The premise behind this project was pretty simple. Although I do have a mountain bike converted to a commuter bike, I really liked the idea of building a bike around Shimano’s 8 speed Nexus internal geared hub. So when I found a used Nexus wheelset online, I grabbed them up, then set out to build a nice commuter around them. Simple enough, except for finding the right frame. In the process of looking, I actually ended up purchasing a complete Trek with the Nexus 7 hub. After tinkering with that one for a bit, I stripped it, did a thorough overhaul, and sold it for an extremely modest sum (less than the cost of the back wheel alone) to one of our contributors, who doesn’t own a car. That left me on the prowl for a 19″ 700c frame, preferably black in color, with v-brake mounts, rather than calipers, on the fork and frame. I abandoned any hope of finding one with horizontal dropouts, because that’s easy to accommodate. Once a suitable candidate was located, I removed the drivetrain, and ordered a new chain and single speed crankset as well as a narrower bottom bracket.
Flat bar road bikes make excellent commuters. The upright riding position can be a benefit for both seeing and being seen in traffic, and the taller 700c wheels roll faster than a mountain bike, even one equipped with slicks. But I wanted low maintenance, hence the Nexus. The fact that it has a clean look reminiscent of a single speed doesn’t hurt either. There’s only the one shifter, and that’s black, with black cable, on a black frame. At first glance, it could almost pass for a single speed. Of course, in keeping with the theme of trying to build on a budget, there is a mix of parts from Trek and Specialized on this Raleigh. Putting function before brand names may not suit everyone, but I’m more concerned with how well things work than which logo is screened on it. In the next few weeks, I’ll cover the transformation from 3×8 to 1×8, paying particular attention to the pitfalls of converting to IGH. Additionally, I’ll show some of the accessories that have been added to make it more suited to commuting. Some things went smoothly, some not so much, such as finding the perfect gearing that will allow me to forgo a chain tensioner. On the bright side, it’s incredibly smooth and quiet, with silent shifting, even when at a stop. If you’ve never experienced a bike equipped with an internal gear hub, I suggest you go seek one out, and give it a try. You just might end up buying or building your own.