Sturmey Archer S3X review

Sturmey Archer S3X 2010
Cycling Weekly Verdict

So, what we would like to see is the price come down, the ratios closer together and direct drive drop down to second, or the fixionados may not play. 12t-18t sprockets available Over-locknut dimensions: 130mm or 120mm

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Gears for your, er, fixed bike

  • +

    Easy to set up

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Heavy

  • -

    Big jumps between ratios

  • -

    Feels like a slack chain

  • -

    Pricey

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Sturmey caused a, um, stir when it last year launched its three-speed fixed hub after years of anticipation, during which time the fixed scene has gone supernova. Will it appeal to the multitudes of fans of the cog, or is three speeds two too many?

The S3X fits easily with a few zip-ties to secure a run of cable up to a bar-end-mounted shifter. Or if your fixed bike is a road conversion, the cable stops will already be there. So far there's only the bar-end shifter, but apparently down tube and flat-bar shifters are in the pipeline.

Ratios are: first to second gear a step of 20 per cent, and second to third a 33 per cent increase. Third gear is direct drive. Yes, they're big jumps.

The first thing you can't help noticing about the S3X is its price - £249.95 for hub and fittings. The standard Sturmey-Archer AW, a three-speed freewheel hub, costs about £55.

The second thing you can't help noticing is the S3X's weight. Even though the hub shell is aluminium, it weighs 1,026g.

If you enjoyed riding a minimal, lightweight fixed bike, it's goodbye to all that.

The third thing you notice is that there's play in the hub that feels like a very slack chain. To change gear, you have to shift in the middle of that play, while you're not actually putting any force through the pedals. But as you can't stop pedalling because you're on fixed, it's a bit of a trick. And now, because of this play, it doesn't really feel like riding fixed any more.

As top gear is direct drive, that's the one you ideally need to be in to avoid slight, but still noticeable, hub drag. Which means for a 72in top gear, second gear is 54in and first, a twiddling, silly 45in - but it has become a pointless exercise because now you're getting dropped on the downhills again, even if you can go up very steep hills.

Unless... unless Sturmey could make second gear direct drive, as with its AW. Then you could have 72in as your direct-drive regular gear, top would be 95.7in, for downhills when hub drag is not so important, and bottom 60in.

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