History of Sturmey-Archer
September 5, 2008 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Hubba, Hubba, Hubba

A great pictorial history of the Sturmey-Archer company. There's even a fixed gear three speed hub in the works for you young whipper-snappers
posted by Rafaelloello (16 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Nuts. I screwed up and didn't get the link right to the fixed gear three speed hub Many of the commenters on this page are clamoring to have the hub named for the late Sheldon Brown.
posted by Rafaelloello at 1:56 PM on September 5, 2008

> There's even a fixed gear three speed hub in the works

Some would prefer to call it a fixed hub rather than a fixed gear (The gear ain't fixed; it's going through a 3-speed transmission). But hairsplitting aside, I want that S3X (nudge nudge, wink wink) and hope they announce it's out of prototype and into manufacture soon after Interbike.
posted by ardgedee at 1:57 PM on September 5, 2008

Some will no doubt call sacrilege, but I like my Shimano Nexus 8 red band. For the wealthy, we have this "triumph of Teutonic technology."
posted by exogenous at 2:17 PM on September 5, 2008

Someday. Someday I'm gonna have me some internally geared around-town bike. Meanwhile: nice post.
posted by everichon at 2:21 PM on September 5, 2008

I've wanted to build an internally geared commuter bike for a looong time. These are pretty.
posted by splatta at 2:28 PM on September 5, 2008

This comment from the fixed 3-speed hub link cracks me up:
"Fixed-gear riding isn't about the convenience of STI shifting or even bar ends. How about a seat tube mounted shifter? It would be ideally located between the top of the water bottle and the bottom of the frame pump."
posted by space2k at 2:36 PM on September 5, 2008

I've been thinking about building up a two-speed bike with one of these. It would be a stealth faux-fixie. You'd really need to know what you were looking at to realize it had more than one speed.
posted by adamrice at 2:40 PM on September 5, 2008

> Someday I'm gonna have me some internally geared around-town bike.

Strip a hub out of an old three-speed bike. They last forever.
posted by ardgedee at 2:52 PM on September 5, 2008

I've got a BikeE with an internal hub. Very convenient, being able to shift while stopped at a light.
posted by mecran01 at 2:59 PM on September 5, 2008

space2k: "This comment from the fixed 3-speed hub link cracks me up:
"Fixed-gear riding isn't about the convenience of STI shifting or even bar ends. How about a seat tube mounted shifter? It would be ideally located between the top of the water bottle and the bottom of the frame pump."

Funny you should mention that. I stumbled on the S-A site when researching a bike I saw on Craig's List

I had never heard of an S-A 5 speed with twin shifters before, one right on the *Seat Tube*!.
posted by Rafaelloello at 3:06 PM on September 5, 2008

Purty, but I'm saving for a Rohloff.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:13 PM on September 5, 2008

You can have my Ute when you pry it from my bleeding-and-covered-in-dirt-because-I-just-fell-off-my-bike hands!
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:33 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bah, the original ASC 3 changes hands for Rohloff-like money; not bad for a 50 year old hub. Al of Wheelcraft guards his jealously.

I've had a ton of S-A stuff; their demise was sad, but Sunrace seems to have kept up the right idea. I've had S-A three speeds, four speeds (on an old Moulton, which may still be tooling about Florida), five speeds (on a Brompton; yay!), Dynohubs (o ye of little light) and hub brakes (on my recumbent, and on my tank of a Pashley delivery bike, which I discovered after I got rid of it that it was actually a Post Ofifice bike that had been stolen and repainted - oops).

Most refined hub geared-bike I'd ridden? Undoubtedly the Moulton AM2, which featured the discreet-but-weird Sachs Torpedo two-speed with coaster brake. Most awesome hub geared bike? That would be the Flevobike GreenMachine: fully-enclosed drivetrain recumbent with a 14-speed Rohloff as a mid-drive.

There is no sound more beautiful than the gentle tick, tick of a Sturmey-Archer AW-3 in top gear, on a flat road, on a sunny day with the wind behind you ...
posted by scruss at 6:07 PM on September 5, 2008

I ride a Sturmey-Archer S3C for nearly all of my transportation, and getting on that bike is one of the most pleasant things I do all day.

You can probably get an AW, the most classic Sturmey 3-speed hub, for around $10-15 at a bike shop that services them. You can also find them on eBay.

Replacement parts are easily found, and they're simple enough inside that an overhaul isn't difficult for the mechanically inclined. See Sheldon for more details.

If you're looking for a 3-speed bicycle on Craigslist, you'll see names like Raleigh, Phillips, and Robin Hood most often. With very few exceptions, they were all made in Raleigh's factory in Nottingham. Over time, Raleigh bought most of the other bicycle brands in England and brought them in-house. Their flagship brands were Raleigh, Rudge, and Humber. Other brands came in at different quality points, but that may not matter.

The 3-speed will give you an upright riding position and large tires - both increase the comfort and fun of riding considerably.

As far as years are concerned, anywhere from the 50's through the very early 70's is the sweet spot. Their production quality started falling off early in the 70's.

At least in the Boston area, there are enough of these bikes hitting Craigslist on a regular basis that you have the luxury of picking and choosing, especially if you're willing to watch for a couple of weeks.

Sizing: Size is tough to gauge without trying it out (which you'll want to do). Some of the ads on Craigslist will list a range of heights the bike might work for, and some will list the frame size. It's difficult to use the frame size to judge whether it will work for you, but ads that include both might help you correlate between the two. These bikes are probably similar enough that you can consider a 20" frame the same across them. Comparing frame size across other styles or models of bike is difficult.

Price: I wouldn't pay more than about $140, and I see good bikes in the $100-120 range regularly. For that price, you should expect to get a bike that you can ride immediately, and it should definitely have fenders. It may have a rear rack or a front basket, both are bonuses. It might have a generator and lights, big bonus.

You might want a new saddle, which can range from $20 to $120. If the bike has a Brooks leather (not vinyl) saddle, you have the original version of what is now $120. Unless it has been abused, it may be the best saddle you've ever ridden. If you decide to get a new saddle, read this first. Modern gel or super-cushioned saddles are often *less* comfortable than hard leather. And every saddle will be uncomfortable for a bit if you haven't been riding for a few years.

Don't worry about rust on the frame. It's only a cosmetic issue - these bikes are still rolling after 50 years of abuse.

Where did that soapbox come from?
posted by (parenthetic me) at 9:28 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

As a proud ex-owner of a late 50's BSA and a Raleigh from the Early 60's, I love these styles of bikes.

Got ours in Cambridge for <90 GBP and they were awesome. Rusty and beaten to all hell, but built out of pig iron and steel. Great to ride, even if they looked like they were backed over by a truck, set on fire, and then thrown in the river for a bit.

Had to sell them when we moved, but if I were to buy another, I'd go with the classics. Fuck aluminum, fuck more than 3 speeds.
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:41 PM on September 5, 2008

My husband and I both have 60s-era Raleighs with Sturmey-Archer hubs, both of which we got for free. A little bit of an investment in parts and steel wool later, and we're probably never going to need any other bikes, not that it will stop us from accumulating more.

And second the respect for Brooks saddles. We found one at an estate sale which, according to the guy, his brother had used on a coast-to-coast ride back in the early 60s. It's on my Raleigh now, and it's like sitting on a pat of butter. My husband then went and sought out another on Craigslist for his own Raleigh, so now we're twinsies.
posted by padraigin at 12:17 AM on September 6, 2008

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