Can you turn a single speed bike into a 3-speed?
September 20, 2017 11:18 PM   Subscribe

I am shocked at my lack of knowledge about bikes. Someone has a single speed Worksman bike for sale that fits my sudden need of a bike but I really need a 3 speed. Is it something that a bike shop could do for me?
posted by Foam Pants to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
Probably! It depends on how wide the spacing is between the rear brackets, but there should be 3, 5 and maybe 7 speed hubs available that only require a shift device up on the handlebars and some cable routing. Give a couple of shops a call and see what they say. You/they might have to order some stuff.
posted by rhizome at 11:24 PM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hard to say without seeing the bike. I checked Worksman’s site and they sell a few models with 3-speed coaster brake hubs like this Shimano model. So, the rear-dropout spacing (first photo on this page) is likely to be wide enough. You’ll need to have a bike store do some work for you attaching the shift device and routing cables. They might recommend that you buy a new pre-built rear wheel with the hub or take your existing wheel and replace the hub in it. Take the bike to a store and talk to them about it, and expect it to take some time figuring out a plan, ordering parts, and getting the work done. You can ride the bike as a single-speed while you wait.
posted by migurski at 11:35 PM on September 20, 2017

Probably, but it could cost significant money. Workman seems to offer a 3-speed NEXUS hub as an option on most of their bikes, so it seems likely. A major issue is if this alters you chainline, which might cost a bit more to fix. You want to avoid having to change your bottom bracket (where the pedals mount) if possible. Sight unseen, I couldn't say for sure (and Workman doesn't put a lot of specs on their website).

That said, this may be pricey. You need to buy the new hub. You're going to need to get the rear wheel rebuilt to replace your current hub with the 3-speed (Shimano makes a bunch of different types, many of which would work). You will need to have the (usually) right shifter mounted for the gear, and finally you might need a new chain, depending.

It's certainly possible to do at a local bike shop. This isn't a hard or exotic request. The real question is how much you want to spend to get this done.
posted by bonehead at 12:42 AM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

You're going to be looking at $200-ish for the rear wheel and shifting equipment. The hub (and shifting equipment) alone will run about $70. Wheelbuilding prices vary a great deal; at some shops buying a new wheel will be cheaper than having them rebuild a wheel with your new hub.

Some shops keep parts pulled from scrap bikes, which can help bring down the cost both of the wheel and the additional parts needed for fitting the drivetrain around it. See if there's a bike co-op where you live.

The labor and any additional parts required for outfitting the bike are outlined pretty well in bonehead's comment.
posted by ardgedee at 3:11 AM on September 21, 2017

Pre built 3 speed balloon tire wheels should be not too hard to find. I think Worksman sells them with their overbuilt rims and spokes, too. If you want it to match the front wheel. If your Worksman is like mine, chainline might be iffy. Though with full profile single speed teeth on the sprockets it's not likely to be much of a real problem unless you're really anal about it.

Worksman bikes are generally pretty heavy. You might be able to find an alternative 3 speed if it suits you by looking around. I Iike my Worksman 3 speed, but it's pretty quirky overall and overbuilt and truth be told, kind of dodgy construction, though solidly dodgy. The frame is lugged construction, unusual for a cantilever frame. But it still look like it was freehand built. The paint is about as durable as watercolor. So, even though I think it's only from 1996, it's looked like it's from the 1940s and kept in a leaky she'd.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:25 AM on September 21, 2017

Does your bike use a coaster brake or handbrakes? I believe it's tough to do a three-speed hub that's also a coaster brake, but coasters are fairly typical for bikes without gears. You may need to price in the cost of a way to stop as well as go.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2017

Response by poster: Some more information: I was planning on ordering a 3-speed Worksman. I am a fat lady and I need a bike that can support my weight and that places my body in a more upright, casual riding position. I happened across this bike for sale for $150. Since a new bike would run $400 -ish, I suppose that's the price point I am trying to beat. Sounds like it might not be worth it.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:53 AM on September 21, 2017

> I need a bike that can support my weight and that places my body in a more upright, casual riding position

Almost any bike in the Cruiser or Hybrid categories could do this, for almost all riders, which could give you more freedom to get exactly what you want. Buying new may also allow you to look for a Woman-specific design, as most bikes are still, sadly, designed for male body proportions by default.

For that used bike, I would guess you would come out very close to the price of new after the conversion.
posted by bonehead at 12:30 PM on September 21, 2017

Tangentially, a vintage Raleigh Sport is built like a tank and can handle yourself and groceries in the basket. We sold my wife's recently and reluctantly, but we needed the money and were moving out of the city.
posted by turkeybrain at 7:08 AM on September 22, 2017

Response by poster: I know there are vintage bikes out there that will fit the bill nicely but how do I know what to look for? The reason why I am interested in Worksman is because all their bikes are pretty much constructed the same out of the same material.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:34 PM on September 23, 2017

I don't recommend vintage bikes to people who are not bicycling hobbyists. They tend to have parts that are unconventional (and sometimes obsolete) by modern standards.
posted by ardgedee at 6:16 PM on September 23, 2017

« Older Mystery Sexy Theater 3000   |   Laptop number keys not responding - Samsung Series... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.