Q: I commute three miles each way to work and back throughout the year. It is a constant battle to keep the exposed gear train clean and lubricated. Rim brakes gradually wear away the rim and generate a lot of dirt too.
There are three readily available solutions to these problems but no manufacturer has put them together in a bike. Why not have hub gears, fully enclosed chain case, and disc brakes? Cleaning and maintenance would be drastically reduced! Some Dutch roadsters are pretty well there, but not everyone wants that style of bike. Thorn are on scent with some Raven models, but they are expensive. There must be a manufacturer who would produce such a bike with Shimano gears?
Paul Caley, email
A:Paul, thanks for your ideas. There are bikes like this around but, in general, UK cyclists are too fashion conscious to let the trend flourish here. Your arguments are very sound: a bike with hub gears and an enclosed chaincase/discs would be ideal for many short to medium trips and would reduce maintenance to a minimum. My 1957 three-speed is still on its original chain and gets used several times each week with virtually no money spent, except a few puffs of air to keep the rusty rims off the ground!
Mike Burrows has plenty of vision with respect to this type of town-oriented machine with the incorporation of single-arm axles to allow very easy puncture repairs (one big disadvantage with enclosed chain case and hub gears). The sooner these concept designs are taken on board the better.
I would opt for a SRAM geared bike rather than Shimano as rear wheel removal is easier. New chain case designs will allow chains to have an almost infinite life and discs will promote the use of reflective rim surfaces for safety.
You shouldn't have to wait too long for your vision to become reality as most manufacturers are trying their hand at different models in an effort to stay ahead of the competition. Perhaps a fusion of the popular comfort and urban bikes will suit many riders. Then they might use a bike more regularly for hassle-free trips to work, the supermarket and leisure.
You are right to say that some of the existing designs cost a lot but they are really good value for money compared to doing it yourself. Until a large manufacturer homes in on such a design it will always suffer from very low economies of scale and remain a niche, as opposed to mass produced product.
Paying £1200 for a hub gear bike might appear a little foreign to those used to getting a full-on racer for that kind of money but when you consider the longevity the sums begin to add up...