Derailleurs: my list of pros and cons
Derailleurs: my list of pros and cons
I’ve put together a list of the pros and cons of this transmission to help me decide if the switch is worth the money. Hope this list helps you decide because it helped me.
Easy Service – The derailleur drivetrain is simple and easy to service with basic bike tools. Any bike mechanic anywhere in the world knows how to tune and repair a derailleur. If you’re on tour, you can carry all the tools you need in your toolbox to repair or overhaul your transmission. Peace of mind knowing you can fix any issues that may arise. Internal gear hubs are too complicated to repair.
Derailleurs are more efficient – Under optimal conditions, derailleurs are slightly more mechanically efficient than internally geared hubs. Depending on model and condition, the efficiency of the derailleur is approximately 2-10% higher. That’s because the system uses fewer gears to transfer energy from the pedals to the rear wheels. You lose less energy in power transfer. That being said, efficiency benefits can be lost if parts are not properly maintained or adjusted. For example, dirt and grime can create drag and prevent the system from working at peak performance. Worn tape and chain have the same effect.
Derailleur setups are cheaper – you can buy a brand new mid-range kit for a few hundred dollars. Even low-end internally geared hubs cost much more than that. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s best to stick with derailleurs.
The derailleur has more gears – most modern derailleurs are set with 27-30 speeds. The benefit of having more gears is that there is less space between each gear. You can always find the best gear for the terrain and speed you ride. For internally geared hubs, you may have to choose between slightly over-geared and slightly under-geared. This is not optimal and may reduce your efficiency.
Transmissions have a wider gear range – most modern transmissions have a gear range of about 450%-600%. A larger gear range gives you higher highs and lower lows. With a wider range of gears, you can go faster on the flats and climb steeper hills more easily. Most internal gear hubs have a much smaller gear range of 200%-400%. The best IGH Rohloff has a gear range of 526%. This is comparable to any modern transmission drivetrain.
Finding replacement parts is easy – every bike shop has derailleurs, cassettes, chains, shifters, and more. You can simply buy what you need and get back on the road. You will need to consider the type of transmission drivetrain you are using. 9, 10 and 11 speed parts are hard to find in some places. 8-speed gears are common. If your IGH fails, you may need to ship it and wait for the manufacturer to repair it before you can get it back on the road. Most bike shops won’t even touch them except for general maintenance. Having said that, that hasn’t stopped many cyclists from taking expeditions around the world on internally-geared hubs through developing countries.
Lighter derailleurs – The derailleurs are lighter and there is less weight on the wheels. You will be able to accelerate faster with less effort. If you’re the kind of rider who measures every gram of weight on your bike, stick with a lighter derailleur setting.
The derailleur is faster – you can cover more ground faster with the derailleur due to greater efficiency and less weight. They also improve acceleration. This is probably why competitive racers still ride with derailleurs.
Easier Rear Tire Repair – Most bikes have a quick release that allows you to remove and reinstall the rear tire in seconds for easy tire repair. Internal gear hub bikes are a little trickier. They require you to readjust the chain tension every time you put the rear wheel back on. This takes some time and is a bit cumbersome.
User service is easy – anyone can learn how to maintain and adjust derailleur settings. With a few tools, you can easily install a new chain and cassette. This saves a trip to the bike shop and gives you peace of mind knowing you can repair and replace your gear without help. Maintaining an internally geared hub is also very simple, but has a slightly more learning curve. There are repairs you can’t do at home.
You can change wheels – some riders like to keep two sets of wheels for the same bike. For example, maybe one set has slick tires for road riding, while the other has knobs for riding mountain bike trails. You can easily replace them in minutes and have a completely different bike. You can even run two different sized wheels if you use disc brakes and your frame allows it. For example, you can run a 700c on the street and a 650b on the trail. This is really not possible with internally geared hubs. I guess you could get two, but then, why not get another bike?
The derailleur is quieter—some riders have complained about the noise its internally geared hub makes in certain gears. This varies by hub. For the most part, the derailleur is fairly quiet.
You can shift under load – even if it’s not ideal, shift under load. This is helpful when you’re climbing steep hills and need to maintain the momentum to get to the top. With the IGH, you have to apply less power to the pedals when changing gears. If you stop, you probably won’t be able to get going again on a steep climb.
All frames are derailleur compatible – these are standard parts and will work with almost any bike frame.
A derailleur is standard – although internally geared hubs have been around for decades, derailleurs are still the most popular choice.
More Maintenance – To keep your drivetrain running smoothly and efficiently, you must clean, degrease and lubricate your chains and gears every few hundred miles. You also have to adjust the cable and derailleur frequently to keep the bike shifting smoothly. When the chain and sprocket wear out, you must replace them. Internal gear hubs require much less frequent maintenance. Just clean it once in a while, change the oil every 5,000km and forget about it.
Not very reliable – the derailleur is a bit finicky. If you bump it into something, you need to readjust it. Since the system is open, dirt, sand, water, and grime can stick to the chain and gears, causing wear and many other problems. Rear derailleurs are easily damaged because they stick out and are so close to the ground. With an internally geared hub, you don’t have to worry about these things.
Derailleurs don’t have a long chain life – every time you shift, the chain bends to one side. Many times the chain runs at an angle. The chain is constantly jumping from one cog to another. All of this puts extra stress on the chain, causing it to wear out and eventually fail. Chains have a lifespan of 500-5000 miles or more, depending on the conditions you ride and how you maintain them. With an internally geared hub, the chain always runs straight and stays on the same gears all the time. More than 10,000 miles off the chain is not uncommon.
You can’t change gears while parked – imagine you’re in high gear at a traffic light. When you want to start over, you have a hard time pedaling because you didn’t downshift before stopping. You can’t downshift until you start moving. This problem is especially annoying in stop-and-go city traffic that you might encounter while commuting. With the internal gear hub, you can downshift when stopped for easy shifting when you’re ready to start again.
You can’t change multiple gears at once – if you suddenly hit the sand and need to downshift, you have to use the derailleur to change gears at once. If you try to change multiple gears at once, you may lose the chain. With the internally geared hubs, you can change gears at will.
Weak rear wheel – The spokes are long and often unevenly distributed on the rear hub of a derailleur bike. This produces a weaker wheel. This is especially problematic for cyclists or heavy riders. You may suffer more damaged spokes and the wheel may fail more easily. There is a solution to this problem. Use wheels with more spokes. Most cyclists use 36-spoke wheels instead of 32. This adds enough strength to carry heavy loads without worry.
Derailleurs are not designed to be ridden in wet, sandy, snowy or dusty conditions – you must keep your gears and derailleurs clean so they can operate efficiently. Sometimes that means scrubbing and oiling your gears and chains every day. Sand or other debris on the chain and gears can increase wear and cause parts to age faster. The internal gear hub is hermetically closed. This keeps any contaminants out and helps the drivetrain last longer.
The derailleur is not belt drive compatible – if you want the benefits of a belt drive, you’ll have to switch to an internally geared hub or single speed. Belt drives are cleaner, quieter, last longer and, most importantly, require less maintenance. No more degreasing and scrubbing the chain when you switch to belts.
You need to be very careful with the rear derailleur – it’s a fragile part sticking out near the ground. It’s easy to bump it against tree stumps or rocks. When the bike is boxed and transported, it must be removed to avoid damage. The derailleur can easily lose adjustment. Overall, they’re just a hassle. The internal gear hub is indexed in the hub and does not require adjustment after installation.
You need to know a little bit about your bike – when riding a bike with a derailleur, it’s good to at least know how to properly clean, lubricate, and tune the drivetrain. It’s a simple job that anyone can do, but it does require some expertise. If you don’t know anything about bikes and don’t have any desire to learn, you’ll need to visit your local bike shop every now and then to get your derailleur serviced.
Derailleurs are less technologically advanced – if you’re the type of person who likes to have top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art gears, you probably prefer an internally geared hub to a derailleur. The engineering is spectacular.
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