Sturmey Archer X-RD5 (W) Review
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...
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.
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.
Thanks 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.
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!