History of the Internally Geared Bicycle Hub

History of the Internally Geared Bicycle Hub

The Vintage 3 Speed Bicycle Vintage 3-speed hub

The 3 speed bicycle with internal hub gearing got its start in 1902 in Nottingham England, invented by Sturmy-Archer Gears LD.

For a complete Timeline of the Evolution of Geared Hubs click here 

Geared bicycle hubs have come a long way since I got my “3 Speed Bike” as a kid. That bike, with English Sturmey Archer parts, had a geared rear hub with an internal shifting mechanism that was actuated by means of a small chain that went into the rear axle. That in turn, was connected by means of a cable to a shifting lever mounted on the right handlebar.

3-speed bike Sturmey-Archer Shifter

This was a clean, efficient type of shifting, as the gearing was enclosed in the rear hub. Although more complex than the derailleur type of shifting, most bike shops still know how to work on these old hubs.

Vintage Shimano 3 speed hubs, circa 1980’s, are similar; but instead of using a chain to pull a rod in the hub, it makes use of a bellcrank to push a rod into the hub.

Vintage Shimano 3-speed bellcrank


Modern Day Multi-Speed Bike Hubs

Modern day multi-speed bicycles with geared hubs still work on the same principal as my vintage 3 speed from the 50’s!

Shimano Nexus Revo Shifter

The Hemet Double Century 1978

The Hemet Double Century is the second oldest double century in the U.S, started in 1965. Originally it was held in the Spring, but was moved to a Fall ride in later years. I’m guessing this move was made because it occasionally snows at Mountain Center in the Spring.

In 1978, I rode the Hemet DC, and completed this ride as my first double century. The race consisted of two 100 mile loops, the fist loop being relatively flat. The second loop however, went up 4000+ feet to Mountain Center in the San Jacinto wilderness, and then dropped down a steep downhill into Temeculah CA. The total elevation gain was over 9000′.

PATCH - Hemet DC 1978

My 1978 Hemet DC Finisher’s Patch

I’ve been looking at the routes on the current Hemet DC, (see map below) and learned they have changed the route of the second loop several times. Now it climbs for a total elevation gain of 6937′ for the whole ride.

Getting back to the ride – Going down the steep downhill wasn’t any fun… by the time we hit it, it was getting dark and, being an April ride, much cooler. I remember we rode the brakes going down, so we wouldn’t get too cold. Now, I have learned my lesson and have a lightweight, breathable cycling jacket made for such situations.

That was the first and last double century I rode using that plastic seat, and with no cycling shoes! Now I have a nice pair of Sidi riding shoes, which are really comfortable, and stay put on the pedals. When you ride 100+ miles, and your legs are tired, it get’s harder to keep your feet on the pedals if you aren’t clipped in, or using toe clips.

Hemet DC 7-14-17

2017 Hemet Double Century Route

LA Grand Tour Double Century

In 1959 The LA Wheelmen Bicycle Club, based in the Los Angeles California area,  was the first organization to start hosting double century bicycle rides. This was the “LA Grand Tour Double Century”. When I rode this double century in 1983, they also hosted triple and quad versions of the ride. I met some guys who tried the quad, but didn’t complete it. Whether they hosted the triple and quad from the beginning in ’59, I’m not sure.

When I Rode the LA Grand Tour Double, I did the “Highland” version of the ride, which started in Thousand Oaks CA, went up the coast to Refugio State Park above Santa Barbara, and looped back through Simi Valley. There was also a lowland version of the ride that followed the same basic route, just skipped the hills and went along the coast. This was a beautiful ride, featuring the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the San Ysidro Mountains on the other. The Highland version gave us a closeup look at the Montecito Hills, and fantastic views of the ocean. It was well worth the extra effort. Below is my 1983 ride completion patch:

Patch - LA Grand Tour DC 1981

This is a different route than the route used today by the tour: See the blue route on the map below for the 1983 route. I reconstructed the route from memory, so if it isn’t exactly correct, please let me know!

2017 Route
The Lowland double century (the red route on the map below) spends the most time along the comfortably cool coast. It travels up Pacific Coast Highway to Port Hueneme in Ventura County, inland to Moorpark, back out to the coast at Ventura, inland to Ojai. From Ojai head directly out to Rincon point via scenic Lake Casitas, then south along the same route. Total elevation gain is about 6,500 feet.

Note: There is no “Highland” version this year.

LA Grand Tour DC 1983-2017 Route1983(blue route) and 2017(red route) LA Grand Tour Route Map

The Tour of Two Forest Double Century

It goes without saying that a double century’s purpose is to be challenging.  200 miles on the flat is not easy, but add some mountains and it becomes very hard.  It helps mentally to participate in a ride that is not only challenging, but scenic. Tour of Two Forests is one of these.

I was privileged enough to ride the Tour of Two Forests double century twice in the early ’80s.  It started in Palmdale CA at 5:30AM, made a huge loop through the Los Padres National Forest and back to Palmdale, 210 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing. I completed the ride in around 20 hours the first time, and 18 hours the second time, which was well behind the fastest time of 10+ hours. This was the toughest ride I’ve ever ridden.

If you decide to do this ride, which is held June 8th in 2018, know it’s not as well supported as it used to be.  I recommend that you take a CamelBak water pack, or better yet ride with a group that has a SAG wagon (SAG is an old cycling term, that means Support and Gear). The ride is currently supported with what the organizers call “leap frog” support, instead of fixed aid stations, where I guess they keep passing you as you ride and drop water and snacks and drop bags along the route.

Originally, when the ride began in 1980, anyone was allowed to ride. Now, with limited support, only experienced riders who have completed 3 double centuries in 15 hours or less during the last year are allowed to ride.

TOTF Route Map 2017

2017 TOTF Route Map

TOTF Route 1980

Original 1980 Route Map – it’s about the same, but notice the jog on the right where it goes to Palmdale.

TOTF Route Slip 1980
Original 1980 Route Slip

Patches awarded for finishing the ride (no really – these are two separate patches! 😉 )

     1980 Patch               1982 Patch

Finisher's Patch TOTF 1980

Finisher's Patch TOTF 1982

I have seen there are still some “patch rides” around, but not like in the ’80s.  Every ride of any size back then was a patch ride, and people would proudly display all of their patches on their riding clothes. I guess times have changed!