06 July, 2009

SA 3-Speed Wheels

I have to admit that despite offering 8-speed internal-gear wheels, I think that many people would be perfectly satisfied with a less expensive 3-speed hub. Most cities in the US are just not that hilly making those 3-gears sufficient for many utility and city bikes. Of course if you live in San Francisco or have a long commute, you'll want the wider range of an 8-speed hub.

We just got our new 3-speed wheels. They have Sturmey Archer AW hubs laced to CR18 rims with stainless steel 14 gauge spokes. As with our other wheels they are hand built and hand trued.

The AW hub is the classic model that's been used on millions of European city bikes. In most places, that are not desperately hilly, the range and 3 gears of the the AW are sufficient for a utility/city bike. The spacing is 126mm, but you can add spacers since the axle length is 175mm. More complete specifications and details can be found here.

The shifter is the cute little thumb shifter found on all those vintage English roadsters. It's made for 22.2mm bars, but will fit on road bar-sized 23.8mm bars too. Shifter cable, axle nuts, and related hardware are also included. The price is $120.

On a somewhat related topic, this op-ed from the New York Times may interest those of you who, like me, are interested in car free communities. Imagine car free neighborhoods in the very cradle of the US auto industry.

ALSO, Shimano 105/CR-18 wheels and wheel sets are back in stock.


keithwwalker said...

I recently switched from an 8 speed Shimano hub (2 years), to a Sturmey RX-RD3 3 speed.

I don't miss those extra gears one bit.

Michael S said...

Chris, are you going to have similar wheels available in 650b to match the new city bike?

Anonymous said...

+1 for 650B!
I'll order two!

John Barrett said...

Any plans to make a wheel set for a coaster brake? I'd definitely snap those up. It's rather annoying to get shops to build wheel sets for me just so I can have a coaster brake.

Preston said...

Does it come with a sprocket?

Yann G.S. said...

with this many rear wheels, would it not be logical to have them also available as a matching set with a front wheel?

Unknown said...

excuse my ignorance but:

1. can i just slap a 16t bmx freewheel onto this guy?

2. how about mounting the shift cable in the vicinity of the axle? will it come with hardware to accomplish this?

saren said...

Multi-speed 650b wheels... Yes, please.

Albert de Dion said...

Perhaps you're a bit too quick to make generalizations about the geography of cities and the needs of cyclists? If by utilitarian bicycle you mean dicking around on sunday at the cheeseboard or stumptown when you live <2km away then yes, that's all you need. If you mean using a bicycle as a means of transportation in a north american shity, few people are going to agree with those platitudes. If you were talking about a wide range 5 speed, like SA's new wider range 5 speed hub then you might have a plausible argument. Until that time you should refrain from making such unwarranted generalizations. Many people go through a phase where the AW seems enough. It's something you grow out of.

Hammer said...

Are there any plans to offer this wheel in the 119 OLD version of the AW? I am looking to put an IGH onto my bike with 120mm spaced dropouts. What about the upcoming S-RF5(W), 5 speed IGH with 256% range and a bar end shifter?

Anonymous said...

Albert, you must be tons of fun at parties.

The British started their 3 speed phase shortly after the turn of the century and only grew out of it when the wide gearing and relentless practicality offered by the bike boom road bikes came along. I haven't even outgrown my singlespeeds, so based on the British model if I've got like 70 years once I move up to 3 then I'm on track to tow an Airstream over the 7 hills of San Francisco behind my Rohloff-equipped Surly Big Dummy to celebrate my 100th birthday and my transition to full bicycle adulthood.

Velo Orange said...

The wheels come with an 18t cog.

We are still working on 650b wheels. It's proving harder than I thought it would to get exactly what we want built.

We have no plans for coaster brake, or any other versions, of this wheel.

The shift cable for any internal gear hub can be secured with a Dia Compe cable clamp (we sell them) or a zip-tie.

I stand by my opinion that in many places three speeds is all you need. My city bike has but one. Remember that there is a difference between a city/utility bike and a multipurpose bike, like the upcoming Polyvalent.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I see the dia compe cable clips, but do you have/can you get SA-style fulcrum clips and sleeves? A tiny part, but much needed for conversions to 3 speed.

Tom said...

Our Sturmey Archer wheels come with all necessary hardware. The fulcrum clips we are all familiar with are no longer necessary and have been replaced with a fulcrum lever.
Full length cable housing can be secured with a zip tie or the Dia Compe cable clips. depending on the cable routing of your bike, you may be able to use the existing cable stops.

Can we get fulcrum clips and other small parts for older S/A hubs? Hubs that we are not selling? I'm not sure if Chris wants to go down that road.

Joel said...

Albert: I live in Chicago, have been without a car for five years, yet still manage to commute (15 miles one way) visit friends and family in the suburbs, shop, go about town, etc. with a single speed bicycle.

I have a multi-speed that I use for bicycle touring and camping. While it has 21 gears, at least on Midwest trips I stay on 46/17 about 90% of the ride shifting into the granny gears only when climbing out of river valleys (Midwest road builders penchant for making roads straight as possible often mean steep - if relatively short climbs).

Anonymous said...

The only problem with using the older style fulcrum clip is that the cable hangs loose and rattles quite a bit in top gear. With the full length housing you dont get this issue. Modern nylon-lined housing and smoother inner wires mean there is no longer a friction penalty with the longer housing.

It does look a bit odd if you are used to the more elegant old-school cable stops and roller, but no one else ever seems to notice or comment.

And while I am a Anglophile, Sun Race has done a wonderful job with improving the old Sturmey brand and technology.

Maybe Sun Race can buy General Motors and Chrysler and turn them around also ?

Anonymous said...

Hammer: Are you thinking of the X-RF5? That hub is available now.


As far as shifters, if you're thinking of the SLS3X-B, that's going to be released with the S3X hub (...err, obviously). The S3X seems to only be just making it's way to companies that sell complete bikes (Bikes Direct, for instance) so they can try it out and see if they want to build and sell bikes that incorporate it's weirdness.

Here's a link the a post about the SLS3X-B on Sunrace's Sturmey-Archer news blog:


Here's a link to a thread on Road Bike Review where the guy (whoever that is) from Bikes Direct posts about trying out the S3X hub:


You can get the X-RF5 now, although it's expensive. My LBS recently contacted United Bicycle Supply (their recommended supplier for North America, apparently) and they said the S5 would take two months but the X-RF5 is on hand. I wouldn't hold my breath on the S3X-related stuff.

...Um, on topic -- despite having just set up an order for an X-RF5-based wheelset with my LBS, I would say that VO's three speed offer here is an incredibly good deal. Their consideration of aesthetics cannot be discounted. If this offer fits your needs, do not hesitate!

Anonymous said...

It makes sense to buy from Harris if you need the SA small parts--they have all that can be found, and if you are buying online anyway, it doesn't make sense for Chris to sink a bunch of money into overlapping the stock, which we would end up paying for. And buying from Harris you are kind of keeping the memory of Sheldon Brown alive--you are probably buying stock he himself ordered.
M Burdge

Hammer said...

@Anonymous 7/7/09 12:53 PM

The hub and shifter I am talking about is in the new 2009-2010 S/A catalog on page 13.
It has a wider range and a more VO aesthic than the X-RF5 plus it has some cool shifters.

Unfortunately I need something with an OLD belo 120mm so this wheel is a no go for me.

greatpumpkin said...

Harris has only a few parts. Yellow Jersey in Madison, Wisconsin has a lot more. Also check the site for the Lake Pepin 3-speed Tour where some rare new parts and tools are offered.

The AW hub is fine if you have no serious hills. Annapolis is pretty flat. Also may depend on what wheels you have. Here in Arlington, I find some hills too steep for comfort on my Raleigh DL-1 Roadster with AW hub and 28" wheels--my shopping bike, pictured parked outside Trader Joe's on my blog. The AW has its 1:1 gear in the middle. I think that back in 1903 when the alternative was one speed, having three with a range of 75%, 100%, 133% was a big improvement. I remember getting my first 3-speed in Maine in 1966. I rode that thing everywhere and blew the doors off the Sting-Rays my friends were riding. I still love these bikes.

The trouble with the SA 8-speed is they put the 1:1 gear on the bottom, which requires a very small chainring if you have normal-sized wheels. It's the only internal hub geared like that.

Keep up the good work, Chris and Tom.

Anonymous said...

It's great that you offer these for the people who like them.

Me, I have a long, photographic memory. Most of us were superbly happy to move on to those bike boom 10 speeds from our English racer type 3 and 5 speed bikes (Raleighs, CCM's, etc.). Even the cheap 10-speeds were light years ahead in terms of weight and versatility. It's when many of us became "cyclists" as opposed to people on bikes.

In a bout of temporary insanity, I bought a 4 speed hub gear equipped city bike about 10 years ago. It didn't take long before I was reminded of these bike's inadequacies for more serious cyclists. Luckily, I was able to sell the darned thing. I'll stick with road bikes until I die. You guys can have the nostalgia.

dr2chase said...

Just for comparison -- I've got 4 bikes, among them a 1947? 3-speed trash rescue and a 9-speed (SRAM iMotion) Big Dummy.

An 18-tooth rear cog on the 3-speed is probably too small; whatever mine was, I made it bigger (can't check now, it is raining buckets AND inside a chaincase) and that was a huge help. It does just fine for getting into and around Cambridge.

The 9-speed replaces a "27-speed" derailleur on its predecessor. I got something with a 340% range, because that is what its predecessor had, and I've used both ends of the range in a single week. I'm running a slightly smaller than desirable rear cog right now, but so far, I'm not suffering. Durability, so far, so good, but so far is only a few hundred miles.

The Sturmey-Archer 8 looked nice, but the goofy gearing (together with some really unflattering reviews on the web) pretty much killed it. The Shimano 7 and 8 speed hubs get pretty good reviews, but they are a pain to connect/disconnect and adjust (the SRAM is dead easy), and the 7 has more even spacing between gears.

2whls3spds said...

Nothing beats the durability of the old AW hubs, I have several one has well over 20,000 documented miles on it with no problems.

The 8 speed supposedly was designed for small wheel bikes which is why the 1:1 is on the bottom of the range.

I ride a variety of bikes, no you won't win a Tour de France on a AW hub, but if you want something that is bullet proof and will run for thousands of miles trouble free, get one.


Anonymous said...

Tom, I was the anon who asked about fulcrum clips, I was having a brain fart and forgot that the new design doesn't need them. Forgive me, I don't think I've ever worked on a 3 speed hub that was younger than me (28).

Brian said...

Any word on a SA 3 speed bar end shifter?

brionic said...

I love my old Raleigh, but it is a bear on some of the hills here in Iowa City, hills that I ordinarily fly over with my "fast" bikes. I changed the 18 to a 23 tooth cog, which helped a little, but combined with the heavy weight of the bike and wheelset, climbing on it is a burden.

However, riding it is more fun, and stylish, than just about any other bike I own. Uh, maybe, since my bikes are charming.

I'm overhauling the Raleigh and presenting it to my stepfather, who wants to ride around his neighborhood in L.A. a bit, so this is the perfect, comfortable ride for him. I'll miss it, but it's going to bring him a lot of happiness, and hey, I'll be able to ride it when I'm back in the 'hood!

Dad said...

The S-A 3-speed hubs have one quality that sets them apart: that incredibly serene tick-tick-tick as you ride along. Maybe it's a Proustian thing, but it always seems to remind me of good pre-teen memories. I currently have a Nexus 8 setup which works great but is lacking in that soulfulness. The Nexus setup is a tad "grindy" in a couple of gears and I really don't care for that -- it's like grating fingernails on a blackboard. But the new Alfine hubs are supposed to me much smoother, provided that you can get your hands on one.

dr2chase said...

The tick-tick-tick depends quite a bit on what you lubricate them with. A little 5w30 makes them quite ticky indeed. Tenacious oil, not so much. Does anyone besides me use Mobil 1 for these purposes?

The SRAM iMotion does not tick when coasting, but ticks rather pleasantly in many gears when you are pedaling. No idea how to lubricate this hub, and since it uses at least one roller freewheel, I am wary of doing anything non-standard.

Anonymous said...

Any plans for a 27" version? I'm hoping to redo an older Raleigh and although I could convert to 700's, I'd prefer to keep the 27" wheels so as not to have to monkey around with brake reach issues.


Anonymous said...

A +1 on the 3 speed bar-end shifter. J-Tek does one for a shimano 8 speed internal (I think--check their site) but I bet there are all sorts of people like me who would love to run a 3 speed on a drop bar bike with a nice elegant bar end shifter instead of jerry-rigging a thubb shifter onto the end of the bar or tops....
M Burdge

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty cool column about Detroit. I live in Ann Arbor, which "should" be a bike town...but isn't.

If I were doing a lot of riding in Detroit I think I'd take the concealed carry permit class. I've considered it here in Ann Arbor, but Detroit has some tough areas.

keithwwalker said...

Greatpumpkin is right.

Getting S-A appurtenances is a pain. For my project, I ended up ordering from 3 different countries, as no one seems to have all the small parts needed.

Some other thoughts:

You are better off with a full cable housing. The S-A roller HSJ520/521 that I finally managed to purchase from England is a total piece of trash. I ended up machining my own roller of brass, and attaching that to a clamp on derailleur with a bearing from a jockey wheel. It looks great, but was a lot of work.

Jtek makes a nice bar end shifter for Shimano 7/8 and S-A 8 hubs:

Jtek Bar Shifter

The 'C' series of 3 speed S-A hubs are incredibly smooth shifting. It is a shame that Sunrace USA doesn't support the full lineup. Rotary shift hubs blow away the 'old' chain pull fulcrum lever design.

Since my rotary shift S-A RX-RD3 hub didn't come with a shifter (if you purchase in Europe, S-A hubs don'e come with all the parts; in USA they should), and I couldn't find an indexing shifter at all.

This proved a blessing in disguise as I used a dia-compe silver shifter. Shifting is seemless. Don't ever let anyone tell you that friction shifters don't work with internal hubs.

Tom said...

As soon as Sturmey archer makes a bar end shifter that works with the AW hubs, we can stock it. I'm not sure they will though. The 3sp fixed hub has completely different internals compared to their AW or Rotary 3 speed hubs, and there is not much cross compatibility. The trigger shifter we sell with this hub will fit on a drop bar. You may need a slightly longer bolt, or you can monkey with the band clamp a bit.

greatpumpkin said...

The tick is part of their charm. Phil Tenacious oil is too heavy for internal hubs and will eventually gum up the works. Bailey Garfield, owner of my LBS Papillon Cycles in Arlington, is a master with these hubs.

Stainless steel shift cable rollers and fulcrum sleeves here: http://www.3speedtour.com/ and look under "parts". Also on the "Clinks" page of that site there is a link to Bikesmith Design and Fabrication www.bikesmithdesign.com who makes cotter remover/installer tools and fixed cup tools for old 3-speeds.

Sprockets for these hubs are not the usual threaded kind, but have 3 splines and a lock ring. So no, you can't put a BMX freewheel on. Creative people have sometimes used other kinds of sprockets on them--see Sheldon on this subject.

I would like to have a lightweight bike with the proportions of my old Roadster and an internal hub with more gears. It's a surprisingly agreeable bike--much more so than it looks. See my article "The Joy of the Roadster" on my blog.

J.P. Keese said...

Any chance of doing a wheelset with the new Sturmey SX3 3-speed fixed hub? That would be rad.


Jay Riley said...

How can I convert a derailleur bike to an internally-geared-hub bike, if the frame has vertical dropouts? Is there a way to use an internal-gear hub without mounting a spring-loaded chain tensioner? Thanks!

tick tick tick said...

I love my 3-speed hub on a 700c rim.

I set the HIGH gear for about 68-70 gear inches (I think) for cruising speed, then I have a medium-low NORMAL for slopes/loaded cruising, and a LOW. Downhills are fast-pedaling or coasting.

39T from with 20T rear for now.

Check out the gear calculator at one of the legacies of Sheldon Brown: his website.

Anonymous said...

I need a dutch 28" chromed steel rear wheel with knurled sides and a Sturmey AW hub for my cool as ice 1976 Union Arizona Dutch Roadster. I can source a Van Schothorst rim, and an AW hub, but all the beach cruiser or ATB, or heaven forbid fixed gear shop owners in my area just want to either look at me like I'm nuts or sell me cheap Asian alloy crap, so my horse can be just be another Frankenstein. I guess I'll have to learn to true my own wheels and rebuild an AW hub. Give me all steel or give me death.

Jim said...

No longer available?

Anonymous said...

I wish this was still in stock. :(

Anonymous said...

Was good while they had it, I have one.....wish they still offered it. Somebody needs to,

Anonymous said...

And putting a larger tooth sprocket on the rear hub and a lower chainring count , Say 44t /22 gives ample low gearing for commute and city . I tested SA hubs in the late 1990,s , I’m in Yorkshire England