All hail the Sturmey-Archer 3-Speed Hub

One of the most important and amazing pieces of bicycle technology is the internal-gear hub.

This goofy video explains how they function, but it can be a little hard to follow at points.

As you may recall, the Raleigh Sports given to me by Ron Richardson featured one of these excellent Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hubs.

These hubs are remarkably resilient, and last for decades and decades. However, they do benefit from occasional servicing.

Last summer, I noticed that my hub was having some problems. It would often not engage when I pedaled. I suspected that old gummy grease was keeping the pawls from moving freely. I added “overhaul the hub” to my long-term to-do list.

Well, I finally got around to it!

Cleaning the exterior was so satisfying. It had gotten pretty grimy!

Next I removed the cog so I could get access to the ball ring. The ball ring is the part that threads into the hub shell and keeps all the innards securely in place. In order to service those innards, you have to remove the ball ring. Instructional videos like this one recommend using a hammer and punch on the ball ring’s little notches to get it moving.

Sturmey archer also makes a special tool for the removal, but it is only compatible with later models, since the notches on the old ones are a different shape.

Alas… I was unable to get it to budge at home. Fortunately, I live in a city with well equipped DIY bike repair shops like Bikechain! Unfortunately, all the might and know-how of the shop were no match for this stuck ball ring.

We got the hub into a bench vice and used vice grips on the ring to try and move it. No luck. We used other pliers to close the vice grips even tighter when our hands couldn’t close them alone. Still no luck. We tried getting penetrating oil to seep into the threads. We even tried heating up the hub shell with a blowtorch to cause it to expand. Still no luck.

This hub may never open up.

The good news is that Bikechain has lots of used parts available by donation. So while I couldn’t open up my old hub, I walked out of there with another hub of the same vintage. It is in desperate need of some cleaning and lubrication, but at least it opens up!

Coming up: I will document the process of restoring this old hub.