Changing gears – busting the myths about internal hub gears

It has been such a long time since I wrote a post for this blog and I feel immensely guilty, but I just felt like I didn’t have anything blog-worthy to say. I cycle to work every day, but there are only so many blog posts you can write about your daily commute.

Finally, though, I might just have something interesting to tell you about, well I’m quite excited about it anyway.

It all started in the summer, when it was time for Kate (my lovely wife and cycle buddy) to trade in her trusty old bike for something which squeaked less, needed less constant maintenance to keep it running and in my opinion, wasn’t a bloody danger. We disagreed on the last part. She hadn’t really thought much about getting a new bike, so we had a bit of a blank canvas when we popped into the local bike shop to have a look, and there she fell in love, only this time not with me.

Internal hub gears, disc brakes, gates belt drive, dynamo lights, very low to no maintenance. The Kalkhoff Endeavour 8.

Being Kate though, she couldn’t just buy it on the spot, she had to research to make sure she was making the right decision. After all, she absolutely loved her Marin road bike, this would be a bit of a change.

What’s it like switching to internal hub gears?

Well, this was the big question, and amazingly the internet seemed to fail us when we were trying to find answers. We know a couple of people (who now live in another country) who use internal hub gears on their dutch style bikes but couldn’t advise on our commute really, and we’ve heard lots of folk say that you couldn’t manage the Edinburgh commute on internal hub gears, they just won’t handle the hills. So we were a little apprehensive. Almost everything we found online backed up the don’t do it type advice, but it just felt like it made sense. I was getting really annoyed at the lack of info.

So here we go… for all those people thinking about the switch, worried about the switch, being discouraged, this blog post will hopefully answer some of your questions, and if not… ask…

The truth about internal hub gears.

Ok so let’s look at the first piece of advice we found.

They are no good for hills

Myth busted! We both have hills on our commute, Kate more so as she has to climb Queen’s Drive every day, oh and that zigzag from the Innocent Cycle Path to join the Holyrood Park Path. Those are both substantial hills.

So what’s the verdict?

Well, Kate’s bike had 24 gears before, and those were road bike gears. She couldn’t climb those hills straight away after she started cycling, she had to build herself up to it and on her first attempt at those hills on the new bike which has 8 gears she did notice a real difference, she still managed, just a little slower. She used to climb the hill at around 8mph, now she is between 6-7mph  The world did not end and she didn’t have to change her commute. Just her gear choices.

They are really slow

Partially busted! Ok so let’s be honest here, the new bike is slower than the old Marin. It is however also a different bike. Going from a road bike to a more upright position, yep, it is slower. However, not insanely slower, at least not for us. At first, it did feel a lot slower to cycle and we were then shocked to see the actual speed we were doing, but we’re not doing granny speeds. Kate used to average around 12 – 13mph for the commute on her old road bike, on the new commuter bike she averages 11 – 12mph, so not a massive difference, unless you are a speed demon.

I guess on this one, you just have to weight things up for yourself. For us, the speed wasn’t such a big issue after we’d tried the bike out. It just felt like such a good bike, so enjoyable to ride and felt so much safer, especially coming into the winter weather. So we were happy to have an extra minute or two added to our commute. Although on the safer thing, ironically, I had a fall yesterday and I’m currently wearing an arm sling 🙁 and yes, I was riding this bike! Darn black ice!

They are really heavy

This bike is definitely heavier than the Marin road bike, although not much heavier than my Whyte Portobello, so yep the internal hub is a little heavier on the back end of the bike, but not hugely and to be honest, you don’t notice the weight when you are cycling, only if you are trying to lift the bike upstairs.

You can’t get a service for them locally, you have to send your bike away

Myth busted! I have to say,  this was one which I was concerned about as I am a bit obsessive about keeping my bike in tip-top condition. However, I am pleased to say it appears that this myth is well and truly busted. The local bike shop is happy to do all maintenance on internal hub geared bikes.

I have to say though, for me, the biggest positive is the lack of maintenance and cleaning. Now that its freezing, cold and dark, it sucks that I’m out cleaning, degreasing and regreasing my bike while Kate literally does no more than wipe the fame with a damp cloth.

The bike is eerily quiet too… I’m going to have to put a bell around her neck so I know where she is on the cycle path!

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