Monday, July 6, 2015

Hybrid Gearing in the Wild: a 6-Speed Hub x Derailleur 'Collabo'

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
On my Brompton folding bicycle I have a drivetrain that most people who notice it find innovative and exotic: a 3-speed hub combined with a 2-speed derailleur. "Leave it to those engineers to come up with a solution like that!" a man on a train exclaimed the other day, awed by the eccentric pulley and cog medley. But while exotic it may be, mixed hub/derailleur gearing is hardly innovative - considering it dates back to the late 1930s, when the Birmingham-based Cyclo Gear Company began offering conversion kits for turning one's hub into just such a drivetrain, as a means of achieving a wider gear range.

Bryan's Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
I was reminded of this fact when visited by my friend Bryan over the weekend. Bryan enjoys a variety of vintage bicycles, from the locally produced Viking featured here last year, to my early Claud Butler mixte, of whom he is the original owner. This time Bryan arrived astride a delightful velo-concoction featuring a DIY hub/derailleur drivetrain.

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
The bicycle, funny enough, is a Kalkhoff - whose present day e-bikes I only recently wrote about. This one, however, is from the 1970s - a light touring model, originally equipped with fenders, eyelets for racks, clearance for wide-ish tires, and internal routing for dynamo lighting.

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
The fork is a replacement, belonging to a much older bicycle. The history of either it or the frame is not known to Bryan, beyond the fact that it was initially purchased in a bike shop in Ballina, County Mayo, according to the seat tube decal.

Bryan's Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
Having found it discarded and in poor condition, he thought the Kalkhoff, with its semi-horizontal dropouts, would make an excellent candidate for experimenting with hybrid hub/derailleur gearing.

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
There are several ways of creating a mixed drivetrain of this kind. This write-up from Sheldon Brown and this detailed article from Classic Lightweights pretty much cover them. Pre-1951 Sturmey  Archer hubs had screw-on sprockets, making it possible to replace them with threaded multispeed freewheels. Bryan, however, used a standard Sturmey-Archer AW3 hub from 1981. He explains that Sturmey hubs have two shims plus the sprocket, which allows you to tweak the chainline. If you leave out one of the shims you can fit two dished sprockets back to back - which was what he did.

To create his 6-speed drivetrain, Bryan combined the 3-speed hub with two cogs (19t and 22t) meant for Shimano Alfine 8-speed hubs. He opted for these, because, unlike Sturmey's own, they come in a 3/32" size, allowing him to use the standard derailleur and chain from his stash of components. As the Shimano cogs are not entirely compatible with the Sturmey hub, he had to file a little off to make them fit. All this worked out grand, enabling Bryan to avoid using conversion kits or seeking out rare, expensive parts.

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
The derailleur is the one that came originally with the Kalkhoff: a Sachs-Huret, typical of mid-range roadbikes from the late 70s and early 80s before Japanese components became commonplace. The chain is an NOS bushings type chain from his stockpile.

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
Shifting is controlled via two systems: The trigger shifter is for switching between the 3 hub gears.

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
The downtube shifter controls the derailleur, for switching between big cog and small.

Bryan's Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
The combination of the 46t chainring that came originally with the bike and the 22t/19t sprockets, gives a nice gear range of 40-83 inches for everyday riding - which is good, as the owner has come to use the Kalkhoff hybrid as one of his everyday bikes. As for why he built it? Here is what Bryan has to say:
I built it more as an experiment to see how it would work than for any practical benefit. But after a few hundred miles on it I would say it does offer obviously a wider gear range than a normal 3 speed hub with one sprocket. And it's a wider gear range than would have been possible pre-1960 with a derailleur and single chainwheel, as those old derailleurs couldn't handle big tooth differences so typical derailleur systems then had maybe a 3 or 4 speed block with 2 tooth difference between gears. It also fills in the gaps between the 3 gears of a Sturmey hub so it's easier to find a cruising gear in a headwind.  
The shifting can be confusing to begin with, but once you get used to it, I find it quite intuitive to use and very easy. And to anyone who rides in an urban environment, it offers the additional advantage that even if you need to stop unexpectedly in top gear, you can still flick the Sturmey back into first to take off again.  
I would say the system works well although [for most types of bicycles] there are easier and cheaper options out there nowadays to give a wide gear ratio, so it's probably not worth the hassle unless you like to experiment.
But if you do like to experiment? Well, obviously it can be fun! As well as offering a solution for those who love internally geared hubs and derailleur gearing equally and do not want to choose.

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
In addition to the cool drivetrain, Bryan outfitted the Kalkhoff with a bottle generator and LED lights,

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
front

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
and rear,

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
a Deluxe brand leather saddle,

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
a rear rack and a large Carradice bag,

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
a decent size pump, kickstand, bell, toe straps,

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
a fancy hydration portage system of the handlebar mounted variety,

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
and, last, but not least, a bespoke hand-crafted, utra-lightweight mudflap!

Bryan's Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
These updates were made as Bryan found himself riding the bicycle more than expected; next he will probably update the tyres and rims (it's actually amazing they have held out this long!).

Kalkhoff Hub/ Derailleur Hybrid
For a discarded frankenbike, which was then frankenbiked some more, the overall result is pretty darn handsome. More pictures here. And many thanks to Bryan for the show and tell and for the explanation of his hybrid build!

45 comments:

  1. Much to the horror of my local bike shop, way back in the late 70's I converted my 10 speed Viscount to an upright comfortable commuter with this arrangement. The hub they managed to find for me also had a built in hub brake, absolutely perfect combination for winter rides. When it went into a bike shop for a replacement derailleur mechanism it was clear that they had never seen such an arrangement before!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I once heard a bicycle shop employee tell a customer that Brompton invented this drivetrain. I don't think many today are aware if its history, since so few bikes sport it now

      Delete
  2. Way back when I was so young, (1956 or so) I had almost the same setup. My bike was a Raleigh with a three speed Sturmey-Archer hub. The only difference was I had found a three cog set that was made for that hub. I rode that bike places that I could or would not ride today. Bikes have come a long way since youth (I am now 75), but they are also still the same. There are a lot of new bikes and components today but I still prefer the standard drivetrain and braking system of those times. Derailleurs and cog set gearing and rim brakes. The new cassettes, derailleurs and brakes are so nice today that I do not need to do a lot of maintenance to keep them up and running. There is so much history in our new stuff yet still the same.

    ReplyDelete
  3. When my wife and I ordered our Bike Friday tandem, we opted for the SRAM Dual Drive system; a 3-speed hub mated to an 8-speed cassette. SRAM has a special grip twist & thumb shifter just for this hub; the thumb shifter, located below the handlebar, controls the 3-speed hub, and naturally the grip shifter controls the derailleur. After a few hundred miles we still love the system, and haven't had any problems with it yet. The only drawback is that it forces you to use flat bars... Unless you want to get really imaginative, I suppose...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bryan sounds like a handy guy, the sort of person that can think his way out of situations others would have to spend their way out of.

    I've built 2 bikes this way, always as experiments and never on a bike that anyone would ever want to spend any time on, but now that you've gotten me thinking about it and I was unexpectedly gifted a nice 62cm Club Fuji frameset yesterday(Japanese made Lugged with Superlight Ishiwata tubing and an apparant crack in the downtube that turned out to be a cracked decal(Should I tell him?)) maybe it's time to build me a fancy one...

    Spindizzy

    Oh yeah, those dished Sturmey cogs can be converted to 3/32" in a minute or two if you can find a belt sander to use. That's how I did mine and I wasn't the first. Good luck finding a genuine Sturmy archer 22 tooth cog though.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Also back in the late 70's someone brought into the shop, for repair, a bike with a three speed hub and five speed rear cog. I was just starting in the shop and don't remember much about the bike, other than taking it for a spin…and I mean a spin! Really, there are a lot of DIY types who keep my humbled with their practical and cheap innovations. Yesterday at the grocery store a man blew me away with his combo of bike and trailer, all cobbled together from the dumpster. The trailer flatbed was made from an old, plastic, swimming pool ladder (light and strong) and the harness was sophisticated despite the rust, but most importantly was the twinkle in his eyes as he talked about the joy of riding his bike ('almost ten years without a car' he says) and his love of making things work. We turned out to be two sixty year old men standing outside a grocery store, enjoying each others bikes and stories. I like finding a member of my tribe ;) I don't have a camera phones or I would of taken a photo, but I'm actually glad, now, to just remember his warm handshake and smile….a rare bird who made my day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those times are special, to engage with a complete stranger in this way is so nice - recently I was locking my bike outside the art gallery and an older gentleman was in the process of unlocking his, we had the most pleasant conversation about bikes and their place in our lives :)

      Delete
  6. It seems to me it may be very difficult to do this with modern bikes because parts are so specialized. Nothing seems standard any more.

    Also, was just thinking about gender and bikes, especially these, as you call them, 'frankenbikes' and it occurs to me how often I see the dude doing this but have encountered very few women who embrace this activity, though I've met many who ride them. Hmm, I wonder if that'll ever change? Just pondering things over morning coffee and updates of the TDF…..

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very interesting bike and post. My second bike build, circa 1971, was a complete remake of an old Varsity. I ditched the outer ring, had a flea market AW laced into the rear wheel, and installed 18 and 16 AW cogs, the inner flipped, the outer tack welded to the driver -- these were AW cogs and 1/8" wide. I somehow discovered a NOS Cyclo "Benelux" rd in a local shop (this was in Nairobi, where anything except Indian bikes were almost impossible to find) and, with the 39 t inner ring the ratios were very handy, mostly, for my purpose, in breaking down the gaps between the AW ratios.

    I also repainted the frame using a "Flit" insect spray gun (either fluorocarbon driven spray paints weren't available there, or I didn't know enough to realize that they were available) and hand pinstriped the frame, adding a hand made brass headbadge. The bike proved very workable except that the heavy 1/8" chain tended to bump the stay; I cut a nice looking protector out of a "Kimbo" shortening can.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Cyclo Standard derailleur, introduced in 1924, was initially a two-speed derailleur for 1/8" chain. It would crisply shift a 14-28 freewheel. Yes, the original intention was to expand the range of a Sturmey. By the mid 1930s the Standard would shift a 5-speed freewheel on 3/32" chain. They are still in use. For those who can't find or afford a Nivex and who want very wide range gearing they are still an excellent choice. Parts availability is much better than what the S companies will allow.

    My own main bike shifts a 1950s Regina 14-26 5-speed freewheel with a 1951 Campagnolo Gran Sport derailleur. With a little persuasion I could get that gear to shift a 13-28 freewheel and exceed the range of the featured bike above. On a single chainring. The old Gran Sport shifts better than anything pre-Ergopower that I've come across.

    I can't get interested enough in old miscellaneous Huret derailleurs to look up a date for the one above. I do remember their first appearance. The original SunTour V and V-GT derailleurs started to sell in large numbers 1972-3. Shimano was making what they make and was on it's way to full spectrum dominance before that Huret appeared.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice! I have a 52 Rotrax and was wondering if I could mate a '52 SA hub with a 4 or 5 speed freewheel and Benelux rear derailleur.
      Do you think that could work? She mentions that pre-51 hubs had a screw-on for freewheels, but I feel like the cog on my '52 screws on too.

      Delete
    2. A Rotrax custodian asks this? I see problems ahead.

      The drivers are interchangeable. The hub is 63 years old. You will not find what's in there by reading the hubshell or by consulting 'feelings' or by asking me. Look at the hub.

      There is already a freewheel in the hub. If you add a second freewheel to the outside you will have to lock the ratcheting mechanism. Why waste a good historic freewheel? Thread a stack of fixed cogs on. Or find an original Cyclo cogset.

      Four cogs should fit though there are enough variables the only way to be sure is to try. Past three cogs it's unlikely you'll ever get the shift sequences committed to automatic memory. I've seen a fivespeed freewheel threaded to an AW, I recall the owner was doing backflips to keep it going.

      Delete
  9. I applaud any attempts to keep an old rig on the road, But honestly this one has me scratching my head!? It certainly seems as tough many of the "bits" on this bike (lights. Bag, etc.) are worth far more then the bike itself? This is well and good if the bike has some redeeming values or trait's, but this one seemingly is rather mundane; Interesting as a novelty or as a stop gap until something better can be sourced, but hardly worthy of his attempts to modernize it. (unless there is something I am missing? ) - masmojo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you are mystified it just means you lack the "Messing around with old bikes gene". I wouldn't feel bad, some of us who have it sometimes wish we didn't. As far as it being a stop-gap until he can find something "better", I suspect you'd have to have something special to get him to trade...

      Spindopey

      Delete
    2. Well, the components either belonged to the bike originally, or came from the stash which the owner has accumulated over the years - which means they are moveable. Safe to say, no serious coin was spent on the making of this bike.

      That said, the gentleman in question has a talent for harboring in his collection not only rare and interesting bicycles, but also bikes that look ordinary or even not worth bothering with at first glance, yet have some hidden magic in them. While the Kalkhoff frankenbike is too big for me to try myself, I suspect it of the latter.

      Delete
    3. Seems like describing 'worth' or 'value' or 'wealth' are always tricky and a bit subjective. As I mentioned above, the guy with his dumpster bike and makeshift trailer was very proud of his ride even though things often fell apart and he'd have to collect more replacement parts but he was game for it…it made him happy. The bike he had was an old Murray 3-speend frame and set-up from the 70's and he said he was using it because his 'better' bike had some broken parts and he needed to fix it, but he always enjoys Murray bikes b/c they're so simple and available. Great! Lovely! No bike snobs in his world…A joy to meet.

      Delete
    4. Is something only "worthy" if it carries a posh badge or costs a lot of money? Cost is not an indicator of quality and collectors would do well to remember that bikes like these are the true history as they are the ones that sold in large numbers to the general public.

      Kalkhoff is a long-established cycle manufacturer in a country renowned for engineering excellence. Like Raleigh, Peugeot, etc, they made perfectly decent usable bikes at all price points and are perfectly "worthy" to people who judge a bike on how it rides and not on how much it cost.

      Delete
    5. I think the fact that someone like Bryan who evidently knows a lot about bicycles, has a bunch of neat ones to choose from and probably could easily put together a "modern" bike, still rides this one and LIKES it, is further proof that even pretty basic bikes are frikken AWESOME devices and should be somehow exempted from our poisonous perception of only the newest and bestest being good enough...

      Spundazzled

      P.S. Did you notice how I used most of the words I know in that post and only ONE period? Hows that for frugal...

      Delete
    6. That is very impressive Spin!

      Got to say, I think taking this in the direction of money, worthiness, "posh" headbadges, etc., is kind of beside the point. We like what we like. For some folks it is high end, and for others it is bikes from the dumpster, and for others still it is somewhere in between - or why not both! Bicycles from all tiers can be cool, fascinating, and informative pieces of history.

      Delete
    7. YES, Money is beside the point, from either end of the spectrum and yes, I have a few vintage, even Derelict bikes and they serve their purpose (& no carbon fiber, titanium, poshy bikes). BUT, you won't often see me putting a bunch of fancy parts on them unless they are truly special, unless it was just to try something out and see how it is, knowing that It was a temporary fun thing and I knew I was going to change it or restore it or whatever.. . . . .
      It's all about motivation and aside from the unique shifting of this bike, I am not seeing it. Maybe it was just a topical response to the earlier Ebike blog!?
      If the bike has some other "magic" then indeed I would love to hear about that!!
      - masmojo

      Delete
    8. Hey massmojo

      Well it mostly is about the unique shifting! It's not often you see DIY exemplars of these things, so I thought it interesting.

      I am confused though re what expensive fancy parts you are seeing on this bike? The bag, pump and lock are probably the nicest things on it, and obviously those are easily moved from one bike to another (i.e. not specific to this machine). Bottle dynamo, lights & "Deluxe" saddle are all cheapo. Other parts came from donor bikes of a similar pedigree to this one.

      Delete
  10. I enjoy seeing these old and personalized bikes on the road, but more than that, it's always a joy to meet those who've created them. Often an interesting mix of people who have little money or choice and who have nurtured a discarded machine back to life or those who shun the modern and prefer inventing and tinkering their way to something quite unusual. Either way, they enjoy showing them off and sharing the history, and I enjoy listening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, if money is not a problem anyone can purchase a new, sleek, latest trend bike - but these personalised bikes are unique and really stand out in a crowd - they are so special.

      Delete
  11. Replies
    1. is how Ulster homies roll

      (when temps rise above 15°C)

      Delete
  12. I must add that Sturmey has a 3-speed hub right now that will take a standard 9 speed freewheel. I've toyed with the idea of getting one of my bikes set up that way. Spindizzy could, I suspect, do amazing things with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spindizzy couldn't do ANYTHING with it right now because his tools are spread out all over Hell and half of Georgia and if he starts one more project before he finishes putting up some gutters and painting the attic his lovely wife is going to slit his throat in his sleep...

      Mrs. Dizzy

      Delete
    2. Spin, you need to get Mrs. Dizzy a nice bicycle.

      Delete
  13. I just noticed the brake levers on this bike(Altenbeger I believe?). When I was a kid I found a set of these complete with the Syncron dual pivot calipers on a bike in the scrapyard(Ah, the scrapyard... a place where a 10 year old could go and shop for bikes and parts on a pile 30 feet tall while a cigar smoking old man running a crane equipped with a giant electro-magnet worked around us with merely an occasional "You stupid kids watch out!" as the only health and safety protocol and where Huffy's and Colnago's alike were 70 cents a pound(never found the Colnago though)). Anyway, I really liked the way the lever projecting out from the lever body made it look like a robot with an overbite. I even went so far as to draw eyes and buck teeth on them with a marker. Now THAT was classy.

    Spin

    ReplyDelete
  14. bianchi used to make a commuter bike set up like that. I think theirs was a 3 speed hub with a 5 gear cassette.

    ReplyDelete
  15. One more thing and then I PROMISE to bugger off...

    Your fiend Bryan, he's obviously named this Frankenbike "Boris Kalkhoff", hasn't he... Or did he go all Anorak and decide on William Henry Pratt? I personally think I would be unable to resist the urge to make a miniature vanity plate for this bike that reads "BORIS" and rivet it to the flap on that Carradice.

    But then I'm sort of a dope.

    Spn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Much to my dismay, he does not name his bicycles : (

      Delete
  16. I have to say, it was satisfying to see a nice greasy dirty bike hub on this site. Mine's always so dirty, and yours are always so clean. Even though the article makes clear it's not your hub, it made me feel better seeing it here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My hubs are clean? Jeez, I wonder which pictures you've been looking at! Fellow cyclists here cringe at the state of my bicycles. Except for the chain, which I like to be - you know, functional.

      Delete
  17. I have been enjoying the torrent of comments. Curiosity took me to Sturmey Archer site to see just what they made now and you just would not believe the choices, non of which ever seem to be seen on a UK bike...

    http://www.sturmey-archer.com/en/products/rear-hubs

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nice job with the gears, but that really is a godawful-looking bike.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. godawful-looking bikeJuly 8, 2015 at 4:55 AM

      As long as the ladies like it.

      Delete
  19. What he could have done was put 2 dished sturmey cogs back to back with no spacers run 1/8 chain and spaced the dérailleur cage for the 1/8 chain with washers. I have a Raleigh Lenton with the 3 cog Cyclo conversion kit that I bought at the "Limey Show", a swap meet put on in Somerville by Dan Field (pre- Internet era). I mated it to a Sturmey four speed FW hub just so I could say I had twelve speeds in the rear.

    To answer the one persons question as to whether or not their 50's hub had a threaded driver or not, simple answer just look at the hub it either has splines and a snap ring or a threaded driver. I would not go blindly by year as these drivers are interchangeable and were swapped out when threaded cogs were harder to find and for ease of changing gearing.

    I also have a Raleigh DL 1 that has a French 3spd freewheel on an early AW speed hub that has the threaded driver and Cyclo dérailleur. 2 things to note usually you have to re- space the hub with the conversion and the Cyclo dérailleur works in reverse from a modern dérailleur, meaning the spring tension is pushing it toward the hub away from the dropout. This takes getting used to, plus the guide pulley is not close to the cogs due to the design and shifts less than perfect.

    I think the advantage of the this set up is the ability to shift at a stop with the internally geared hub. For this reason I set up my mountain bike with the "modern" SRAM Dual Drive hub (3spd IGH with 9spd cassette) I often just use the IGH when riding it.
    I the project pipeline is a Sachs 3x7 hub that I salvaged from the parts bin at my friends shop don't know yet what bicycle its going on.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Depending on the mountain and terrain ridden I change the drivetrain on my DH sled around to make the most of the place while minimizing the amount of carnage tha can be had (had a bad summer where i ripped off multiple derailleurs and was constantly rebuilding the rear wheel...). It changes from a simple single speed to a "dingle speed" (2 speed) with a White Industries Dos Eno freewheel, 2x2 with 36/26 crankset and the Dos Eno freewheel or standard 2x9 drivetrain. All of the variations are controlled by Suntour XC Pro thumbies and ancient XT rear Derailleur. as they have proven themselves to be bombproof despite my "best" efforts.The pure single speed setup relies on a Yess Labs chain tensioner mounted where the RD would be to keep everything together and the chain on. Internally geared would be a great time saver but the cost of a disc capable Rohloff is a little off putting at around $1500.

    The road bike is pretty sedate with a standard 3x9 and early Ultegra STI shifters although the rear hub does take an 8mm allen key to remove (huzzahs for a forced upgrade to Chris King Fun Bolts). The mountain bike is also sedate as a 1x10 (with a thumbie of course) but with horizontal drops in case it has to be rigged as a single speed mid ride.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Interesting but impractical.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is the same set up that I have on my bike that I built in the early '80's. It works great. I can shift when stopped. Make a larger step change with the S-A Shifter, and make a smaller change with eth derailleur shifter. Before index shifting this was a way to have positive shifting without having to fine adjust like with a multi cog freewheel and derailleur set up.

    With two positions on the derailleur and three on the S-A hub selecting gears is easy. Only a simple derailleur with a small take up is needed. I used a sun tour lower model. I don't remember which. As you can see above, a simple derailleur works fine.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I like the look of the bike. It is a that gets used, not a beauty queen. Maybe it can even be considered a Rat Rod bike.

    I really am envious of the nice leather saddle. I haven't seen that brand here. It seems to be that we can get Brooks or a seat with a plastic base. I like Brooks saddles, I am not fond of the price.

    ReplyDelete