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Hub gear change ghost
#1
I have a dutch bike that I bought in Copenhagen. It is back breaking and has a hub gear. It keeps changing gears randomly either when I try to go up into the highest gear (there are 3 gears) it will go into that gear for a minute and then when i least expect it and am pedalling hard to get past a truck it will slit into a lower gear. It is like the pedals give way. It does not go out of gear, it just slips into another gear. I have little control over what gear I am in. Today I did my whole 20 minute cycle to work with out touching the gear change on the handle and it went down form 3 to 1 and back up again twice!

This is really frustrating as I feel I cannot rely on the bike and get up speed. I have had this problem for a while. I first paid a bike shop to 'fix' it and the I thin put a new gear cable and when I cycled away after 15 minutes the back wheel got stuck and wouldn't turn, this happened when I was at a busy junction and i nearly fell off. I had to carry it back for them to free the wheel. I then took it home but it still kept chaining gears randomly so I didn't cycle for a while.I was so annoyed I didn't take it back to them and just lost £60.

I then got another bike shop to look at it and explained the ghost gear chaining and they tested it and rode it and said that they couldn't make the problem happen and therefore there was no problem - it must be because i am not changing gears properly. I need to back pedal a little when changing gears. I already knew this from another bike shop telling me 2 yeas ago and I have been conscious of it. But I figured I was just an idiot and went away and tried to cycle better. That bike shop identified a few other little things they said it needed done and then I paid them £60 for that. I took the bike away and for a week was happy cycling, changing gears very carefully when not pedalling/back pedalling a little as i was told to do. It was great.

After another week it started happening again. It has damaged my confidence in cycling as i not don't feel safe and its embarrassing to have everyone overtake you because you don't know wheat gear you will be in one minute to the next. I am lucky my commute is mostly though parks and cycle paths but London is scary to cycle in, I have just moved here and cycling here is new to me.

I have taken the bike back to the bike shop and they seem annoyed with me. I said it was good for a while and i was very careful to do what they suggested but it was happening again. the guy is nice but he seemed baffled. He said he could remove the back break and put on a handle break and a fixed gear wheel but that would be £90. He said he will also change the gear cable and test it again for £10. He says hubs rarely bear and he couldn't tell me more without changing me a lot to take it apart.

I don't know much about bike shut I am trying to pay professionals who do. I feel hey have not fixed the problem even though I have now paid £120 in "repairs" that haven't repaired it. The bike only cost about that. I feel maybe I should give up and sell it but now i have put so much money into it I am a little heart broken. I also feel these guys in bike shops think i ma an idiot who can't ride a bike and that there is nothing wrong with it but there really is. I know I don't know much about bikes but thats why I am paying for their advice.

I don't know what to do, I feel like its my fault and I can't afford to fix it more or a new hub and I wish someone had just done that in the first place. I also feel bike shop guys don't take me seriously because I am a girl.

Does anyone know what the really problem is? Or should I just give up and sell it? Can i even sell it in this condition? I like the bike and do not want to sell it but no one seems to be able to fix it and it is stopping me cycle.

They bike guy is currently changing the gear cable and disconnecting it from the hub so it will only have the high gear apparently. Is this the right thing to do?
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#2
Hi Watt;

IGH (Internal Gear Hubs) rarely fail - especially 3 speed hubs. Disconnecting the shifter cable will cause the hub to stay in top gear. If your area is flat enough to ride like that; I would suggest doing so for a couple of weeks. If it does not stay in top gear with the cable disconnected, then you have one of those extremely rare IGH problems.

I would bet that something you are wearing or carrying is tugging on the cable, causing the random shifting. Can you get a friend to take pictures (or better yet video) of you riding wearing the clothes you had on the last time you had the problem, and carrying everything you were at that time, from front, back and both sides, (blur your face if you want to so that we cannot id you) and post them here? If my guess is correct, I think that we can identify the issue.
Nigel
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#3
Just in the shops' defense, there is nothing harder to fix or more frustrating than the problem that the bike owner tells you about, but that you cannot get the bike to do when you ride it. There are some jerks in bike shops everywhere, but they may just genuinely be stuck on what the problem is and aren't sure what to try without having to charge you more money. That said, if you think these guys are being jerks about it, go to another shop.

Here's a couple things it COULD be.
1. Shifter not adjusted right. If the shifter/cable isn't adjusted correctly, the bike can sit in one gear, but be very close to shifting to another. A tiny bump in the road or tug on the cable might cause it to shift and then go back.
2. Cable stretch. This wouldn't explain the original problem. But when a new cable is put in, they always stretch a little over the first couple weeks. You usually have to get them adjusted once more a while after they're installed. This could explain why the problem returned. However, this is the kind of thing that ANY mechanic should know to look for and solve in 30 seconds, so...
3. Loose shifter - If the shifter does not hold its position firmly, it can also move around some due to bumps, etc. You could try wiggling it a little while you ride to see if it seems likely it might be moving enough on its own to shift.
4. Gummed up hub - this kind of gear hubs need to be lubricated occasionally and if they're gummed up inside, it can mess with the shifting. Again, something a shop should do while they're changing a cable, trying to diagnose a shifting problem. But can't hurt to ask if they did it.
5. It really could be that the hub is damaged inside. As nfmisso says, this is rare. But there's a lot of old 3 speeds in Copenhagen that get ridden many km's and left out in the elements. These things do break down sometimes. It sounds like your problem happens most when you pedal hard. That could be an indication of a problem in the hub (and might be why the mechanic couldn't get it do it. They may be riding it too gently.)

You are right that this is not safe. I would at least cut the cable and ride it in the highest gear for now (if it slips after you do this, it's definitely a hub problem.)

Longer term, if they can't find anything, you might have to get a new back wheel or find a used wheel/bike. I don't think you want a "fixed gear wheel" although it might be a bit cheaper. But I would think a new 3-speed wheel wouldn't be much different than a fix wheel and adding hand brakes.

Obviously, it's not really fair to sell the bike without telling someone about the problem and it's not going to sell for much once you tell people. Unfortunately, the "I paid more to fix my old bike than I paid to buy it" story is fairly common.
Good luck
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#4
If when the cable is disconnected the problem goes away then apparently the shift cable had something to do with the problem, but I'll be surprised if that happens. I would OH the hub, but you need someone who has the parts or you'll have a lot of down time. If it's a Sturmey Archer hub is not that hard to overhaul, only tools needed are a hammer, punch (old screwdriver) and come wrench.
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#5
Thank you all so much for your long replies. So kind. The guy in the bike shop replaced the cable and I rode it home fast as I could and seemed great. Was really nice to ride it properly. But he said the old cable was frayed and I feel he should have noticed this first time I came with the problem. Only £10 would have been better than £60. But I'm sceptical if it will last, as the cable was replaced quite recently. If it starts to happen again I will follow all of your advice.

Im sure the bike shop guy was really nice and you are right he was only trying to help without charging me too much. It is just frustrating when you are starting out cycling in a new city and everything seems to go wrong. I am not giving up yet though.

Thank you again very much.
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#6
Inconsistent shkfting should have pointed to the need to check the cable right off. You sound not have been charged for at least the final labor. I prefer conscientious over "nice. "
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