How to Buy a Hub Gear for your Bike

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How to Buy a Hub Gear for your Bike

This eBay guide will explain the basics of hub gears as well as giving readers information on how they can find and purchase a top quality hub gear for their bicycle using this site.

What is a Hub Gear?

A hub gear is a mechanism that is commonly used on bikes that incorporate planetary or epicyclic gears and serves the purpose of actually switching the bike between different gear ratios. The gear hub was invented in the 1880’s, but it wasn’t until almost 20 years after this that they began to be used in the production of bikes, the first company to do so were based in Salford; they released their three speed, gear hub bicycle in 1898.

Bicycles fitted with hub gears did not catch on until the 1930’s, at which point they became incredibly popular across the whole of Europe, with Britain, the Netherlands and Germany becoming the nations whose cyclists favoured the hub gear the most. Whilst back then most of the gears available were only three or five speed, today most companies who produced hub gears will offer models that have fourteen or fifteen speeds.

There are a variety of different hub gears that are available on the market currently and the best model for the job is often based on the kind of bike that the cyclist is planning on fitting the hub to, for example, a three speed gear hub would be ideal for a folding bicycle, whereas a rider may want to look at a seven or eight speed hub if they were planning on installing it on a mountain bike.

The gear itself is constructed of a number of different sized cogs, which will operate either independently or with one another depending on which gear the cyclist has selected. A low gear will only move the largest, outer cog that all the other cogs are situated within. As a rider shifts up the gears, they are actually moving smaller and smaller cogs as they pedal, the amount of kinetic energy which is generated by these cogs moving is what drives the bike forwards.

Hub gears are usually operated by the user in one of two ways with a twist shifter or with a thumb trigger. Most experienced cyclists are likely to be familiar with both of these methods of changing gear. The thumb trigger and twist shifter methods are both operated with controls situated on the handlebars, to give the rider easy access without them having to take their attention away from the road or track in front of them.

The most common alternative option to hub gears are dérailleur gears. In dérailleur gear setups, the gears are also situated on the back wheel, however the gears themselves are larger and are more often than not left without any kind of casing to protect them. Dérailleur gear systems are generally thought to be less expensive than hub gears and this is often the reason that a cyclist may choose them over a hub gear set-up.

The Advantages of Hub Gears

Hub gear systems have a number of distinct advantages over the other gear setups that are often used on bicycles, below is a small list that examines these strengths and explains the practical advantages that a cyclist receives when the choose to install a hub gear system on their bike:

One of the most noticeable advantages that hub gears hold over other gear systems is the fact that all their workings are contained within a protective casing. This protects all of the bike’s gear cogs from the elements, meaning that there is not chance that vital parts could go rusty, must like what often happens to bikes with dérailleur gears.

Hub gears are the perfect solution for commuters or cyclists who spend most of their riding time around cities or towns. The reason for this is that a rider can shift up or down through the gears on their bike smoothly even when the bike itself is completely stationary. This is something that cannot be done on bikes with other gear setups and makes hub gears perfect for the stop and start riding that commuting to work often entails.

Surprisingly, not only are hub gears perfect for the smooth concrete streets of the inner city, but they also serve a good purpose when fitted to mountain bikes that tackle tough, hilly terrain. This is again because the bike is capable of changing gears at a standstill or whilst the rider is not pedalling.

Hub gears are a popular choice for inexperienced riders as they contain no visible moving parts on which clothes can become unintentionally snagged or any overlapping gear systems on which the chain can become either caught or dethatched, as well as a number of other accidents that can be caused by the presence of exposed gears.

The clean and compact nature of hub gears actually serves to reinforce the structure of the wheel itself, making for a safer more secure bike as a result. Many riders who make the change to a hub gear will notice that a hub gear set-up. makes the back of their bike much more lightweight and manoeuvrable than it would be if fitted with dérailleur gears.

Tips for Setting up a Bike with a Hub Gear System

If a cyclist decides that a hub gear set-up. will suit their riding style and that they wish to begin the process of fitting a hub gear to their existing bike, there a number of measures that they must take before actually purchasing a hub gear to ensure that when their new gear system arrives, there will not be any issues during the installation process which will result in their bike being put out of action for a long period of time.

How Long is the Bike’s Rear Axle?

This is extremely important when looking a fitting a hub gear to an existing bike. Carefully measure the width of the bike’s rear axle as well as taking care to research the dimensions of any hub gear that looks as if it could become a potential purchase. The reason this is so important is because the hub gear sits on the rear axle of the bike, so if the hub gear is wider than the axle, it simply isn’t going to fit.

How Wide is the Rear Fork?

This is incredibly important for the same reasons that it’s important to check the measurements of the rear axle, if a cyclist mistakenly buys a hub gear that is wider than the rear fork of their bike, it is physically impossible to fit the gear system to the bike successfully. Any measurements like this should be taken extensively and accurately to ensure that buyers do not waste their money on bike parts that simply do not fit their bicycle.

Does the Chain Need a Tensioner?

If a cyclist is switching from a dérailleur gear set-up. to a hub gear set-up, the chances are that they will need to add tension to the chain of their bike to make up for the slack caused by installing a gear system that requires a small length of chain to operate. A cyclist can fix this problem with a tool called a chain tensioner. This is a piece of equipment that can be fitted to a bike that has too much slack in its chain to operate. A good chain tensioner is a relatively inexpensive investment and will keep any bike in perfect working order after a change in gear system.

Tips for Buying Hub Gears on eBay

Buyers should be sure to follow the useful tips listed below if they want to ensure they buy the perfect hub gear system to suit their needs whilst shopping on eBay:

  • As stated in the section above, always be sure to take accurate measurements of the existing bike that is going to receive a gear change to avoid disappointment once the new hub gear arrives.
  • Remember to take advantage of eBay’s intuitive search filters, to rule unsuitable hub gears out of the search but selecting terms such as price and condition from the menu on the left hand side of the screen.
  • Why not also find a hub gear fitting kit using eBay. There are usually a fair amount of listings for these kits on the site and they are usually reasonably inexpensive, having the correct tools can save plenty of time when installing hub gears on a bicycle.


There is a good chance that any cyclist who has ever owned a road, mountain or town bike has at one stage or another come into contact with a hub gear style gear set up on a bike. Hub gears are considered by many riders to be the cleanest, safest and most efficient type of gear that can be fitted to a bicycle and as a result they have become and extremely popular choice for any bike owners who are looking to upgrade the gear system that is currently fitted to their bike.

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