Thursday, January 12, 2017

Urban Assault 3-speed

What comes to your mind when you hear the words "Urban Assault," or an urban assault bike? A 3-speed? Surely not!


The term "urban assault" has been used on a range of bicycles, usually pertaining to either one of two types: mountain bikes that are ridden in (or on) the city because their owners cannot find proper trails nearby, or hardcore fixed-gear commuter bikes with track geometry. The latter have become especially prevalent in the U.S. within the last decade.

Image sourced from The Online Bicycle Museum

But if we have learned anything from the last 100 years, it's that having more gears generally makes riding easier. Using that logic, wouldn't having an underdrive and overdrive gear allow for quicker acceleration and a higher top speed, improving on the urban assault goodnes? My roommate (the one that moved in after the one who bought the Hercules 3-speed moved out) originally wanted an old 3-speed for himself after having tried one of mine, but fell in love with this "fixie" frame that I rescued from the dump. Without thinking twice, he decided to turn that bike into a 3-speed, just like my old roommate had planned but never did (he now owns the Hercules and the 2-speed Pake). I suppose the ad above was true for both of them: "Once you have tried a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gear you will never go back to the hard-work single-geared bicycle." And it seems the trend is somewhat nationwide, as more and more commuters are skipping the fixed-gears and looking into multi-speed internally-geared bikes with fenders.


So, ignoring the fact that this project sat for an entire semester before we finally coordinated a time to teach him how to build a wheel with me, we laced up a new rim with a Sturmey-Archer AW hub from a 1969 Schwinn Racer. The interesting thing about 1969 hubs is that some have months numbered above 12, such as this one which is stamped 69 14. According to fellow enthusiasts, hubs found both in the U.S. and England have been seen dated 13 through 16 at least. Nobody knows what these mean.


My roommate picked out the colors, as well as the handlebar I removed from my '72 Schwinn Speedster. He agreed to pay a little extra for the NOS late 1970s gear shifter.


Tires are the 200-mile-old 700x37c Continental Sport Contacts I had on my Lotus for a short time. They should provide a smoother ride over Ann Arbor's trashed pavement. I also swapped the front and rear valve caps to balance out the color since I noticed they were mismatched in the perfect colors.


I bought a matching brake for the rear, as this bike originally didn't have one. My roommate opted to wrap the brake cable to the underside of the top tube for looks and cushioning when locking up or carrying the bike. This is something that has never crossed my mind but I think it's a pretty good idea. My only worry is that it may trap water and encourage rust. However, considering how thick the tubing seems on this bike (the seat post is only 25.2 mm wide!), it shouldn't be too big of a worry.


This bike is definitely one of my most flamboyant builds, but I really like the way it turned out. The handlebars are nice and wide, the machined brake tracks on the rims provide for good braking despite the short hand levers, and the fat tires do ride nice, and even feel nicer than they did on the Lotus. With fewer attachments than my bikes have, this one rides tight and makes no noises over bumps. Overally, I'd say this is a pretty solid urban assault bike.