We set out to build single speed bicycles with a freewheel. As we are at pains to stress on our website, this is not a fixie – the wheel is able to spin independently of the chain/crank (to “freewheel”) and as such is just like a “normal” bicycle, but with one gear.
We do this not because we think it is trendy or fashionable (though singlespeed does tend to be the hipster vehicle of choice), but because we think it is the practical decision for a city rider. Gearing is without a doubt some amazing technology, but the mechanisms add weight and stress to cycling which we think are unnecessary for riding in town, especially when a lighter bicycle with a single speed is perfectly capable of handling what the average city has to throw at it.
That said we like to think we’re not dogmatic about it. There is obviously a place for gears in this world, and many like to have a lower gear to resort to when the long road home gets a little steep.
Enter the Automatix.
Shit name. Great piece of technology.
Made by SRAM, these badboys are what is called an internal hub gear, meaning that the barrel at the centre of the wheel (the hub) has gears contained within it, entirely invisible from the outside. The most common place you’ll find these normally is in a Sturmey Archer hub, where a planetary system within these hubs allows you to change gear without your chain having to leap from one cog to another. The Automatix works on a similar premise, but is entirely automatic (hence the rubbish name). The hub contains two gears, which it flicks between using a centrifugal clutch depending on the speed of the revolutions of your legs. When you’re going fast, it shifts up, when you slow down, it shifts down. It is also entirely cableless, meaning that from the outside it looks just like a normal singlespeed.
So you pull away from the lights in a nice easy gear, before being shifted up in to something a little speedier once you’ve got going. Or you ride home along the South Bank at pace before ascending the hill your home is on with something a little more casual.