SA 5 Speed Opinions

Jezston

Über Member
Location
London
I've been having several conversations with the slightly eccentric guy who runs my nearest LBS about getting him to build me a steel custom hub-gear based tourer/cyclocross (commutercross?) bike for my commute.

Currently on a 24-speed Kona Dew which with the odd bit of hillage I get on my commute I use about 5 speeds on.

So I reckon a 5-speed hub would suit me perfectly, giving me a slightly bigger range but still plenty of 'options' for speed and cadence when riding.

However he's not so keen on the 5-speeds, and is a HUGE fan of the classic 3-speed Sturmey Archers. He reckons with the lower weight, significantly simpler mechanics I'll get just as good performance and better reliability (and less weight), I'd just have to think of it more like a tweakable single speed and ride like that. But I'm not so sure I'd like it.

He plans to knock up a 3-speed machine some time soon anyway and let me have a go on that, but until then - anyone got any thoughts on the SA 5-speed hubs, or any reasonably available alternatives to hunt down, and how they rate them against the classic 3-speeds?
 

RedBike

New Member
Location
Beside the road
I tried an old SA 5speed hub a while ago with the intention of coverting my fixie to gears. I didn't like it. It made the whole bike feel heavy and the bottom gear felt like you were pedalling through treacle. The gear ratios wern't that widely spaced so you didn't have that much of a range.

I think there are now several variations of the 5 speed hub. (Some with a wide spaced range.) Unless they've improved I would just run the bike single speed (or fixed).

I want to get hold of one of the new 3 speed fixed wheel hubs to try it out.
 

buddha

Veteran
I had an XRF-5 on my Pompino. Agree with what Redbike says. It made the bike feel 'uneven', if you know what I mean. Of course the gears were welcome but it just made the bike feel like a lump of lard. Range for me was okay, as I have a 1/4 climb to contend with.

Build quality is okay. But the twist grip shifter is carp. And after mashing some of the gears I went back to ss/fixed.
 
OP
Jezston

Jezston

Über Member
Location
London
Not sure if you chaps are not keen on the 5-speeds specifically or gears in general ... care to elaborate?
 

buddha

Veteran
I lurve gears:girl::wacko:
Thinking about it, my main gripe with the XRF-5 was the shifting - which is mostly down to the shifter - not the hub so much. Maybe the 5-speed thumb shifter is better. There is also the slight loss of momentum when changing too - more than on a normal geared bike.
I think it's a hub gear thing for me. I prefer mechs and cassettes now.
Though I've no idea what an Alfine is like?
 

RedBike

New Member
Location
Beside the road
Jezston said:
Not sure if you chaps are not keen on the 5-speeds specifically or gears in general ... care to elaborate?
I've still got mixed views when it comes to hub gears.

I wasn't struck with the SA 5 speed or the nexus 7 speed. Both of which seemed to have gears where there was loads of additional drag and the weight of the hub was very noticable.

In contrast the new Aline 11 and the Rohloff hubs both seem really smooth. Sadly I only got to ride a few hundred yards on these, yet I couldn't notice any additional drag or rough gears. If it wasn't for the out cost of these hubs there would probably be one on my MTB right now.

I've never tried one of the SA 3 speed hubs, it will be intresting to see how you get on. I really fancy one of the fixed wheel 3 speed hubs but I'd rather I didn't pay £200 to find I don't like it!
 
OP
Jezston

Jezston

Über Member
Location
London
Ah, was under the perhaps mistaken impression that the SA 5-speeds weren't much heavier than the 3-speeds and significantly lighter than the Alfine hubs - although my basis of determining this weight was a casual lift of a Charge Mixer and it's identical single speed cousin - the mixer was a LOT heavier.
 

RedBike

New Member
Location
Beside the road
I don't know the relative weights of these hubs or the parts they're replacing but i doubt there's a big overall difference. Its quite possible that the SA 3/5 are actually lighter than the equivalent priced shimano cassette gubbins.

I was unfairly putting a geared hubbed wheel on single speed / fixed wheel bike then comparing the weight of the two. Adding a geared hub was bound to make the bike feel heavier. Espeshially as all the weight was in one place and it was rotational weight.

If you're going to add panniers etc then a few extra lbs really isn't going to matter. The weight of a rack and pannier bags alone will probably add far more weight to the rear of the bike than a geared hub will.

I still think that unless you live somewhere very hilly it's worth getting a SS/ fixie instead of a hub geared bike.

Perhaps a Pompino, Genesis Day One, Roadrat, Singular (to name just a few)?
 
OP
Jezston

Jezston

Über Member
Location
London
I often ride a longer commute with a chap who rides a single speed (Specialized Tricross) and on even modest hills I'm blasting him. On the flats he kicks my arse, but I do like belting it in high gears down hills! Totally leave him for dust while he spins away. I don't think single speed is for me :biggrin:
 
OP
Jezston

Jezston

Über Member
Location
London
Hmm, another potential negative thought about SA hubs.

Coaster brakes. Like the idea in theory, like the idea of less brake cables and more likely to convince cool kids that I'm riding fixed.

However, am I correct in what I have been led to believe that you can't back pedal them? i.e. I stop at some traffic lights and need to spin the pedals back to a comfortable position for starting off again ... but can't?
 

RedBike

New Member
Location
Beside the road
Its odd that your friend should be slower on modest inclines. Generally speaking because single speed bikes are both lighter and more efficient they tend to go up slight inclines like a scaulded cat. The Tri-cross isn't the best example of a road speed machine, it's almost bordering on a cyclo-x bike, which is perhaps whats slowing him down.

I'm sure that not all hub gears/brakes are activated by back pedalling and i'm sure loads of hubs don't even have this feature. The nexus I tried had a drum/hub brake. It worked like any standard brake via a lever on the bars. You'd be forgiven for thinking it was a disc brake as it had what looked like a large rotor beside the hub. This rotor was infact there to cool to hub/brake not as a braking surface.

Talking of back pedalling I believe Sturmey Archer were about to (or have already) release their S2C hub. If you back pedal a little with this hub then you change gear (ie no cables required). If you back pedal alot then you activate a hub brake. (Again no cables and a brake that works in all weather). If SA can get this one right it should make a cracking little hub for commuting bikes. All the advantages of single speed but with two gears.
 

ron4322

New Member
RedBike said:
Its odd that your friend should be slower on modest inclines. Generally speaking because single speed bikes are both lighter and more efficient they tend to go up slight inclines like a scaulded cat. The Tri-cross isn't the best example of a road speed machine, it's almost bordering on a cyclo-x bike, which is perhaps whats slowing him down.

I'm sure that not all hub gears/brakes are activated by back pedalling and i'm sure loads of hubs don't even have this feature. The nexus I tried had a drum/hub brake. It worked like any standard brake via a lever on the bars. You'd be forgiven for thinking it was a disc brake as it had what looked like a large rotor beside the hub. This rotor was infact there to cool to hub/brake not as a braking surface.

Talking of back pedalling I believe Sturmey Archer were about to (or have already) release their S2C hub. If you back pedal a little with this hub then you change gear (ie no cables required). If you back pedal alot then you activate a hub brake. (Again no cables and a brake that works in all weather). If SA can get this one right it should make a cracking little hub for commuting bikes. All the advantages of single speed but with two gears.
Fitchell & Sachs (now part of SRAM) used to (and probably still) make a 2-speed plus brake hub, (all back pedal), as part of their torpedo range, which sounds very similar. I've never ridden one (or even seen one in the flesh), but I recall reading that the old original 1960s Moulton was available with such a gear. They fitted it to the model which could be split into two for transport. It meant that they didn't need the complication of splitting gear or rear brake cables when splitting the frame. I agree it seems like a neat idea, but the shift ratio is only 1.33:1, I think, so many people would probably regard a single speed coaster as being nearly as good.

Stuff I've read about F & S hub gears generally seem to regard them highly. They've been on the go for years, and seem to have a wider range than SA. I've always assumed that they never got much of a foothold in the UK for hub gears because at the time SA pretty much controlled the Market, as part of Raleigh. However, I believe they were much bigger in their home market and the rest of mainland Europe. In recent years Shimano have taken over from the Raleigh group as the big player in components, so their hub gears are now the most common, followed by the reborn SA, I believe.
 
Top Bottom