Internal gear hubs ("IGHs") and derailleurs are both tried and tested systems for shifting gears on bikes. They each have their unique set of plus points and drawbacks. Accordingly, choosing between the two largely depends on the your specific needs and preferences. In this article, we will explore the differences between IGHs and derailleurs. We will then consider the various factors that one might consider when deciding between the two.

What are internal gear hubs?

First things first. What the heck are IGHs? Internal gear hubs are a type of transmission system that is enclosed within the rear hub of the bike. They consist of a series of gears and a shifting mechanism located inside the hub. IGHs are typically operated using a grip shift, a twist shift, or a trigger shift, which allows the rider to change gears. The most amazing thing, is that you can change gears both while pedaling or at a stop, something that derailleurs can't do. You may think of it like driving an "auto" bike instead of a "manual" bike.

One of the most awesome plus points of IGHs is that they are relatively maintenance-free. Since the gears and shifting system are all enclosed inside the hub, they are sheltered safely from dirt, grime, water, and mud which means that they require little to no maintenance. In addition, internal gear hubs are generally more durable and last longer than derailleurs. This makes them a good choice for all riders who may have better things to do than wash their bike after every ride.

Yet another advantage of IGHs is that they offer a wide range of gears. The popular options by Shimano include 3 speeds, 7 speeds and 8 speeds. This allows riders to dial in the right gears for a variety of terrain and conditions. For example, if you have live in a particularly hilly area, this would be perfect for you. In addition, internal gear hubs are generally smoother and more precise than derailleurs, which can make shifting between gears feel more seamless and effortless. For more information on internal gear hubs and great bike that uses them, checkout the Unspokin frigate's design process diagram here.

What are derailleurs?

Derailleurs are a type of transmission system that you probably would be most familiar with. It's that weird thing on the right side of your bike's rear or front wheel that helps your bicycle change gears. consists of a chain (such as these), a front derailleur, and a rear derailleur. The front derailleur is responsible for shifting the chain between the front chainrings, while the rear derailleur coddles the chain between the rear cogs, which helps you increase or decrease the amount of torque produced. Unlike IGHs, you can only change gears on a derailleur system while pedalling. So make sure that you shift down before stopping at that traffic light.

Like IGHs, one of the primary advantages of derailleurs is that they offer a wide range of gears and are universally available. This means that almost any bike shop should be able to service your derailleur if it goes wonky. In addition, derailleurs are relatively lightweight and can be relatively inexpensive. This makes them an excellent choice for many riders.

However, derailleurs also have some disadvantages. The main drawback of derailleurs is that they require way more maintenance than internal gear hubs. Derailleurs are exposed easily to dirt, grime, and water. This usuallycauses them to wear out faster and require more frequent adjustments. So unless you wash your drivetrain regularly (we provide drivetrain servicing packages for a reasonable price) and know how to fix or tune your own derailleur, you may find that costs of maintaining your bike may exceed that of using an internal gear hub. In addition, derailleurs are notoriously prone to shifting issues, such as ghost shifting or chain drop, which can be frustrating for riders. If you're looking for examples of bikes with derailleurs, we sell some cool custom builds here that we refurbish or upcycle.

Internal gear hubs vs derailleurs: which is right for you?

All things considered, the right drivetrain system boils down to what you are looking for in a bicycle. IGHs are a little heavier but well worth it if you have better things to do than maintaining your bike. If you love cleaning your bike everyday and know how to do basic tuning, a derailleur system works great for you.

  • Maintenance & durability: If you're looking for a low-maintenance option, bikes such as the Frigate that sports the Shimano Nexus 7 speed internal gear hub might be the better choice. They are more durable and require less upkeep than derailleurs.

  • Weight: derailleurs win in this category, but unless you're racing this usually shouldn't be the biggest concern.

  •  Cost: derailleurs may be cheaper in the short run, but more times than not, especially unless you know basic bike mechanic skills, an Internal Gear Hub saves costs in the long run!

If you would like to learn more about the difference, write in the comments below, drop us an email or visit us in store!

December 21, 2022 — Victor Tong

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