I have had a few rides on my Speedwell since it was upgraded with a Shimano Nexus 3 speed hub with coaster brake, hybrid alloy wheels and Michelin Tracker reflective tyres, and I have to say that it is a huge improvement. While I felt before that the single speed was adequate, I did have to stand to pedal up hills, and now this is not the case. I also had to stand to brake at intersections and did not feel completely safe with the brakes, so they were my main priority in the upgrade. I decided on the 3 speeds to make it a more “sittable” city bike and to make my life a bit easier on hilly terrains.
The new wheels, while I felt looked out of character at first, are nice and shiny and give a smooth ride at any speed (although I still ride quite slowly, this is not a racing bike!). They are also perfectly true and I notice that I can take my hands off the bars and the bike continues in a straight line, this was not the case before. While the slight warping in the old wheels did not make the bike unstable, they were not truly straight and I felt a little uncertain of their safety as this was worsening. The reflective Michelin tyres are an added safety feature which I like, and the thicker tyres add to the smoothness of the ride. I also feel safe to go up and down kerbs which was not the case with the original wheels.
The brakes work perfectly adequately, and when I first rode with them, I left quite a bit of rubber on the road as I jumped on the brakes in the manner I was accustomed to! I have read that even new coaster brakes are meant for flat terrain as they are prone to fade with overuse and heating. I rarely ride very hilly terrain, but will be mindful of this if I do, especially in hot weather.
I had decided a while back that I would use red as the colour for the majority of changes I made, as far as it was practicable, as that was the original colour of the bike, even though it is not a colour I usually prefer. So another addition with my upgrade has been bar tape in red, new grips (to accommodate the shifter grip) which I am not entirely sure that I am happy about, but they are fine for now. The Crane brass bell adds a vintage flavour as does the kick stand, kindly twined, shellacked and fitted for me by my friend Peter, if you want to read about how this was done, see here.
Drawbacks for me are:
- the slight clicking sound the hub makes when it is freewheeling. Being accustomed to a totally silent ride (apart from a few tinny rattles), I keep looking behind me for another cyclist, though I am sure I will become accustomed to this sound. I have also had some adjustment problems with the 3 speeds and will report on them in more detail once they are fixed.
- the appearance of the handgrips and they also feel a bit short.
- the appearance of the wheels at first, but I am used to them now and quite like them.
Now that I am sitting in the saddle much more than I used to, it may need an upgrade too! I am certainly going to add a rack and a better lighting system in the future.