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NOT QUITE A SINGLE SPEED – part 2

The four speed hub gear road bike we showed in part 1 has now gone off to a
new life in a new home and this blog is all about its replacement. Once again it’s a Raleigh frame which we have built up using the superb Shimano
Alfine 8 speed hub and drive train and a collection of retro bike parts.

The road frame we’ve used is a rather nice compact traditional lugged steel
one by Raleigh in Reynolds 531C tubing. This one sports the GODv sticker
indicating that it is from Gerald O’Donovan’s Raleigh Special Products
Division, so this one has a bit of pedigree to it, see
www.carltoncycles.me.uk/history/gerodon.htm . Our only modification to the
frame has been to spread the rear stays a little to accommodate the 135mm
width needed to fit the Alfine hub.

The Alfine hub itself is much smoother in operation than the previous 4
speed and as well as having a much wider overall range of ratios they are
more closely spaced so for general road work the middle gears between 4 and
6 are really ideal and get most use. Gears 1 and 2 only get used for steep
climbs and gear 7 and 8 are pretty long and probably only likely to get use
on an Alpine descent! Shimano hubs ideally need horizontal drop-outs if you
want clean looks and avoid having to add a chain tensioner. They offer a
variety of different non-turn washers in their mounting kits which allow the
hubs to be used on frames with different dropout angles.

For this build we’ve kept to an all-Shimano Alfine drive train, using a 20
tooth rear sprocket and the excellent Alfine crankset with 45 tooth
sprocket. Both sprockets are equipped with chain guards as standard to help
keep oily dirt off your clothes. The chainset uses Shimano’s external
bearing system which looks pretty slick.

The alfine gear shifter is designed to fit onto standard straight handlebars
which are slightly slimmer in diameter than drops, so taking this into
account and also wanting to keep the bars nice and clean looking we’ve
mounted the shifter just below the bars on its own short bracket off the
stem. This works really well, allowing snappy shifts up and down using
finger and thumb on the two levers. Gear shifting with this setup is very
light, quick and positive.

To complete the build we’ve used a nice set of 3TTT Forma SL drops and
matching 3TTT stem. Brakes are excellent Ambrosio Stelvio calipers which
have super quality polished alloy brake shoe carriers, levers are by Tektro.
The wheels are built up by us on the Shimano rear hub and a new Miche front
hub laced to Mavic GP4 rims and ACI Alpina double butted stainless spokes.
Both wheels are running Vittorio Competition Rally tubular tyres. And
finally to complete the retro bike look and feel we’ve treated it to a
lovely Brooks Team Pro saddle in tan leather.

It’s a super bike to ride. Yes it is a little heavier than a derailleur
equivalent, but the low maintenance, ease of use and on road handling more
than compensate. So what’s next – both builds so far have been a bit of a
compromise in having to strap on the gear cables using cable ties, but in a
few weeks we expect to receive a purpose built frame from Steve Goff –
www.steve-goff-frames.co.uk with all the right braze-ons onto which all
these components will be transferred. Look out for part 3!

Thanks to the following suppliers who provided the parts for this bike
build:

Raleigh frame – www.thebikestation.org.uk

Shimano Alfine hub gears – www.radcentre-lemgo.de

Alfine Chainset – www.pro4sport.co.uk

Alfine gear shifter – www.wiggle.co.uk

Handlebars – www.priceshaggers.co.uk

Tyres – www.highonbikes.com

Brooks saddle – www.practicalcycles.com

ACI Alpina spokes – www.cyclebasket.com