Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Strumey Archer Hub. At Last.

Needless to say I have had the hub in place for quite some time. For those who remain interested, here are my thoughts.

It is a two-speed, kickback hub. It looks like a single-speed but isn't.  You need either horizontal drops, or a chain tensioner. I am fortunate that the Pake has drops that work as I do not prefer the look of a tensioner.

The Pake allows flexibility for either geared or single-speed. Great frame - I think I need to get one of these for my daughter. It's a lot like a Surly Crosscheck but for about half the price.

You can see the chain drooping a little in this picture. I'll be removing a link and resetting the wheel accordingly. Means I need to realign the brakes as well but that's the "price" I pay for having a fixed hub.    

This is my overall primary function as a cyclist.  My commute is 17km each way, year round. There are no hills between my home and office, and I prefer a simple, if not minimalist look to my bicycle.  Therefore this hub really fits the bill.
I appreciate that there are no cogs to deep-clean on those oft messy days (especially in the winter).
The gear ratio is perfect for my purposes, although when there is less overall environmental resistance in the summer months (less wind, no slush) I do wish I had a higher gear to use. Note too that I replaced the cog it came with for a smaller one (32 tooth chainring and a 20 tooth cog).
The fixie look is pretty hot right now so I can fit into that crowd if I want to (even though I am cheating with two speeds)!
I have found "chain stretch" to be a new issue (for me).  I sometimes drop my chain and its not always a quick fix without a derailleur.

There are other posts and videos that mention the sound of the hub, that is, you can hear what gear you are in.  While this is true, I have found that when commuting I wouldn't count on being able to hear anything over the wind in your ears of the traffic.  It's worth mentioning because when you are heading down a slight slope with some speed it's difficult to determine whether you in in your higher or lower gear. More on that in a bit.

I actually took this through the Paris-to-Ancaster race in late April.  The hub is not designed for off-road, gravel-grinding but I felt it actually performed well.
Again, I received lots of "wow, he's doing the race single-speed," which is nice, but we're all whizzing by too fast to try and correct the bystander who is trying to compliment my effort!
The hub dealt well with mud and other kinds of junk that sunk my wheels well past it. 
Given that there were lots of hills in the race, I found that the ratio (same as mentioned above) was just about perfect.
I don't think I did any damage to the hub but I guess time will tell. It's possible that all kinds of things got in there and since I don't have the expertise to open it and clean it I guess I'll take a wait and see attitude. I figure if something in there is grinding away at the mechanism it'll make itself known. Otherwise, so far so good three months later.

Hills & Shifting.
You shift from one gear to the other by giving a slight backpeddle.  It works predictably about 60% of the time, depending upon a few things.  If you are peddling under load (read: hills) then be cautious. The least thing you'd need to worry about is losing momentum on a hill if it won't shift, but the worst thing would be to actually fall over while climbing. Note that I do climb some very steep and long hills almost every weekend as a part of my weekly countryside tour - but I really appreciate the workout the two gears give me (don't expect to keep up with friends though).
Going down a hill has its own consequences too.  If you cannot shift higher as your speed increases be ready for some mighty fine spinning!
Even if you are not peddling under load don't always trust the timing of the internal mechanism (could this actually be damage from my off-road racing?).  It may not shift "just when you want it to." That makes it awfully awkward at stop lights and in traffic or when there is another cyclist right behind you.  Needing to backpeddle several times to get the gear isn't always convenient but will eventually work.
Finally, yes, it does ghost shift.  It is ironic that sometimes it won't shift when you want and it does shift when you don't want it to.  Sometimes (actually often during my commute) it is a very, very subtle backpeddle that changes the gear. When I come to a stop I can almost always be assured that once I start peddling again it will be in the "other" gear.  This could be a big issue for some, but it really isn't for me because I've learned to anticipate this, and as I have said, my commute is pretty flat (so I'm not usually in any danger because of the wrong start-up gear).

If you are in my category - long commute, all season, not hilly, minimalist, utilitarian -  then this hub is a great pick. It's no heavier than a regular, geared set-up in the end, and looks really clean and slick.

You'll learn to deal with its quirks and you'll have equipment that not likely anyone else in your crowd has.

Hope to post again before several months pass. Please leave your comments and questions.