Friday, 27 May 2011

Hubs versus Derailleurs, an unsound judgement.


I have been pondering the views of an individual who I might dare to call an acquaintance (for he is certainly not a friend) and who is considered by some females of my acquaintance as being a rather fine example of the modern man.

I think that in some circles his type are referred to as "metro-sexual" whatever the devil that means. Amusingly when I first heard the term I was rather under the impression that a Metro Sexual was a man who exposed himself to women on the tube... you know the type... raincoat?.... fiddling with his bits?... leering?

Anyhow this acquaintance seems to see no harm in talking about his feelings endlessly...dons "cleanser" every night and talks endless rot about "relationships". I shouldn't wonder if he could barely bring himself to kiss a woman, let alone perform any other exchange of bodily fluids as he seems an inveterate hypochondriac. However, he considers himself to be a REAL cyclist, is certainly a fit bugger, and cycles wearing normal clothing even if he does ride a dutch gals bike.

However..... I digress,.....said chap was discussing the benefits of derailleur gearing over hub gears and encouraging me to ditch the old hub and go for a derailleur. Our discussions went something like this..... 

GC.....Hub plus points; less wear, less maintenance, easier to keep clean, gear changing when stationary (a very BIG plus in my book), chain runs in line so wears less, thicker stronger chain is......well.... stronger, chain-guard keeps clothing clean.

M-S....Hub negatives; heavier, slower gear changing, power stops while changing gear, gear ratios cannot be changed, limit to number of gears, lower efficiency in power train energy transfer, repairs can be expensive. 

M-S....Derailleur plus points; lighter, faster changes with less loss of pedal power, gear ratios can be changed, more gears, higher efficiency of power transfer, repairs are cheap. 

GC.....Derailleur negatives; needs regular adjustment, needs more lubrication/attention, gets dirty, difficult to clean, chain weaker and often runs out of line so wears more, exposure to physical damage, chain-guard not really viable.

I also rather unwisely pontificated that Hub gears were rather more "old worldly" and traditional than the derailleur ....he demurred.....and I have to grant him the fact that as far as biking gears are concerned he was right.....there really is not a lot in it. 

Fixed wheels were the norm until experiments with hubs started in the 1880's, but it was not until the turn of the century that things really got off the ground. In 1903 Frank Bowden, head of the Raleigh cycle company, formed "The Three-Speed Gear Syndicate", having obtained the rights from two separate inventors of hub gears. That same year the first Sturmey Archer 3-speed was born, by 1909 there were 14 different 3-speed hub gears on the British market, and by the 1930's hub gears were used on bicycles all over the world.

However, at almost exactly the same time others were looking to a different method of gear change, and the derailleur became a practical option around 1905, although it was not until 1928, when the "Super Champion Gear" began to be sold, that the derailleur really started to capture the imagination of the public and become a truly viable option.

So...there you have it.....my snobbish preference for the presumed "old world" hub gear over the new fangled derailleur gear was stuff of nonsense. Not the only shock administered to yours truly recently....for returning home the other night I happened, somewhat ironically, on said "Metro-Sexual" acquaintance going hammer and tongues at the rear of a young female who had assumed an inviting position bent over the cycle rack of a derailleur equipped bicycle! Obviously there is more to this Metro-Sexual lark than I imagined!

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