Personal tools
You are here: Home Members Bryn Bryn's Ride Log 2010 March 01 Sturmey Archer X-RD5 (W) Review
Elgin, JC Higgins, J.C. Higgins, They're All Sears bikes, and all freaking awesome!!  I love that the Firestone bikes are all the same frames too... It's too bad there isn't more information out there about these bikes as they totally kick ass.  Yes, they're not quite as good quality as a Schwinn, but they're absolutely serviceable and personally I find they fit taller riders a bit better.  One really could ask why AREN'T these bikes ruling the world about now?!?

Sturmey Archer X-RD5 (W) Review

by Bryn — last modified Mar 01, 2010 10:15 PM

I got me a new hub laced up, yup yup! Busted out about 20km on it the other day, here's my thoughts so far...

Sturmey Archer X-RD5 (w)So what is it?

The Sturmey Archer X-RD5 (w) a 5-speed internal gear drum hub, made by the "New" Sturmey Archer (now a division of Sun Race)...  This is their new "wide" ratio hub.

This beauty has 5 speeds using a single cable (unlike the "Old" Sturmey 5's that had 2 separate cables and a crazy complicated shifter arrangement).  Nope, simple is better, right?  Less cables are good too...

Also in this nice alloy shell is a 70mm drum brake.  There's a 90mm version available too, but ti's still somewhat hard to find (as are all the 90mm parts right now).

Gear ratios are basically your average Sturmey Archer 3-speed +1 and -1...

Overall Range - 256%
• Gear 1 - 62.5% (-)37.5%
• Gear 2 - 75% (-)25% (Gear 1 + 20%)
• Gear 3 - 100% Direct Drive (Gear 2 + 33%)
• Gear 4 - 133.3% (+)33.3% (Gear 3 + 33%)
• Gear 5 - 160% (+)60% (Gear 4 + 20%)

So the middle gear is direct drive (just like a 3-speed), and you get one above and one below.  Meaning FAST on the flats, and a nice low hill climbing gear.

The hub ships with an amazing bunch of accessories - it includes:

• All required cables (Shifter cable, brake cable)
• Mounting hardware (keyed washers, clamp for brake, cable hardware)
• Both "Old" style and "New" style cable hardware (The big bulky black plastic cover / adjuster is included, as well as the old classic Sturmey nut and fulcrum clip) and a shifter
• An 18-tooth sprocket
• A giant flying walrus

Including both styles of hardware is really welcome - I actually wasn't expecting that at all.  The "New" style is better, don't get me wrong - the adjustment is locked to the axle rather than to the wheel position in the frame.  However it's UGLY!!!  If you're an OEM and want a trouble free system for bikes, by all means go with the new style, it's DEFINITELY superior in terms of reliability, it seals out dust and junk from getting in to the hub and it's almost "set it and forget it".  HOWEVER if you're going to put this on a vintage bike then forget it - it will look way too out of place, and that's where the "Classic" hardware comes in to play.

For my ride I didn't want the Sturmey Archer text silk-screened on to the hub shell.  A stainless steel dish scrubby lightly applied took care of that right quick.  The hub shell alloy is hard enough it didn't take on any scratches either - bonus!!  I laced it up to my original steel rims from my '60s Firestone without issue, while it's an alloy shell it still looks pretty good on the bike.

OK, performance!!

I'll admit my ride sampling thus far is a little limited - it mostly consists of riding around Vancouver holding a giant Canada flag shortly after we won the freakin' GOLD MEDAL IN OLYMPIC HOCKEY!!! WOOOOOO!!!!!


There's really two things to consider here - braking and gear performance.  Let's start with braking!!

For my ride I'm replacing a Perry coaster brake.  The Perry has done me well thus far - I've been riding on it for about 9 months and have definitely racked up the miles.  However my descent down to riding territory is pretty steep - it's a 15 block or so downhill descent mixed with stop signs, busy streets and blind alleys.  That REALLY ends up working the brake out since you really can't be gentle with it.  Compared to the Perry the X-RD5 is a SOLID performer when it comes to brakes.  There is no brake lever included - Sturmey Archer does make one, but I ended up digging through the bins at Our Community Bikes till I found something suitable.  I did end up needing to give the lever a little bend to add another 1/4" or so of cable pull, but it works FANTASTIC.  Sturmey Archer really seem to put out the best drum brake I've ridden - my SRAM VT-5000 can't even come close, and that's a front brake!  I do have an X-FD to go on the front, but I don't have that laced up yet.  The rear on its own is ALMOST good enough that I could run without!!  Compared to a coaster brake this is a giant upgrade.


I don't have enough miles on this yet to give a really good judgment - I will come back and update this later on once I've had a bit more experience with the hub.  Unfortunately riding around with the Canada flag I didn't have a good opportunity to really shift gears much.

Surmey Archer DLS52 R5Thanks to Bike Tools Etc (who I STRONGLY recommend - I would order from them again in a heartbeat!) I had the Sturmey Archer DLS52 R5 as my shifter.  This is a below-bar rapid fire style shifter which is honestly my favorite type.  I probably would have chosen the SLS50 R5T if I could have gotten it, but though they appear in the catalog they are apparently not yet available anywhere.

The shifter feels pretty nice - the body is mostly aluminum except for the gear indicator which is plastic.  The mounting hardware is all metal, a serious bonus in my opinion.  Like most shifters of this style it is easy to crank up 2 gears at a time with the bottom lever, while the top lever will drop one at a time.  When I mean drop, I mean release cable tension - like all Sturmey hubs with the cable completely slack it is in its highest gear, with the cable completely tight in its lowest.

Shifting is smooth and precise.  There does seem to be a small delay upshifting to 5th, but otherwise the hub reacts quite quickly.  The clutch system on this hub is quite a bit different than the 3-speeds that came before it so I can't really say much for how it will last long term.  Chances are good I'll be posting updates here in a year or two!!

Unlike coaster brake hubs, there is no worry about the brake contaminating the lubricant of the gear mechanism with this design.  The drum brake is completely separated from the other hub components so it shouldn't require any service for quite some time.

The actual gearing does have a bit of coarseness to it at this point, mainly in the lower gears.  My gut feeling is that this will smooth out with some riding once things have had a bit of a chance to wear in - most internal gear hubs get smoother with age, to a point.  Regardless it's not bad, it's just noticeable at this point in low gear.  Direct drive is smooth as one would expect.  The overall ratio feels pretty good, but I need a good heavy pedal to know for sure!

What else might you want to know?  Weight?  Sounds reasonable...

The X-RD5(W) weighs in at about 100g more than its modern 3-speed coaster brake counterpart.  That's really not bad at all considering you get two extra gears and a far superior brake.  It isn't really noticeable compared to the Perry it replaced, especially with the steel rims and frame of this bike.  Regardless that's less than 1/3 of a beer worth of weight.

Final conclusions:

Shifting seems great, brake is teriffic, I am hoping it smooths out a little in the future.  At this point I'm definitely happy with the hub, and the included hardware is excellent.  I'm glad to see that Sun Race has taken on the engineering challenges to improve internal gear hubs which is definitely more than could be said for the post 1960's Sturmey Archer of England.  Keep up the good work!!



P.S... I found an exploded view of the X-RD5(w) here!

Document Actions


Avatar Posted by mark elford at Mar 04, 2010 10:28 AM
great info,i have a 3 sp kickback new s-a and its held up.but was looking to get a 5 sp.thanks for writing this!

Quick Update

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Mar 06, 2010 12:59 PM
Here's a quick update after 100km or so!!

As I guessed the hub has smoothed out considerably as it's picked up some miles. Likewise I'm getting used to it myself in terms of how to best use it to enjoy my riding. The BEST thing is how freakin' fast you can get going with it!!

my xrf5

Avatar Posted by cullen john at Jun 03, 2010 03:12 PM
just got a XRF5 (no brake) non-wide version laced to a sun cr-18 590 alloy wheel--its a gold raleigh sports 1966--so far so good. i spray painted the black cover over the indicator thingy gold to match bike, also i chose to use a sprinter older type thumbie shifter (painted it silver over the all-black--now kinda wish i used a twistgrip but it works fine)...low miles but so far i am happy. iposted this cos info or reviews on this hub are scarce. nice website!

Sports, you said?

Avatar Posted by jmonay at Dec 29, 2014 01:39 PM
Hey, sorry for digging up an old comment but I've been dreaming about putting an X-RD5 in a Raleigh Sports as well, heard the hub had a 130mm over locknut dimension and I thought the old Sports had a 110 mm rear dropout spacing. Seems a bit far to be spreading the frame. I'm currently kinda far away from my '58 Sports (not the one to be converted) so I can't measure it to be sure ... How did it all work out for you?

Spread 'em

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Dec 29, 2014 01:42 PM
20mm isn't really that much to be spreading a steel bike, I've personally done it on a couple of frames. A GOOD bike shop should have the tool for measuring the frame to ensure the dropouts are evenly spaced afterwards - there's a jig that gets attached to the frame for measuring purposes. You can get by just by eyeballing it but the bike will ride a lot straighter if done properly.

Alrighty then!

Avatar Posted by jmonay at Dec 30, 2014 12:35 PM
Okay, thanks so much for the answer! This makes me more comfortable doing that. I was also told something along these lines by others on bikeforums. I shall proceed with the mod, then.

Thanks for the review!

Avatar Posted by Belligero at Aug 02, 2011 10:54 AM
Thanks for the write-up. I've just started riding one of these hubs (it came with my Pashley Roadster Sovereign), and it definitely seems to be the business. Internally geared hubs look so much better on a town bike than a derailleur system. The fact that it works so well is a nice bonus, though.

17-Month Update

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Aug 02, 2011 11:04 AM
So here we are, August 2011!!

My X-RD5(W) outlasted the Firestone frame (which cracked the seat tube at the BB shell - ugh). I now have it laced in to a very nice set of double wall alloy rims attached to my '51 Schwinn.

I have put several thousand miles on this hub now. It's not uncommon for me to put ~150 km in a week when the weather is nice so it doesn't take long to end up with some significant figures.

There have been ZERO problems with this hub. It has been performing solidly now without issue for about 17 months. I rode through a set of tires with it, broke a frame and it's kept on trucking. Shifting is still lightning fast and super precise, I am definitely a huge fan! I have been using my rear brake quite a lot - I essentially have been treating it as my primary brake and then just using the front for my final bit of stopping at the bottom of a hill.

Another friend of mine is riding on one of these hubs now too - like me he's managed to ride it through breaking a frame and now has it on its second bike. These are definitely strong hubs!


Avatar Posted by Patrick at Jan 15, 2012 08:07 AM
How much did you pay for the hub, how much for the build, and where did you get it laced in Vancouver? I'm thinking about throwing one of these on my Masi Soulville..

The World Cycles

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Jan 15, 2012 08:09 AM
I can't remember what I actually paid for the hub now - it was so long ago! I think they are under $200 but I can't be sure.

Danu at The World Cycles stocks these hubs and builds a lot of Sturmey wheelsets. He'd definitely be able to help you out -

Outside Locknut Diameter

Avatar Posted by Frederick at Sep 08, 2014 09:40 AM
Hi, I was wondering. You said you installed this hub on an old Schwinn Frame. I have an old 72 Suburban with a rear 120mm spacing at the dropouts and was wondering if this hub would fit in my frame. Did you have any issues with fitting the back wheel? I saw on biketools website that they stock this hub as 119mm OLD, but looking around for a better price in other websites they all state that the OLD is 130mm. Could you help me sort this one out?


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Sep 08, 2014 09:41 AM
Yes, you will often have to spread the rear dropouts a bit to get the hub to fit. GOOD bike shops dealing with steel bikes should have the proper tools to measure the frame and confirm that everything is centered properly afterwards.


Avatar Posted by magic at Aug 08, 2012 05:14 PM
weel Im not too happy about it I built 24"100mm wide wheel with this hub ,and the brake sockk,there is no way too ajusted correctly ,I put 4 kinds of levers and nothing works,I would not recomend this too eny one

What Brake?

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Aug 08, 2012 05:17 PM
I know lots of folks with these hubs who have no complaints about the brakes. You DEFINITELY need the right lever - a lot of bike brake levers don't have the right amount of cable pull for these hubs. I've had really good luck with a set of old Dia-Comp knockoffs that I bent out a bit for more pull, but you can also get the actual Sturmey levers that are meant to be used with Sturmey drum brakes fairly easily and cheaply.

The SRAM VT-5000 I used to use had the same issue - if you don't have the right lever, it sucks. They need way more cable pull than a set of cantilever brakes.


Avatar Posted by magic at Aug 11, 2012 03:39 PM
bhughes thanks for advised ,now Im waiting for motorcycle lever really big one with a lots of pull,i hope i dont brake this hub ,thanks again

No Such Too Much

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Aug 11, 2012 03:41 PM
If you ever happen to open the brake up, it's just a cam inside that turns. You can't really hurt anything no matter how far you pull it - the cam's shape makes sure of that. Big levers are good and definitely won't cause any issues.


Avatar Posted by mar at Apr 15, 2013 07:46 AM
nice gear. I am also riding it. Now
But there are two things I don't like:
1) sound - it is loud in the two last gear (1 and 2 or 4 and )
2) when I am shifting I have to kick back sometimes to give a free space for shifting

Do you have also the same experience. everything else is ok


Avatar Posted by Bryn at Apr 15, 2013 07:48 AM
These hubs definitely make some noise - they work using a system of pawls internally so it is normal to hear 'clicking' sounds from inside the hub in some gears.

They also definitely need you to take the tension off the pedals going between gears. Otherwise the key that selects gears inside the hub can't slide since the pedalling force is applied to it.

Sounds like you have a pretty normal 5-speed!

thanks :)

Avatar Posted by mar at Apr 15, 2013 09:07 AM
Thanks for your answer
well I owned the X-RD5 (W) model. But the drum brakes is only fantastic- love it.
Yes I have to learn it a little bit better

vibration in the hub

Avatar Posted by Kris at Nov 12, 2015 09:44 AM

Have you had a "vibration" in the hub while riding? I just bought Erenpreiss Paula bike which has this Sturmey Archer X-RD5 hub and during a ride I have a weird vibration, kind of an on and off problem. Any idea what might cause this or how to fix this? Also the brakes doesn't seem to be as efficient as I would like. I have to squeeze the brakes really hard to actually stop moving.


Anything rubbing?

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Nov 12, 2015 09:45 AM
There definitely should not be any sort of vibration. Are you sure you don't have a tire rubbing somewhere, say on a fender?

no outside influencers

Avatar Posted by Kris at Nov 26, 2015 03:19 PM
Defenitely not an outside thing, I can feel that the vibration comes within somewhere in the rear area. At first I thought that it was due to lower temperatures (slightly below 0 C) that the grease has thicken in the hub or something but that's not it either, since I have the same vibration while riding on higher temperatures as well.