Hub gears are back, folks: We've had anything from two to 11 speeds in the office in the last year and more and more manufacturers are speccing them. The FCSX chainset from Sturmey Archer is specifically designed to be paired with a hub gear and it's an excellent, if pricey, transmission option.
Although manufacturers have been embracing hub gears more and more, they haven't necessarily been joining up the dots where gear ratios are concerned. Two recent examples that I've experienced are the Marin Ignacio and the Traitor Luggernaut. Both bikes came with a traditional chainset and sprocket setup (44/17 for the Marin, 42/16 for the Traitor) which gave some pretty long top gears - both in the mid 90s - that weren't especially useful.
The FCSX is available as a 36T or a 34T unit, which gives a better spread of gears on pretty much any hub we can think of. On top of that it uses a through-axle and outboard bearing design for up-to-dateness and extra stiffness. The bearing cups are Sunrace branded (Sturmey Archer is part of Sunrace these days) and they're nicely made. The through axle has an ISIS spline with a captive Allen bolt to keep everthing in place. Fitting is simple enough, and the bearings are very smooth.
Once you're chained up and away the FCSX chainset feels stiff and sturdy. It's not especially light so there's plenty of alloy where it counts, the crank arms are forged with a gully in the rear to save a bit of weight but that certainly doesn't affect the stiffness. The cranks - especially the non-drive side - have a kink halfway down that looks a bit odd when you're sat on the bike, but from the side it's a good-looking piece of kit. The Sturmey logo has more or less rubbed off the test cranks after a few hundred miles, but that's no different to other brands I've used.
The alloy chainring is designed for a 3/32" chain and the single chainline should mean it'll last a good while; certainly there's no signs of wear at all on the one I have fitted although it hasn't been especially wet or gritty out. At £140 it's fairly expensive but it's well made and a better option than a standard-sized chainset if you're running a hub gear.
Compact single-ring chainset that gives a good ratio range when coupled with a hub gear
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Make and model: Sturmey Archer FCSX6 chainset
Size tested: 36T, 172.5mm
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?
They say: "If you are looking for the perfect cranksert to pair up to a Sturmey Archer wide ratio 8 speed hub, look no further. The new FCSX Series of cranks feature an integrated ISIS through axle crank design and external bearing bottom bracket."
It's not just a good match for an eight speed though
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Integrated ISIS through axle crank arms
External bearing bottom bracket with sealed bearings
Polished forged aluminum crank arms with 34 or 36 tooth chainrings
Nice and stiff, smooth bearings
single chainline means the alloy ring should last
Decent on the weight front rather than especially good
Quite pricey compared to a square taper setup
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good looking, stiff and smooth
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Scuffs fairly easily, a bit expensive
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
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.