Three Speed Day Rides and Touring, how long and how far.

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Carlton green
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Three Speed Day Rides and Touring, how long and how far.

Postby Carlton green » 8 Jan 2020, 9:20am

I’ve no recent experience of three speed hub gears but, several decades ago, I briefly had a three speed roadster. That Roadster got me about Town but I didn’t take it much further afield (as I young man I wanted to reach my destinations in less time and don’t like walking up hills - the side pull brakes on steel wheels were a liability too). My current hub gear is a five speed that I’ve very happily used for many years, so I am a hub hear ‘fan’. My Sach hub would probably still be running in a few decades but, as parts are effectively no longer available, the practicality of its further use is in question. I’m wondering about the vast supply of old Sturmey Archer three speed hubs and whether it’s time to consider a switch to using one of them. I’ll also have to find out about how to use them in /adapt them to 120mm over lock but form.

Initially the three speed hub seemed a bit limited in use to me and then I did a little research on their past use. Once you start to dig up information you discover that these things have been used for covering very long distances and in quite respectable times too - they have a reputation for extremely good reliability too. I’m wondering who uses a three speed hub now for day rides and say B&B touring? What mileages are easy enough to do and how have they been set up to use the hub to best advantage?

For what it’s worth I’m not looking to go fast, cover great distances or ride up every hill. I am looking for good examples of thoughtful use to see how I might learn from and perhaps copy them.
Last edited by Carlton green on 9 Jan 2020, 2:57pm, edited 1 time in total.

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mjr
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby mjr » 8 Jan 2020, 10:24am

Carlton green wrote:I’m wondering who uses a three speed hub now for day rides and say B&B touring? What mileages are easy enough to do and how have they been set up to use the hub to best advantage?

I tour on mine. 40 miles a day is our current planning target but that was set by others more than me. Occasionally we've done about 60 although that got annoying when it was on bad surfaces. I've ridden 100+ miles on that bike but as a day ride not part of a tour. I've had various troubles on tour but not yet with the hub.

The bike is set up so the hub delivers gears of 42, 54 & 72 inches. With B&B tour luggage (more bikepacking than credit card), the top gear is just slightly too high for level ground into any headwind, but useful with tailwinds or on gravity flats.
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby pjclinch » 8 Jan 2020, 11:29am

I don't generally tour on my Brompton, but it happens, and when it does it's a 3-speed. I like to spin low gears anyway, and the Brommie isn't really great out of the saddle either, so I have their -18% option which gives a gear range of ~ 40"-70". That will get up most things, and the things I won't I can always walk: shouldn't be much though. At the top end it's easy to spin out down hills, but that's what gravity is for.

Mileage is down to all sorts of things: terrain, fitness, comfort, inclination etc. Bear in mind people have ridden round the world on Penny-Farthings with one fixed gear, and used to do the Tour de France with just the one.

Fewer gears means less efficiency because you'll have the Perfect Ratio less of the time, but as long as you don't have to get off and walk a lot it really shouldn't make for big problems.

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Brucey
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby Brucey » 8 Jan 2020, 12:36pm

Carlton green wrote: …. My current hub gear is a five speed that I’ve very happily used for many years, so I am a hub hear ‘fan’. My Sach hub would probably still be running in a few decades but, as parts are effectively no longer available, the practicality of its further use is in question. I’m wondering about the vast supply of old Sturmey Archer three speed hubs and whether it’s time to consider a switch to using one of them. I’ll also have to find out about how to use them in /adapt them to 120mm over lock but form....


Only you can say if any given gear range is 'adequate' or not; folk have happily toured on all kinds of setups, often with very limited gear choices.

Long term use of any obsolete hub gear is contingent on
a) the reliability and
b) the availability of spare parts

If you have found a Sachs 5s hub to be reliable, then provided you have a spare hub to rob for spares and other 'consumable' parts (such as control rods) can be sourced, then you have a viable arrangement, certainly for local use. However when touring, you would be better off with something for which you can get spare parts virtually anywhere. A lot of riders will only use derailleur gears for touring for this very reason, but arguably the ubiquity of the old (i.e. non-NIG AW) SA 3s hub means that the same applies, certainly in the UK and plenty of other places too.

Needless to say if you ride any gear long enough it will break; if it didn't then it would be built too strong and too heavy. The 'old' AW is arguably best used at about 120mm OLN because

a) even the shortest axle can be used at about this OLN
b) the bending loads on the axle are smaller at lower OLN

Eventually the axle may break in an AW but (IME) the rest of the bike will usually have broken in many different ways well before then. If you go belt and braces, and wanted to carry spares and tools to deal with almost any eventuality you need a drift (to release the ball ring, using a hammer or rock or w.h.y.) and some cone spanners (*). A spare axle, spare toggle chain and toggle key, spare pawls and R springs, and you have 90-odd percent of likely failures covered. Modern replacement non-NIG AW axles are available and these are (by design) stronger, because they are solid in the middle instead of having a riveted sun pinion. However occasionally there are QA issues so I'd recommend testing any new axle with local runs before using one in anger on an extended tour.

(*) actually if you have good NTWs, use tabbed/lockwashers on both cones, and are prepared to remount the wheel in the 'wrong dropout' temporarily, you only need one spanner and that can be an adjustable. You still need a drift though if you want to get the internal out.

Note that the old AW has longer driver splines than more recent NIG designs. This means it is easy to fit more than one sprocket to the driver, which allows the gearing to be varied further. Options include;
1) one sprocket, derailleur/tensioner, multiple chainrings
2) two sprockets, derailleur/tensioner, multiple chainrings (or not)
3) three or more sprockets (requires conversion kit and/or engineering) otherwise as above.
4) two sprockets and two chainrings, no tensioner.

The last of these (which I call a 'magic alpine double') can be set up to give a 'magic gear' in both small-large and large-small combinations (which each have a perfect chainline still). This can be used to give two (usually non-overlapping if a 3s gear is used) gear ranges. You might think that it would be a major faff to set the bike for the low range but in fact I have found that you can run with the chain slack enough that it can be derailed by hand in a few seconds. Provided the chain and sprockets are carefully selected the chain doesn't often unship in normal use, even if it is that slack.

cheers
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby Vorpal » 8 Jan 2020, 12:57pm

If it was me, I would just gradually extend my range & load capacity & judge for myself.

I tend to stop quite a bit to take photos, see historic & cultural sites, eat cake, etc. And I don't mind walking up the occasional hill, so I'm sure I'd be fine with touring on a 3 speed, even though I haven't done so before. I would put a sprocket on it suitable for the purpose. I might well need to set lower mileage targets, but I wouldnæt know until I tried :)
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby Brucey » 8 Jan 2020, 1:01pm

a couple of 'magic alpine double' setups

http://ritzelrechner.de/?GR=SAAW&KB=46&RZ=19&UF=2170&TF=90&SL=2.6&UN=MPH&DV=gearInches&GR2=SAAW&KB2=36&RZ2=30&UF2=2170
giving six gears 24.5" to 87.8", with a 'tapping along' gear of 65" which is direct drive and therefore as efficient as possible.

http://ritzelrechner.de/?GR=SAAW&KB=36&RZ=19&UF=2170&TF=90&SL=2.6&UN=MPH&DV=gearInches&GR2=SAAW&KB2=26&RZ2=30&UF2=2170

giving six gears 17.7" to 68.7". The lowest gear flags a 'high torque' warning in the gear calculator, but in practice (unless very heavily loaded) it is difficult to actually apply a high torque in such a low gear; if you remain seated and spin then you are unlikely to overload the transmission.

Both these setups use a 10T chainring interval and a 11T sprocket interval. If you try and use smaller intervals than this, one of the gears will be less 'magic' than the other, i.e. the chain will run slacker in one than the other. NB you can't buy a 30T sprocket to fit a non-NIG AW, it will have to be made or modified specially.

Note that 10T is a different %age of the larger chainrings than the smaller ones. This means that the spacing of the six gears is arguably better in the second case than in the first, because the interval between 3rd and 4th is almost the same as the other intervals.

cheers
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andrew_s
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby andrew_s » 8 Jan 2020, 2:44pm

If using 2 chainrings and 2 sprockets, you're going to have to stop (and get oily fingers) to change between one range and the other, so you're probably better off setting them up for "flat to rolling" and "hilly", and not worrying about overlap or 3rd to 4th spacing.

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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby Brucey » 8 Jan 2020, 3:29pm

FWIW I normally use a twig to lift the chain, so no mucky fingers involved.

Obviously (depending on the hub and the terrain) you can set the gears to do what you want, within limits. However the closest 'magic gear' pairings cluster into two main types;

a) where there is one or two teeth difference in both the chainring and the sprocket or
b) where the chainrings differ by 'n' teeth and the sprockets by 'n+1' teeth, where 'n' is about ten.

a) can give a good setup for half-stepping the hub gears, but b) normally gives a non-overlapping gear range if you use sensibly sized sprockets and chainrings in combination with a gear that has less than 200% range.

If you use a hub gear with ~225% or more range, you have a wide total range and a high/low range overlap such that 'false flats' in long climbs are not an inconvenience. This gearing is what I have used for some time

http://ritzelrechner.de/?GR=SAS5&KB=46&RZ=19&UF=2185&TF=90&SL=2.6&UN=MPH&DV=gearInches&GR2=SAS5&KB2=36&RZ2=30&UF2=2185

which is based on a SA 5s hub. (However I've not given it much stick in the low range; not enough hills where I've been with it, mostly.)

Of course if you use a tensioner/derailleur, you can use almost any combination you like more or less, but this takes away from the inherent simplicity of the scheme.

BTW the 'extra weight' of the magic alpine double setup over a standard hub gear is less than 200g.

cheers
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Carlton green
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby Carlton green » 8 Jan 2020, 3:48pm

Many thanks to all who have responded so far, but please keep the experiences coming in. I don’t like to single out any one response but the illustrations of use are particularly helpful to me.

About thirty five years ago one of the old chaps I cycled in the club with used a fixed gear in the winter, IIRC it was about 65” and he’d do a 60+ mile club run with the rest of use. With that in mind I’m thinking a set-up with a top gear between 70” and 65” would be fine for the rolling to hilly countryside around here. Drop a gear when I need to, coast down the inclines and spin the top gear up to a moderate cadence - accept the limit on top speed and don’t tire yourself out chasing higher cadences.

So long as I can ‘tap along’ up a shallow incline in top gear I’ll be happy, and a practical range of 60 miles in one day is plenty for my intended use. If I need to pack more miles or need to ride at a faster pace then I have other bikes to fall back on, but for my normal use the simple and long lived simple 3 speed hub gear is looking like a good bet - well so far anyway.

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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby simonhill » 8 Jan 2020, 3:52pm

I was going to mention Dervla Murphy who (I thought) cycled to India on a 3 speed shopper.

Before posting, I thought I had better check and found that she REMOVED the 3 speed before setting off in case it caused trouble. She made it presumably on a single gear. 1960 something. Superb read - Full Tilt.

Actually she says she removed the 3 speed derailleur, but I think "the derailleur" must be a mistake.

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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby Mick F » 8 Jan 2020, 8:15pm

andrew_s wrote: .......... (and get oily fingers) .................
Off topic, sorry. :oops:

I went on the Torpoint Ferry over to Plymouth some years back, and it was pouring with rain.
I tried to get me and my Mercian into the passenger area undercover into the warm, but the chap directing traffic told me I couldn't. I asked why, and he said they don't want oily bikes and chains into the seating areas.

I replied that there isn't any oil on my bike. No oil whatsoever! :shock:
Never use oil or anything oily ................... but he still wouldn't let me in, so me and bike had to stay outside.

Keep your chain clean, use a decent chain lube, and no oil needs to be anywhere on your bike. If you have to lift your chain from one ring to the next, your fingers won't get dirty.

Fact.
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby bigjim » 8 Jan 2020, 8:46pm

When i was about 14 I rode a Raleigh SA 3 speed flat bar town bike. I used it for everything including many club touring rides staying at Youth hostels all over the North of England. Never had a problem, though I did convert it to drop bars. But in those days it was quite acceptable to walk up a steep hill. I imagine it would be quite capable of the same role today, but of course it's not fashionable.
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby Brucey » 8 Jan 2020, 8:47pm

Carlton green wrote:...So long as I can ‘tap along’ up a shallow incline in top gear I’ll be happy, and a practical range of 60 miles in one day is plenty for my intended use. If I need to pack more miles or need to ride at a faster pace then I have other bikes to fall back on, but for my normal use the simple and long lived simple 3 speed hub gear is looking like a good bet - well so far anyway....


FWIW at one time I used to use an old raleigh 'sports' 3s bike (with a chaincase, front dynohub, cable operated caliper brakes etc) for basic transport and I would regularly do about 70 miles in a day; about sixteen commuting, and fifty-odd round trip in the evenings. This was in addition to a full day of (rather physical) work. I didn't do the evening run every day but a couple of times a week wasn't unusual. I was pretty fit, then.

The only concessions to making it easier to pedal the thing (it weighed over forty lbs) were to keep the tyres (michelin zig-zags in 26 x 1-3/8" size) pumped hard and I also turned the North Road handlebars upside down. I had some kind of narrow solid plastic 'racing' saddle; the saddle originally had a coarse texture on it, but I rode so far on it that it simply wore smooth. The hills I had to deal with were not particularly steep (about 1 in 8 ) or particularly long (150ft elevation would be typical).

I used 48/22 gearing which gave me a top gear of about 76" and a bottom of ~43"

http://ritzelrechner.de/?GR=SAAW&KB=48&RZ=22&UF=2101&TF=90&SL=2.6&UN=MPH&DV=gearInches

Had the hills been worse I'd have gone for lower gearing, probably. I would normally average about 17mph on that bike, closer to evens on shorter runs; quite a bit slower than on my road bike or even my touring bike at the time. The passing of time means that I'd be happy to manage that on any bike these days!

So yes, you can ride many miles in a day on a 3s hub, no worries.

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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby foxyrider » 8 Jan 2020, 10:21pm

simonhill wrote:I was going to mention Dervla Murphy who (I thought) cycled to India on a 3 speed shopper.

Before posting, I thought I had better check and found that she REMOVED the 3 speed before setting off in case it caused trouble. She made it presumably on a single gear. 1960 something. Superb read - Full Tilt.

Actually she says she removed the 3 speed derailleur, but I think "the derailleur" must be a mistake.


There were certainly3sp derrailleur bikes around in my youth. Now whether they started that way or not...... :lol:
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Re: Three Speed Touring, how long and how far.

Postby LollyKat » 8 Jan 2020, 11:13pm

In the 1930s my father and his sister did a couple of cycle tours in Scotland - his bike was a Rudge Whitworth with 3-speed derailleur and hers was a lady's frame with a 3-speed SA hub. They travelled light, staying in youth hostels, and they used to boast of the day they did 90 miles that included the Lecht. Some roads including that one weren't tarred.

(In the 1960s my brother inherited the Rudge and once he'd replaced the Resilion cantilevers had many mostly happy hours on it. The 3-speed Cyclo mech broke fairly regularly, though, because when his SA-riding pals borrowed it they would back-pedal to change gear. :shock: )