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The Sturmey-Archer ASC
Fixed-Gear Three-Speed Hub

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by Sheldon "Coasting Is a Pernicious Habit" Brown
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SunRace/Sturmey-Archer has now released a new 3-speed fixed-gear hub, the S3X. Given SunRace's track record with Sturmey-Archer, the new version can be expected to be more reliable than the original. The hub is now available at Harris Cyclery.

This page describes the history of an earlier Sturmey-Archer fixed-gear hub.

One of the rarest and most interesting bicycle components ever made is the Sturmey-Archer ASC hub. At the time it was made, in the early 1950s, sporting cyclists in Britain were very heavily into time trialing (partly because that was the only form of racing that was legal on the public roads!) The most common event was the 25 mile time trial, and many, if not most, of the top riders rode fixed-gear bicycles. Derailer gearing was not looked on with favor by most British cyclists until the 1960's, so most multi-speed bicycles in Britain were equipped with Sturmey-Archer 3- or 4-speed internal-geared hubs.

The British cycling world was sharply divided between the fans of the fixed gear and the partisans of multi-speeds. The ASC hub was an attempt to bridge this gap, by providing the benefit of variable gears, without giving up the pleasures of the fixed gear.

The ASC was a true fixed-gear, in that coasting was impossible...the pedals would turn whenever the bicycle was in motion. However, it gave three different ratios: direct drive; 90% and 75%.

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In addition to being targeted at time trialists, the ASC was also marketed as the ideal gear for winter training...and there's much to be said for this claim. A fixed gear is well known to give superior control on slippery surfaces, but a single speed can be a bit of a burden on a cyclist laden with heavy winter clothing.

asc ad
This advertisement appeared in the December 24, 1953 Cycling

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The ASC is the rarest and most sought-after Sturmey-Archer hub. I have no idea where you can find one, so please don't bother asking. The last one I know of changing hands was sold on eBay for over $300 in May 1999.

For technical details on the ASC hub, see my ASC Tech Page

If you're very handy, you may be able to make a two-speed fixed gear hub out of a common AW three speed.

See my Web page on converting an AW to fixed gear.

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English 3-speeds    Old Raleighs    Bicycle Glossary   S-A 50 Years   Sturmey-Archer Hubs

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Sheldon Brown's Gunnar Street Dog 3-speed Fixed Gear

My ASC-equipped Gunnar Street Dog

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English 3-Speeds
Retro Raleighs
Raleigh Parts Threading/Interchangeability
Three-Speed Parts from Harris Cyclery
Sturmey-Archer Hubs
Sturmey-Archer Brochures 1935-38
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Sturmey-Archer 1902-1952
Evolution of the Raleigh Sports
The Raleigh Twenty
Some of My Raleighs:
Competition | International | Robin Hood | Superbe Roadster
New! Sturmey-Archer Heritage Site
Martin Hanczyc's roadster pages.
Tony Hadland's Sturmey-Archer Pages
Tony Hadland on the history of Raleigh

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