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I know most these days seem to want to go the other direction, but my partner would like more gears on this heavy cargo bike that can be tough to pedal uphill. I think the frame has all of the necessary cable stops etc. for installing a front derailleur. And I know it would have to lose the chain guard.

But, I don't know much more than that. Like, is it possible to change the crankset to a 2 or 3 ring version? What else would have to be changed? What has to be compatible, and how do I make sure that it is?

I am pretty handy, and might consider doing at least some of the work myself if I can, and if it's even possible, but I don't know how to make sure it will all work together. And, if I can pick up components as I find good deals on them, that would be great too, so I need to know what to look for and what has to match, even if I'm going to have someone else put it all together.

I will do my best to provide additional information if it is needed. Thanks!

  • Other options you could consider- I presume the rear cassette is already 11-36, if not, that is the first change to make. If you are happy to sacrifice a bit of top speed, the pictures of the bike indicate you could just go to a much smaller chairing. Finally, an 1x11 setup with an 11-42 tooth cassette - about $US250 for chain, derailleur, cassette, new chain ring and shifter. – mattnz Jun 25 '16 at 4:07
  • I am in the process of doing exactly the same thing to my bike, and it's mostly annoying rather than difficult - the shifters are sold in pairs, but I only need one, and I have to take the grips off the bars and faff with the chain. It's all well within the capability of a home mechanic, as long as you have the tool to remove the cranks. – Móż Jun 26 '16 at 10:27
  • Friction shifters are sold in singles for pretty cheap. – Batman Jun 26 '16 at 14:34
  • Móz, do you mean the same bike? If so, can you provide details about what parts you are using specifically? I also noticed that removing the chain guard by unbolting it would unfortunately take the chain guide idler cogs with it. So I think it will have to be cut. I'm not thrilled about that because it will be irreversible if the project doesn't work out. – Erwin Jun 27 '16 at 16:16
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This link says the frame has the necessary cable stops for a front shifter and front derailleur.

You'll need a new crankset (you can find 9 speed+ triples or doubles pretty cheap these days). This may require a new bottom bracket as well, depending on which crankset you choose (I'd guess whats on there is just standard square taper) and the chainline required.

You'll also need a front derailleur. Front derailleurs come with a slew of selection criteria: top/bottom/dual/side swing pull (the cable comes from the top/bottom/top or bottom/ side), where the derailleur is mounted (top swing (the derailleur swings above the clamp), bottom swing, direct mount/e-type variations, braze on, band clamp) and if its designed for a double or triple crankset. Then, you need the derailleur to have the appropriate chainring size constraints. There's a good overview here of types of front derailleurs. The mount type necessary is dictated by your frame.

You'll also need compatible shifters (I'd suggest buying a front shifter from the same manufacturer and mountain/road type; They get a bit weird with these 11 speed-intended FD's though).

As mattnz pointed out in the comments (thanks!), you may also need a new rear derailleur (which has to be compatible with your shifter), in order to have the capacity for the chain in the new chainrings.

I'd suggest heading to your bike shop, and having them determine what kind of FD goes with your frame at the least. You'll need a few specialty tools for this -- bicycle cable cutters, a crank puller and possibly a bottom bracket tool.

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    +1: May also need a new rear derailleur -Specs on bike are minimal, Looks like an X5, probably medium cage rear is used, will need long cage to go to triple. – mattnz Jun 25 '16 at 4:04
  • Thanks for all of that information, Batman. I'm thinking I'll stop by the bike repair shop and see what they can tell me. I may try to do it myself with some help (and a borrowed tool or two) from my community repair shop. (Which is dedicated to helping people who want to learn to fix their own bikes.) – Erwin Jun 27 '16 at 16:28
  • You may want to just ask the manufacturer of the bike what chainring sizes they recommend and what kind of derailleur they recommend for going triple (they should be able to tell you essentially what FD will work). This isn't a hard job technically, you just need to pick the right components. – Batman Jun 27 '16 at 17:00
  • I did send an email to the manufacturer, but I have not heard back yet. – Erwin Jun 27 '16 at 17:47
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I thought I would post an answer to my own question as I finally heard back from Madsen. (They were very nice--especially since i bought the bike used). I figure that if anyone else is looking for the information, it will be handy to have it here.

They confirmed that a front derailleur can easily be added, and that if I want a triple up front I would indeed have to remove the chain guard, and change the rear derailleur to a long cage, and adjust the chain. But, if I go with just a double up front, they said that it will work with all the rest of the drive train (and chain guard!) as is. So, this could potentially be pretty straightforward and fairly inexpensive.

I had wondered even with the triple I was considering putting on, whether the chain guard could be adapted rather than removed. It is really just a flat strip of metal that runs over the top of the chain. At least one aftermarket chain guard I've seen that is intended for bikes with front derailleurs uses a similar minimalist design. I suspect it could be made to work with some spacers and maybe a little bending. But even better to just put a double on there and leave all the rest as is.

Thanks again for all the input. I'll be stopping by my local repair shop this weekend so I can get started.

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