Inside the Brompton Wide Range (BWR) Hub

It has been quite a while since I have written anything technical about bikes. This is largely a result of the fact that for the first time since I started cycling again as an adult I have been relatively happy with my bikes and their configurations, which has left me free of my usual desire to acquire shiny new bicycle parts. However, this state of relative satisfaction with the bikes does not mean that things don’t occasionally wear out or break. Last week  I noticed a familiar clicking sound coming from the rear hub of the Brompton.

I have written previously in reasonable detail about the Servicing the Sturmey Archer AW hub. The BWR hub used in the six-speed Bromptons is also a three speed hub gear made by Sturmey Archer, so I thought I would show how the BWR compares to the pictures I took of the 1976 AW hub for the aforementioned post.

AWvBWR1

The planet cage differs significantly between the old AW hub and the BWR. The planet cage on the AW sits on top (drive side) of the sun pinion and can be simply lifted off during disassembly. This is also the case with the new AW and S-RF3 hubs without the ‘intermediate gear’ (sometimes referred to as NIG versions). The BWR differs in that the planet cage is split into two pieces, the bottom of which slides on from the bottom (non-drive side) and the top slides on from the top (drive side) and is fixed onto the bottom piece with the 4 M3 cap head screws shown in the picture above. The result of this is that the planet cage is stuck on the sun pinion. I decided not to disassemble to two-part planet cage as the first screw I tried to loosen was very stiff and it didn’t seem worth risking snapping the screw for this job. The low gear pawls seen at the bottom of the planet cage on the BWR are similar to those on the NIG AW and S-RF3 hubs (which are also retained with a circlip). These pawls are what produces the characteristic ‘tick-tick-tick’ of Sturmey Archer three speeds in their second and third gears.

AWvBWR6

The planets of the BWR have 12 teeth and revolve around a 34-tooth sun pinion, which produces wider-spaced gearing than the AW which has 20-tooth planet and 20 tooth sun pinion. These smaller planets require smaller pins than the standard range three-speed hub.

AWvBWR2

The clutch of the BWR differs noticeably from that of the old AW, but is the same as in the NIG AW and S-RF3 hubs. The axle key is fitted in the slot underneath the clutch in this shot (not fitted in the picture of the AW) and is also the same as in the new standard range hubs.

AWvBWR3

The gear ring has 60 teeth in the old AW, new NIG hubs and BWR. The differences between the 1976 AW hub and the BWR shown are largely superficial. The easily lost wire pawl springs are still used in the BWR gear ring. The gear ring pawls are disengaged in first gear, which is why there is no characteristic ‘tick-tick-tick’ sound.

AWvBWR4

The ball ring is another part which has changed little between the old AW and BWR shown. The only major difference appears to be the addition of two extra notches for removing the hub internals using a C-spanner or hammer and punch. The AW ball ring has a metal dust/bearing retaining cap which has been replaced in the more modern hubs with a plastic retaining ring for the ball bearings.

AWvBWR5

Here we can see the difference between the driver of the old AW hub and that of the BWR. Whilst the AW is designed to take a single three-splined sprocket, the BWR is designed to take a pair of Shimano-style nine-splined sprockets. Like the clutch, the internal portion of the driver was changed between the old AW and the new NIG AW, S-RF3 and BWR in order to fix the issue of the ‘intermediate gear.’ Other than being extended and having a different spline pattern for the two-speed cassette, the BWR driver is the same as that used in the NIG AW and S-RF3.

Aside for the problem of water ingress, the driver was where I found the source of the problem I was having with the BWR hub; the bearing surfaces on the driver and cone nut had some pitting on them. This is an issue I have had with every variant of the Sturmey Archer NIG three-speed hub, but oddly never the old AW. This does not seem to be a problem which afflicts other people with the same frequency and may be a result of the way I ride or the conditions my bikes are subjected to.

Thankfully in the past I have been able to order a replacement driver from SJS Cycles (who stock a great range of Sturmey Archer hub spares) but I could not find the BWR driver  (Sturmey Archer part number: HSA800) on their site. I emailed SJS to enquire about this part and was told that Brompton only issue them for service, in order to be supplied with a replacement driver from Brompton you need to send the old one back to them. I was quite surprised by this; as my primary means of transportation I can’t afford to have my Brompton out of action for the sort of time required to perform such an exchange. If I lived somewhere with a Brompton dealer who did Brompton servicing in a meaningful way (i.e. not Chester) perhaps there would be a better way of doing this, but here in Chester I would have to go through The Bike Factory who do not keep Brompton spares in stock.

I am not sure why Brompton has chosen to restrict the supply of BWR replacement parts. Outside of a big city with a selection of Brompton dealers, in order to be able to depend on a bicycle with this hub there needs to be a supply of spare parts available. I doubt that Brompton are selling the BWR driver at a loss, so even if some of them went to tinkerers and enthusiasts (e.g. turning a S-RF5 into a ten-speed on a Brompton) it would not be detrimental to their business. It is a truly baffling move by Brompton which serves only to make the BWR a less viable option for people like me. Whilst decades-old AW hubs still have spare parts readily available, I am not sure that I will be able to fix this BWR hub up as easily as the 36 year-old AW shown in the pictures above, and that leaves me a bit disappointed in Brompton.

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The Raleigh Cameo Project

Walking home from the shop on Sunday I spotted a pair of bikes by the dumpsters at the end of a terrace. The one closest to me was a low end Halfords house-brand mountain bike. I wasn’t going to look any closer, but I spotted a Sturmey Archer AW hub on the bike behind and decided to take a closer look. The second bike was a Raleigh Cameo, one of the various names given to what is basically a ladies Raleigh Sports.

The rear hub is stamped 11.79, the front wheel is missing. I assume that the front wheel was stolen and the low value of the bike in its current state led the owners to simply give up on it.

There are a few rusty spot on the frame, in keeping with the age and condition of the bike, but it is otherwise sound. The front mudguard looks as if it could be persuaded back into its original shape, but sadly the rear mudguard is missing (except for the remains of the right stay, which is caught in the wheel). The rear rack is not original, not to mention hideous. The saddle is a pretty basic mattress saddle of the era.

The fork has the same crown as my DL-1, the lug-work is also quite similar. The frame is quite similar to the step-through version of the DL-1, differing mainly in the seat and head-tube angles, which are slightly steeper on this model. With a bit of work, it could make quite a nice (third) bike for Ms. C and a loaner for visitors.

Finding this bike gave me an idea for a project. Seeing as the bike was free, I thought it would be interesting to try and restore it to a functional state using either free, cheap, hand-me-down or trade parts. These bikes (and very similar non-Raleigh models) were very common in their day, so it should be possible. Stay tuned for updates.

Re-gearing the DL-1

After lowering the gearing on the Brompton in December, I found the bike much easier and much more enjoyable to ride. The downside of this was that the gearing on the DL-1 now seemed to be ridiculously high by comparison. Whilst I had lowered the gearing on the DL-1 when I first purchased it, by replacing the rear sprocket, the stock gearing was obscenely high and this reduction never really felt like enough. Whilst an even larger sprocket could have been substituted on the rear, the reduction in gearing this would have brought would be limited; the current sprocket is a 21-tooth, and I believe they only go up to 24-tooth sprockets for this type of hub. Add to that the spatial constraint imposed by the chaincase and the only option left was to replace the chainset.
The chaincase made finding a replacement chainset difficult, due to the problems with crank arm clearance. There didn’t seem to be a lot of information out there online, so I took the plunge and bought a Stronglight chainset which looked like it might fit. It quickly became obvious that it would not fit, and so this became the chainset I used on the Brompton instead. Eventually I spotted a promising looking chainset on David Hembrow’s shop and asked him about the dimensions. Reasonably convinced I could make it fit, I ordered the chainset and it arrived last week.

The new chainset is a 38-tooth, replacing the original 46-tooth one. It sits within the confines of the steel chaincase pretty well, although the chainset cover had to be modified with a metal file.

The chainset cover is basically a paint-tin lid with a hole in it to accommodate the crank arm and a removable plate to allow it to pass over the pedal. The base of the new crank arm is slightly thicker than the original one, so it had to be filed a bit to accommodate it
The filing is a bit rough, but functional. It doesn’t look this bad when fitted to the bike. The result is much the same as it was with the Brompton, the bike is generally much easier and much more enjoyable to ride. Whilst I did use the highest gear occasionally, oddly enough I do not find myself missing it.

I also attempted to switch the left crank so that the left and right would match, however the left crank is stuck on so well that it broke my crank puller tool. The tool was originally part of my Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operativecycle tool kit, many of the tools from which have since broken through normal use. Needless to say, I would not recommend. Until I get a replacement, it appears I am stuck with odd cranks.

Sturmey Archer recommend that you use at least a 2:1 ratio for the number of teeth on the chainring relative to the sprocket. With this modification, I have gone below that minimum, to around 1.8:1. Whilst not officially recommended, I expect this will not cause any problems. It is likely that the 2:1 ratio is erring on the side of caution, and combined with the large wheels of the DL-1, I expect that I will not be pushing the hub beyond what it can take. The new smaller chainset will prove beneficial when I eventually realise my dream of re-building the rear wheel around an eight-speed hub to increase the useful range of the bike sometime in the future.

Servicing a Sturmey Archer AW hub

The Sturmey Archer AW hub is 75 years old this year. The reliability of this design means that there are plenty of these hubs still in service. The ease of serviceability of this design means that returning one of these hubs to its former glory isn’t all that difficult. Many minor issues such as resistance to freewheeling, hub seizure, general resistance to rolling and problems accessing certain gears can be fixed by taking the hub apart, cleaning the internals and re-assembling it all with some fresh grease.
Whilst I have written about working on an AW hub previously, the nature of the work means that it is difficult to take pictures whilst cleaning and re-assembling the hub. Thankfully, this time I was able to get a little help with taking pictures. To open up an AW hub (and most other Sturmey Archer hub gears) remove the left-hand (non-drive side) locknut and cone and uncrew the right-hand ball ring using a hammer and a flat screwdriver on the semi-circular cut outs of the ball ring (these are not rounded on the older versions of the AW). This should let you get the internals out, axle and all. This can be further disassembled by removing the right-hand locknut and cone, which allows the rest of the hub mechanism to be taken apart.
One of the notches for unscrewing the right-hand ball ring
Left to right: The left-hand axle nut, non-turn washer, locknut, spacer and cone
Left to right (top): right axle nuts (later integrated into a single piece), non-turn washer, locknut, cone lockwasher & cone. Middle: cone. Bottom: indicator rod (with indicator rod locknut seen above the locknut)
Left to right (top): Dust cap, sprocket snap-ring. Bottom: spacers. Assembled as: Dust cap, spacer, sprocket, spacer, snap-ring.
The driver assembly and clutch spring
Gear ring (left) and right-hand ball ring (right)
Left to right: clutch sleeve, clutch, axle key and thrust ring
Top: Axle (including sun pinion). Bottom (left-to right): Planet-cage, 4 planet pinions (cogs) and 4 pinion pins.
The low-gear pawls in the planet-cage can also be removed if necessary, although when removing these be sure not to lose the tiny pawl springs in the process. The same also goes for the pawls in the gear ring.
Once all this has been disassembled, a good cleaning with some degreaser and a cloth or paper towel should restore the hub to its former glory. Particularly dirty or rusty parts can be soaked overnight or cleaned with wire wool (just make sure to remove any left-over bits of wire wool before re-assembling the hub).
To re-assemble the gear mechanism, hold the axle vertically with the drive-side pointing up (axle hole above the sun pinion).
Add the planet pinions and the pinion pins back into the planet cage and place the assembly over the top of the axle with the planets at the top.
Add a dab of Sturmey Archer hub gear grease to the planet pinions and rotate the planet cage assembly around the axle a few times to distribute the grease around.
Place the clutch sleeve over the axle and line up the hole in the sleeve with the hole in the axle.
Place the clutch over the axle and the clutch sleeve.
Slide the axle key through the hole in the clutch sleeve and axle, with the threaded hole in the axle key lined up with the centre of the axle.
Slide the thrust ring over the axle key and clutch, lining up the grooves in the thrust ring with the protruding parts of the axle key.
Place the gear ring over the planet cage assembly and clutch assembly, being sure to line up the grooves inside the gear ring with the planet pinions.
Place the right-hand ball ring over the gear ring.
Add some lithium grease to the ball bearings within the ball ring (ideally more neatly than this).
Place the clutch spring over the axle, ensuring the plastic (or metal) ringed-end of the spring pointing upwards.
Place the driver over the axle. The clutch spring will push against the driver until the right-hand cone is added to hold the driver in place.
Add lithium grease the the ball bearings in the driver assembly and screw the right-hand cone onto the axle as with any other cup-and-cone bearing system.
Add the cone lockwasher and locknut.
Add lithium grease to the left-hand bearings.
Add the left-hand cone, spacer and locknut.
On the right-hand side, add the dust-cap, a spacer, sprocket, another spacer and snap ring to the end of the driver assembly.
The wheel may be bolted back into the frame, the indicator rod screwed back into the axle key and to the gear cable and the hub is ready to be tested. With any luck, the hub should perform just fine for another couple of decades. The ‘no intermediate gear’ (NIG) versions of the hub, such as the current AW hub, the S-RF3 and the gear mechanism in the X-RD3 are fairly similar to this, with minor changes to the clutch assembly and the driver, which has its own pawls in this version. There have also been numerous small revisions throughout the run of the original AW hub, although they should pose little trouble when using this guide as reference. The best advice I can give anyone who wishes to service one of these hubs is to just go for it; when disassembled the hub really isn’t as daunting as it may appear from reading this guide (or similar guides).

Five years on a bike (Part One)

This summer marked the fifth year I have cycled as an adult. Of course for the vast majority of my life I have owned and ridden a bike, from my first bike at around the age of three, to my last childhood bike which I gave up on at around sixteen. After my last childhood bike and I parted ways, four years passed where I did not cycle at all, depending on walking and public transport for getting around. It was only because of the disproportionally high cost of public transport that I decided to buy another bike, in order to avoid paying £35 each month to get to the part-time job I had whilst I was an undergraduate.
A Shockwave SUS450, the first bike I bought as an adult
That first bike I owned as an adult was truly a real piece of crap, a £90 bicycle-shaped-object from Halfords. I bought it from White City Retail Park and rode it home, a distance of a few miles which seems a completely trivial distance now but which at that time left me completely exhausted. Simultaneously I was also enthused with the feeling of cycling, which I realised I had missed during the previous four years. At the time this bike worked quite well for me, I had no specialist knowledge of bikes or cycling whatsoever and so ignorance was bliss. Within three months of not paying for the bus the bike had paid for itself.
Those early rides to work along the main road from the city centre to Failsworth were a terrifying experience, like most inexperienced cyclists I rode in the gutter, terrified of being hit from behind by a motorist. Thankfully, the rides home were enough to make up for it. Finishing my shift after 10 pm meant the ride home along the same road was much more pleasant and after five hours of manual labour the experience was always refreshing, even in the rain (which on a bike without mudguards, I simultaneously experienced from above and below). I started to use the bike for shopping too, riding to the nearest supermarket with a backpack (the bike had no provision to fit a rack) and riding home with the weight on my back. As an arrangement it was far from ideal, but it was preferable to walking or paying for the bus again.
After three months of using this bike to get around, I had my first altercation with a motorist in Rochdale. The driver had decided to overtake me going down hill on Drake Street in order to make a sudden left turn. It is the sort of stupid manoeuvre on the part of the motorist which, with enough experience, most cyclists learn to expect and compensate for. I hit the left wing of the car and went flying over the bonnet and landed on the road, head first. I suffered some pretty nasty road rash down the side of my face and around my eye, in addition to grazes on my elbow and leg. My bike was relatively unscathed. After leaving the hospital later that day, I knew that I had to get back onto the bike right then, or I might be put off forever. I rode back to the trains station and then on home that night, and luckily the experience didn’t put me off cycling for good.
Despite being a terrible bike, I rode it for nearly two years. Throughout those two years, as problems with the bike arose, I started to learn about the basics of bike maintenance courtesy of the excellent writing of the late Sheldon Brown. Sheldon’s infectious enthusiasm for all things cycling shone through everything he wrote, even articles about brake adjustment or tracking down mystery creaks, clicks & clunks. After nearly two years of riding the SUS450, the bottom bracket spindle snapped as I was trying to pull away from a set of traffic lights. Whilst initially annoyed, not possessing the tools or knowledge to fix this problem gave me the perfect opportunity to rationalise buying a new, better bike, something which had been on my mind for a few years.
By this stage I was a little bit more knowledgeable about bikes, I had realised that the alleged ‘rear-suspension’ on my previous bike was little more than a mechanism to leech my pedalling effort and drive me slowly insane with persistent creaking. I also realised that riding with a backpack sucked. However, I was still largely unaware of several important practical features which existed on other bikes, such as the merits of having fewer gears, hub gears, proper mudguards, chain-guards, the irrelevance of front suspension for the type of riding I mainly did and of course, upright geometry. The next bike I purchased was a Revolution Cuillin Sport from Edinburgh Bicycle Co-Operative. At the time I knew little about the specific merits of different types of bicycle brake, I only knew that after riding with some incredibly weak, low-end V-brakes for a few years I wanted something better, and I promptly set my heart on having a bike with disc-brakes.
Despite still being quite an impractical choice of bike for my needs, the Cuillin Sport was definitely a step in the right direction. Being slightly better suited to my needs, I naturally started to make more of my journeys by cycle, and as this bike represented a more significant investment to me at the time, I started to learn more and more about bicycle componentry and maintenance. Over the next 18 months I acquired the tools and expertise I required to keep the bike in tip-top condition, whilst occasionally upgrading the odd component to make the bike more suitable for my needs. After around 12 months, I had converted the bike from a mountain bike to a hybrid, and my level of knowledge had increased to the point where I knew that the bike was not really the right choice for my needs. I also learned about the Yuba Mundo through reading blogs such as Urban Simplicity, and became interested in just how capable a bicycle could be.
By this stage, I was aware of vehicular cycling, Cyclecraft and the range of measures which cyclists can use to minimise the problems which arise when riding on a road network which is designed solely around the needs and wants of the private motorist, where the needs of cycling and cyclists are usually not considered at all. I was mostly confident on the road but could still remember what it was like to cycle as a novice. I was still not quite fast enough to survive on some of the most hostile parts of the road network and blissfully unaware of how things like Cyclecraft, speed and cadence become irrelevant with the right infrastructure.
Eventually, a minor windfall from overtime meant that I could afford to buy a Yuba Mundo of my own. The Yuba Mundo represented something of a turning point for me. Whilst it did not completely representing the frame geometry I would come to evangelise, it gave me a new experience; riding a bike and feeling truly comfortable whilst doing so. Despite its size, the Yuba Mundo became my primary bike. When I did occasionally choose to instead venture out on the mountain bike, I was acutely aware of how uncomfortable it was; riding hunched forward, a fair amount of weight carried by my hands and with a triple chainset making use of the full range of the gears unnecessarily difficult. The Yubawas much more pleasant to ride.
I had not intended for the Yuba Mundo to take over as my primary means of transport, and its sheer size meant that using it as such was a bit of a compromise. I decided that what I needed was a smaller equivalent to the Yuba for everyday use, and I found that with the Kona Africa Bike. The Africa Bike was the first bike I owned without dérailleur gears, which was a revelation. Initially a single-speed, I acquired a Shimano Nexus three-speed rear wheel and decided to upgrade the Africa Bike to a three-speed. Shifting when stationary, the lack of maintenance and the ease with which they pair up with a chain-guard (or case) made me wonder why most bikes used for transport didn’t come with hub gears. The only downside to the bike was the front V-brake; I hadn’t yet fully forgiven the crappy V-brakes on the SUS450. I decided to remedy this by investing in a new front hub. I was very interested in the idea of the bicycle providing its own power source for the lights, and had been reading up on dynamo hubs. When I saw the Sturmey Archer X-FDD drum-brake and dynamo hub, I knew I had to try it. The hub wasn’t available in a production wheel, so I read and re-read the Sheldon Brown Wheelbuilding article and decided I’d have a bash at building myself a wheel. To my surprise, the wheel turned out just fine first time. The Africa Bike, with some modifications had been turned into an ideal shorter-range utility bicycle.

Reading Sheldon Brown’s site had infected me with a curiosity about the Raleigh Twenty. After reading about it on his site, I realised that these things were everywhere. After looking on eBay I realised that I could have one of my own for around £20-30 and I promptly took that offer. The Twenty gave me the opportunity to completely strip and re-build a bike for the first time. I had done almost all of these jobs before, but never all at once and on the same bike. After a weekend or two of work, I had re-painted and completely refurbished the Twenty and found it to be a delightful little bike, with the added bonus of it being worth practically nothing allowing me to leave it locked up outside without worrying about it. The Twenty was primarily used as a loaner bike, so I could still use the bike to get around when I had guests. When I later came to acquire a Brompton, the Twenty no-longer had much to do, so I sent it off to retirement at my father’s house.

Whilst I was quite happy with the Kona Africa Bike, I was becoming aware that it’s hybrid geometry was somewhat limiting on longer rides, where after around 20 miles or so in a single day it would leave my legs really very tired. I was aware that the right geometry, roadster geometry, would allow me to use my leg muscles more efficiently on longer rides. At the time I wasn’t planning on changing bike again, until I saw the Raleigh Tourist De Luxe (DL-1) on eBay at a price too good to pass on. Whilst not a huge departure from the Kona, the slightly different geometry was much more comfortable on longer rides, whilst also making it easier to put power down when setting off from stationary. The DL-1 also represented my first experience with Brooks saddles; whilst not exactly comfortable at first, I would later come to put a Brooks on every bike I rode.

Shimano and hub gears

Shimano make some pretty excellent hub gears. I added a 3 speed Nexus coaster brake hub to the Kona Africa Bike and I was very happy with the performance of the hub. In London, the Boris bikes use the roller-brake version of this same hub, and it performs admirably in a rather harsh application. I also have used Shimano Nexus 7 and 8 speed hubs (and the Alfine 8 speed hub) on numerous bikes, including on my visit to Practical Cycles. Each time my experience with these hubs has been very positive.
The Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub (X-RD3) on my DL-1 has broken again. I have yet to open it up, but so far it feels like it is the same problem as last time. The excellent reputation of the Sturmey 3 speed hub, combined with my own very positive experiences of its reliability lead me to think that the re-occurrence of the problem is probably (at least partially) a result of my last repair job. It has been my intention for some time to eventually upgrade the DL-1 to either a 5, 7 or 8 speed hub when finances permit. For the moment however, they do not permit, so I have decided to re-build the rear wheel with the Nexus 3 speed coaster brake hub I have spare from the Kona Africa Bike. This is the cheapest option available to me as I already have most of the parts, and I should be able to re-use the existing spokes.
When I originally upgraded the Kona Africa Bike from a single to a three speed hub, I remember looking at Shimano hub gears online. The prices often seemed quite reasonable at first, but unlike their Sturmey Archer counterparts Shimano hubs are not sold complete with shifters. This might seem only a minor irritation, however it then becomes apparent that the hub doesn’t come with the bell-crank mechanism which changes the gears either. Luckily, the bell crank and shifter can be bought together as a single pre-calibrated unit. Great. But then it turns out that the hub doesn’t come with the axle nuts or the non-turn washer to fit it. Some of the websites listing the hub sell a “Fitting Kit,” for the hub, presumably it contains the axle nuts and non-turn washer needed to fit the hub, and possibly a sprocket and snap ring. This shall have to remain a mystery for now, because none of the websites which sell the fitting kit offer any sort of useful description of what it contains. Luckily it is fairly cheap, so it is not that much of a gamble. The sites selling the hubs also list the Push Rod as a separate item. The hub doesn’t come with a push rod, despite it being an integral part of the hub and the fact that there are not multiple push rod options available for a given hub (the push rod to be used is axle-length dependent). Does the fixing kit come with a push rod? Who knows? It is fairly cheap at least, so I buy one anyway.
Clearly this is not a good way to do business. Hub gears are not going to be big sellers to individuals, the market for these hubs is primarily going to be OEMs who may have access to Shimano sales reps to help them through the Shimano parts jungle. However, there will still be a number of enthusiasts and even smaller OEMs who are put off by the needless complexity in the way Shimano sells hub gear equipment. Surely Shimano could make sure that websites selling their parts actually know what they are (I’m looking at you Bikester). Surely they could include all of the necessary equipment (such as axle nuts and push rods), or sell “hub kits” which include all of the parts of the hub for a given drop-out type (where applicable).
As it currently stands, Shimano are shooting themselves in the foot by making the purchasing of their hub gears into a massive pain in the arse for the enthusiast market. Their rivals in this market, Sturmey Archer, have happily been selling hubs with the shifter, axle nuts and even all of the internal parts of the hub included in the deal for years. When I initially upgraded the Kona Africa Bike to a three speed, the confusion, lack of information and sheer number of extra parts I would’ve had to buy to build up a new 3 speed wheel led me to buy a separate bike with the hub I wanted (a Raleigh Drift), converting it to a single speed (using the original Kona wheel) and selling it on. Surprisingly, that was the more simple option open to me at that time. I shall document my experience with Shimano spare parts here, simply to make life easier for other people in the same situation.

DL-1: One Year On

CIMG2673
It has been around a year since I took delivery of my Raleigh Tourist De Luxe. Of course by, “Took delivery,” I mean cycled to Didsbury on the Yuba Mundo to meet the old gentleman from whom I was purchasing this fine steed, and towed it back to home. At first I wasn’t sure if it would be for me, having had no opportunity to test ride it. What I did know however, was that if I didn’t like it, I could sell the bike (or its component parts) for a fair bit more than I paid for it that day.
When I got the bike home, I adjusted the saddle and took it for a spin. Whilst I liked the ride, it wasn’t quite right; the gearing was far, far too high, with first gear being what I imagine a reasonable third gear should feel like on a three speed. The rod-brake handlebar was limited in its range of height adjustment and the angle of the bar was fixed. Luckily, a few replacement parts allowed me to fix these minor gripes and turn the bike into the perfect everyday transport solution for me. Over the past year I have made numerous additions and upgrades to the bike.
Additions and upgrades:
I have also been forced to replace a few parts due to failure.

Replacements due to failure:
However, I should mention that the X-RD3 hub was at least somewhat faulty from the start, and that my own experience shouldn’t detract from the consensus that this hub, and internal hub gears in general, are the best choice for a practical, low maintenance utilitarian bike.
After a year riding this bicycle, I can sincerely declare it to be one of the smartest purchases I have ever made. Since getting this bike I certainly cycle a lot more. My odometer is currently displaying a total distance cycled of 13,029 km, up from 8,000 km at about this time last year, most of that distance has been for transportation (as opposed to leisure), covered on the DL-1 because it is such an easy bike to ride.
When I say the DL-1 is easy to ride, I am not just referring to its ride quality (which is excellent). As an upright bike with mudguards, a chain-case, comfortable Brooks saddle and (since the addition of the saddlebag) permanent luggage, puncture-resistant tyres, automatic & permanently affixed dynamo lighting and low maintenance brakes and gears, all I ever have to do if I want to go out is unlock the bike, hop on and go. It is my hope that all of these features represent part of a bigger future for cycling in the UK, even if a lot of them come from its past.

CIMG2674

 The Tourist De Luxe as it is kitted out today
Whilst not quite the same as my Tourist De Luxe, Raleigh has recently started to sell the Raleigh Superbe again in the UK, after courting the, “Sporting goods,” and “Bicycle-shaped object,” markets almost exclusively here for the past few decades:
The 2011 Raleigh Superbe, is specced and priced similarly to the Pashley Roadster Sovereign (although not made here in the UK). It is available from numerous cycle outlets, including Evans Cycles.