Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

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barrym
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Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby barrym » 4 Nov 2014, 2:10pm

Hi all

Looking for a sanity check here.

I've posted on here a number of times that I'd like to replace my derailleur with IHG. either upgrading existing bike, or acquiring another.

I see lots of posts about the minimal maintenance of IHG and that's what attracts me to them. Cleanliness, simple tidy lines at the back end, a general lack of fussiness.

Then I read about some of the problems with gear changing techniques, complex shifters, noises, expensive service and repair, and I think where did all that talk of minimal maintenance go?

I definitely don't want or need a Rohloff, or indeed a Alfine 11. I even think a Alfine 8 is probably more complicated than I want, although the gear range is closer to my 1x7.

I am tempted by the percieved simplicity and reliability of a SA3. I think there probably are 'real' issues with 5 & 8 speeds although I expect to be bombarded with lots of "mine's great".

Then up pops the new Gazelle Van Stael. It hits all my buttons, steel lugged frame, 3 or 7 speed Nexus, guards, slightly narrow tyres :( , but nice!

http://www.gazellebikes.com/collection-bikes/van-stael/van-stael-r7?type=men

As far as I know there are zillions of Nexus 3 & 7 around on 'practical' bikes. Surely they all work well, don't they? If not, then what? Should I go single speed? (I must say I am tempted! I've been watching that thread about 135mm SS hubs with interest. But that's another subject).

Your views much appreciated.
--
Cheers
Barry

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[XAP]Bob
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby [XAP]Bob » 4 Nov 2014, 2:37pm

I have a couple of IGH, although I've run neither of them long enough to comment too much on maintenance...

One is a SA 5 speed (dual toggle chain)
This has neutral gears, twin downtube friction shifters and the most bizarre gear shift sequence known to man. I like it - simple, just works, enough range for me, all good. When I lock the bike up I can pop it into a neutral gear as an extra deterrent...
Inject grease via the grease port every few months...

The other is a SA 3spd - but with a 9spd cassette on the side.
The Hub gear aspect is just easy. Change at a standstill, pull away, change again. Inject grease via the control rod hole in the axle once every few months...
OK - the dedangler on that one still needs maintenance, but that's not the point.

Also have a 7 speed SRAM which isn't installed in anything at the moment. The grip shift was a bit too stiff... and a Nexus 7/8 speed on a bike I've just been given, that works nicely as well...


They're probably not as efficient as MickF's dangly bits, but they're no worse than many of the bikes around here.
I like the look of the single wrap of chain, no weird contortions through a tensioner...
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profpointy
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby profpointy » 4 Nov 2014, 3:01pm

i had a sturmey archer 3 speed in 1979.- it was viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10801. Bearing in mind I was only a schoolboy doing short local trips it was a right pain. Grunt up a hill in a high gear and you risk losing your viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10801on the cross bar when it slips. Avoid ! It is possible that the Rohloff and Alfine are rather better, but I'll never ever ride an SA 3 speed

pete75
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby pete75 » 4 Nov 2014, 3:36pm

profpointy wrote:i had a sturmey archer 3 speed in 1979.- it was viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10801. Bearing in mind I was only a schoolboy doing short local trips it was a right pain. Grunt up a hill in a high gear and you risk losing your viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10801 on the cross bar when it slips. Avoid ! It is possible that the Rohloff and Alfine are rather better, but I'll never ever ride an SA 3 speed


Well it certainly sounds like the adjustment was "http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10801".

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mjr
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby mjr » 4 Nov 2014, 4:22pm

pete75 wrote:
profpointy wrote:Grunt up a hill in a high gear and you risk losing your viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10801 on the cross bar when it slips. Avoid ! It is possible that the Rohloff and Alfine are rather better, but I'll never ever ride an SA 3 speed

Well it certainly sounds like the adjustment was "http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10801".

Yep, most likely the cable set too tight, so slipping into neutral under load. I think some recent SA3s don't have neutral (the No Intermediate Gear NIG hubs), but I quite like being able to reposition the pedals forwards by slightly depressing the shifter.

To answer the original question: my SA3 just seems to keep on going. I'm pretty inept so I went for SA3 because I think I might be able to rebuild that if needed. I can't comment on many other hubs but I know someone with a Nexus 7 who doesn't seem to do much maintenance and keeps on rolling. I think the London Cycle Hire has Nexus 3s, must get quite a bit of abuse, but it's fairly rare I report any gear fault worse than a slipping shifter (and they slip into medium rather than neutral). Punctures are far more common and that's with some sort of Marathon tyres so still rare.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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gerrymcm
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby gerrymcm » 4 Nov 2014, 5:12pm

I can't comment on the Nexus 7 but have had a Nexus 8 and currently have an Alfine 8. less maintenance is correct but it's not maintenance free although the chain cleaning regime is greatly reduced compared to derailleur gears I think.

If N7, N8 or even the Alfine 8 is used all year round then you'd be well advised to carry out some preventative maintenance on the insides at least once a year to ensure that you get the best service and longevity from the hub. I've neglected a Nexus 8 for approx 4 years during which it very heavy commuting duties and by the time I'd plucked up the courage to "go in" it was too late there was rust in some of the bearings. No matter what I tried it was never smooth again and due to my inexperience I broke it.

I'd say go for a Nexus 8 or Alfine 8 as with minimal but effective maintenance they last and are reliable. I've now been using IGHs for approx 8 years for commuting and wouldn't go back but be prepared to get your hands oily at least at least once a year.

If you go for a Nexus or Alfine I'd suggest you bite the bullet sooner rather than later and grease/oil almost immediately.
There's big debate on the forums about oil/grease etc in these hubs but anything is better than what comes as standard.

Go for it and good luck.
Gerry

Brucey
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby Brucey » 4 Nov 2014, 5:42pm

I've seen problems crop up with most types of IGH, I don't think any are completely immune. However a little TLC goes a long way, as does a little care of stuff like the shifter and cable.

If forced to choose.... if three gears is enough, I'd still opt for an SA 3s hub, with a trigger shifter. To keep it sweet, it is just a question of unscrewing the toggle chain and adding lubricant through the hollow axle from time to time.

In a modern SA 3s NIG hub, there is only one part that fails often, and that is the so called 'actuator plate'. It can be changed easily and costs about £1.50 to buy.

Older SA hubs will, if cared for, last a lifetime. I don't think that modern ones are quite as well made but even so most of the failures I see are caused by neglect and abuse. I have several 5s hubs and they are not as robust as 3s ones and require a little more care. However they can still do very high mileages; I have one hub which has done about 50000 miles and is still going strong.

BTW you can lubricate N3 hubs via the axle too. The N7 hub is really pretty good but is a little draggy in the middle gears. This hub badly needs a lube port; many problems are caused by neglect and water ingress.


cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

profpointy
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby profpointy » 4 Nov 2014, 5:57pm

pete75 wrote:
profpointy wrote:i had a sturmey archer 3 speed in 1979.- it was *****. Bearing in mind I was only a schoolboy doing short local trips it was a right pain. Grunt up a hill in a high gear and you risk losing your http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10801 on the cross bar when it slips. Avoid ! It is possible that the Rohloff and Alfine are rather better, but I'll never ever ride an SA 3 speed


Well it certainly sounds like the adjustment was "http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10801".


Well I dare say, but I spent a lot of time attempting to adjust it - maybe it only work within a half-though tolerance. My second bike, which to be fair was very secondhand decided it was going to remain in top and that was that. The fist bike was bought new and was always rubbish. I'm assuming here that SA didn't do a rubbish model for low grade bikes like the makers do no

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squeaker
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby squeaker » 4 Nov 2014, 6:13pm

IME they all need maintenance of some sort (and can be a pain to remove a wheel, compared with a quick release derailleur system) but, on the plus side, chain maintenance should be a bit less (and there's no derailleur :roll: ).

My personal experience (over the last 12 years or so, in roughly chronological order of acquisition):
Sachs 5 speed: lovely hub - would buy another without hesitation - dismantled once for greasing, but probably didn't need it - sold with bike too cheaply :(
SRAM 3 speed (Dual Drive) - over 12k miles and same operational comments as Sachs 5 speed, oiled via shift rod hole now and again - only downside is it rattles on rough roads.
SA X-RF5(W) - OK, but gear change characteristics not as pleasant as SRAM or Sachs hubs (all gripshift) - dismantled once for greasing plus sorting out shift issue (sorted thanks to Brucey), oiled now and again via toggle chain hole - would buy again, but with minor hesitation (a bit like the gear shift :lol: ).
Nexus 7 - have handled 2 examples, both well used and worked fine - one is on SWIMBO's bike but doesn't get much use.
Rohloff - unlike all of the above, has (just) enough gear range for the recumbent bike it's fitted too; willing to believe the 'bombproof' reputation, but gearshift is just not nice, and noise in lower 7 can get wearing (it's a lot nearer your ears on a 'bent).

So, for what it's worth, if the range is adequate for the intended application, then I'd actively look for one, especially on a ride to work bike (which would probably have an M+ rear tyre) or other high mileage application. If push came to shove, I'd probably only world tour on the Rohloff, if that makes any sense?
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Ant
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby Ant » 4 Nov 2014, 6:22pm

I opened an Alfine 8 after 10000 miles of road riding and it was utterly immaculate inside - this is obviously well in excess of the Shimano recommendation of a check and refresh with magic oil at 2500 miles. I have had Alfine 8 hubs on road and MTB bikes and they have been faultless in both. I don't fully agree with the preventative maintenance annually in the case of Alfine 8 because the seals are of such high quality, although I can see why that would be sensible for the previous generation nexus 8 hubs and I do actually do it for my own bikes since I discovered how easy it is to open the hub up and give it the oil bath (annual mileage is 5k road bike and probably about 1K on the MTB.

The shifting quality is excellent, better than any derailleur I have ever used. In 10000 miles I changed the shifter cable out once (probably halfway ish) and adjusted tension once or twice. All you have to do is line up the yellow markers in 4th gear. It is very easy. Changing a puncture is easy too, no more hassle than with a derailleur bike really.

Big thumbs up for Alfine 8 hubs from me.

(Have ridden loads of different hub gears and TBH they're all pretty good, but the range and high quality shifting of the Alfine 8 marks it out for me)

Stradageek
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby Stradageek » 4 Nov 2014, 6:52pm

I have rekindled my love of the AW3 hub on a series of small folders. The trick is to get the gear range correct, most SA hub geared bikes are horribly over-geared but a quick swap to a smaller chain ring and/or larger rear cog and acceptance that I'll have to freewheel down any serious hills gives me all the gears I'll ever need for most of the short commuting/urban riding I ever do. Maintenance, what's that?

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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby townbikemark » 4 Nov 2014, 7:42pm

I have 4; 2 Nexus 8s, one SA5 and one SA 3 speed on my Brompton M3L. The SA5 speed replaced the SRAM I-motion 9 speed, which broke, on my first Kettler after >8000 miles with no maintenance, neglect on my part. I'm a real fan for several reasons which other posters have already stated (the Townbike gives a clue) and have no intention of owning a derailleur nor singlespeed. IMO nothing better for my type of cycling. I also like the looks and admittedly a bit of sentimentality as they evoke images of classic urban cycling...elegant classic/utility bikes should NOT have derailleurs...

I prefer the flexibility of more gears rather than less, but once you start going over 8, it gets expensive: the i-motion 9 was over £300 IIRC, the Shimano 11 is nearly twice the price of the 8 and everybody knows how expensive the 14 speed Rohloff is...

SRAMs seem to be rare and become obsolescent quicker than Shimano, Sturmey & Rohloff. May be better off selecting from the latter 3.

Have just had one of the Nexus serviced - cost me £25. Didn't have the confidence to do it myself for the first one, may do the next in a years time or so.

Many bike shops won't touch them; the one that did mine this week, I found out about after trying two others which included Evans in Reading. Some say that you need special tools which they don't have. From what I've seen, the special tools are actually quite basic. Hubgears are not maintenance free, but there is a lot less maintenance required. Just be a little proactive and find out in advance who's willing to service them - in theory any approved Shimano service centre should be able to do the Shimano ones. The reality may be that they have to send it to Madison's, the Shimano distributor in Milton Keynes...

Study Sheldon's site and Youtube - there's a lot on both, especially Nexus, Alfine and Sturmey.
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby Si » 4 Nov 2014, 8:12pm

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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby Elizabethsdad » 4 Nov 2014, 8:36pm

My current bike has an Alfine 11 which has been fine for two years now. Had to have the cable tension adjusted very slightly when I first got and have just recently put a new chain on. It is about time I took it in for a service I am lucky that there is good bicycle repair workshop close to me in Southampton who even run courses so I may take the plunge and do their hub gear course. Previously I have had and Alfine 8 and a Nexus 8 and no trouble with either of those. I particularly like them for the fact that you can change gear when stationary - very useful if you have had to stop quickly while in a high gear and want to change down before starting off again.

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Cunobelin
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Re: Are Hub Gears really that good OR bad?

Postby Cunobelin » 4 Nov 2014, 9:09pm

My wife did not get on wit dérailleur gears, so we looked at a Rohloff equipped Thorn touring bike

We foolishly went down to Bridgewater to try one.

They suggested that we took the bike out for a spin, whilst I had expected a "round the block" they suggested a half day ride!


They then offered to lend me one to accompany her... foolishly I said yes

An hour later we went back and we were so impressed that we bought a pair of Thorns

That was the start of a slippery slope... I realised how good the Rohloff was and decided to retrofit the Catrike with one, and was not disappointed


I now have a Birdy folding bike, HPVelotechnik Gekko (with Schlumpf HSD), Catrike Expedition, Hase Kettwiesel and a pair of Thorns with Rohloff

There would have to be a very good reason for me to buy a non Rohloff bike now
Last edited by Cunobelin on 4 Nov 2014, 9:10pm, edited 1 time in total.