Three Speed October

The official Three Speed October 2020 design, as seen on the sticker

The Three Speed October challenge will return again in 2021! The dates will be September 26th through October 31st. Details to come in September.

Started in 2016, the Three Speed October challenge is a way to not only get folks out on their three speeds, but to get them excited about them!

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
  3. At least three miles (5 km) each trip
  4. For at least three weeks during the duration of the challenge
  5. During a five-week period that centers around the month of October

And those of you who successfully complete the challenge will qualify to get something! If you are not already a member, successful completion of the challenge will qualify for a discounted SoTS membership.

For 2020, the Three Speed October Challenge will run from Friday September 25th to Sunday November 1st. All times local.

You will need to sign up! See the bottom of the page.

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

The details

  • 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 in most places 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? Mostly. 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. If you do have a Brompton, you must promise and make every effort to NOT use your derailleur during a ride.
  • How do you define a week? For the 2020 Challenge, the week starts on Friday and ends on Thursday. The first week would then be Friday September 25 through Thursday October 1st. There are five weeks that will happen during the challenge, plus a bonus three day weekend at the end.
  • Do I need to ride three consecutive weeks? No. They can be consecutive weeks, or you can ride the first, third, and fifth weeks during the challenge. Or, they can be the first, second, and fourth weeks. You just need to ride three weeks out of the five.
  • What if I ride more than three trips in a week? Great! And you should. But these trips don’t count towards anything. 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. And you can’t use “extra miles” towards another trip.
  • To be clear, you need to ride three separate and distinct trips in a week, each ride on a different day.
  • Can I do more than one ride a day? No.
  • What if I try to ride three times in a week, but something comes up and I can’t do it? Can I make it up somehow? Yes! The final weekend of the challenge, Friday October 30th through Sunday November 1st, is designated as a Make-Up Weekend. For the 2020 Challenge, I am making this “make up weekend” a lot more liberal than it has been in the past. 
    • You can use this weekend to make up any missed rides from a previous week. For example, if you have one week where you missed a ride, you can make it up during the Make-Up Weekend.
    • If you have two or more weeks where you missed a ride, you can make it up here as well.
    • Heck, if you have a week with one ride, you can do two rides during the Make-Up Weekend.
    • And if you’ve missed a whole week, you can use the whole Make-Up Weekend as the final week!
    • The important thing to note is: You can only do one ride a day during the Make-Up Weekend, for a total of three rides to make up for missed ones. If you are going into the Make-Up Weekend with only five rides or less, you’re not going to make up enough rides to successfully complete the challenge.
  • A word about weather: 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, Winterpeg, er, Winnipeg), I urge you 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. 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 on the last day of the week and continues into the next week? It will be considered one ride for the week that it started in.
  • I bike commute to work. Would each individual segment (one to, one from) count as a separate ride? Or would the commute count as one ride? The commute will count as one ride. Though this is in your favor if you have a commute less than three miles, hopefully each segment is at least 1.5 miles, so you can hit that three mile threshold easily!
  • Does the ride have to be a “standalone” ride, or can it be incorporated with another ride? Whatever ride incorporates a three speed bicycle and is at least three miles qualifies! So if you decide to do a “club” ride or a gnar MTB adventure with friends, or go 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!
  • 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, use a paper map to figure out a rough estimate of mileage.
  • Ok, I completed the challenge successfully! What do I get? For 2020, everyone who successfully completes the challenge will get a sticker and patch. This is not free, the prize pack will cost $17 for US participants, $22 everywhere else. Shipping costs for the journal and the prize pack is included in that cost.
  • Do I have to already be a member of Society of Three Speeds to participate? No. You do not have to be a member! Though we’d love it if you would. And to incentivize it, you can get a membership at the discounted rate of $15 if you participate! You’d purchase the membership at the same time you register for the challenge, and the membership pack will be sent the same time as the prize pack. See the bottom of this page for the links.
  • I tried my best, but could not complete the challenge. Do I get anything? For 2020, you’ll qualify for the Three Speed October sticker. You still will have to document your rides and follow all protocol.
  • I know that this year will be the introduction of “mail in reports”. Can I still blog about it, post to social media, share my photos on flickr? Heck yeah! I’ll try to share as much of it as possible. Here’s the protocol:
    • Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr: Tag your pics #threespeedoct2020 and either tag or mention me so I know. Do not tag them #3spdoct2020, #threespeedoctober2020, or any other tag. The correct tag is #threespeedoct2020
    • Blog: If you do blog it, email me at to let me know.

What’s Changing for the 2020 Challenge

  • After last year’s experiment of “make your own week”, this year the week is strictly Friday through Thursday.
  • The Make-Up Weekend will be a lot more liberal. You can make up any three missed days from previous weeks.
  • There will be no bonus prizes or additional challenges.
  • The big change: Reporting the Three Speed October 2020 Challenge will be done entirely via mail (post.) I’ve gotten sick of Google Forms and Google Sheets. I want to make it more fun, and encourage folks to use our beleaguered postal service. When you register, I’ll send you the Official Reporting Journal. You’ll fill it out and send it back to me in the mail. You will get the Journal shipped back to you along with the prize pack. If you are outside the US, you do not have to send in the journal.
  • The other big change: You will pre-pay when you register. I’ve also gotten sick of having to go back and email folks several times in order to finalize payments, etc. To make things simpler, when you register for the Challenge you’ll pre-pay for the prize pack. Think of it as an incentive: This will definitely encourage you to see the whole thing through, because there will be no partial refunds if you don’t complete the challenge.
  • Even if you don’t complete the challenge, you’ll still qualify for a sticker! As long as you follow all protocol and send in the ride journal, you’ll get something. Even if you only do one ride!
  • To sweeten the deal, the first FIVE registrants in the US (meaning first people who sign up) will get the special pin! You will still need to send in your journal and all that biz, and you’ll get the pin even if you’ve only done one ride. (Apologies, but the cost of shipping the pin outside of the US is too prohibitive.)
The first five registrants (US only) will receive this special pin!

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!

Do you still have questions? Email me.

In Make-Up Ride news:

I’ve decided to liberalize the “make-up ride” period. Originally if you missed a ride or two during a week, you had to make it up during the Make-Up Weekend of Friday October 30 through Sunday November 1st. But now there’s no need to wait: You can make up any ride from now through November 1st!

Here’s those details:

  • You must have already done three weeks of the challenge.
  • You can use rides from Friday October 16th to now as well! Woot.
  • You can only do three make up rides in a week (weeks are Friday through Thursday)
  • List those make up rides in the week you biffed. For example, if your Week Two had only two rides and you’re doing a make-up for that, this make up ride would be considered Week Two, Ride Three, even though the ride happens after Week Three.

Make sense? If not, email me with your questions.

Updated 5 May 2021