How Do You Roll?


Since we’ve been discussing drivetrains, I thought it would be fun and interesting to set up a poll to see what types of set-ups our readers are running. I can’t possibly list every drivetrain combination out there, but I’ll hit the major (and a few minor) categories; feel free to elaborate in the comments.

What type of drivetrain are you running on your primary commuter/utility bike?

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47 Responses to “How Do You Roll?”

  • Dan says:

    I’ve been rolling with 2×5 and 2X6 (IRD freewheels) lately. I’ve set up 5 different bikes in one of these drivetrains, and have been really happy with the results. quick, no hassle, and lots of range.

  • Bob Bryant says:

    I roll on a vintage 1×5. The derailleur is a short cage Huret shifted by a Suntour thumbshifter.

  • Garret Parsons says:

    I have been using an internal 8 geared (reset to a higher ratio) hub for 4 years now and I wouldn’t go back to a derailleur now unless I bought a road bike and didn’t want the extra weight. The internal hubs are unbelievably easier to maintain and tune up. Sometimes I tune her up while I am waiting for a light to change, if I have noticed some slippage. Also we get killer winters where I ride and my derailleur would freeze and brake. I haven’t that problem anymore. The best part is the ability to shift gears at a stand still. Very quite too.

  • dweendaddy says:

    Kickin’ it old school 1×5 and happy with it!

  • Ira Kinro says:

    I voted “other”. I’m rolling with a Sturmey-Archer 5 speed right now.

  • Cezar Jenkins says:

    For me running 2×6 friction shifting with freewheel. I have a frame from the 80s. I could have spread the frame, but meh

  • CedarWood says:

    ‘Nother 80’s frame running 2×6 freewheel w/ SunTour friction shifters.

  • Velouria says:

    3 Speed IGH on all of my city commuter bicycles. This gets me over mildly hilly terrain fairly well. If I needed more gears, I would get a 1×8 or a 1×9 derailleur drivetrain rather than an IGH with additional gears.

  • Richard Crawford says:

    Running a singlespeed converted Klein mtb with slicks – but hunting for the holy grail – a singlespeed (belt drive) fixie type than can be hot swapped for NuVinci or alfine 11 touring wheels

  • Bobby John says:

    I voted other as I’m rolling with a 6 speed sturmey archer on my rather cool Brompton M6l which has overtaken my other two bicycles as my main ride :-).

  • Harald says:

    My commuter/touring/all-purpose Cross-Check runs with 3×9 gears. I live in upstate New York and our hills make this set-up basically the only choice — aside from buying the Rohloff which would cost more than the rest of my bike taken together. The other bikes in our household have a variety of gears: road bike with 2×10, 80s ten-speed, Civia Loring 9-speed IGH, Dahon 8-speed IGH, Fuji Touring with 3×9 (do we really have that many bikes…?)

  • Everett says:

    Alan, you forgot the classic: 2×5 derailleur/chain.

  • Melanie says:

    Just started riding an Alfine 8 and I love it. Still waiting to try a belt drive, though!

  • Erich says:

    I voted “other.” I’ve been merrily rollin’ with the S-A S3X hub since last fall.

  • Bill Graves says:

    Looking into a internal belt setup. Waiting for the centre-track to come out before I pull the trigger for the winter time commutes I have. Thanks for the cool leads yesterday.

  • David Bolles says:

    2×6 on my Schwinn/only bike :)
    A friend just found a frame for me. Summer project and it will be a single speed…

  • Garth says:

    I am in the middle of building up a new 80s period 2×6 road bike to serve my commuting needs. Thought it would be fun to play around with on the cheap while I decide on a more expensive belt/igh all weather commuter before winter comes again.

    As a side note, I used your chain waxing method on this bike for the first time, because it looked so nice after I spent so much effort to clean it up (since it seems to have almost never been ridden in its 25 years), and I wanted to maintain that pristine look of the picture in this post.

    Still looking pretty good after the first couple weeks on the road, though it’s starting to pick up some dirt with all the rain we’ve been having. I must say, however, your instructions lack some frustrating details, like how insanely long it takes to melt blocks of wax in a crock pot, or how hard it is to cut through a solid block of wax (you say you “cut” the 1 pound blocks into quarters, without suggesting a tool, as if it’s easy, and doesn’t fracture into a million pieces once you actually start getting through it, and you’re left guessing at what’s a quarterish size mound of wax bits). Still, it was a worthwhile learning experience!


  • carfreepvd says:

    @Ira Kinro – If I read the survey correctly, I think you would fall under the “3/5-speed Internal Gear Hub (Chain)” category.

  • D'Arcy says:

    I crossed over to the dark “other” side a few years ago. I ride a Biomega Amsterdam with an enclosed shaft drive and Shimano 8 speed internal hub. I ride all winter and this combination is impervious to snow, road salt and crud. Being able to shift from 8th gear down to 3rd or 4th while stopped is a big asset when commuting because you often don’t have the time to gear down while peddling.

  • Tucker says:

    Although I ride a 3×7/8/9/10 setup, I find that I only use 4 to 6 of those gears on my commute, which is relatively flat. My bike, however, is set up for touring, so in that context I might actually use many more gears.

  • Pamela says:

    My main ride is a Lightfoot Cycles Roadrunner delta trike equipped with a Rubbermaid Action Packer cargo box (my “pickup truck”), which has a triple crankset driving an 8-speed mid-drive which turns a jackshaft which turns wheels with an 8-speed cassette, so 3x8x8. I opted for Lightfoot’s two-wheel drive also, so both rear wheels are driven by the jackshaft, but only the left-side wheel has a shifting derailleur. The right side is fixed-gear.

    My HP Velotechnik Grasshopper recumbent (my “compact car”) has triple crankset driving a SRAM Dual Drive with a 9-speed cassette, so 3x3x9.

    I’m expecting to acquire soon a new Bacchetta Bella ATT LWB recumbent (my “limo”) that will be set up like the Grasshopper with a SRAM Dual Drive.

    I live on a hill in Reno, NV, so the low gearing provided by these drivetrains is greatly appreciated!

  • OmahaBikes says:

    I’d love to run an internal, but I have a LONG commute (17 miles each way) and some days I ride at 30+ mph down hills and with tailwinds. Combine that with the need to sometimes pull a trailer with over 100 pounds of stuff and you end up with a huge gear range requirement. The 26/36/48×11-34 gives me a lot of options for speed AND mechanical advantage.

    For those days when I’m riding light, I also have a single speed.

  • Ben Johnson says:

    I answered 3×9 chain but I’m currently building a dedicated commuter with an Alfine 8 (chain-driven).

  • Sharper says:

    I think I need “primary commuter/utility bike” defined better before I can answer. My primary commuter is a bike I don’t use at all for my “utility” purposes.

  • Ryan Malm says:

    My recently built cross-check rolls a single speed setup, 40tx16t which has worked out great for my flat commute in the Sacramento Valley. With the help of Surly’s spacer kit, the chain line is SO straight and therefore quiet that I sometimes have to look down and make sure the chain hasn’t fallen off, love it.
    As a side note, maybe I can get some feedback on this… If I decide to rock a 1×9 with a downtube shifter for some light touring and/or centuries, should I go big with a mountain bike cassette (up to 36t?) or should an 11-28 work fine?

  • Terry Scott says:

    I’ve restored an early 80’s Miyata Six-Ten with a 3×5 (Derailleur/Chain). Currently its running Suntour derailleurs & friction shifters. I’ve slowly adding parts from a newer Specialize I’ve cannibalized, such as the longer stem & wider handlebars and eventually Suntour barcons. The Miyata frame is waaay to small, but my commute is only 3-4 blocks, beats walking. My Mundo cargo bike (3×8 derailleur/chain) hauls recycle to the pick up center and the Anura trikes (3×9 derailleur/chain) haul the wife & I around town. My summer project bike is an old Schwinn LeTour off Craigslist to be converted into single speed (chain).

    carfree on the Oregon coast

  • Alan says:


    Either is fine..

  • Stephen D. says:

    I’m leaving the 8-speed IGH in the garage these days and taking my 1980’s 3 x 6 friction shifted derailleurs with freewheel. The crankset has half-stepped gearing. The shifters are on the downtube.

    It does a much better job on the hills I have to scale. Seems as though I’m either in the 28 x28 or the 48 x 12; no flat terrain around to use the middle ranges.

    Sometimes I contemplate a more modern drivetrain with index shifting on the brake levers.

  • Sally Hinchcliffe (aka townmouse) says:

    3×6 here, although like many people I use the middle ring about 99% of the time. I treat the granny wheel as the equivalent of going up to 11 on the (spinal tap) amplifier – it’s nice to know it’s there but I’m saving it for when it’s absolutely necessary…

  • Derek says:

    This was tough for me to pick one choice since I almost always use two different bikes on my commute. Through the winter months those are a single speed and a 3×7, with the 3×7 getting the longer leg of the commute. Just recently the 3×7 has been hung in the garage for the spring/summer/fall and has been replaced by the fixed gear until the snow is getting ready to fly again.

    So I guess right now, the fixed gear is the primary commuter since is getting the most miles on any one day. That is how I voted.

    Now serious utility rides are all together different…

  • bongobike says:

    …but what we really want to know is what Kate and Willie rode to the wedding this morning; a pair or Raleigh single speeds, or a pair of Pashleys with IGHs. I mean, this WAS a green wedding, right?

  • Kevin Mulcahy says:

    1×6, 47t x 14-28t

  • voyage says:

    @Ryan Malm

    If you really want or need to go to 36t cog, you may have to replace the rear der with something SGS or GS. Or maybe your current rear der will work. I’d say it’s trusted LBS time on this — they can actually see what you have and make recommendations. Running a single front simplifies things a lot. The parts are out there, it’s doable.

  • dominic furfaro says:

    2X9 with Campy friction shifters mounted on the left handlebar end. Quick, smooth one handed shifting using REV 2 handlebar. With Winter more or less over i’m riding my fast bike. No fenders, no light, skinny tires and lightweight steel frame. The grocery getter year round is a Rollo single speed.

  • Paul, Birmingham uk says:

    I voted other, as my main commuter is a brompton S6, which has a wide ratio SA 3 speed internal gear hub allied to a two speed derailleur so I suppose that makes it a 1x2x3 chain drive….

  • rob says:

    I use two primary bikes for commuting:
    1. Sturmey 3sp
    2. 3×7 with derailleurs

  • dave r says:

    SA 5 speed hub – town bike
    1 x 8 derailler gear LHT – for shopping and commuting
    3 x 9 Cross check – faster commuting bike

    use them all pretty much equally

    also have 3 x 9 on tourer and MTB but don’t use them much

  • Lane says:

    A 3×6 on an 80’s Miyata restoration. My last bike had a 3×9, and I find that this setup is almost as good. I might even go with friction shifting on the back.

  • fcormier says:


    Kate and William will get a BIXI!

  • Ira Kinro says:

    carfreepvd – You’re right. You caught the LD guy trying to read without the screen reader again. :)

  • Sharper says:


    Then I need to answer thrice; 2×6 for commuting (and though it’s flat, unnecessarily windy days like today make me appreciate the range), Sturmey Archer AW3 on the around-towner, and 3×8 on the cargo hauler.

    Though if I had to build a single bike to handle most everything, it’d probably be a 2x7ish.

  • Brent says:

    After much hemming, hawing, and agonizing over whether to buy a Civia Loring, or a Pashley Sovereign Roadster, I took delivery this week of a Breezer Uptown Infinity. This is my first bike with an IGH since the three speed I had when I was about 8 or so.

    I immediately put North Road bars on it, and swapped out the saddle for a Brooks B67.

    I’m still getting the handlebars and saddle positions tweaked, and am adjusting to the CVT which, while smooth and intuitive still feels a bit foreign. I did notice that the bike seems a bit back heavy, and at low speeds the steering is a little squirrley. However, with a load on the front it balances out more. I almost always ride with at least some sort of load on the front, at least a big heavy lock and chain, so I am okay with that.

    I think that once I adjust to the lack of stepped gears I will be very happy with this bike. I am finding that I have a tendency to make small adjustments to the gearing almost constantly. I tend to be a bit compulsive about things, so maybe it is just me. It’s nice to be able to make small adjustments in terrain, where with stepped gears I might not bother.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that when I push the bike forward, the cranks turn. Is this normal? I’m used to a derailleur set-up where the cranks turn if the bike is pushed backward, but not if pushed forward

  • Alan says:

    Congrats on your new bike, Brent. I really like the looks of the Infinity.

    I’d check with your dealer, but I suspect the rear hub is just tight because it’s new. I’ve had other hubs do the same thing before they broke in.


  • voyage says:

    At the risk of taking this thread afar, why do electric bikes have derailleurs? Why not IGH? Is there some technical reason?


    The great big bike company builds electric bikes…aside from the motor and battery, why are they spec’d the way they are? Why so many speeds?

  • Scott says:

    Another Brompton with a Sachs three-speed internally geared hub and a two-speed derailleur, but I also added a Schlumpf Mountain Drive, I live in Seattle and ride a lot of hills, so having another set of six gears below the default Brompton gears without giving up the high end is a huge advantage over the standard six gears. (This doesn’t work with the Brompton Wide Range hub because you have overlapping gears in the midrange. I tried it, briefly, but with fewer gears spread out over a wider range, I often had trouble finding a comfortable gear combination. My Brompton shop swapped rear wheels for me, and all is right again.)

    You could buy a pretty good bike for the price of the Mountain Drive, but the extra-low gears have made it possible to bike even up steep hills without arriving at my destination all sweaty, assuming, of course, that I can resist the testosterone-fueled temptation to catch that silly sot who just blew past me without so much as a fair-thee-well.

  • bongobike says:


    That was hilarious! Thanks.

  • jeff says:

    2×6 on my 80s steel framed road bike.

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