Tag Archives: Hub gear - Page 2

A city bike for my wife

Our search for a new city bike for Jane, my wife, is over. We decided, we bought (from a localish shop) and have collected the new bike.

You can read about the search at Choosing a city bike for my wife part 1 and Choosing a city bike for my wife part 2.

In the end we chose a Ridgeback Avenida 8 Open Frame. Jane’s previous bike was a Ridgeback Storm and that has given us many years of good service and that has now been passed onto our youngest son.

Some of the things we like about this are:

  • At Freewheel Jane was able to have a test ride of a similar model in the range and she really liked it.
  • Alfine 8 speed hub gears (around here there seems to be a lot of scepticism about the Nexus range for reliability – although the Dutch seem very happy with them on many models). Anyway Jane much prefers the trigger shifters to twist grip
  • Lowish step through but reasonably rigid frame thanks to the large profile aluminium down tube.
  • Disk brakes (roller brakes would have been first choice but not offered).
  • Reasonable chain guard (certainly on her first rides at home Jane has not needed anything to protect or hold in her trouser leg)
  • Good mudguards, good tyres size.
  • Quite nice pedals (metal but with rubber inserts for grip and to be soft on shoes)
  • Nice height adjustable handlebar with ergonomic grips.
  • Just what Jane wanted for seating position with a little weight on her arms
  • Pretty good front basket that can be easily unclipped
  • Fittings for a rear rack
  • nice and light
  • price
  • British company

Of course I would not pretend that it s perfect (or that it would be right for everyone). We have a few niggles:

  • It has arrived with a fairly buckled front wheel. The disk brake is not rubbing so not immediate problem but we will get this straightened at the first, free, service.
  • I would prefer a simpler chain tensioner than the derailleur style pulleys (eg horizontal dropouts, epileptic bottom bracket).
  • I would have preferred a complete plastic chaincase so that none of the chain is showing and getting dirty.
  • Mounting front lights is a bit tricky due to the basket

So far Jane is totally delighted. She has been for a couple of very short rides since we got home and is very pleased with the comfort and handling. Unlike her previous bike she can get on and off from either side.

More later.


10 tips to making riding your bike normal

The greatest thing that helps me ride my bike more often is making it easy to do so. So some tips:

  1. Ride in normal clothes. If you have to change to ride your bike then change the bike.
  2. Fit flat pedals only. You need to be able to ride in whatever is on your feet. For me that generally means trainers, smart shoes or crocs. If you wear high heels then get pedals covered in rubber. Do not have toe clips or clipless pedals that need special shoes.
  3. Fit excellent mudguards (fenders if you are American). If you cannot go for a ride in good shoes and no coat immediately after heavy rain, when there are plenty of big puddles about, then you need better mudguards. Consider adding mudflaps to the ends of the mudguards to stop spray onto your feet or the person behind. To keep your clothes properly clean a chainguard or better a chain case helps a lot. Second if you like long coats, jackets, skirts, scarves etc then fit a skirt guard to keep them clean and stop them tangling in the back wheel
  4. Have big tyres (I think 32mm is absolute minimum but 37mm a more sensible minimum) that have the very best puncture resistance available. In the UK cycle paths have lots of glass on them that never gets cleared up. With leaves and puddles abounding you are not going to see either glass or potholes so big tyres keep you rolling.
  5. Make it quicker and easier to get your bike out than your car. Keep the car keys somewhere inconvenient (good security measure), also put your bike keys on the same keyring as your house key with the car key separate . Make sure all you need for the bike is on it or right next to it. Sort out where you keep the bike so it is really quick to use.
  6. Make sure you have simple ways to carry stuff. It might be a full cargobike or a front basket and rear rack with panniers. Or simply practice riding with bags hanging from the handlebars. If you can carry stuff then your bike is suddenly a lot more useful for more journeys.
  7. Invest in dynamo lighting. The lights and dynamo are fixed to the bike and so are always available (ideally they can come on automatically when it gets dark). Best if they have standlights so they don’t go out (for a few minutes anyway) when you stop. Make the bike visible so you can wear normal clothes.
  8. If security is a problem then invest in things to make it hard to pinch parts of your bike, particularly wheels and saddle (see  Pitlock or Infiniti3D security which might be even better soon) then just use a really tough U-lock to lock the frame to something fixed to the ground (make sure it is not a post that the bike can be lifted over).
  9. Get a really reliable year round bike . For me that means hub gears (or if you are strong then no gears ie a fixie) and hub, roller or disc brakes. If you can get on with them then Coaster brakes (the sort you operate by back pedaling) have the least to go wrong. The bike must be ready to go without checking it or fixing it.
  10. Make it a habit. Challenge yourself to ride your bike every day so that it becomes natural and normal.

Giant Escape N7

I recently bought a new bike for our middle son for basic transport. The Trek Pilot 1.2 that he and I have shared for a few years is not suitable for him to ride around an urban area (Leicester). He needed flat bars, mudguards & rack. I needed him to have low maintenance (as that ends up being my job).

So to fit the trend I am trying to follow I looked for Hub gears and non rim brakes. Not a lot of choice in anything a teenager wants to ride. In the end we came across a Giant Escape N7, it is no longer made but we found one in stock at AJ Cycles in Higham Ferrers.

I have added Giant Mudguards (not really recommended as the stays are too long and need to be cut). Still they are reasonably effective.

I treated him to a Tubus Locc rack as it carries Abus U-Locks. Sadly though the new Abus lock came with a different fitting that is not compatible with the Tubus (fortunately we don’t use the Trek and Giant bikes at the same time too often so normally we can share the lock we already have that fits this rack).

His reactions have been good, finding it an easy and comfortable ride. Works well for someone who has no interest whatsoever in the technical details of a bike but just wants it to be available and work.


The only concerns I have with this bike relate to the roller brakes and Nexus 7 speed hub.

Roller Brakes

When I mentioned the Giant Escape N7 in 42: Best Upright Bike back in March 2006 I got a number of negative remarks about roller brakes. I have since test ridden a few other bikes with roller brakes and decided that they were worth trying. Tonight I went for a ride on the Giant Escape N7 from Carnon Downs Caravan Park in Cornwall. From here everything is down 🙂 So I went down to Restonguel Point, Loe Beach and back via Trelissck and Playing Place. That included 14% and 17% descents on wet roads in the rain. The roller brakes were excellent. I could lock the rear brake if I wanted but they gave good control and feedback, held the speed where I was happy and allowed me to stop where ever I wanted. They are not as powerful as disk brakes or well setup v-brakes but are perfectly adequate. I suspect that some people are so used to the outstanding performance of disk brakes that they find anything less powerful scary. These are not the brakes for races aiming to get to the bottom of a steep hill as quickly as possible and stop instantly with no notice. On the other hand they should work for years with little or no maintenance.

Nexus 7 Speed Hub

This seems to have a relatively poor reputation for reliability. My feeling is that for the use my son has it will probably be fine. If it fails then I’ll look at either a Nexus 8 or an Alfine (8 or 11) hub with roller brake. The bike frame and everything else were good enough value that it would make sense to put a better hub in it if this fails.

On my ride tonight I was able to ride up the 17% hill from Loe Beach with no problems – well other than a lot of heavy breathing 🙂 The hub changed gear reliably, although the changes are noticeably less well defined than those on my Alfine 8 speed hub on my Bullitt. Time will tell as to the reliability but the performance to date is perfectly acceptable.


I think it is a pretty good choice for general urban use in the UK. In countries with a better cycling infrastructure you would not need some of the mountain bike influences (26″ wheels with big tyres, heavy duty forks etc) but in the UK with a teenager they seem sensible. Now this is not available I am not sure what the best alternative would be.


Choosing a city bike for my wife part 1

I have written quite a few posts (here and on my general blog) which followed my search for a city bike for me (the result was a Bullitt Clockwork).

But recently I have been focused on the far harder task of choosing a new bike for Jane. She has had a Ridgeback Storm for years but now we are passing that onto our youngest son who has grown out of all the hand me down bikes from his brothers. Jane gets a new bike as her needs are now quite different (plus to be honest neither of us are as flexible as we were a few years ago, so a step through design is now preferred).

This is a pure city/town bike. It won’t be used for touring or longer day rides as for those we expect Jane will either ride our Trice XXL recumbent trike or join me on our Trice X2 tandem recumbent trike. However, neither of those are ideal for around town. So our criteria have been:

  • Step Through Frame
  • Pretty upright seating position (although not bolt upright)
  • Hub Gears (ideally Alfine 8 speed)
  • Hub, roller, or disc brakes (ie no rim brakes)
  • Full mudguards
  • Ideally a full chain case, if not an excellent chain guard
  • Front basket
  • Rear rack
  • Stand
  • Tyres with plenty of air (32mm absolute minimum)
  • Subject to all the other criteria it should be as fast as possible.

To my mind these are basic transport requirements based around:

  • Being able to wear normal clothes
  • Minimal maintenance and maximum reliability
  • Totally practical eg for wet roads and for carrying shopping etc
  • Feeling safe in traffic (upright, step through frame, strong so not worrying about pot holes)

However, it is not an easy task to find bikes in the UK that meet this set of criteria.

In future posts I’ll look at some of the bikes we are considering. Meanwhile suggestions are welcome.


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