The Three Speed April photo challenge is currently underway until April 30, 2022! Full details here.

Thanks for stopping by!

The Society of Three Speeds (or SOTS, if you are into that whole brevity thing) was founded in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, USA. To put it simply, our society appreciates the humble three speed bicycle. Once the ultimate in human-powered transportation, the three speed bicycle has been sidelined by first the road bike or “ten speed” and then the mountain bike. The three speed has been either disparaged or just forgotten about during the past 40 years or so.

But there’s nothing wrong with a three speed bicycle!

We aim to provide the resources and inspiration for people to enjoy and ride three speed bicycles, whether vintage or modern. For a nominal fee, you can become a member of the Society of Three Speeds and get a membership packet sent to you!

We also typically put on a series of Three Speed Rides in and around Portland, Oregon through the year. The first one occurred in 2011, and we have about three rides a year, though pandemic has put a hold on in-person rides for the indefinite future. Fear not: we also have two annual challenges that can be done on three speeds anywhere in the world: Three Speed April and Three Speed October

Please peruse the many pages on this website for more information. Please be gentle on us, this website is still a work in progress, and it is a labor of love by one obsessive man. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Viva Three Speeds!

Updated 16 April 2022

85 thoughts on “Welcome!

  1. I am actually a paid up member and a long time 3 speed enthusiast. I wrote a book, recently published, in which our hero, a15-year-old wealthy Texas kid, travels back to England in 1928 on a 1913 Gentleman’s Royal Sunbeam. It’s free to download on Kindle (or your kindle app) over Labor Day weekend if anybody’s interested. Thanks. Hope it’s OK to mention this here: http://www.amazon.com/Up-Back-and-Away-ebook/dp/B00CHCP95U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377864699&sr=8-1&keywords=up+back+and+away

  2. Straggling in from the Missouri Ozarks to find your site…glad I did! Can “hillbillies” join?

    1. Thanks for stopping in, GravelDoc! Let me riffle through the bylaws for a sec…nope, nothing that says “no hillbillies”, at least not yet. Join away!

  3. I just got a 3 speed bike and I’m struggling!!! I can muster enough strength to peddle it. Advice?

    1. one of my three speeds is harder to pedel than the other. one happens to have a lower gear ratio. however if you just got the three speed you may want to have a tune up before you ride it. mine deeded oil in the hub so i took it to a bike shop.

    2. For some unknown reason ALL the old 3 speed bikes I’ve ever seen are geared way too high from the factory. It’s like they thought everyone was Ricky Racer trying to go 30 mph in first gear.
      You may have other issues as well such as a dry hub or rusty chain but while you are working on it take a look at the rear sprocket. My ’52 Raleigh came with 17 or 18 teeth, I forget which, and I switched it to 20. A big help but I think I may go even larger so that 1st is more useful for hills. If I then spin out on the downhills that’s just fine – coasting is OK too!
      I bought an old Sears Freespirit for a friend and it came with only 16 teeth. First gear wasn’t comfortable until 10 or 12 mph. I changed his to 20 teeth also – huge improvement. A new sprocket is less than $10. and a new chain about $12 to $15.
      Good Luck

      1. This feature of “too high” gearing seems to apply to all Raleigh 3-speeds. I can only assume that most were manufactured at a time when cadence of a typical rider going to and from work was 60 rpm or less. I can’t imagine that it was meant to attract macho-men with thunder thighs! In fact I imagine that many folk were put off by the high pedaling effort. I have reduced the gearing on a Raleigh Sports and a Raleigh 20 which has transformed the riding experience. The sprocket on the Sports was increased from 17-21, and the 20 from 15 to 17. here’s a video I put together on the restoration of two Sports.

  4. i love my three speed the chane never comes of the gears no mater how many time i have to shift. I never had luck with mountain bikes, i could not go two blocks whithout the chane comming off; than the frount wheal bent, needless to say ill never ride anything but a three speed.

  5. Looking forward to joining the society once I score a Raleigh Sports or similar here in Colorado!

  6. Howdy from Alaska! I just picked up an 80 raleigh sports, and am smitten. Need to get that hub back in action and replace a spoke, but then I’m in action! Goin back to school on that one for sure…

    I think I might have to join your club :). See ya on the road…


  7. Hi, I got here via your urban adventure league website. Can I “join” even though I ride a non-vintage 5 speed bike? It does have Sturmey-Archer hub gears! I’m a hub gear orphan out here in West Texas. Not very many people ride bikes here to start with. And hub geared bikes? Forget it. But I love mine.

  8. HI There, Robin, an Englishman exiled in Wenatchee WA here! Very hilly country. Smashing cruising downhill to downtown but a real slog coming back up. Thank goodness for the 20 rear cog and nice Schwalbe Delta Cruisers!
    Have a 73 Raleigh Sports which I have accessorized with a rear rack (Portland Design Works) and a nice shiny front rack porteur style from Velo Orange upon which I have fastened a nice wicker laundry basket from the Salvation Army Store priced $3! More comments on the basket than on the bike! Will send for packet! Have thought of an electric motor but really that would be cheating I suppose and reason to disqualify for membership?!

  9. Hi,
    I found this an interesting site. Thanks to those who set it up. I sent in my membership a week ago or so. I just found on Craigslist a Triumph 3 speed, blue, step through, old Brooks saddle (cheap type but feels fine). I just took it to Holden Arboretum, here in Kirtland, Ohio (the largest arboretum in the US) and had a fine time. I enjoy photography. So I had the camera backpack on my back and I found that I could use a rear rack for water and food, etc. Does anyone have a suggestion for an inexpensive rack for this bike? I am also interested in a trunk/bag of some sort, nothing fancy. I have looked at Brooks, nice stuff but way out of line for me, same with some others. I have also looked at Blackburn and Topeak. I figure that you people may be best bet for making sure I get what is suitable for this bike and me.

    1. Thanks for joining! When you say “inexpensive” for a rear rack, how inexpensive is that? You can usually find your generic Blackburn/Topeak/Planet Bike types for $20-30, cheaper if used. The old Pletscher racks are classic and often seen with these bikes. Not as functional as I like, but they are out there, and probably sitting in the back of a bike shop somewhere. I like/use the Linus rack, which looks aesthetically “right” for these bikes, but cost about $45.

      As for “trunk” bag, I think you mean “saddle”bag, as trunk bags sit on the rack, saddlebags attach to saddle. The Brooks bags I know are saddle-attached bags. You can’t beat Carradice in that department, but they ain’t cheap. Best bet for inexpensive and aesthetically pleasing would be the offerings from Minnehaha. But they are nowhere near as durable as Carradice/Brooks bags. You get what you pay for in this department.

  10. Pootling along here over the pond in England through towns and villages and along the country lanes on a black Pashley Princess Classic 3 speed. Been riding SA 3 speeds since the mid ’60s and love them dearly, don’t want any other kind of bike. Kind regards and Happy Riding to all you American Cousins over there!

    1. Thanks for the note!. My wife and I walked about UK last September and found British polite, courteous and thoughtful, everywhere we went. We stopped at a bike shop in Salisbury and looked at the Pashley. What a lovely bike.

  11. Been riding my new Pashley princess classic (three speed) since February and I absolutely love it.
    I would like to hear from other men who ride ‘step thru’ bikes such as the Pashley princess.
    I didn’t like the mens Pashley, the bottom bracket was too high. I tried the Princess and fell in love straight away.
    I’ve been riding three speeders for 50 years now and I wouldn’t ride any other bike. I love them

  12. Hi from Durham, NC! Love your site. I’m the proud owner of a Raleigh Sports 1980 and my wife has a Raleigh Sports 1974. Just did a 15 mile ride with them today. Fabulous Autumn weather made for a perfect ride.

  13. Hello from Ottawa, Kansas! I love my Takara three speed with 27″ wheels. I bought it used and don’t know the year, but my guess is the 80’s. I was converted over to the three speed side of life by Sheldon Brown’s site about seven years ago, now I testify every chance I get trying to win people over to trying one. This is a good site.

  14. Hello from Brooklyn, USA! My wife and I have early ’70s Schwinn 3-Speeds and we rode 23mi this past weekend. Looking to lower gearing, 18 to 21. Thoughts?

      1. I think he’s talking 18 to 21 teeth on the back sprocket. You might as well go all the way and put a 22 tooth one on. Sachs and Shimano 24 tooth sprockets will also fit but there’s a chance you might put too much torque through the hub and wreck it.

        1. Yeah, the important thing to remember is to not go below a 2:1 ratio. So if you have a 48 tooth chainring, 24 is the max for rear sprocket. And 23 the max for a 46.

      2. I did mean 18 to 21 tooth. Thanks for the responses. I changed mine to 21 tooth this past weekend and threw a new chain on for good measure. Now I’m running 46 tooth chain ring and 21 tooth hub sprocket. I’m really happy with the results. Second and third gears are way more versatile and first gear is better up hills. I did notice on a local hill that first gear didn’t feel easier but I was able to get up and over with same effort as before but in much better time. I may have to pace myself in the future so that I’m not winded at the end but I think my current cadence up that hill is what I’m comfortable with and any slower and I may feel it in my leg muscles more. I’m going to be swapping out the 18 tooth cog on my wife’s 1970 Schwinn Suburban to a 22. Her bike has 27″ wheels and a 3-speed so the 22 tooth should give it the same ratio as my bike. I didn’t know going with a much larger cog could wreck the hub but that makes sense. I hope I’m okay with 2.19 and 2.09 ratios.


Comments are closed.