Fixed gear…. with gears!?

First, read this!

Then read this! (Note the date, it’s old news!)

Quoting Sheldon Brown himself; One of the rarest and most interesting bicycle components ever made is the Sturmey-Archer ASC hub. At the time it was made, in the early 1950s, sporting cyclists in Britain were very heavily into time trialing (partly because that was the only form of racing that was legal on the public roads!) The most common event was the 25 mile time trial, and many, if not most, of the top riders rode fixed-gear bicycles. Derailleur gearing was not looked on with favor by most British cyclists until the 1960’s, so most multi-speed bicycles in Britain were equipped with Sturmey-Archer 3- or 4-speed internal-geared hubs.

The British cycling world was sharply divided between the fans of the fixed gear and the partisans of multi-speeds. The ASC hub was an attempt to bridge this gap, by providing the benefit of variable gears, without giving up the pleasures of the fixed gear.

The ASC was a true fixed-gear, in that coasting was impossible…the pedals would turn whenever the bicycle was in motion. However, it gave three different ratios: direct drive; 90% and 75%.

In addition to being targeted at time trialists, the ASC was also marketed as the ideal gear for winter training…and there’s much to be said for this claim. A fixed gear is well known to give superior control on slippery surfaces, but a single speed can be a bit of a burden on a cyclist laden with heavy winter clothing.

This advertisement appeared in the December 24, 1953 Cycling

 The ASC is the rarest and most sought-after Sturmey-Archer hub. I have no idea where you can find one, so please don’t bother asking. The last one I know of changing hands was sold on eBay for over $300 in May 1999.

If you’re very handy, you may be able to make a two-speed fixed gear hub out of a common AW three speed.       

See my Web page on converting an AW to fixed gear. (Have a look at this page, seriously, it’s very interesting. I may have a trawl of the Bay for a 4 speed unit, see if i can make my own 3 speed!)

Something like this would have made the Coast to Coast a little less painful, and any subsequent foolhardiness to follow!! It gets a favourable review here, and retails for £248 here. Take a look at Sturmey Archer’s site, and the three speed shifter is bar-end mounted but can be removed and used on a down-tube braze-on, sweet!

And look at the pretty colour choices!

I think I know what I want for Christmas (phat chance!) I seriously may look into a workshop conversion though, a le Sheldon Brown!

Whilst looking for information about this hub, I inadvertently discovered the existence of the Torpedo hub, ever heard of that either!?

Essentially the first hub that can convert between fixed and free with a wrench, rather than flipping the wheel. Good idea? Check it out here. There’s a seriously funny comment on Urban Velos announcement of it’s release (again, note the date, how come i only just found out about this!?)

Ghost Rider;

I don’t mean to sound like a jerk or anything…I love weird bike tech… but how in the HELL is this any better/easier/more effcient/smarter than flipping a wheel around in the dropouts?  And GASP!  what a weight penalty!

  • jamesmallon


    A friggin pound.  Some weight penalty.  Take it off your American gut.  And “how in the HELL is this any better/easier/more effcient/smarter than flipping a wheel around in the dropouts?”

    Better?  Cleaner and Faster.
    Easier?  Leave it on the chain, in the dropouts, don’t flip your bike.
    More efficient?  Same as above.
    Smarter?  See the all the above.

That made me chuckle!

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