Contributors: John Hess

Katherine and I haven’t always been “recreational” cyclists with lycra and centuries to ride. We rode bikes to get to work and to get around town. Perhaps because of this background, we have used Internal Geared Hubs (see side bar) in many of our bicycles. Like many people, we started with Sturmey Archer 3 speeds in old English bikes. Then the cute Japanese commute bike with the three-speed hub, purchased on impulse in Canada. After that came the Shimano Nexus 7 speed hub, designed with a more modern cyclist in mind.

Nexus 8 hub
A nexus 8 hub

The first bike either of us bought with one of the Shimano Nexus 7 speed hubs was a Wheeler brand bicycle purchased form American Cyclery in San Francisco. Fenders, rack, light, internal geared hub, it was a good commuter choice for Katherine.  A few years later, I bought a Bianchi Milano, same internal geared hub, but fewer commuter features. Unfortunately, we now have the experience of wearing out several of these hubs. Our experience is that somewhere around 10 thousand miles (@50 miles per week, between 3 and 5 years) they die.

Katherine’s first hub locked up, frozen.  No one in town would look at it, so off to ebay and purchase a new hub.  I’m pretty sure James Olson-Lee helped disassemble the old wheel and install the new hub.  That second hub was on a bike that was stolen and recovered, but in the meantime, she bought another, this time a Redline drop frame Nexus equipped bike.  Just recently, that hub self destructed.  Katherine stood up to pull away from a stop sign and from my point ahead of her, I heard the hub go click, click, click, click in a loud sort of stripping the gears sort of sound.  The cranks froze.  Quick gear changing revealed that gears one and two still worked, the rest were locked up.  No forward or backward motion was possible in the cranks.

The serendipity comes from my efforts at the US Bicycling Hall of Fame.  In June, I arranged a show of bikes and frames from Steve Rex, James Olson-Lee and Kimo Tanaka.  When the show was over, I returned the frames and bikes to  Steve and James.  However, Kimo’s demo C-1 bike and frames ended up at my house.  His single speed commuter demo bike was parked in the dining room when Katherine’s hub died.  She asked Kimo for a test ride and lo and behold, the bike was her perfect size.  The upright bars fit her, the single speed nature was fine, the rack was good, the light bulb above her head lit up.

cassette gearsWith just a little talking with Kimo and cannibalizing of parts from the garage, her previous Redline and a rim from Bike Forth meant that Katherine could get an Innerlight (she’s wanted one for awhile).  A nice benefit is that because it’s part of Kimo’s plan to pre-make frames in discrete sizes, it wasn’t as expensive as a full custom frame.  Plus, we really didn’t have to buy that many parts, which also kept the price down. So, she now has an Innerlight C1, single speed Davis commuter for riding around town.  Hence the Serendipi-C1 title.  It’s built up with a Surly rear hub (old and repurposed), 17 tooth freewheel (old and repurposed), new to us, Mavic open pro rim from Bike Forth ( agreat place to look for parts!), Schwinn approved ss steel crank (new from B and L, $40), 44 teeth giving a final gear inch ratio of 69.9 inches.  The front hub is a Sturmey Archer combo drum brake/generator hub (from the Redline) , great braking in the rain and light on demand, no batteries to deal with.  Stainless steel fenders (new, from Velo Orange, via Kimo) will be installed soon, and the rack with panniers has already been heavily used (from the Redline).

Finished bikeAll in all, a good deal for everyone?  Bought a few parts from local shops, including a used rim from Bike Forth.  Had my favorite wheel builder build a wheel, and in the end, Katherine gets a new bike, configured the way she wants. Serendipity rules!

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