Thanks for the other advice...')! Perhaps I should be more liberal with the emoticons to make things clearer, but give me the benefit of the doubt! I'd be surprised if such a caricature actually exists outside of Ali G. Perhaps in Seau's L.A. they do, but I'm from a small English mining town... Without a velodrome.
Okay. I missed the sarcasm. Should've known though, because you were talking pretty reasonably before and then jumped suddenly into that 58x11 nonsense.

There are various strategies you can use in choosing a set of gears to get where you want to go. I'd recommend putting a 15 tooth fixed cog on one side of your hub and a 16 tooth freewheel on the other. Pick a chain ring size that works for your legs... probably about 46 teeth, but maybe you're strong enough to handle a bigger one than that. As Sheldon Brown advises, this will allow you to ride on the fixed drive until you get tired, then flip the wheel and have a considerably easier ratio to get you home. On the daily commute that you describe, you might be able ride the fixed cog going to work in the morning (assuming the ascent isn't too steep), and use the freewheel for your ride back home, so you can coast down the hill. You might find some other approach works better, but this is what I'd do.

In fact, I occasionally commute to work by bike, and my route is kind of similar to yours. It's about 5 miles each way, and almost all uphill going to work, almost all downhill going home. It's not very steep, just a moderate grind the whole way. From home to work takes me about 25 minutes, unless I really push it (but I don't like to arrive all sweaty). I can easily cruise from work back to home in less than 15 minutes. I wish it were the other way around. If my job were lower elevation than my home, it would work much better for me.

Edit: One more thing, now that I've gone back and re-read your original post. You say you had accidents resulting from the chain getting thrown, in spite of the bikes having been well maintained. I find that surprising. Not saying you're wrong, but I think it's unusual. You're correct that switching to a single speed or fixed gear drivetrain should minimize the chance of this happening again. Set it up with minimal slack in the chain--not actually in tension, but not much slack either. Make sure your rear axle nuts are TIGHT. Then ride as hard as you like, and if your chain ever derails, I'm a one-legged parrot. (If you could see me, you'll notice I don't have a crutch or a cracker!)

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Old 06-19-18, 10:34 PM
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two or three accidents and several near misses due to thrown or broken chains on frequently maintained bikes? On a well maintained drive train, chains should not be snapping or getting tossed off the cog regularly. You might want to invest in better quality parts or reevaluate the thoroughness of your maintenance.
no experience with IGHs, but if you really want a reliable set up go fixed, it's as simple as it gets, but you'll definitely need to add some straps to your pedals.
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Old 06-21-18, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by seau grateau View Post
Oh my god, I'm leaving this place and never coming back. Can't handle the stupid anymore.
Thanks for not helping. You will not be missed.
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Old 07-05-18, 11:04 AM
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I can't add much from a technical perspective, but I did, briefly own a Kona Paddy Wagon 3 a few weeks ago before I sold it. It had the Sturmy Arch 3 speed IGH.

I'm in my early 40's live in a city with some small and steep hills and ride casually. I recently had a bike with an 8 speed that was stolen (I would only ever use 1 or 2 gears on it), and picked up the Kona to replace it. I found the hub gearing to be quite useless and only used 2nd gear on it, even for hills. What I didn't like about it, was that it was loud and clicked a lot and was quite heavy. I ended up selling it to a friend and picked up a single speed Kona Paddy Wagon. I can't really tell the difference on minor hills between both bikes. On steep hills I had to get off both the 3 speed and the single speed to walk up them anyways, so not much of a benefit there either.

The only benefit I found was the 3rd gear allowed to me go a bit faster, but not enough that it was worth the extra weight and potential repair issues. My wife has a bike with a Shimano 3 speed IGH and she really enjoys it. If I were doing an IGH, I think I would want the 7,8 or 9 speed to really notice the difference.
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Old 07-05-18, 01:44 PM
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58-11
That's what my grandma rides to bingo, you can go bigger.
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Old 07-07-18, 11:58 PM
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it's time to start lacing 9 tooth bmx driver hubs into track wheels
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