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NOT QUITE A SINGLE SPEED.

The team here at Bikefood HQ are all fans of traditional steel frame bikes,
of whatever vintage. We find the simple elegant slightly skinny lines of
fixies and single speed bikes very appealing and there are always some
interesting examples knocking around the offices, including a couple of
Raleighs, a Fondriest and the odd Colnago. We’ve been wondering for a while
whether it might be viable to build a bike which combines the light weight
and good looks of a single speed, but with a bit of the added comfort that
comes from having at least a couple of gears to ease the journey up and down
hills.

Our first experiment in this direction has been to team up a traditional
Raleigh built Reynolds 531 steel frame with a Shimano 4 speed geared hub
laced onto a standard 700c alloy rim. The front rim is a Rigida Chrina and
both front and back rims are shod with nice Bontrager Racelite clinchers.
The bike in these photos started life as a Raleigh Quadra frame, but as the
paint was past its best we’ve re-sprayed it in BMW Arctic White to keep that
nice understated look. Continuing the simple look are an extremely
comfortable Charge Spoon saddle and a lovely set of Deda Dritto straight
handlebars from our friends at Velosolo – see: www.velosolo.com Stopping
power comes from Shimano Tiagra calipers teamed to Deore V-brake levers.
Although these aren’t supposed to be used together they do in fact work just
fine.

Getting the gear ratios right has taken a bit of trial and error and some
help from Sheldon Brown (www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/internal.html) The
Shimano Nexus Inter-4 hub is pretty high geared, so to arrive at a
reasonable working range, we’ve used a good looking budget 38 tooth forget
alloy crankset from Mighty and put a larger than normal 22 toot sprocket on
the back. This gives good climbing ability and a nice long top gear for
downhill blasting. Most of the time you can pootle along very nicely in 2nd
or 3rd, only needing to change gear for the hilly bits.

We think this hub gear set up works pretty well and achieves the look we
like. In fact we like it so much that we have taken the next step and built
a more ambitious version using the superb Shimano Alfine 8 speed hub. We’ll
post a second blog about this one in the next few days.

Both these experimental bikes are slightly compromised by having to use
retro frames which are designed for derailleur gears, so they don’t have the
right cable routing fro hub gears and they still have the braze-ons for
derailleur shifters etc. so stage three of this experiment will hopefully be
emerging before too long with the arrival of a purpose built frame from
Steve Goff (www.steve-goff-frames.co.uk/) with all the right Braze-ons for
the hub gear set. We can’t wait for this to arrive. And beyond that? Well
there’s always the possibility of swopping out the 8 speed hub for the new
11 speed Shimano version which by all accounts looks like being a big step
forward in hub gear technology at a reasonable price.