SOTS Blog · three speed challenges · Three Speed October

ANNOUNCING: The Three Speed October Challenge!

threespeedoct2016stickerflatIntroducing a little challenge! You of course realize that I love all things three speed. But here’s the thing: I love three speeds as bikes to ride, as transportation. Not as things to gawk at or pull out just for “special” rides. Nosiree! So to encourage folks to get on their three speeds and ride, I introduce a li’l challenge: THREE SPEED OCTOBER!

The premise is simple: Ride your three speed during the month of October! Here are the basic stipulations of this challenge:

  1. Ride a three speed bicycle
  2. Three times a week during a calendar week (Sunday through Saturday)
  3. At least three miles (5 km) each trip
  4. For at least three weeks
  5. Between Sunday October 2 and Saturday November 5 2016
  6. At least one ride a week should be for utility/errands/commuting

And those of you who successfully complete the challenge will get something! Three lucky folk will win memberships to Society of Three Speeds, and anyone who completes the challenge will qualify for a discounted SoTS membership.

Rides need to be documented! You can document through your blog, or post on Instagram, tumblr, or flickr. (Facebook entries DO NOT COUNT.) Or, you can email me or mail me accounts of your trips. You should include AT LEAST ONE photo of your three speed from one of your trips! In the trip account, you should include:

  1. Date
  2. Distance of trip
  3. Location
  4. Describe the trip. What was it like? What did you do? Where did you go?
  5. If it was for utility, what specifically? Grocery shopping? Dentist appointment? Ride to work?

Okay, simple enough! But you’ve got questions. You want details. So here goes:

  • Why October? For many in the northern hemisphere, it’s the last good month before cold and unsettled weather really settles in. For some, this will be the last time they regularly ride a bike before spring. Or, if you live in a place like Phoenix, it’s the first tolerable riding weather since April! And if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s spring. In any case, it’s generally an OK time to be riding a bike wherever you are on this planet.
  • Why three speeds? If you are already here do I need to answer that? Okay, it’s because three speeds are totally reasonable and practical bikes for many an application. This challenge is to encourage you to think about them in this way, rather than a “show” bike for your Tweed Ride.
  • Is this just limited to three speeds? Well, yeah. A three speed internally geared hub is what should be ridden for this challenge. We’ll also accept four and five speed internally geared hubs, hubs that were available from Sturmey-Archer by the mid-70’s. But no more or less speeds than that! To be clear, it doesn’t have to be a Sturmey-Archer hub, it can also be a Sachs, Sram, Shimano, SunTour, Hercules, or (insert brand here.) But it can only have three, four, or five speeds!
  • Any exceptions? We’ll allow Bromptons that have that infernal Sturmey-Archer with deraileur combo, but that’s it. And you have to promise to not use that derailleur!
  • What if I ride less or more trips in a week? You’ll need to hit three trips in a calendar week to qualify. If you ride any less, it won’t qualify. If you ride more, great! But you can’t use “extra” trips towards another week.
  • What if I ride more than three miles in a trip? That’s great as well, but all that matters is hitting three miles in a single trip. You can’t use “extra miles” towards another trip. To be clear, you need to ride three separate and distinct trips in a week. They don’t have to be on a different day, but you can’t just do a nine mile ride and take a one hour coffee break at the third and sixth miles.
  • I don’t have a cycle computer/Strava/GPS. How will I know if I’ve done three miles? You can use a mapping program before or after the ride to figure out distance. We recommend using Ride With GPS. If not, just figure out a rough estimate of mileage.
  • What if I try to ride three times in a week, but something comes up and I can’t do it? Can I ride an extra trip or two in the following week to make up for it? For the most part, no. There are five full calendar weeks between Oct 2 and Nov 5, so if you “biff” one week, there is still time to complete three other weeks. If for some reason something happens that you can’t somehow complete three full weeks of challenge in this span, you can file for a “hardship” exception. You’ll need to get it approved by me first though. I’ll only make the exception if: a) Something personal comes up that doesn’t allow you to complete the challenge in the aforementioned timeframe, b) Weather related issues and c) Bike related issues. You won’t get a pass if you forget to follow through or you get too busy with other things in your life.
  • Well yeah, what about the weather? What if the weather simply sucks, we get a blizzard, etc? Yeah, I know that winter can come early in certain parts of the world. For those of you who live in early winter locales (like, say, Duluth), try to do your three weeks of riding during the first three weeks of the challenge timeframe. If something weather related comes up that prevents you from fulfilling the challenge in the time constraints given, contact me and we’ll see about the “hardship” exception. But the weather has to be something real. It can’t just be “well it sprinkled a bit today”. The British rode their three speeds through all sorts of miserable weather, a little rain ain’t going to kill you. Just get out your rain cape and brake before you need to stop!
  • What if my ride starts Saturday night and continues into Sunday morning? Well, then it will be considered for the week that the Saturday falls in.
  • Why the weekly utility trip? Well, we’d like to showcase the fact that three speeds are practical bikes! And it’s easy to take three “fun rides” of three miles in a week on your local bike path. But we want to make you “use” your bikes for good too! So hit up your dentist, pick up your prescription, pick up some WD40 from the hardware store, ride to work, ride to school, ride to jury duty, etc. If for some reason, you can’t do a “utility” ride, don’t sweat it. But at least try.
  • Does the ride have to be a “standalone” ride, or can it be incorporated with another ride? Whatever ride that incorporates a three speed  and is at least three miles counts! So if you decide to do a “club” ride or a gnar MTB adventure with friends, or on a 200K brevet, or on a coffeeneuring adventure, it doesn’t matter! In fact, I’d love to see you do the 200K brevet on a three speed!
  • Ok, I completed the challenge successfully! What do I get? Everyone who successfully completes the challenge will get a small award, probably a sticker and/or button. Those folks who are not already members will qualify for a discounted rate for Society of Three Speeds. Three lucky folks will win a membership outright! These three winners will be chosen at random from qualified candidates. If you are already a member, you can’t win a membership.

Okay, simple enough! Really, I tried to make this challenge not that hard. If that doesn’t satisfy ya, feel free to pull three centuries a week on a three speed!

So please let me know if you are participating! Email me at and provide links to your rides, or just email me the details. Or, you can write me via post. You can email me as you go along or wait until you are done. If you email me as you go along, please keep count of what you’re doing (i.e. “This is the second ride of my first week of the challenge”) as I may (hopefully) be overwhelmed by participation and won’t be able to keep track!

All completed challenges must arrive in my email inbox no later than 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Saturday November 12.

If you are going to submit by post, the envelope must be postmarked by Saturday November 12. Please submit to:


P O BOX 14185

PORTLAND OR 97293-0185


And please let me know your mailing address when you submit! I will need to send those stickers and buttons somewhere. Right now I don’t have a “price” for these items, but feel free to donate via paypal to the cause.

Prizes will be sent out (and the three winners determined) by the end of November.

Now get riding!


16 thoughts on “ANNOUNCING: The Three Speed October Challenge!

  1. Sweet! I got 8 days to get one of the two bikes in order. Will likely mix it up with this year’s round of Coffeeneuring.

    In the spirit of theme-within-a-theme, barring catastrophic hub implosion, I may only ride 3-speed bikes for the entire month.

  2. If I could do the utility trip, I might give this a try. Oh well, at least I’m inspired to convert the Quickbeam back to three speed mode. I’ll cheer the rest of you from the side lines.

      1. Brilliant! I wish I would have thought of that. But there is one more thing. I’ll be doing the GAP tour during this time, and I really have my heart set on taking the Rambler. That said, I must admit I have done a loaded tour on my Quickbeam in three speed mode. Hmmm…

  3. Count me in. I don’t do many of these challenges, not my thing. However, this one I’m excited about. I’ll be riding one of those infernal Brompton S/A w/deraileur combo bikes. I…I…I…promise…not….to…use…the….deraileur. There I said it.

      1. The shifting on a 6-speed Brompton is not intuitive at all. It took the first 1,200 miles or so before I could shift it without having to think about it. For example, if you start in 1st and accelerator going through each gear this is what you have to do:
        1st gear to 2nd: pedal while using left shifter
        2nd gear to 3rd: coast while using right shifter
        3rd gear to 4th: pedal while using left shifter
        4th gear to 5th: coast while using right shifter
        5th gear to 6th: pedal while using left shifter

        And reverse to shift down. I’m not sure how someone who doesn’t have a grasp on how gearing works understands it.
        Regardless I enjoy the heck outta that little bike.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.