fb262cbd-c138-4258-af8f-2e50c422f233-1Astute 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.


3 thoughts on “A Three Speed By the Bay

  1. Along the bay side sea wall is good choice for a dock side ride in San Francisco. You can ride from the old Candlestick park all the way round to the Yacht club area using 3rd Street and The Embarcadero and never hit a hill of any magnitude. I’ve never had much trouble getting around in San Francisco. Its been years since I rode there but years ago vehicular traffic was so bad that road speeds were fairly low which had the effect of making it safer for bicyclists. I used to love pedaling up Market then Haight all the way to the Pacific Ocean then come back around the north side via Geary. Might be different these days. A very fun city to ride in. I think we are getting a good chunk of your Portland rain down here. It has been a banner water year so far. You brought up walking your bicycle but you missed running with your bicycle. That would give you a grand total of five usable speed choices. Had to pick my words carefully there. Good luck with your trip

  2. I believe I saw it on the Riv google forum, but a creative fellow had created a wide-range three speed Quickbeam. I seem to recall he is from the Bay Area. He used a single rear cog, with three chainrings. Non-traditional, for sure, but one way to tackle very hilly terrain with minimal gears.

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