SA 3spd Fixed Gear IGH

19 05 2010


SA 3spd fixed gear IGH...


I was at Campione Cycles yesterday and spotted this Sturmey-Archer 3spd fixed gear IGH built up in a Surly Cross Check frame.  I had heard of this hub last year, but since I wasn’t riding fixed gear I didn’t pay much attention to it.


Shift cable entering hub...


The hub is small and the shifter cable and shifter are low profile.  The shifting action is smooth and it changes gears easily via a down tube mounted shifter.  The whole setup is clean and doesn’t mess with the aesthetics of the fixed Cross Check.  The only negative comment I can make [which was shared by other folks in the shop] was that there was a noticeable bit of slackness in the drivetrain when applying pressure to the pedals in the opposite direction.  That felt really weird when you are used to the totally solid fixed gear feeling.  It feels broken!


Downtube mounted shifter...


Typically I’m a fan of IGHs.  I was offered one of these hubs recently to test and declined.  Maybe I’m too “young” a fixed gear rider to get the point of adding this hub to my bike?  Perhaps in a year or two I’ll be stoked to give it a try? For now it seems to be counter productive to throw an IGH, shifter and shift cable on my nice clean/simple/bombproof fixed gear.

Especially since I’ve now tackled the two worst climbs in the centre of Calgary on my fixed gear and been pleasantly surprised I not only got up them okay, but I was quite a bit faster than normal and no more tired at the top.  If I was going to add an IGH to my Surly 1×1 I’d probably just throw a Alfine or Rohloff in the back and get 8-14 speeds.  That seems to make more sense and justifies the additional complexity more than 2 additional gears.

If you are a fixed gear fanatic and “get” the 3 speed SA IGH please explain it to me.  I’m not very knowledgeable/experienced with fixies and maybe I’m just overlooking something obvious.



11 responses

19 05 2010

By the dropouts I would say this is a Cross Check, not a Steamroller.

19 05 2010

@ Ryan – good catch – it was a Cross Check…we were chatting a lot about Steamrollers at the shop and I got my wires crossed when typing…=-)

19 05 2010

“If you are a fixed gear fanatic and “get” the 3 speed SA IGH please explain it to me.” I don’t know that I am a ‘fanatic’, one of my three bikes is fixed, but I do ‘get’ it. Have you ever ground upwind with a fixed gear? Have you ever egg-beatered downhill on one? Have you ever had a too long hill to punch over, fixed? That said, I am not fond enough of this hub’s range to buy it; I’d want 40″ for bad hills, 60″ for headwinds, 75″ for cruising, 85″ for speed, and 100″ for downhills: that’s five speeds!

19 05 2010

Oh yeah, why not get an IH freewheeled? I do like the efficient feel of fixed.

19 05 2010

@ James…I’ve been riding my fixed gear as my main bike the last couple months and haven’t had any situations where I would have wanted another gear. I’ve got a brake on mine so I can keep my speed in check on a downhill and I’ve managed the steepest hills just fine with my one gear.

If you like the efficiency feel of a fixed gear don’t you think adding in the losses of an IGH would negate that feeling?

19 05 2010

I brake on downhills too, but what a waste, no? And I climb from Lake Ontario to St. Clair all the time (Toronto) but won’t call it fun. As for loss of efficiency on an IGH: there shouldn’t be any in your cruising gear if that is the 1:1 ratio. You’d be in the other gears rarely, and when the efficiency of a better gear ratio more than offsets the friction loss to the planetary gears. That’d be my logic, but people are free to chose to ride what suits theirs…

19 05 2010

I guess I’m a fanatic? The appeal of the 3 speed fixed for me is not urban all-weather commuting-type riding, which it appears is what you mainly ride with yours. I agree that a simple, bombproof, low-maintenance single fixed is best for this application. The appeal to me is for long road rides on a fixed gear, where i might encounter long hills that aren’t necessarily too steep to push over in my normal gear but where it would be better to shift into a lower gear and sit and spin, especially if the climb goes on for miles and i plan to ride even longer after that, or if i encounter the hill at the end of a long day in the saddle. Of course, you might say that if i want this i should just bite the bullet and get a fully shifty/coasty set up but there’s a certain “just enough” quality to the 3 spd hub and besides, i like the rhythm of long road rides on my fixed, how it keeps me pedaling all day long. All this being said, i’m poor right now and i get most of the same benefits as the 3 spd hub from my phil flip/flop hub with dingle cog and freewheel providing a range of gears, plus the ability to coast down long hills.

19 05 2010

Thanks for the different points of view…interesting to hear how other riders see the issue.

8 06 2010

Here’s someone who has found a good use for it.

11 04 2011


I’ve added this to my Rivendell Quickbeam Single Speed. This hub is not getting the attention it deserves in this area: efficency. It is the first 3 speed hub to feature direct drive at the highest gear, where you want more efficiency. All previous 3 speed hubs from SA gave you direct drive at the 2nd gear only. They designed the hub to accept a fixed or freewheel cog. That means if you added a freehwheel, you could have a direct drive on the highest gear of 3 speed hub and still be allowed to coast.

11 04 2011

@Daus – good point – thanks for mentioning it.

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