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.
Simple, cheap and effective 2-ratio hub gear that'll be a favourite as fixers look for gearing options
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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.
Nice and tidy, sealing is fine for road use
Simple and effective. Shift can be a bit of a lottery but it gets easier with practice
At just over a kilo it's not overbuilt
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
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
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.