Sturmey Archer S3X 3 speed hub is not just for fixed gear riders.
The Sturmey Archer S3X hub was hyped as the solution for fixed gear riders who wanted 3 speeds. While it took a while for the hub to be released since its announcement, you never really saw the waves of bikes you would have expected carrying this hub. In fact, I have yet to have met anyone that purchased it. The price was originally $240 and it is now around $120 completed with a bar mounted shifter….quite a bargain. Perhaps it wasn’t as popular….for the FIXED GEAR market.
This hub is a real sleeper and it will take some time for its capabilities to be realized. If you haven’t considered it, here are the reasons I believe you should:
1. Direct drive – Internal gear hubs are known for having to require more energy input for an equivalent output versus the derailleur or single speed drivetrain. Most hubs have a “direct drive” mode where the efficiency is equivalent to a simple single speed without a derailleur. Unfortunately, this direct drive is usually in the middle of the gear selections. On a standard 3 speed, it is the 2nd gear. The S3X has direct drive mode on the highest gear, where you are want it when you want to go fast.
2. Efficiency – I assume the S3X shares the same gear design as standard 3 speed Sturmey Archer hubs. According to the study below, the Sturmey Archer 3 speed hubs are near the top of the list, just under the sachs (sram) 3 speeds for efficiency but much better that the Shimano 7 and Rohloff 14. So when you use the gears, you will waste less energy and go faster.
3. Gear Range – 160%. I have found this gear range more than adequate for most city, causeway and hilly environments.
4. Weight – If you don’t need more than 3 gears, you save weight. Ever pick up an 8 or 9 speed hub? They are near 3.5+ pounds! This one weighs 2 pounds.
4. Freewheel Capability – Perhaps the most overlooked feature. The fixed cog can be removed and a freewheel added.
If you are happy with the gear range and you combine the efficiency, weight savings, high gear direct drive and a freewheel you have what I consider the highest performing internal gear hub on the market for $120 plus the freewheel cost.