Can I add multiple gearing to my Wabi?

Technically, yes. However, given Wabis are designed as fixed gear/single speed bikes, most solutions will require compromises, modifications/add-ons, and a potentially high cost to convert to geared. The limitations are the narrow rear axle width (120mm), horizontal dropouts and the lack of cable stops.This means will not be able to use modern internal geared hubs or geared groupsets as they are designed for wider rear axles.

We'll start with options that work with the 120mm rear axle width and then touch another option that requires widening the rear droputs.

120mm OLD options

Sturmey Archer 2 Speed Kick Shift Hub. This is the simplest option that gives you 2 speeds that are 38% different in gearing. This allows you to have a lower gear for starts and climbs along with your standard riding gearing. You simply get a Sturmey Archer 2 Speed Kick Shift Hub and build a wheel around it. No cables or shifters are needed. Make sure you find the freewheel version (not the coaster brake) and we recommend the 32H version if you are using our rims or matching our rims.

Considerations:

  • These are heavy as they add extra 1.5 pounds to the bike.
  • They can also be hard to find given Sturmey Archer's limited production and retailers. You may need to use eBay.

Sturmey Archer 3 or 8 Speed Internal Gear Hub. This is the next best option as these hubs are made for this type of conversion. Just make sure it is a version for 118-120 OLDs (used spacers for 118), supports freewheel/rim brakes (not coaster or drum brake) and that you get the corresponding shifters (bar end or thumb). We also like the 32H version if you are matching Wabi wheels (but they can be harder to find). Be sure to double-check the specs are there a lot of variations of these hubs out there.

Considerations:

  • They are very heavy (extra 3-4 pounds).
  • The shifting on these hubs is clunky compared to modern shifting. Be aware.
  • The cabling out of the hub can be tricky. In particular, some of the hub options have a cable/spring/housing running on the outside of the chain stay, which can cause heel strike while pedaling. You can also run it up the seat stay to avoid this. Some versions run inside the chain stay (8 speed), but look carefully.
  • You'll need to get additional clamp-on cable stops or guides for the shifter cable/housing. 
  • They can also be hard to find given Sturmey Archer's limited production and retailers. You may need to use eBay.

Note on Shimano: Almost all Shimano options will NOT work. However, you could technically use the 3 speed Nexus hub with the drum or roller brakes (120 OLD) and just not use/activate the brakes. But, we have not actually tested this. All the other ones are too wide.

Vintage 5 Speed Freewheel Setup. You can build out a 1 x 5 or 2 x 5 (aka 10 speed) setup using vintage parts.  For the rear drive train, you'd need to get a vintage 5 speed freewheel rear hub (120 OLD), a freewheel, a rear derailleur hanger adapter, and rear derailleur. For the front drive train, you could with a single crankset (no derailleur) or a double crankset with a clamp-on front derailleur. If you did a single crankset, you'd most likely need a 130BCD with a narrow/wide chainring. For shifters, you'd just need to find the corresponding options for the drivetrain.

Considerations:

  • If you did 1 x 5, be aware that the freewheel may have significant gearing jumps between the cogs.
  • Most vintage setups will use friction shifting - not index shifting.
  • Be sure all the parts work together.
  • Cabling will be challenging as you'll need clamp-on cable stops or guides for the front and rear derailleur. It can get pretty messy or ugly.
  • Costs can climb when you start putting all these parts together - new hub/wheel, freewheel, derailleurs, new crankset, shifters, cabling, etc. Be aware.

126mm OLD setup

It is possible to widen the rear axle by 3mm in each direction to accommodate 126mm OLD solutions. This is called cold setting. We recommend having a pro do this, but it can be done at home. We do not recommend cold setting the frame to 130mm OLD.

5-7 Speed Freewheel Setup. You can build up to a 1 x 7or 2 x 7 setup a drive train for 126mm OLD frame. You'll find a lot more options as this is still a standard configuration that is made and sold by retailers. For the rear drive train, you'd need to get a 5-7 freewheel rear hub (126mm OLD), a freewheel, a rear derailleur hanger adapter, and rear derailleur. For the front drive train, you could with a single crankset (no derailleur) or a double crankset with a clamp-on front derailleur. If you did a single crankset, you'd most likely need a 130BCD with a narrow/wide chainring. For shifters, you'd just need to find the corresponding options for the drivetrain.

Considerations:

  • If you do 1 x 5 - 7, be aware that the freewheel may have significant gearing jumps between the cogs.
  • Be sure all the parts work together.
  • Cabling will be challenging as you'll need clamp-on cable stops or guides for the front and rear derailleur. It can get pretty messy or ugly.
  • Costs can climb when you start putting all these parts together - new hub/wheel, freewheel, derailleurs, new crankset, shifters, cabling, etc. Be aware.




May 22, 2022

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