Poor old Petunia - I haven't ridden her much lately. In fact I haven't been on either bike as often as I'd like to, but when I have I've taken Penelope out, enjoying her stability, her thumb-lever gearswitch and quiet hub gears, and ambling along at a leisurely pace. My husband, on his lightweight vintage road bike, has usually been at least a hundred metres ahead of me.
His ideal pedalling/riding speed and my ideal pedalling/riding speed don't match, even if we are both on road bikes. He's bigger and stronger than I, and I've given up trying to keep up with him, especially early in our rides when my muscles haven't warmed up. He's used to having to wait for me at certain points in regular rides, while I swan up on Penelope in my own time.
But aha, he didn't have to wait yesterday. Tyres pumped up tight, Petunia was ready to roll. I think the poor man was shocked when I was at his rear wheel from the get go. So was I! I fell behind on the hills, of course, but made up for it on the flat.
Having Penelope and her hub gears has spoiled me. I like being able to change gears with the flick of a thumb, and not have to take one hand from the handgrips to change gear on the head tube. I also like not getting grease on my jeans.
So I've been pondering changing the lovely Petunia to a hub-geared bike and considering the Shimano 7 and 8 speed hubs. At the moment the hubs are scarce here in Australia; Shimano isn't importing many and frankly it's cheaper to buy one overseas and have it shipped over. Even overseas they're a little hard to find right now.
My sister-in-law in the UK has a mixte frame with a Shimano 7-speed hub and she adores it. Her husband, a talented bikebuilder and handyman, built it up for her:
What's holding me back is the cost; it'll cost more than Petunia cost in the first place to undertake her transformation, and I'm a bit short of $400 right now for parts and labour. One of my clients owes me $1000 and keeps finding excuses for not having paid me, which is very frustrating.
Still, I had a chat to a reputable bike mechanic who told me what would need to happen to turn Petunia into a 7-speed beauty. He told me to keep the 27" wheels as they were in excellent condition and tyres would be readily available for some time to come. So that saves me forking out more $ for decent 700C wheels. I'll need a new crankset. New shifters and brake levers. I didn't have the bike with me at the time but will take her in so he can see her for himself and advise me as to feasibility. I know she has semi-horizontal dropouts so might be able to do it without too many extra adaptors. I've been reading the wonderful Sheldon Brown's thoughts on the Shimano Nexus system.
How much neater this rear wheel would look without the derailleur (or the nasty pie dish!)
Sadly neither my husband nor myself is mechanically talented enough to take the job on and save some money on labour costs. Ah, I have fond memories of T'Other Half putting together a sound system cabinet for my mother a couple of years ago. Three screws left over? No problem!!! :-)) So would I trust this man with bike building? Ah, no. It's just a shame my brother-in-law lives on the other side of the world!