Astute readers may have noticed I decided to bring my Raleigh Superbe with me on this trip to the Bay Area. A three speed in hilly San Francisco? Why yes, I am a little nutty. But I had brought my Bantam on my last trip, and the Crested Butte might be a wee bit too much. So why not a three speed?
As El Presidente of Society of Three Speeds, I often hear from folks that they could not own a three speed because their city is too hilly. And if I’m going to sell the club and prove that three speeds are viable city bikes, I needed to walk the walk not just talk the talk. (Or I guess ride the ride!) So San Francisco seemed like a good enough candidate!
And how did I do? Fine! I didn’t feel like the Superbe hindered me in my enjoyment of the area. The gear range I had, with a low gear around 40”, felt appropriate for where I was riding.
Now granted, I wasn’t seeking out SF’s famous super-steep hills, the ones that go north of 20% grade. But how many people on multi-geared derailleur’d bikes ride up these hills regularly? I didn’t go to Twin Peaks or hit the trails in Marin, but honestly the weather sucked. It would have even been miserable on the Bantam.
But for getting around downtown, SOMA, the Tenderloin? Fine. The Mission? Sure. The East Bay? Well the East Bay is pretty flat until you hit the hills and most people don’t ride into the hills on their day-to-day rides. (Granted, there’s that steady upward incline from bay to hills, but that’s nothing a three speed couldn’t handle!)
And I have brought three speeds to other cities. Vancouver BC has a good incline from water to the center of town, but I did okay. Seattle is trickier as there’s hills everywhere, but I still got around. And if the hill gets too steep, you can always walk!
So next time think about bringing your three speed with you on a trip! Or better yet, ride one around your own city.