Sturmey Archer S2 kickshift hub gear  £64.99

8/10

Simple, cheap and effective 2-ratio gear that'll be a favourite as fixers look for gearing options

Weight 1051g   Contact  www.ison-distribution.com

by Dave Atkinson   March 17, 2011  

Sturmey Archer S2 kickshift hub

Sturmey's S2 kickshift hub didn't fare so well when it first hit the shelves in the 1960s, but 50-odd years on it makes a lot of sense for anyone that likes the clean lines of a singlespeed but secretly wishes the hills weren't so hard. And it's cheaper than many standard track hubs.

A hub gear stripped back to the bare essentials, the S2 doesn't require any kind of cabling. You just kick back on the pedals to shift between the two ratios, direct drive and an overdrive of 138%. It takes a standard Sturmey Archer 3-spline sprocket and is held in place with track nuts and non-turn washers. At just over a kilo in weight it's lighter than most hub gears, though it feels sturdy enough and tightly built.

My first impressions of the hub were a bit mixed. I didn't think it was possible to know what gear you were in when not turning the pedals, and I couldn't get the hub to reliably shift between ratios, leaving me struggling at junctions, especially on hills. It's all about the practice though, and once I'd got a feel for the change I was fine.

The shift motion is a lot more subtle than you might expect and requires a little bit of finesse; you can change just by shifting the pedals back just a short way, so if you stop at the lights and rock the pedals back to starting position there's every chance you'll change ratios. You get used to rolling up to the lights with the pedals moving to get into position before you stop, though. It's not hard.

Once you get a bit more used to the hub you also realise that you can tell which gear you're in by the freewheel sound: loud clicks for overdrive and quiet for direct. That comes in handy when you're coasting towards the lights or setting yourself up for a climb. Sometimes it still takes a few goes to get the right ratio though, however much practice you have it remains a bit of a lottery.

the 38% gap is a big one which takes some getting used to, but the upside is you get two widely spaced gears that most people will set to cruise and climb. I'm currently running a 36/17 which gives 56" and 77" gears, making even the evil slog up Brassknocker hill doable without blowing a gasket. You can tailor the ratios to your riding and terrain, I might even go down to a 34T chainring that'll still give me a 73" cruising gear while the climbing gear drops to 53".

So who's it for? Well, you can stick it on whatever you like but clearly it's an interesting substitute for a singlespeed hub. You get to keep the clean lines and low-maintenance chain setup and you gain an extra gear. Everyone's a winner. Mine's on an old Raleigh Sirocco frame that I've built up as a kind of classic roadster. You could conceivably stick one on a singlespeed MTB or crosser too (rim brake only, obviously), though anecdotal evidence from a local bike shop suggests that the sealing isn't really up to serious mud plugging. Obviously you can't ride it fixed; Sturmey do a 3spd fixed hub if that's your bag but it's a bit spendy, and you need a shifter which might spoil the lines a bit.

At £64.99 it's certainly not an expensive gearing option either; there's plenty of normal track hubs that will set you back more than that. It's a cheap and effective way of getting another gear and keeping your bike looking clean. 2011 is the year of the Urban Gear, as singlespeed looks remain but gearing options branch out. This is one that will certainly be popular. Ison will be offering anodised shells too: red is first.

Verdict

Simple, cheap and effective 2-ratio hub gear that'll be a favourite as fixers look for gearing options

road.cc test report

Make and model: Sturmey Archer S2 kickshift hub gear

Size tested: Silver

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

2 speed kickshift hub gear

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

- Duomatic Kick Shift 2 speed hub

- Kick Shift to change gears.

- No shifter cable or associated wear issues.

- Available with 160mm or 148mm axle lengths.

- Gear ratio of 138%.

- New double anodised finish available in Black, Silver, Red and Turquoise.

- Available now with high polish hubshell.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
7/10

Nice and tidy, sealing is fine for road use

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Simple and effective. Shift can be a bit of a lottery but it gets easier with practice

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
8/10

At just over a kilo it's not overbuilt

Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

won't break the bank if you get one built up

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well, having two gears is a definite advantage over one...

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Simplicity, ease of use, old-school clicky noises

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Shift is a bit of a lottery

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? I did

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 38  Height: 190cm  Weight: 98kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

17 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

can you stick a freewheel on this? it doesn't seem that way but its not clear

posted by eddie11 [78 posts]
17th March 2011 - 14:01

29 Likes

it's a free hub, not a fixed. sorry if that wasn't clear, i've added a sentence into the review to clarify.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7380 posts]
17th March 2011 - 14:06

42 Likes

Any perceptible drag in the big gear? I've read that with this S2 the lower gear is 'direct drive", while the higher is stepped up in the hub.

posted by cowspassage [43 posts]
17th March 2011 - 14:33

42 Likes

not really. you're right, it's direct drive and 138% overdrive. both feel very efficient and not draggy at all.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7380 posts]
17th March 2011 - 14:46

38 Likes

wow, where can I get one from?
Also, what's this going to be like for lacing into a wheel? Am I going to need bizarrely lengthed spokes?

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing..."

Cooks's picture

posted by Cooks [486 posts]
17th March 2011 - 15:43

40 Likes

Ison (www.ison-distribution.com) are the distributors, mine built up three cross into an open sport rim with 292mm spokes (iirc) which are a pretty standard size for 700c

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7380 posts]
17th March 2011 - 16:12

35 Likes

I've got several hundred km's clocked up on the version with the coaster brake (S2C) as I couldn't wait for the brakeless version to hit the channel and have now come to love the clean lines you get with a coaster brake. Got mine from SJS no doubt they will have these in too.

Great bit of kit; as the review says. Figure out your ratios for climbs and cruise on the basis of direct drive bottom and 138% overdrive top, slap on the relevant sprocket and get riding. Your ears tell you waht gear you are in and you soon learn to double dip whne your legs feedback that you've got the wrong one on the approach to a junction.

Shift quality and accuracy is affected by chain tension ime; slack messes it up so keep an eye on that. As per the photo mine run's with a half-link chain, a Charge one, which seems to 'give' a lot more than a convetional chain but then I tend not to bully my geared bikes up hills quite as much as I do the bike with this hub!

Really, though?

posted by workhard [383 posts]
18th March 2011 - 14:26

29 Likes

Was itching to get one of these or the S2C for my roadrat but Sturmey advise me that I won't be able to use it with 132.5mm dropout spacing unless anyone can tell me otherwise?

posted by richcc [43 posts]
18th March 2011 - 20:24

38 Likes

richcc wrote:
Was itching to get one of these or the S2C for my roadrat but Sturmey advise me that I won't be able to use it with 132.5mm dropout spacing unless anyone can tell me otherwise?

Far be it from me to go against the advice of Sturmey Archer themselves. But my Raleigh frame off of 1985 isn't 120mm spacing, it's 126mm. So the hub's a bit of a loose fit when you stick it in, but it tightens up just fine. And there's lots of thread sticking out for the bolts, I could easily have spaced it out with a thin nut or a thick washer on either side if the frame wouldn't flex.

obviously you'd need 6mm more padding. But surely it's possible? Especially in a nice springy steel frame. Anyone tried it? What's yours in, workhard?

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7380 posts]
18th March 2011 - 22:11

36 Likes

dave_atkinson wrote:
What's yours in, workhard?

A Charge Plug as it happens, which I bought especially for the conversion, just to make things simple. But a steel frame is easy enough to cold set surely?

Really, though?

posted by workhard [383 posts]
20th March 2011 - 12:46

37 Likes

I have a query. If you run a singlespeed fixie MTB you can't kick back to change gear only role back which would be a bit of problem as you could only change gear when stationary. I can't see how it would work because if you had a freewheel, the freewheel would be free on the way back and not engage the gear change.

How does it work or as it is Monday morning I don't see how it works if you are moving

posted by Ciaran Patrick [117 posts]
21st March 2011 - 14:44

32 Likes

Ciaran Patrick wrote:
I have a query. If you run a singlespeed fixie MTB you can't kick back to change gear only role back which would be a bit of problem as you could only change gear when stationary. I can't see how it would work because if you had a freewheel, the freewheel would be free on the way back and not engage the gear change.

How does it work or as it is Monday morning I don't see how it works if you are moving

Simples. It isn't a fixed hub, it is a two speed freewheel hub. As the freewheel rotates backwards the gear flips, you pedal forward and the gear engages, you pedal backwards again, the gear flops. You pedal forward the other gear engages. Only the first few degrees of backwards rotational movement causes the flip flop, you have to pedal forwards again before flop flipping. So you can pedal backwards as much as you like but you'll only get one change of gear.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [383 posts]
21st March 2011 - 23:05

35 Likes

Does the frame have to have been set up for gearing as opposed to single speed to start with?

I have a couple of frames I would like to use, but as single speed, they have narrower rear ends... so to speak.

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1255 posts]
23rd March 2011 - 22:23

32 Likes

jimmythecuckoo wrote:
Does the frame have to have been set up for gearing as opposed to single speed to start with?

I have a couple of frames I would like to use, but as single speed, they have narrower rear ends... so to speak.

they'll probably be 120mm spacing then, which is what the hub is.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7380 posts]
23rd March 2011 - 23:28

36 Likes

sweeeeeettt

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1255 posts]
1st April 2011 - 16:26

34 Likes

thanks for the review.

I've been waiting for kickback hubs since I burnt out one on a vintage schwinn flatforked beast 15 years ago.

They really are the simplest solution for townie types like me.

there will be pushing up hills however, and don't expect to get there first.

posted by Viro Indovina [79 posts]
2nd April 2011 - 12:48

38 Likes

double post

posted by Viro Indovina [79 posts]
2nd April 2011 - 12:58

34 Likes

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