I currently have a single speed 52m Crew District.

I got it as a commuter once I got moved closer my workplace. I live in a fairly hilly area and I am thoroughly missing the option to downshift and give my legs a break on the way back.

Current gearing is 46 x 16 (freewheel) 700cx25 gators, rear brake only, Omnium 165mm cranks. The District is listed as a track bike and geometry.

I heard it is possible to add gears without a dérailleur by using an internal gear hub.

My LBS seem unreliable and I've gotten different answers. Are they right to try to sell me on a stock multi-speed hybrid or just confused about not using a dérailleur?

Which brings me to the internal hub gear wheels. Are they a gimmick, work "meh", or extremely functional? Any experience with them? I'm confused about the axle measurements, where they are or how to find out. Does anyone have know if the Soma-Iggy will fit the District's rear spacing and if so what would be better: 3 speed or 5?

Any info would be greatly appreciated.

  • 4
    You probably could use an internally geared hub, but by the time you got the bike converted you'd be better off just buying a new bike. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 3 '16 at 2:01
  • Internal hubs aren't a gimmick, but there are some fairly bad ones out there, and most (maybe all, not sure) of the nice modern ones aren't going to fit your 120mm spaced frame. There are 120mm 3-speed hubs around still, so I would start by evaluating whether or not any of those are going to offer you suitable gearing. – Nathan Knutson Sep 3 '16 at 2:56
  • Welcome to Bicycles @Mario. We recommend that new members take the tour to make best use of the site, and How to Answer is worthwhile also. – andy256 Sep 3 '16 at 3:30
  • 3
    If I understand the spec of your bike correctly, it's an Al frame, so spreading it to take a modern IGH is not recommended. There are some great IGHs out there, but even the simply good ones cost more than your current bike. A fixie is always nice to have, I recommend a new bike. See Rule #12 – andy256 Sep 3 '16 at 3:39
  • Hmm. Finger slip. See How to Ask :-) – andy256 Sep 3 '16 at 10:31

Are they a gimmick, work "meh", or extremely functional? Any experience with them?

I ride internal gear hubs (IGH) only, because they are extremely functional. I definitely prefer them over any deraileur system.

Why? Because IGHs have much better shifting than chain-shifts:

Ever stopped at the lights with your chain-shift in the wrong gear? Well, duh, you'll have to accelerate with the wrong gear in place. Not so with IGHs: You select the new gear, move your pedals back and forth once (only the pedals, not the bike!), it says "click", and you are ready to rock.

Ever found you needed to shift a gear lower on a steep ascend, and didn't have much speed to spare for the shifting? With an IGH, you select the lower gear, you release the pressure from the pedals for a split second (and I really mean "split", like a quarter second, or so), it says "click", and you are in the correct gear again. No need to reduce force until the chain has fully moved to the correct sprocket.

On a similar note, when you shift up during acceleration, IGHs virtually eliminate the shifting breaks in power output. It feels like driving a tip-tronic car over a manual shift car. Once you are used to the "click-click" shifting performance, you won't want to go back to deraileurs.

The downsides of IGHs compared to chain-shifts are:

  • They are a tad less efficient. That's why racers never use IGHs, they need the last percent of performance. However, that's definitely not an argument for commuting and touring.

  • The spread of gears is a bit more limited. IGHs usually span a factor of approximately 3 between lowest and highest gears, chain-shifts for mountain bikes have a much higher range. I.e. on steep slopes you may find that you are missing a gear or two with an IGH. But it's still much better than having only one gear, isn't it?

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The easiest (if you haven't done it already) is to swap the complete rear wheel for the one with IGH like Sturmey-Archer or Shimano Nexus.

This is actually what I've done on my old city bike - I got a second-hand wheelset with Sturmey-Archer and roller brakes, cables etc. for about €50 and spent one afternoon fitting it.

If you would like to keep your rim than you need to source a hub and relace the wheel (probably a task for your LBS).

You ask about the experience - mine is positive. Once properly serviced those hubs are in fact maintenance free (though you need to adjust the shifter cable every now and then) and last forever.

I've serviced one SA hub that was about 30 years old (came from early '90s I reckon) - haven't spotted any wear inside. Mine (a bit newer) rides without maintenance for about 1000 km already (no idea how much it ran with the previous owners) and I can hear it needs cable readjustment.

RJ The Bike Guy has two videos on servicing those - there isn't any rocket science, only some basic bike mechanic skills and tools:
How To Overhaul/Clean/Lube Sturmey-Archer 3 Speed Hub - AW type
Overhauling 60 Year Old Sturmey Archer 3 Speed Hub

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If you find IGH that fits your rear fork, it is usually quite reliable, but somewhat pricey setup, since the cheapest IGH start around 100 Euros.

Here are instruction how you can measure your rear fork

you would need to find hub with same IGH measurment.

Another thing you would need to ensure is that your chain will be straight and not bent left or right (a.k.a chain line should be correct).

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