This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of Sturmey Archer and Shimano Nexus internal gear hubs.
Sturmey Archer and Shimano Nexus are the two most popular mid-range internal gear hub product lines. They have been around for a long time and continue to satisfy the users’ needs in this niche.
Both share the following qualities:
- Robust construction, especially the older models. Some models continue to operate just fine for decades with little to no maintenance.
- Similar gear range when the number of speeds are equal.
- Drum brakes (Shimano’s brakes are called roller brakes but are functionally very similar to drum brakes.)
- The internals of the hubs are well protected from the elements.
- The hubs are primarily for utility bicycles to achieve a clean look and lower maintenance costs.
- Both brands offer a disc brake model.
The Advantages Of Shimano Nexus
- Easier Maintenance
Shimano Nexus hubs are easier to disassemble and service. The procedure requires only a set of cone wrenches (17mm and 22mm).
Another positive quality of the Nexus hubs is that internals can be segregated into separate assemblies. This property makes the hub easier to service and reduces the chances of losing parts during the process.
When it comes to silence Shimano Nexus has a slight advantage, especially in first gear. That said, it would be inaccurate to definitively say that Nexus is always quieter.
The noise levels produced by both hubs are generally lower in first gear and then get louder as the rider shifts to second and third gear.
- Easier Gear Indicator Adjustment
Both hubs have gear indicators designed to help with gear adjustments.
In the case of Shimano Nexus hubs, the unit is called a bell crank and provides an easy-to-see indication thanks to a small display. When the rear wheel is removed so is the unit. The gear setup is remembered, however, and requires no adjustment upon re-fitting the wheel.
Sturmey Archer hubs use a small chain as an indicator. To adjust shifting, the shoulder on the chain should be aligned with the end of the axle. When removing the wheel, the chain has to be disconnected from the gear cable and re-set after wheel installation.
The process is simple but not as convenient as the system of Shimano Nexus. Moreover, this maneuver could be particularly difficult when the chain and axle are dirty and/or when your hands are freezing on a winter ride.
- Greater Variety of 8-speed Hubs
At the moment, Shimano offers about eight 8-speed models whereas the 8-speed Archer hubs are only 3.
Thus, if you’re specifically looking for an 8-speed model and want variety, Nexus delivers.
- 7-speed Hubs
Unlike, Sturmey Archer, Shimano Nexus offers a 7-speed series too.
The Disadvantages Of Shimano Nexus
- The Bearings Aren’t Maximally Sealed
The drive-side bearings of some 3-speed Shimano Nexus hubs aren’t maximally sealed (only a single rubber seal).
- Compatible With 2 Shifter Models
At the moment, the nexus hubs can be paired only with grip and trigger shifters.
- Braking Power Can Deteriorate Faster
Roller brakes last years for most people. However, sometimes there’s quicker deterioration. For that reason, it’s important to inspect the brake and grease it accordingly.
If the brake loses lubrication, even a small movement of the brake lever will lock the wheel. In other words, the brake modulation (control over the braking power) will be off. This state damages the brake very fast.
Roller brakes have a special port that allows you to re-grease them.
Note: The above doesn’t apply to disc brake models.
Shimano Nexus Advantages and Disadvantages
|Easier disassembly and servicing
|Braking power can deteriorate faster (doesn’t apply to disc brake models)
|Larger 8-speed product line
|Smaller 3-speed product line
|7-speed product line
|Compatible only with trigger and grip shifters
|Easier gear indicator adjustment
|Weaker bearing seals
|Ever so slightly lighter (depends on the model)
The Advantages Of Sturmey Archer
- Compatible with Multiple Shifters
A strong incentive to choose a Sturmey Archer hub is its compatibility with multiple shifter styles.
Sturmey Archer hubs can be paired with:
- Trigger shifter
- Bar-end shifter
- Thumb shifter
- Grip shifter
- Button shifter.
You can find all the shifters compatible with Sturmey Archer hubs on their official web page.
In contrast, Shimano Nexus hubs are paired only with trigger and grip shifters.
- Consistent Braking Power
The brakes of Sturmey Archer hubs are known to provide consistent braking power for a long time thanks to the robust braking pads and the simplicity of the system.
- Greater Variety of 3-speed Hubs
Sturmey Archer offers seventeen 3-speed hubs in comparison to only three from Shimano. If you are looking for a 3-speed hub, Sturmey Archer provides unmatched variety.
- Supreme Hub Seals
The bearings of Sturmey Archer hubs are sealed very well – one of the reasons why it’s harder to disassemble the units.
The Disadvantages Of Sturmey Archer
As mentioned earlier, most users find the Sturmey Archer hubs slightly louder, albeit the difference isn’t massive.
- Harder to Disassemble and Service
Sturmey Archer hubs are a little harder to disassemble and service. To open the hub, you will need a special ball ring spanner that differs among hub models.
Additionally, it’s much easier to lose a small part during disassembly. To avoid this outcome, it’s necessary to be vigilant during the process.
It’s wise to record the disassembly process on video with your phone (or at least take pictures) so that you have an easier time putting the elements back together.
The drum brakes are also slightly harder to re-assemble in comparison to Shimano’s roller brakes.
Sturmey Archer Advantages and Disadvantages
|Compatible with a larger variety of shifters
|Harder to service and diassemble
|Robust bearing seals
|Smaller 8-speed product line
|Large 3-speed product line
|Ever so slightly heavier (depends on the models)
|Consistent Braking power
|Less convenient gear adjustment
8-speed Hub Weight comparison
8-speed Shimano Nexus and Sturmey Archer hubs have a similar weight. However, Shimano offers more options, some of which are 80-90 grams lighter.
3-speed Hubs Weight Comparison
The average weight of Shimano Nexus 3-speed hubs is notably lower than that of Sturmey Archer hubs. However, Sturmey Archer offers a greater number of units some of which weigh about as much as the Nexus models.
5-speed Hubs Weight Comparison
The average weight of 5-speed Nexus hubs is lower than that of 5-speed Archer hubs.
Weight Analysis Conclusion. Nexus hubs are ever so slightly lighter on average according to the data. Due to the great diversity of models from both brands, it’s necessary to analyze the specific models that you’re contemplating before making a final choice (if weight is the biggest factor).
Truth be told, people who go for internal hubs are rarely overly concerned about weight. After all, those hubs are saved primarily for commuters rather than speed machines.
|Easier disassembly and service
Large 8-speed line
More user-friendly gear adjustment
Ever so slightly lighter (depends on the models)
|Smaller 3-speed line
Compatible only with trigger and thumb shifters
Brakes tend to show inconsistency faster (doesn’t apply to disc brake models)
|Many shifter options
Very large 3-speed line
Incredible build quality and seals
|Harder to disassemble and service
Uncomfortable gear speed adjustment
Some models are slightly heavier than those of Shimano
Practical Conclusion (what to choose)
Both internal gear hub lines will satisfy the needs of most people. It wouldn’t be accurate to conclude that one is better than the other definitively. Therefore, it would be wiser to follow the guidelines below when making a choice:
Analyze the entire bike. If you looking for a complete bike, don’t focus just on the hub. Analyze the frame and the rest of the components. I would rather get a bike with a decent frame and wheels than one with an “optimal” internal gear hub.
Servicing. If you’re going to service the hub yourself, you might consider the Nexus line as it’s slightly more user-friendly. But if you don’t plan on servicing the hub yourself, or you don’t mind the extra work that an Archer hub might require, then the choice could be made via a coin flip.
Shifters. The strongest practical differentiating point between the two lines is the shifter options. If the shifters of Nexus hubs don’t fit your needs, you have a strong incentive to go for an Archer hub.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Bromptons use Shimano Nexus or Sturmey Archer Hubs?
Yes, Brompton bikes have used Strumey Archer hubs since the very beginning. This isn’t surprising because both companies are originally based in the UK.
In 2000, SunRace (a Taiwanese bicycle component manufacturer) bought Sturmey Archer and rebranded it to Sun Race Sturmey-Archer Inc.
Today, 3-speed Brompton models with internal gear hubs use the Sunrace Sturmey Archer models.
However, 6-speed Bromptons use a 3-speed SRAM-Sachs hub in conjunction with a rear derailleur to achieve a 6-speed system.
(SRAM acquired Sachs Bicycle Components from Mannesmann Sachs AG in November 1997.)