Author Topic: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?  (Read 1300 times)

BuffaloStache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 543
  • Location: Colorado
Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« on: September 25, 2017, 03:05:25 PM »
I've seen a lot of talk here on MMM about Internal Hub Gears (IHG) on bicycles: Dutch bicycles, NuVinci hubs, Shimano Nexus 7-speed hubs, Sturmey Archer, etc. However, I've never found a thread that was a comprehensive list of pro's and con's for this gear shifting method. It seems that the people who use them are all for them, but rarely talk about the disadvantages.

Does anyone use both a IHG and regular derailleur bicycle, and can compare/contrast the differences? I'm intrigued with IHG's, but want to learn more about them before I attempt to refit one of my current bikes or anything like that. I've read the advantages/disadvantages section of the wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hub_gear), but I'd love more insight from someone who uses both.

For those of you that may not even know what an IHG is, this is a vintage video explaining how they work.
"As a cure for worrying, work is better than whisky." -Thomas Edison

My Log | Take surveys as a side-hustle! Use my referral link

ixtap

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 758
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2017, 03:13:47 PM »
I have a three speed on my folding bike. I love the operational aspects.

However, the difference between the speeds is minuscule. There is definitely a difference between first and third, and a couple of hills that I cannot get up in third, but my max speed is probably 8mph, maybe 10mph. Of course, the 20" wheels don't help.

BuffaloStache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 543
  • Location: Colorado
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2017, 03:44:22 PM »
I have a three speed on my folding bike. I love the operational aspects.

However, the difference between the speeds is minuscule. There is definitely a difference between first and third, and a couple of hills that I cannot get up in third, but my max speed is probably 8mph, maybe 10mph. Of course, the 20" wheels don't help.

Do you think an IHG bike is inherently slower? or is that solely because of the tire size?
"As a cure for worrying, work is better than whisky." -Thomas Edison

My Log | Take surveys as a side-hustle! Use my referral link

ixtap

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 758
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2017, 03:49:28 PM »
I have a three speed on my folding bike. I love the operational aspects.

However, the difference between the speeds is minuscule. There is definitely a difference between first and third, and a couple of hills that I cannot get up in third, but my max speed is probably 8mph, maybe 10mph. Of course, the 20" wheels don't help.


Do you think an IHG bike is inherently slower? or is that solely because of the tire size?

I think I would do a lot more research before buying another bike, but would likely still settle on a seven gear IHG.

Askel

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 61
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2017, 04:04:37 PM »
Note: I have never owned an IGH or spent significant time riding one.  But I think they're cool because:
-lower maintenance! Parts are less exposed to the elements
-works with belt drive for even lower maintenance
-no chain slack so you can run chain guards
-no fragile derailer hanging out there in the breeze

But I've never pulled the trigger on actually buying one because:
-friggin expensive.
-Really, the maintenance isn't that bad and a good excuse for a beer. You still have cables to adjust and chains to lube with an IGH anyway.
-When things go wrong, they go wrong in much harder to fix ways.
-Swapping wheelsets is a pain or very expensive

I might still get one someday just because I'm a total bike nerd and it would be fun. But there seems to be very little advantage there for the price.
"nevertheless, my desire to just be a FUCKING IDIOT all day long is rapidly overtaking my ability to FUNCTION"  -tristan a. farnon, "A Comedy Crisis"

hyla

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 177
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2017, 12:09:49 PM »
I've ridden both for commuting. My internal hub bike is a 1978 schwinn with a sturmey archer 3spd hub.  My derailleur bikes are more modern cyclocross and cargo bikes.

I really like the low maintenance, weatherproof aspects of the IGH, and I like how that bike has a chain guard and I don't have to bother tucking my pants into my socks like when I ride my derailleur bikes. It's also nice that you can shift when stopped.  I find the 3spd is good for short distance riding with  mellow hills, but am now commuting mainly on one of my derailleur bikes since I moved and my commute is now 5 miles with a few steep hills.  Of course, a 5 or 7spd internal hub would be able to deal with more hilly terrain than a 3spd, but I have not tried one.

I don't think the negatives of IGH mentioned by the previous poster are particularly relevant.  It's just not a problem that IGHs are harder to fix when they break, because they rarely break.  Mine is 39 years old and it works fine, the only maintenence it ever needs is adding a bit of lube or adjusting the screws that attach the cable to the hub.  Expensive?  Decent IGHs don't cost any more than a similar quality derailleur, cassette, and hub combo would.  If you want to build your own wheel around an IGH, you can learn how for free on sheldon brown's website (I've done it).

Askel

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 61
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2017, 07:26:47 AM »
Huh, either IGH proces have a dropped a lot, or I was just spending way too much time in the Rohloff section last time I shopped (http://www.jensonusa.com/Rohloff-Disc-Speedhub-50014-XC-QR/). 

Turns out price isn't much of an issue on IGHs, which renders many of my counterpoints moot. Will have to seriously consider one on my next bike. 
"nevertheless, my desire to just be a FUCKING IDIOT all day long is rapidly overtaking my ability to FUNCTION"  -tristan a. farnon, "A Comedy Crisis"

hucktard

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 75
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2017, 04:39:49 PM »
I do a lot of mt. biking and I care about performance and weight. I was really into IGH until a tried a few and until the new 1X11 and 1X12 derailleur systems came out. There is a reason you don't see IGH being used competitively in road or mountain biking. You may not care as much about those reasons if you are just using the bike for casual commuting, but here are my observations:

-IGH are heavier than a derailleur system and tend to have more drag. I test road a Pinion internal geared "gearbox" on a bike and it had noticeable drag beyond what a derailleur system has. Also the shifting was not as good as I expected. Being able to shift without pedaling is really cool, but you cannot shift under much load like you can with a derailleur.

-The weight of the IGH is concentrated entirely on the rear hub. This may not be a problem for commuting, but for performance cycling you want the weight to be concentrated in the center of the bike as much as possible.

The new 1X11 and 1X12 systems by SRAM are so freaking good, that I no longer want to get rid of derailleurs.

For certain purposes I think IGHs are still a pretty good option. Again, my observations mostly relate to high end Mt. Biking.

BuffaloStache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 543
  • Location: Colorado
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2017, 10:50:28 AM »
hucktard, seems like you are very competitive with MTB/Roading and have a lot of concerns that the average mustachian bike commuter just wouldn't have. One point caught my off-guard, however:

...
-IGH are heavier than a derailleur system and tend to have more drag. I test road a Pinion internal geared "gearbox" on a bike and it had noticeable drag beyond what a derailleur system has. Also the shifting was not as good as I expected. Being able to shift without pedaling is really cool, but you cannot shift under much load like you can with a derailleur.
...

Have there been any wind-tunnel studies or other scientific experiments to prove this? It just seems like there are so many other factors that contribute to bicycle drag (frame material/shape, type of brakes used, pedal type/material, etc. etc. etc.) that it seems unreasonable to me that an IGH would really increase drag by a noticeable amount.
"As a cure for worrying, work is better than whisky." -Thomas Edison

My Log | Take surveys as a side-hustle! Use my referral link

Kashmani

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 114
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2017, 12:13:31 PM »
I have used both to commute. My internal hub is a Shimano Nexus 7-speed. I use it to commute every day. The primary advantage is that there is no maintenance and the chaincase is fully enclosed so it doesn't get dirty. The secondary advantage is that it can be shifted without moving, which is nice when a light suddenly turns red and there is no time to shift into a slow gear before stopping.

The derailleur was a Shimano 24-speed. The advantage was a higher range of gears. That's pretty much it. The downside was that once a week, I was prying grime out with a screwdriver because the mechanism would get so dirty from commuting in inclement weather.

I personally vowed almost ten years ago to never buy a bike with a derailleur again. They are great for going very fast in nice weather, but they are not very suitable for daily commuting and errand-running.

BuffaloStache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 543
  • Location: Colorado
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2017, 10:36:20 PM »
Kashmani- have you ever had issues with your internal hub breaking? Also, people seem to think changing a flat tire on an internal hub wheel is much more difficult: have you found this to be the case?
"As a cure for worrying, work is better than whisky." -Thomas Edison

My Log | Take surveys as a side-hustle! Use my referral link

Kashmani

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 114
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2017, 07:35:19 AM »
Kashmani- have you ever had issues with your internal hub breaking? Also, people seem to think changing a flat tire on an internal hub wheel is much more difficult: have you found this to be the case?

I have not had one break yet, but I agree that it is a possibility. My bike is currently nine years old, but I only used it as a daily commuter for three of those years. The remaining time it was pretty much just a recreational weekend bike.

The parts that fail apparently are always the same. There are some good Youtube videos, albeit all in German. The Germans and the Dutch are the biggest adopters of internal hubs, and my bike is a Dutch model (Batavus).

With respect to tire changes, you are correct. It is harder. The last time I had a rear flat, I brought my bike into a store, as it was not worth the hassle. But in fairness, in nine years of use I only had one flat. With proper commuter tires, flats are really a non-issue.

In essence, with an internal hub you are trading reduced daily or weekly maintenance (such as cleaning grime out of the chain) for more difficult fixes if something breaks. For me, that was a worthy trade-off. If a hub breaks after five years of daily service, but is otherwise maintenance-free, I can live with that.

The bigger challenge is that a lot of bike stores do not know how to work on an internal hub. It took me four attempts in my city to find some competent folks. One co-op run by a bunch of 20-something hipsters even broke the chaincase as they could not figure out how to remove it. They used a piece of clear fibreglass tape to hold it back in place - which I discovered two weeks later when I rode over a manhole cover and the entire bottom part of my chaincase fell off. That was my last visit there.

Frankly, I am of the German mindset (I am German but live in Canada): The only reason derailleurs exist is because they are cheaper and look sportier. And you can sell Americans anything based on image. Cases in point: SUVs. Mountain bikes (hint - unless you are riding dirt trails, they are not useful). Dishwashers with the stainless steel on the outside rather than the inside. McMansions. And yes, derailleurs.

GuitarStv

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9491
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2017, 07:53:23 AM »
Derailleurs are lighter, easier to service, cheap, and allow for wider gear ranges.

An IGH requires less maintenance and allows shifting without pedalling.


I kinda think they both have their place.  Not everyone lives in a flat city and does the short rides that favour heavy, upright Dutch style bikes.  Not everyone wants a light bike with drop bars to go great distances efficiently.  Whatever your preference, it's important to try and understand the reason others think differently rather than simply dismissing them.

niknak

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 19
    • Our Tiny Studio
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2017, 10:06:47 PM »
As a bike mechanic I've worked on most IGH brands. Sturmey Archers are inexpensive and fairly easy to repair. Avoid Sram. They break frequently and Sram is no longer making them so parts aren't easy to find. Shimanos are good. They suggest an annual oil bath of the internals to stay happy. Rohloffs are expensive but are known for reliability. They require new oil every 5000 kilometers.

I owned a Rohloff and hated it. I seem to be in the minority though. My opinion is that IGHs are a solution to a non-existent problem.

Based on the most common reasons why customers come in for service, I'd recommend that every self-respecting Mustachian learn the following:

1) replace/repair an inner tube
2) true a wheel
3) clean a chain

If you can do those three things your derailleur/IGH bike will be a reliable workhorse.

BuffaloStache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 543
  • Location: Colorado
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2017, 08:59:03 AM »
^thanks for the insiders perspective niknak!
"As a cure for worrying, work is better than whisky." -Thomas Edison

My Log | Take surveys as a side-hustle! Use my referral link

wwilberforce

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Canada
Re: Bicycle Internal Hub Gears; Benefits and Disadvantages?
« Reply #15 on: November 17, 2017, 01:27:00 PM »
I bought a Dutch bike in the spring (Azor Pastoorfiets) with a Shimano Nexus 8 speed hub. I love the hub. I found with a derailleur system I was constantly dealing with out of tune gears. Could never seem to keep it tuned for long.  In fact, this summer I destroyed the back rim on my old hybrid bike when the chain came off into the spokes when I shifted to the easiest gear a bit too quickly.

It's so smooth changing gears with the Shimano hub. The first gear could be geared a bit easier to deal with some of the hills around where I live, but I'm not too proud to get off the bike and walk up those hills.  Maybe I'll even get fit enough one day to handle them.  LOL! I'm retiring in a few years and I'm considering buying the front hub electric motor to help with the big hills, especially when I'm loaded up with groceries, etc.

I find the Dutch bike to be pretty bullet proof. One season of pretty heavy riding, and no issues whatsoever. I agree it'll probably be a pain in the butt to get the thing repaired when something does go wrong, but I'm expecting that will be quite a few years down the road.