Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Couple Years In

It's been over two years since I started riding the S3X. I'm still happy with both of mine, and have had no issues that were the fault of the hub.

I did have one scary little incident where the hub found itself in a "neutral" due to the shifter not being clicked in correctly. I was in the middle of a swirling crowd of tourists, bikes,  rollerbladers, and dogs on 20 foot leashes, etc., when it happened. I was going about 3 mph and was clicked in. It's very hard to recover when the cranks spin loose and you can't click out. Fortunately, I managed to get a foot loose and kept from munching in front of everyone, falling on anybody, or causing a pile-up. I've always been afraid of this, but imagined it would happen while standing and cranking hard. But this was my fault: I just failed to get the shifter clicked in correctly.

Otherwise, the hub has performed faultlessly. As I have said before, I don't skid, or apply tremendous back pressure when I ride, and I use a brake to bleed off speed when necessary. Most of the time I'm in top gear, and shift infrequently. I used to think, mistakenly, that the planetary gears did not spin in the top gear, but have been told they do, so it seems like staying in the top gear most of the time doesn't save wear and tear. There seemed to be some drag when in the lower gears, but that cleared up with breaking in.

I have been reading some of the reviews on Amazon, etc., and people have had very mixed results with their S3X hubs. Aside from the complaints about lash, the shifter design, and other niggly things, there are a number of people claiming failures with very little use. Some have admitted hard use like skidding, off road, etc., but others have said they broke in under 100 miles of normal use. These are not cheap hubs, and I would be pissed if the hub broke. One should be able to expect years of service out of a product that costs this much. I am and will continue to be somewhat careful with mine, as it is a somewhat delicate mechanism that is subjected to pretty forceful stresses.

Let us know how your hub is holding up. I'm very interested to know how others have fared.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Setting Up the SA Hub on the Bike

Well, it's time for a new post. Every couple years ought to keep things going,eh? In the spirit of having this be a forum of sorts, I'm posting another S3X enthusiast's story and questions. The ones that can be answered mostly relate to setup. The others boil down to preference. Anyway, let's dive in with Europa's bit:

Ahhh, it's story time.
I'm about to convert my bike to an S3X. She was custom made to be fixed gear but has geometry more like your 80's roadie - you can think of her as a modern, lugged steel framed, fixed gear sports roadie. She's got track drop outs (with 120 spacing) and, being built for fixed gear, the only cable guides are for brake cables.
I live in a flat (sorta) city surrounded by our version of mountains. Naturally, I live up on one of them lumpy bits and so get to grind up the sodding hill and do the hamster on acid routine on the way down. Being an ageing wombat, having gears sounds like a real good option while maintaining the fixed gearing that I love so much.
And conversions are sooo easy aren't they - HAH!
My first issue is that my current rear wheel has 32 spokes - this seemed a problem until I discovered that Sturmey Archer have moved into the latter part of the 20th century and now offer a 32h hub ... but you can't get them from the cheap sellers on ebay and Amazon (dammit). Okay, so I can pay shop prices, over the internet because the industry in my country is soooo enlightened but seeing this is the bike I hope to be riding when the doctors take my bike away from me, the cost is bearable (and if you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you).
The alternative of course, is to get a 36h rim.
Well, my wheels are the Miche Express. I like them. They are light, strong, have held their true and while I was initially skeptical about the weird graphics, I actually like them. No, Miche don't sell rims and don't do them in 36h anyway. They also make the rims themselves (as they do everything with their brand name) and they have an odd cross section so just buying 'something similar' proved to be an exercise in frustration.
The bike is pretty special to me so I don't want to go Frankenbike and have mismatched wheels.
One option is a new wheel set - ie, S3X, two good quality rims, front hub, spokes and a pleasant couple of evenings lacing them all together (I enjoy wheel building). Not surprisingly, that adds up to quite a lot of money. 
And I'd like to keep her looking like she does now.
And I'm a stubborn sod about unimportant things sometimes (which is probably why I get away with riding fixed gear). 
Now that it appears I can get the S3X with 32 holes, that's the way I'll go ... I think ... maybe.

Now we get to the bits I don't really know about - how to make it all work.
I want the bar end shifter, and you can get them individually on ebay as well as with hub sets, so that's not a problem. I've never set up a bar end shifter but can't imagine it's any more difficult that what Shimano has thrown at me over the years (am I delusional? Again?).
Then there's the cable run. I use panniers so going down the rear seat stay isn't an issue - it'll be down the main tube (the front one that collects all the road grime) and along the chain stay. 
My original thought was to run the cable within an outer all that way, the thinking being to keep it clean, but I believe Vance has found that you want to minimise the amount of cable outer you use. That leaves some sort of cable guide near the top of the main tube and one of them funny wheel gadgets that Sturmey Archer sell.
Am I right in imagining that I can buy a clamp that takes a nylon fitting that will bolt to my main tube to hold the cable outer?
From there, do I only need one of those wheel things to get the cable around the corner and thus to the hub?
Is there anything else I need to get, or would be advisable to get, or at least consider?

Thanks for reading. 


Well, if the bridge happens to be the Golden Gate Bridge, a really nice guy already sold that one to me a while back. But, I've always liked the Brooklyn Bridge....

I have, on two different bikes, both a fully sheathed shift cable, and a bare cable running over a pulley. Both work fine. However, the covered cable method is a bit stiffer and a bit less positive. I prefer the pulley setup for its positive, easy shifts, but like the sheathed version for weather protection and clean appearance. It's also easier to set up on frames sans cable guides and stops. You just clamp it on with nylon ties.

In order to do the bare cable over a pulley, check the pics on my earlier post. It shows the stop, clamp, and pulley that are necessary to set it up that way. These things are available from various sources that carry SA parts. 

As for the route, I had the downtube/wheelstay run setup once, but I kept getting heel strikes on the shifter chain. Running it along the top tube and down the seatstay works much better for me. Let me say here that I wear a size 13 shoe (huge) and you normally proportioned guys might not have that problem.

I'd say doing the conversion to S3X is fairly simple. Anyone who can build wheels should have no problem doing this. As you know from my pics I use bullhorns which makes the barend shifter installation very clean.   

Certainly, one wheel is cheaper than two. I happen to have no problem mixing wheels and spoke counts and all that, but I certainly understand the compulsions that drive us enthusiasts (of anything, really). So, how you go about your compromises is your business. One thing: being a big, heavy guy, I prefer 36 spokes, especially on the rear. Having 32 on the front is ok, but I'd prefer 36. One of my bikes has a 36/32 and the other 36/36.

OK, that's my two cents. Anybody else?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vic's Freewheel Problem

Thanks for sending in the pics from your s3x/freewheel problem. So what we're looking at:
pics of the freewheel mounted, but not down all the way; the cog hitting the frame; a fixed cog fitted;  the freewheel off the hub; and two different diameter freewheels.

Here's my take. It looks like what I suggested: clearly, the freewheel isn't screwing all the way down the hub. I haven't tried installing a freewheel on my hubs, so I'm not sure what happens when you do. However, this was intended to work by the manufacturer. I will try this myself one of these days, but I don't know when I'll get around to it.

So Vic, I'd suggest getting a steel lock-ring and try to screw it down with the proper wrench over the full course of threads on the hub without the freewheel or cog on the hub. You won't be able to do this with the alloy ball-wrench ring S-A supplies. Alloy vs steel isn't happening. The hub threads might have gotten buggered by a loose cog/lockring on the hub while in use. ???

If you can get the steel lock-ring all the way down the threads on the hub (hopefully cleaning up the threads toward the dust cover) the freewheel should make more progress down the hub and clear the frame.

Anyone: would a bike shop have a die that would fit the hub threads?

I have never run into the freewheel diameter difference, myself. What would the other be used on? Freewheel hubs are all the same in my experience, so I got nothin'. Anyone?

I hope this helps, and I hope there might be more help from out there.....

Good luck, Vance

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Long Time Comin'

Well, OK!

It's been some time since my last post, I know. You have better things to do than keep checking to see if there's any action.

There hasn't been.

It's been a long cold winter, and I'm not doing much with bikes. I know that I should be out there riding, but lack motivation. It's getting harder and harder to get the clothes on, grease up the rear end, and go for a ride. It's about once a week now, if I don't have something else going on, or it isn't raining. It seems to always be raining (windy, cold, don't feel good, have to do something else) and I can't get out.

Yeah. Right.

But anyway, I think spring is coming. At least daylight savings time is next week. Whoo-hoo! My favorite day of the year. And, it's on my birthday! Which is becoming my least favorite day of the year.

So enough with the complaining. How can you complain when the s3x is available for around $120.00? I spent $240 on it when it first came out, but that's cool. I got to mess with it right at the start, and I enjoyed every minute of it and don't begrudge a dime.

It's so low now, I'm thinking I'll get another one for my Mercian fixie when the wheelsets become available cheaply. Remember what I said about building another wheel from scratch? It's pricey.

The Mercian is an English 70s frame made of 531. It's way old school, and light as a feather.

It has pump brackets. Nice....

It isn't pretty, since the paint's a bit beat, and it's sort of a robin's egg blue color. I don't mind it, because people always think it's some old track bike from 1900 and I get lots of thumbs up when I take it out. That's not often since I have a 53-16 ring/cog on it. I use it mostly on the fluid trainer when it's raining (I basically hate doing that).

Maybe I should put that fake wood vinyl shelf paper on the rims so they look like wooden wheels? I have kept the old cloth bar tape on the bars, which contributes to the decrepit-antique look.

I mean the bike's, not mine.

This frame fits me perfectly, like the old school Japanese frames I ride: tall with a short cockpit. It's pretty amazing to me that they built them this way. How many people have legs that are disproportionately longer than their arms? Anyway, I'd ride it out on the road more often if it had a 3 speed hub.

Building the wheel was kind of fun.... Who knows? Maybe I'll do it again.

So to end up, once again I'll ask for comments and observations on the s3x. I'm sure there's lots of folks who'd like to read about your experiences and discuss your questions/observations/opinions. I'll post them
as I get 'em.

Holla.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Modest Proposal

In my last post, I didn't address the problems I had fitting Shimano (really, Shimano-style) cogs on the S3X. I had some difficulty getting the cheap BMX cogs on the hub splines. It took a bit of filing and fiddling to get the 15T cog on. This is not to say that the cogs are poorly made. Apparently, Shimano style cogs are not exactly the same pattern as the SA cogs, which is a bit bizarre, since they're ALMOST exactly the same. The cogs I bought are FMF BMX cogs, which are made to fit Shimano drivers, and really do fit easily over the Shimano splines. The Harris Cyclery site mentions this slight incompatibility and recommends Surly cogs for the S3X. Why they fit better, I don't know, as they are made to be compatible with Shimano drivers. Obviously, the SA cogs will fit perfectly, but they are for 1/8" chain. I run a 3/32" chain, not 1/8".

Speaking of cogs and fitting the S3X, it's pretty cool that they threaded the driver all the way across. This apparently allows for screwing a single-speed freewheel on the S3X, which is somewhat interesting as an option. I doubt anyone would choose the S3X for a full-time freewheel application when the SA 3 speed freewheel hub is a lot cheaper.  Having the versatility of easily converting a wheel to a freewheel then back to fixed is not new, of course. Flip-flop hubs are all over the place. But, the S3X has the same versatility of accepting a freewheel, plus it's got 3 speeds. It's intriguing.....

Before you flame me (ala Chalo) for even contemplating the crazy-ass idea of using a single speed freewheel on the S3X, consider the possibility that diverse ways of thinking make life interesting. I've already accepted the multi-speed fixed gear into my biking life (and so have you, unless you're just lurking on this site to shake your head in wonderment that such fools exist). This proves I'm not a purist. The S3X  on its own is a huge leap into the bizarre and the stoopid, in the minds of some of our biking brethren. It's not much farther to go to fall into the sublimely ridiculous, like, ummm.....say, recumbent bikes. But no, thinking of trying a freewheel doesn't mean I'm thinking of a freewheel equipped S3X mounted on a canvas bodied recumbent trike. But, what if I was?

Were?

It's all good. But, really, I'm not.

I'm just thinking, well, century. Or some longish ride where being able to coast would be, like, restful? Or somewhere with extreme downhill sections? That'd mean a rear brake and all, I know. Maybe one of those suicide brake levers and a long cable ziptied to the frame for the day would work out, huh? Easy on, easy off.

It's just a thought.

Don't be hatin'.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fussing With Gear Inches

I finally ordered a set of cogs off of eBay. The guy was selling 7 cogs and my bid of about $12 won the shootin' match. The sizes are 20, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, and 13. I put the 15 on the Centurion, which has a 50T ring (actually, both bikes have 50s), requiring breaking the chain and removing a link, struggling to get the wheel on enough due to the shorter chain (should have used a half link), fixed the slow leak in the rear tire, and went for a ride.

The 15T is a definite improvement over the 18T I replaced. The 18 required too much spin on the flats and downhills. I still have a 16T on the Bianchi. The 50/15 gives good speed on the flats, and helps keep the downhill spin under control with less braking, particularly compared to the 18T. The 50/16 on the Bianchi allows me to stay in the top gear much of the time, with the occasional shift at the stop. I almost never shifted with the 50/18. The 15T requires more shifting, and I've been using the lowest gear more than previously (which was almost never).

This seems to me to be sensible, because I was riding much like I was still on a single speed fixie with both the 50/18 and the 50/16, usually only using the middle gear at a stop sign, and the low gear rarely. Now I'm still  in the top gear a lot, but I'm shifting down for moderate climbs and way down for the steeper stuff or when the headwind is fierce. I think 50/15 might be the best compromise, but I'm not going to stop just yet. I'm going to try the 14, then the 13.

I preferred riding the Bianchi until I switched the cog out on the Centurion. I wasn't sure why, but it seemed to take a bit more work to ride the Centurion. Now they seem about equally enjoyable to ride. I thought the Centurion was heavier or the fit wasn't as good as the Bianchi, but I suspect that the gear inches were the difference.

BTW, I tried to readjust the endplay on the axle to see if some of the lash on the black Alex wheel would improve, but I can't get it to be as good as the silver Open Pro wheel. Maybe the black one is an earlier run, or the tolerances aren't consistent. I know the earlier hubs had lots of lash, and it improved in subsequent batches. The difference in lash makes a difference in performance. I don't trackstand much, but the two wheels are a very different experience when I do. Also, the pedal bump is significant with the black one, and I find it a bit annoying on a fast downhill. NBD.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pictures of the New Wheel and New Bike

So I finished the new bike and took it out for its first ride today. It is pretty good. The lash on this wheel is significantly more than the silver one has. I have not yet tried to adjust the cone, and I know there's too much play in the bearings, so hopefully I can lessen the slop.
As you can see, I strung a long cable housing through the top tube loops, and clamped a cable stop to the seatstay. It looks a lot better than the pulley, and seems to shift fine. This was what I tried to do on the first bike, but it didn't work out because it kept slipping. This time I wrapped some cloth electrical tape around the stay and wrapped a piece around the cable stop, then clamped it all together. It holds well, and seems to be adequate. You can see the clamp and tape in the bottom picture. I also used a couple of cable ties to hold the housing in place.
The bike rides about the same as the Bianchi, but seems a bit bigger, which is good. I'm going to ride them both for a while, and decide which one I'll keep. I like the looks of the Centurion better than the Bianchi, and the fit seems as good. Now I'm thinking about switching things around again: silver stuff on the Centurion and black stuff on the Bianchi, if I decide to keep the Centurion. We'll see. 
The Centurion now has a 50 ring/18 cog. When I rode today, it seemed like I was spinning too fast in the top gear. The Bianchi has a 50/16, which seems better. I think I'll try a 15 or 14 to see if I like being able to get some more speed on the flats and less RPMs on the downhills. It will require more frequent shifting. I'm only shifting 3-4 time per ride, other than for stop signs. The nice thing about this hub is that you can use cheap BMX cogs or even cogs from an old taken apart cassette to try out different gear ratios. Those fixie cogs are expensive.