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Friday, 27 May 2011

Saving a Shimano “333” 3-speed hub

Before the Nexus and Alfine internal hub geras, Shimano hub gears were not regarded as well as those made by Sturmey Archer. Shimano’s answer to the AW hub was the 333 hub. The hub was generally less well liked than its main rival due to the fact is was not able to match its extreme durability. Because of their lower durability, there are fewer of these hubs around nowadays and spares are much less widely available for this hub.

A few weeks ago I purchased a Universal folding bike which was built on the other side of the iron curtain many years ago. It came with a 333 hub and a seized gear cable. Like the modern Nexus INTER-3 hubs, the 333 hub shifts via a bell-crank mechanism which transforms cable pull into a pushing action on a rod which sits inside the axle, changing the gears. Unlike the modern Nexus 3 speed hub (but in common with the AW), when cable tension is relieved, the hub defaults to 3rd gear. The seized cable terminated in a barrel adjuster, much like the one found on a Sturmey AW gear cable. Unlike the AW hub, the cables are no longer widely available and the barrel is of a different diameter.

The 333 shifter contains a ball bearing on the underside of the lever plate. This ball bearing is what holds the cable in place, at each gear position, and it will fall out when you disassemble the shifter.


The underside of the lever plate, with the ball bearing sat in its socket

Fortunately, at the shifter end the cable terminates in a cylinder which runs perpendicular to the cable, and it is of similar dimensions to the one used with the modern plastic Sturmey Archer gear shifters.


The lower portion of the trigger shifter housing, with the lever plate installed and the cable being fed in



The cylinder at the end of the cable sits in the hole in the lever plate, and a white plastic piece sits on top of the cable and lever plate. The cable is then pulled tight to allow the top part of the shifter housing to be re-attached.


The re-assembled shifter

At the other end, the barrel adjuster from the old cable was cut off and attached to the end of the new Sturmey Archer cable using a cable pinch bolt from a caliper brake:


Old cable meets new cable via a cable pinch bolt

The barrel adjuster was then used to align the gears up with the shifter:




The bell crank showing gears 1,2 & 3 from top to bottom. I believe the circular hole to the left of the hinge pin on the bell crank is supposed to allow a mark on the moving piece to be seen when in second gear, but has corroded away on this hub.

Hopefully this work-around will help other people out there trying to salvage an old 333 hub. Despite their reputation, having taken the bike out for a spin the gears seemed perfectly acceptable, smooth shifting and similar in range to the AW.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Segregation Myths #1

There are a few common canards used to attempt to discredit anyone who dares to talk about going Dutch with respect to cycling infrastructure here in the UK, including:

1) We'll never get segregation on every street.
2) There isn't room on British streets for separate cycle facilities.
3) People need somewhere to park their cars.

1) We'll never get segregation on every street

In The Netherlands (and Denmark for that matter) they don't even come close to having separate facilities for cyclists on every street. Instead they have specific guidelines for how much separation is required in a given location (Separation Principles) based on factors including the importance of said route as a main commuting route for cyclists, the volume of motorised traffic on said route and the speed of motorised traffic on said route. The degree of separation increases with all of these factors, from zero segregation on a quiet service road up to wide separated cycle lanes all red traffic signal phases at functions to allow cyclists and pedestrians to turn in whichever direction they wish at junctions, or roundabouts with radial exits and legal priority for cycle traffic.

An advantage of this type of infrastructure is its calming effect on motor traffic, due to the reduction in motor traffic capacity. This has obvious benefits for pedestrians without bringing cyclists and motorists into conflict in the way that conventional lane narrowing does, as it is usually implemented without any serious consideration for the needs of cyclists.

2) There isn't room on British streets for separate cycle facilities.

Now that we have addressed the myth that Dutch-style infrastructure means putting a separate cycle lane on every street, we have gone a long way to addressing canard number two. The roads which most unattractive and unsafe for cyclists at present are the very same roads which have require the very highest level of separation of cycle and motor traffic under the rules of the Separation Principles. These roads are the widest and fastest roads we have, roads which are easily capable of accommodating Dutch-quality separate infrastructure for cyclists. In Manchester, good examples of roads matching this description include Upper Brook Street (A34), Oxford Road (B5117), Princess Road (A5103), Chester Road (A56) & Regent Road (A57), to name a few. Reducing the speed and volume of motor traffic reducing road capacity on these streets has wide-ranging benefits to pedestrians and the local community in which these roads are situated.

Unlike current approaches to tackling motor traffic speed and congestion through road capacity reduction and lane narrowing, using the space taken away from motor traffic to build Dutch-quality infrastructure does not necessitate bringing cyclists and motor traffic into conflict and so enhances the attractiveness and convenience of cycling rather than further diminishing it.

3) People need somewhere to park their cars.

Ignoring for now the obvious oddity that is the widely accepted phenomenon that is the routine storing of personal property on the public highway, in addressing canard number two, we have gone a long way to tackling this one too. The streets I named are generally of the kind which have either blanket parking bans, or at least have peak-hours parking bans along most of their length. The biggest roads are the roads where parking is already prohibited all the time, and where it is not prohibited all the time, it definitely should be (I'm looking at you, Upper Brook Street).

Even if implementing Dutch-style infrastructure did mean displacing some established car parking, I don't see why this should be regarded as a problem. It is a very depressing prospect that the safety of vulnerable road users be regarded as a lower priority than the publicly-subsidised storage of personal property on the public highway. Streets are primarily intended for people and movement, not storage.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Cycling: Lessons from Recycling

When I was at school in the 1990s I remember there was a lot being said about recycling, how it was important and how we should all make an effort to recycle our glass, paper and cans (there was little mention of recycling plastic at that stage). I distinctly remember that one month we were all encouraged to bring all of our family's empty tins and cans into school, sorting them into separate steel and aluminium bins by testing them with a magnet. At the end of the month the bins were taken away, I remember being enthusiastic and wanting to continue recycling the cans but the only place to recycle them was through large bins at the supermarket car park, or at the borough tip. At the time we didn't even have wheelie bins, we had several metal bins at the back of the house which were emptied by the bin men every week. There was no separate collection for different types of waste, the whole waste collection infrastructure was designed around the need to move all domestic waste to either landfill or incineration.

Recycling in the 1990s was possible, but it required individuals to think about their domestic waste and make the conscious effort to elect to take their waste to centralised recycling facilities. The more destructive option of not recycling waste which could have been recycled was the convenient and easy choice because it didn't involve individuals to elect to change their behaviour. Most people didn't particularly care about the issue of recycling and thought nothing of throwing all their domestic waste out in the same bin. Less than twenty years in 2011, almost everyone recycles the majority of their recyclable domestic waste.

Image courtesy of MEN

In 2011, do the majority of people care about the issue of recycling? The answer is still a resounding "No." People recycle because it in 2011 it is easy and convenient for them to do so, so it is the natural choice. Rather than continuing to promote elective behavioural change to increase recycling rates, councils have changes the waste collection infrastructure to make recycling the natural and convenient option. Separate bin facilities are provided for different sorts of waste, often different categories of recyclable waste in addition to a general waste bin for non-recyclable material. For those choosing not to separate waste so it can be recycled, life is made inconvenient by a reduction in general waste capacity through reducing the frequency of general waste collections. Overall capacity is maintained or improved through additional collections for recyclable waste, making recycling a convenient and attractive option. Mass recycling was brought about not through elective behaviour change but through subtle coercion; changes in the waste collection infrastructure were made so that recycling became attractive and convenient, whilst not recycling became a less attractive and less viable option.

Those who wanted to promote recycling realised early on that an approach based mainly on elective behavioural change was inherently limited in its ability to deliver significant gains in recycling rates. Elective cycle training, "Be nice," and "Mutual respect," campaigns directed at both motorists and cyclists, and things like Bike Week are all similarly limited. A few weeks after the end of "Can collection month," I had a bag of cans I wanted to recycle, but because the waste collection infrastructure was based around not recycling, and I was too young to take them to the recycling centre myself, I ended up throwing them into the bin and I forgot about the issues and importance of recycling. In 2011, at the end of Bike Week, there will be the same realisation and people will get back into their cars and forget about cycling for another year, because approaches based extensively on conscious, elective behavioural change are inherently very limited in their ability to bring about significant long-term results.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Bicycle Work Digest

It has been a while since my last post, mainly due to all of my free time being used up with doing bike-related things, leaving me without the time to write about them.


I noticed that in addition to the noise from my folding pedal (which I can live with based on the cost of a replacement), There was some noise coming from the bottom bracket. The Brompton uses a FAG-type cartridge bottom bracket, and the replacement part is relatively expensive. I decided to opt for a cheaper generic bottom bracket cartridge with Shimano-style splined cups.

The standard Brompton bottom bracket, with soft plastic cups

I initially expected that I’d be able to remove the old bottom bracket with a hammer and punch because I didn’t have to worry about damaging it. However, I discovered that the cups on the original bottom bracket are made of a fairly soft resin which simply splits when approached this way. I eventually bought the proper tool and the bottom bracket co-operated with the removal process after that. The bike is quieter now, but there is still a fair bit of noise from the (non user-serviceable) folding pedal.


The new bottom bracket cartridge, sitting in the bike.

In other Brompton news, lovely girlfriend has managed to get hold of a 2000 model L5 (equivalent to an “M5L” in the modern nomenclature). This model comes with the Sturmey Archer 5 speed Sprinter hub, which offers a good gear range with a price, it requires particularly perfect indicator rod adjustment to get all of the gears to work at the same time. I believe that the right-hand cone needs adjusting slightly, as I am only able to consistently get gears 1,3,4,5 or gears 2,3,4,5 to work at the same time.

The L5 also needed a new front brake cable, indicator rod and rear mudflap, which have all since been fitted and the bike is currently working very well. The Marathon Plus tyres it has make the bike feel noticeably smoother and faster than my Brompton, and the wider gears range is pleasant too. Hopefully Brompton will see sense and start speccing the X-RF8 hub as an option in the near future. It also came with the special Brompton version of the Brooks B17 saddle, a luggage block and an older version of the Touring Pannier (now T-bag) from back when they were made by Carradice.


After fitting the anti-rotation washers to the back wheel last week, I rotated the reaction arm slightly to compensate for the re-positioning of the axle in the frame. In the process of doing this, I inadvertently over-tightened the left-hand cone making the ride feel “draggy.” Thankfully this was an easy fix once the wheel was out thanks to the two grooves on the “washer” which locks into the cone on the other side of the drum brake. This allowed me to adjust the brake position and re-tighten the locknut without it tightening the cone at the same time.

Xrd3 axle

Taken from the X-RD3 manual, the special washer (31) which sits between the cone (not shown) and locknut (29) is highlighted in red.

because this job was non-urgent, I put it off for quite a while. Now the bike is back to normal I really appreciate just how wonderful it is to ride.

Kona Africa Bike:

After giving this bike to lovely girlfriend, she never really felt safe in start-stop traffic because of the coaster brake preventing her being able to rotate the pedals into an ideal position to set off. In the end, we decided that replacing the 3 speed Nexus hub with a roller-brake version would be best. I disassembled the wheel and intended to use the old spokes with the new hub, only to find out the flange diameter of the new hub was slightly bigger and the old spokes were too long. After ordering some new spokes which were a few mm shorter, I built the wheel up without too much trouble (no severe dishing required as with derailleur gears).


The new wheel, before the cable had been installed. Note the brake arm with the hold for the cable clamp to sit in.

The roller brake idea is particularly good, unlike Sturmey’s drum brakes, the roller brake is a completely separate module which sits on some splines on the left hand side of the hub. If the brake fails, or you want to fit a better version, it can simply be replaced without re-building the wheel. The brake slots onto the splines and is held in with a simple locknut. Other than that, the mechanism is similar to Sturmey Archer drum brakes, except they don’t need a special brake cable, the barrel adjuster and cable clamp come with the brake, all you need to use is a standard brake cable. Upon testing the bike, the roller brake provided an impressive amount of stopping power for a low-maintenance, non-performance-oriented component. This is one of the most basic model roller brake Shimano makes

Raleigh Twentys:

I recently acquired a pair of Raleigh Twentys which I am reconditioning on behalf of a few friends. One is a 1974 “Shopper,” the other is a 1980 model with a rear Dynohub. I tested the Dynohub with my Brompton lights and it was perfectly able to power the front and rear LED lights despite its lower official power rating than modern dynamo hubs.


The Dynohub AWG on from the 1980 Twenty

A previous owner has attempted to fit road bike caliper brakes and drop bar brake levers to the 1980 Twenty, which will have to be swapped out for the appropriate brakes. The rear wheel had a broken spoke, but I happened to have some spokes of the right length already due to a mistake made when ordering spokes for a Twenty wheel last year. Other than that, both bikes only need a bit of de-rusting, new chains and new tyres and they will be ready for their new owners. So far I have only serviced the rear wheels of each bike.


The 1974 AW hub, after disassembly, cleaning and re-assembly.

Universal Folding Bike:

This is another bike I am servicing for a friend, a Universal folding bike with a Shimano “333” 3-speed hub and 20 inch (406 mm) wheels. The riding position is quite comfortable and upright, making the bike an ideal runaround machine. The 333 hub is in good condition, although the cable has rusted seized. 333 hubs were a lot less popular than Sturmey Archer hubs, meaning a replacement cable was not forthcoming. Thankfully, I should be able to come up with a suitable bodge using a cable clamp nut/bolt and a Sturmey Archer gear cable. Other than that it just needs a bit of rust removal, new tyres and a new chain.



The 333 hub shifts via a bell-crank and push-rod mechanism in a similar way to modern Nexus 3-speed hubs.

Monday, 9 May 2011

DL-1 Returns

After posting about the damage to the sun pinion and the planet pinions previously, I ordered a new axle (including sun pinion) and planet pinions from SJS, who were thankfully much quicker to dispatch the items than expected.


The old axle and planets are at the top of the image, and the damage to the teeth can be seen clearly. The new axle and planets are below, looking particularly clean.

I will avoid writing about the internals of the X-RD3 hub extensively, partly because they are similar to the AW hub I have written about previously, partly because it is difficult to take pictures whilst your hands are covered in bike grease/filth, but mainly because when I was about to take apart my first hub, I did some reading and got the impression that it is a complicated job. When I actually took that first hub apart I realised that it is in fact quite simple, the best way to learn about these things is to simply have a go. The worst that can happen is that you won’t be able to fix it and have to take it to a bike shop and get them to do it, which is far from the end of the world.

After re-assembling the hub using the exploded diagram provided in Sturmey Archer’s excellent literature (although to be fair, it is pretty easy to figure out what goes where by trial and error), I noticed that the failure had also damaged my drive-side bearing cup, and slightly rounded the rear fork ends on the bike too. I decided to set the cone slightly loose so the bike could be ridden whilst I awaited my second order to SJS, a cone nut and some non-turn washers.


The damage to the bearing surface may look minor, but it had a noticeable impact on ride quality. The cone and non-turn washers are now fitted, and the rear hub is in better condition than it was when I got it, shifting easily and freewheeling well too.

Internal hub gears are much easier to work with than most people believe. The best advice I can give is to simply have a go.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Cyclecraft is Killing Cycling

A state of emergency is declared, the country's infrastructure is in a terrible state and its people are struggling to survive. A copy of the SAS survival manual would be a good purchase. Your government consulting its author (an expert in the field of survival) for advice to help its citizens survive the crisis would be welcome news.

Years later, the situation has barely improved, it turns out your government has continued to accept advice of the same author, rather than consulting with experts on rebuilding our society. He has been advocating that the citizens are better off being equipped with the skills to survive in this hostile environment than they would be if we started to rebuild houses, railways and other infrastructure. Some even start to believe it with a powerful conviction, challenging anyone who dares to question the philosophy.

Sounds crazy, right? Well this is effectively the situation cycling is stuck in with John Franklin and Cyclecraft. Cyclecraft is a great survival guide to help cyclists cope with the cycling-hostile road network of the UK, and our many fast-driving and skill-deficient motorists. The problem is that John Franklin is also a "Cycle safety" consultant and one of the strongest voices against separate cycle infrastructure which would improve the lives of cyclists immensely and help to vastly increase the rates of cycling. Local authorities and government accept consultation about cyclist safety from the man whose career is based on writing the survival manual for cyclists who wish to cycle in our current abysmal conditions, whose work forms the basis of the cycle training which is offered to help cyclists cope with our inherently cycling-hostile road network. The problem here seems obvious to me, but not to local authorities or even the vast majority of cycling campaigners in the UK.

As a consultant on "Cycle safety," John Franklin has a vested interest in maintaining the atrocious conditions which led to the need for a manual and training courses for riding a bike. Maybe he is deluded and genuinely loves cycling along dual carriageways, laughing maniacally with cars screaming past at 60 mph, unable to understand why the vast majority of people don't want to be out there with him. Maybe he actively wants to maintain the status quo which has underpinned his career as a "Cycle safety" consultant and author. Looking through the literature on his website, I see a homeopathy-like penchant for cherry-picking research which agrees with his message on the alleged safety issues of separate cycle facilities, whilst ignoring the wider body of work showing they improve cyclists' safety and promote higher cycling rates when implemented well. Reading through his published work, it seems disconnected from reality. The issue has been eloquently discussed elsewhere, but I shall repeat it here too. From his book Basic Cycling Skills:
Cadence and sprint speed
Cadence is the number of times a cycling turns the pedals in one minute. A steady, comfortable pedalling rhythm is essential for efficient cycling, while increasing one’s cadence strengthens the leg muscles and enables more rapid acceleration. Increasing cadence also makes it easier to increase your sprint speed – the maximum speed that you can attain over a short distance, such as through a roundabout.
Racing cyclists know well the benefits of having a high cadence, but there can also be important safety advantages for everyone. Generally speaking, you are at your safest in traffic if you can move at a speed comparable to that of the other vehicles. Increasing your cadence and sprint speed will allow you to achieve this more often, particularly at those places where it matters most – junctions with complex manoeuvring. It will also be easier to restart quickly in a low gear at traffic signals and roundabouts, and to get yourself out of trouble if you are on a potential collision course.
Increasing cadence and sprint speed are two of the most positive steps a cyclist can take to enhance safety.
A good cadence to aim for is about 80, while a sprint speed of 32 km/h (20 mph) will enable you to tackle most traffic situations with ease. To increase your cadence, select a gear lower than you would normally use for a given road and simply force yourself to pedal faster in order to maintain your usual speed. Gradually, your leg muscles will become accustomed to the higher rate and your cadence and strength will increase.
What is not addressed here is that if Cyclecraft is the correct way to cycle, and cycles are to be kept on the roads at the expense of any separate infrastructure, is that everyone other than a small elite of particularly fit riders are excluded from cycling. If you are too young, too old, too unfit or otherwise physically incapable of a sprint speed of 20 mph, you have no business cycling on the road, or at least you should have little expectation of doing so safely.

As a survival guide, Cyclecraft is an excellent resource to help cyclists survive on our roads. Taken as a guide for best practise, it is a dangerously elitist philosophy which excludes all but the bravest and fittest from cycling in the UK. John Franklin's influence on much of the cycle campaigning establishment is a major barrier to mass cycling in the UK.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Cycling Embassy Meeting: Manchester 21st May

On Saturday the 21st of May, the second meeting of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain will take place here in Manchester. I urge all of you who cycle or aspire to, to come along. The meeting will be held at The Ducie Arms on Devas Street near the University of Manchester/Manchester Science park.


There will be a guided ride (or rides if needed) from Manchester Piccadilly Railway station leaving at around 12:45-13:00. If you arrive by train into Manchester Victoria, your ticket will entitle you to a free ride to Piccadilly on the Metrolink. However as Metrolink is inherently hostile to cyclists, they will only accept folding bikes which are fully encased on their trams. Thankfully the two stations are only about 1 km apart, and it is easy enough to walk/ride between the two.


If you are without bike, the route to the Ducie Arms is easily walkable (<2 km) using the following route (or a variation thereof:


If you prefer, you can get most of the way there by bus along Oxford Road, the busiest bus corridor in Europe, by heading towards Picadilly Gardens bus exchange and getting on the 43, 43, 142, 143 or 111 buses (to name a few) and getting off at Manchester Academy (the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union - shown on the map above) and walking the remaining few hundred metres through the university campus.


Unfortunately, the location of the meeting is within a city, making this mode of transport unsuitable.

I look forward to meeting lots of people I feel like I already kind of know. It will be good to put faces to names and blogs, and to hopefully have a productive meeting and discussion too. More information can be found here.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Pashley Picador Plus

Over the Easter break I was fortunate enough to be able to have a play around on a Pashley tricycle, a Picador Plus from around 1990.



The tricycle had an Italian brand leather saddle which had a texture like suede. It was quite pleasant to ride on.


The Picador Plus has 20 inch (451 mm) wheels, the same as the Raleigh Twenty. The rear wheels do not have brakes at all, with the front wheel having both a caliper and a drum brake to make up for it, opening up the possibility of deliberately skidding the front wheel.


Unusually, the trike uses derailleur gears, a 5-speed freewheel controlled by a friction shifter. Having not used a friction shifter before, I found it to be a bit of a pain. It is probably more a sign of the trike’s age than a deliberate spec choice.


The gears needed a bit of work to stop the chain being derailed onto the axle in the highest and lowest gears, but it wasn’t so bad after a bit of tinkering. When I heard about the trike I was hoping it might have one of Sturmey Archer’s tricycle hubs with the reverse gear. After riding it I feel that a reverse gear would have been a welcome addition.


Pashley logo on the headtube


A bit more logo on the seat tube

Unlike the Nihola Cigar trike I had ridden previously, this trike had two rear wheels rather than two front wheels. This meant that the need to slow down on the corners with the Pashley was even more pressing than on the other trike. Until I got used to that I was going around most corners on two wheels. I also found the camber of the road to present a challenge on the trike, whereas it is barely noticeable on a bicycle. Overall I’m pretty convinced that tricycles aren’t for me, but I can see the benefits they offer to some who may find riding a bicycle difficult or even impossible for various reasons.

I was pleased to see that the Picador Plus does have an impressive load hauling capacity though: