Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 6

Pros:

  • Gears for your, er, fixed bike
  • Easy to set up

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Big jumps between ratios
  • Feels like a slack chain
  • Pricey

Product:

Sturmey Archer S3X

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£249.95

Sturmey caused a, um, stir when it last year launched its three-speed fixed hub after years of anticipation, during which time the fixed scene has gone supernova. Will it appeal to the multitudes of fans of the cog, or is three speeds two too many?

The S3X fits easily with a few zip-ties to secure a run of cable up to a bar-end-mounted shifter. Or if your fixed bike is a road conversion, the cable stops will already be there. So far there’s only the bar-end shifter, but apparently down tube and flat-bar shifters are in the pipeline.

Ratios are: first to second gear a step of 20 per cent, and second to third a 33 per cent increase. Third gear is direct drive. Yes, they’re big jumps.

The first thing you can’t help noticing about the S3X is its price – £249.95 for hub and fittings. The standard Sturmey-Archer AW, a three-speed freewheel hub, costs about £55.

The second thing you can’t help noticing is the S3X’s weight. Even though the hub shell is aluminium, it weighs 1,026g.

If you enjoyed riding a minimal, lightweight fixed bike, it’s goodbye to all that.

The third thing you notice is that there’s play in the hub that feels like a very slack chain. To change gear, you have to shift in the middle of that play, while you’re not actually putting any force through the pedals. But as you can’t stop pedalling because you’re on fixed, it’s a bit of a trick. And now, because of this play, it doesn’t really feel like riding fixed any more.

As top gear is direct drive, that’s the one you ideally need to be in to avoid slight, but still noticeable, hub drag. Which means for a 72in top gear, second gear is 54in and first, a twiddling, silly 45in ­- but it has become a pointless exercise because now you’re getting dropped on the downhills again, even if you can go up very steep hills.

Unless… unless Sturmey could make second gear direct drive, as with its AW. Then you could have 72in as your direct-drive regular gear, top would be 95.7in, for downhills when hub drag is not so important, and bottom 60in.

Verdict

So, what we would like to see is the price come down, the ratios closer together and direct drive drop down to second, or the fixionados may not play.

12t-18t sprockets available
Over-locknut dimensions: 130mm or 120mm

Full Specification

Supplier: The Cycle Division Ltd 01484 456137, www.the-cycledivision.co.uk
  • martin hickman

    I have to agree with Roger Cantwell , I am not to sure the original auther understands, but each to our own. My reason was to reduce the cost of cycling , but you say the hub is expensive and i say no it is not. the price of an average 105 cassette and chain is over £75 and just how long does it last on your commuter bike ? you’d be lucky to get 1500miles out it with poor maintanence and cross gearing , but with the hub gear so far i have had over 5000miles on one chain and its still not showing signs of ware. mind you i am using the brakes a lot more on the desents.
    the hub gear -s3x- can be used with a shimano free wheel if you get tired of riding fixed or if you feel riding fixed in the snow is to dangerous.
    just remember a winter hack bike is just that, old , heavy , abused and neglected of maintanence. so when your gears don’t shift well , i know mine will be just fine.

  • Roger Cantwell

    I’ve had this hub for a few months now. Firstly, they’re not properly adjusted out of the box. Take it for its first ride, which tightens the ball ring hard into the shell, and then adjust the axle cones using normal SA procedure. You should have infinitesmal play, but *some* play, at the rim when this is done. If the hub is sloppy then the neutral positions between gears will become large – you have been warned.

    Normal road bike cable stops are the wrong way round for this hub at the end of the chainstay. Ideally, get a clamp-on fulcrum clip and roller and run the cable along the top tube and down the seatstay. Then you only need a tiny bit of outer sleeving (from the lever to the fulcrum) and it won’t get chewed up between the chainring and chain when you fix a puncture.

    I measured the lash at the crank as 3.5 degrees in middle gear (10mm at the pedal spindle). This is indeed like a slack chain, but not the 10-15 degrees I’ve seen quoted elsewhere on the Internet.

    Changing gear is easy – just relax the pressure a bit and shift. I don’t see the problem here, although naturally your legs have to speed up or slow down the moment the gear engages – it’s like driving a car without a clutch.

    Make the top gear 84″ or 90″ and you have a sensible spread of gears. Top gear is direct because it’s based on the lower end of the current 5-speed hub. Likewise, the old ASC was based on the contemporary 4-speed. It is noticeably more draggy in the non-direct gears, but you need to run it in for 100-200 miles to polish the gear teeth. The 3-speeds are pretty treacly when factory fresh as well.

    I’m not sure the original writer really understands this hub. It’s not a hub to make riding fixed easier or to make it appeal to the masses – it needs some mechanical sensitivity to meake clean changes and it will bite you hard if you don’t adjust it properly, don’t “click” into the next gear fully or sweep from top to bottom without anticipating the huge jump in pedal revs. It’s a challenge and a bit of fun, and it’s good that we have the choice.