What Is a Hub Gear?

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What Is a Hub Gear?

Bicycles have been in use all over the world for over a century and as technology has evolved, bicycles have changed to meet new demands. Putting gears on a bicycle allows a cyclist to choose the right gear for the terrain and level of exertion. Gears on bicycle have opened up the world’s toughest terrains and allowed cyclists to cycle in locations never thought possible for a bicycle. Understanding a hub gear is not a complex matter, and selecting the right one is possible with this guide.

What is The Purpose of a Hub Gear?

A hub gear is a gear system for changing gears on a bike. It is enclosed in the centre of the rear wheel of the bicycle. Gear hubs have been used on bicycles all over the world, starting with extensive use in the 1930’s. The earliest gear hub in use was the Sturmey-Archer 3 speed gear hub.

More serious cyclists didn’t begin to use gear hubs until higher gears could be developed and allow smoother, more subtle gear changes. Gear ratio in cycling refers to the number of teeth in the gear, and the output is calculated by turns, this becomes more complicated the number of gears that are added. To put simply the higher the gear ratio, the less effort is required of the rider to go up a steep slope. The lower a gear ratio the more effort required to cycle.

Derailleur gears are the opposite of a hub gear, the sprockets are exposed, and it is easy to count the number of different gears available by counting the sprockets. Derailleur gears are generally cheaper than hub gear systems, but due to the constant exposure some parts may need replacing over time. It is argued that derailleur gear systems are the preferred choice for experienced cyclists due to a wide choice of ratios and with that more conversation of energy levels when tackling steep terrain.

The purpose of a gear hub is to remove any problems with chains locking on outside gears and offer more choice in gear change for cyclists. Hub gears are operated at the handle bars by the cyclist using their thumb, or twisting a piece of the handle bar.

Gear hubs have many advantages in its design:

Clothes won’t get caught in any chains because the gear hub is based in the rear wheel. The chain will last longer as it will not wear constantly between each gear change. It will need less cleaning and little lubrication adding over time. It is easier to clean the bike without having to account for the chain.

The hub gear can be used for smaller bicycles so children’s bicycles can have higher gear changes. The pedals as a result are also closer to the centreline which provides more balance for the bicycle.

The gear is simple to change and can be changed when stationary with no need to lift the bike and move the pedals to move the chain to the correct gear. The latest deigns of the hub gear mean more gears can be fitted without compromising weight or efficiently. There is also no risk of the chain coming off the chain ring.

Disadvantages to a gear hub:

Gear hubs are part of the wheel so if the wheel needs changing so does the hub gear.

Hub gears are more complex and therefore difficult to change by the cyclist, especially at the roadside.

Whilst the hub gear is lighter than traditional gears, the weight is focused at the back of the wheel which may affect performance of the bicycle.

The Types of Bicycles a Hub Gear is used for

Hub gears are ideal for modern folding bicycles used by commuters in busy cities such as London. Oversized chainings would not be suitable for such a small bike, but the use of hub gear has increased the popularity of folding bicycles in recent years. Due to the history of hub gears many retro bicycles are being renovated, and finding a vintage hub gear is possible now with eBay. Historical bicycles and hub gears are popular items to restore and collect.

Customising and Buying Spares

There is no need to purchase a new hub gear if a part is faulty. Repair kits can be purchased with different parts, such as the inner and outer cable and various hub pieces. These can be found on eBay by searching ‘Hub Gear Cable Set’ under ‘Cycling.’

Shifters come in a few types and depending on the personal preference of the cyclist, a particular type of shifter might not be suitable for their needs. Shifters can be bought if the current shifter on the bicycle is not performing to a satisfactory rate.  Search for ‘hub gear shifters’ to view a wide range of shifters. Ask the seller for advice on how to fit one and which type is suitable for the cyclist.

Fitting kits are available with contain the parts needed to fit the sprocket to the gear hub, then the gear hub to the wheel. It is advised then for a beginner to start adapting a bicycle is best to get professional advice on how best to proceed, and watch online tutorials before attempting any work. Gear hubs come with specific brands, and it is difficult to mix them due to differences in parts and dimensions.

It is possible to change a bicycle with derailleur gears to a hub gears but the cost would be great compared to buying a new bicycle with hub gears already installed.

Storing a Bike with a Hub Gear and Care Advice

A hub gear bike will be need storing and securing carefully as any other bicycle. Hug gear bicycles are valuable due to the expense of the parts, and it is advised to store a bicycle in a lockable building at night time. It is important the room is dry as dampness can cause rust on the bike over a long period of time. Washing the bicycle after muddy activities is important as well. Never use a pressure washer as this could damage the paintwork.

Hub gears require very little maintenance and will rarely need lubricating because the lubricant is sealed inside the with the gears. On the occasion when the oil may need changing, some eBay sellers do stock the correct oil. It is vital that the branded oil is used as this may cause some damage to the gears due to the difference of the oils. To search for an oil, select the brand of the hub gear e.g ‘Shimano Alfine Hub Gear Oil’ and this will bring up specific listings. The packing must be sealed with the brand’s name on the packaging to ensure the correct oil is purchased. Most will come with instructions on how to change the oil in the hub gear.

Finding a Hub Gear on eBay

Search ‘Hub gear’ under ‘Cycling’ on eBay’s home portal to start viewing the range of hub gears available. Many hub gears come at pieces of a kit to fit to the wheel. This is an affordable option to upgrade a current bike, it saves the need to buy an entirely new bicycle. With help in selecting the right hub gear for the intended use there are subtype categories which will help narrow down the search.

The first step is to select which bicycle the hub gear is intended for. The following are available:

  • BMX
  • Cruiser/Lowlander
  • Town Bike
  • Tandem
  • Hybrid.

The use of the bicycle is important as selecting the wrong hub gear could greatly affect the performance of the bicycle. Also consider the range of gears needed, depending on the intended activity. More gears does not necessarily mean it is suitable for cycling in a city compared to cycling in rough terrain.

There are several well-known brands of hub gears on eBay:

Browse the different brands available on the internet and research reviews. The variety of hub gears for city cycling and adverse terrain may appear overwhelming but the subtype filters aid in looking. Hub gears can be bought from most locations in the world, but for a beginner cyclist it is advisable to buy from a recommend seller on eBay.

There are many sellers who specialise in cycle accessories and parts such as hub gears. These sellers are popular for their returns policy and speed of delivery. The sellers will also be able to answer any queries the buyer may have about certain hub gears.

Hub gear wheels can be bought on eBay but there is a smaller range of new ones rather than used ones. Installing a new hub gear on a new wheel would require some help and work but for the serious cyclist adapting their bicycles is all part of the enjoyment of the sport.


With the purchase of the correct hub gear, anyone can enjoy a new sensation in cycling. From commuters who wish for reliable bicycles, to those who wish to enjoy the tough terrain that will push their cycling to the limits. Hub gears have previously fallen out of use, but now with new technology fuelling design, hub gears are ever evolving with different gear ratios and uses.

The lack of maintenance makes for a worry free day out cycling, ensuring the cyclist will never have to deal with putting a chain back on the sprockets. The flexibility of the hub gear is why it makes a great cycling product, and now one can be selected with confidence.

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