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Hub Gears, what are they all about?

Kate who works at our Bristol store, takes you through the in's and out's of hub gears, why you might consider one and what to look out for. In particular she focuses on the Shimano Alfine, but the information is relevant to all makes and models.

21st February 2019 - By Kate Douglass


"If you’ve been checking out the Temple website or have a keen eye for bicycle spotting around town, then you’ve probably noticed some bikes sporting hub gears. They are not as common as exposed gears - these are gears that are cleverly contained within a metal shell at the centre of the back wheel. You can see these on our Lightweight Premium bikes!

This type of gearing originated around the start of the 20th century - the most famous of which being the Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub. These are still being manufactured and in operation today. Instead of having the gear cogs exposed with a derailleur to shift between them, there is a (complicated) system of cogs within the hub shell which alternate in driving the hub depending on the gear.

Hub gears are great as they rarely need maintenance and last for years. Aside from feeding oil into the hub every few thousand km, not much can go wrong with them as they are protected from the rain, snow, salt etc - all the things that cause rust and wear on exposed gears. There is also no risk of collision with spokes or bending and breaking the derailleur which is relatively common, especially if the bike falls. You can see them more commonly in cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen where cycling is almost a necessity - so their bikes must be super-reliable!

Unique to hub gears is the ability to change gear while at a standstill - very handy for stopping at traffic lights up a steep hill! The riding experience of these gears on our bikes feels very slightly different to exposed gears but shifting works in the exact same way as the Classic Lightweight bikes. In terms of aesthetics - we think they look very clean and minimal on our bikes, much like our single speeds, just with the extra option of 8 gears to choose from!

"The only drawback of this type of gearing is that it’s a little heavier than exposed gearing, however it is more than made up for by being so easy to use and its practicality and durability in all conditions."

On our classic lightweight we use the very reliable Shimano 8 speed Alfine hub. It has trigger shifting for easy use and wide ranging gears for the hills. The only drawback of this type of gearing is that it’s a little heavier than exposed gearing, however it is more than made up for by being so easy to use and its practicality and durability in all conditions. To go with the hardy character of the hub gears, the Lightweight Premium comes fully equipped with mudguards and a comfy brooks saddle - so you can be riding all day in the rain with no worries.



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  • It’s always a thrill to hear from my friends at Temple Cycles in the United Kingdom! The photos are breathtaking, both the scenery and the machinery, the stories marvelous! And thx for the skinny on Shimano 8-speed hubs. Mike Walsh—Detroit, Michigan

    Mike Walsh on
  • Thank you again for a superb Journal and all the lightest (!) news.
    My question: What is the difference between your regular frame and the lightweight? In kg, please! And what are the different steel tubing?

    I remember my Sturmey Archer three speed from about 1963…. and I still have the little installation leaflet, because we often got them assembled into a wheel. Just had to fit the cables, and set the cable! Few people can do that today!

    I managed to buy three SA three speed hubs and paraphernalisain Belgium a few years ago! About 30 euro each! They were of a later edition (hubs the same as 50 years ago!) and they did not have the old type lever shifter, but a grip handle shift – not so retro as I would like, because I turn nice old EU steel city bikes into custom roadsters – wannabe Temples or Santuccis….

    Kindest Regards, Dawid Botha, Stellenbosch, South Africa

    Dawid Botha on

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