Sturmey-Archer AW 3 Speed Stripdown

The 3-speed AW hub deserves a position in the museum of National Treasures. An elevated position on a velvet cushion with lights shining on it. It truly is an iconic machine. The Sturmey-Archer factory made literally millions and millions of these hubs to essentially the same design and shipped them all over the world. For nearly a century, bicycles have been pedalled incalculable miles using a development of Reilly's system of small epicyclic planets revolving around an even smaller sun gear. Despite being called "watchwork" by some heads-down-no-talking clubmen in the thirties, the outstanding feature of Sturmey's AW is it's astonishing robustness and longevity. These hubs rarely receive adjustment or attention with an oil-can. They suffer the impetuous gear changes of paperboys, Raleigh Grifter riders and well, people who do not really understand what gears are for. Despite the neglect, abuse and harshly applied force, virtually all AW's carry on regardless.

Although the AW is durable and loyally tolerant of neglect, it is a good idea to take it apart and check out the state of the oil. Often, you will find very little oil at all. Clean it up, re-lubricate it in fresh oil, grease the bearings and you will prolong your hub's life by years. The AW is simple in design, one of the simplest hub gears available. Springs are not going to jump out over your shoulder. The four planets are identical, so if you can cope with one then you can manage the other three.

Another good thing is that if you find any missing parts, or for example, worn bearings or clutch, you can easily get hold of another AW mechanism to cannibalize. Generally speaking, the manufacturing tolerances are wide enough that parts from many different eras of hubs fit together. Sturmey-Archer advise against mixing parts, but what have you got to lose? I have large tubs of hub gear parts that I dip into from time to time with impunity. There have very rarely been any problems, but some minor issues will be described on another page.

You can take any hub to bits on the kitchen table, but it is easier if you have a vice handy to fasten the axle pointing vertically upwards. Also, if you can get hold of a Sturmey-Archer cone spanner, the process of bearing adjustment is simple. And this should really be perfect.

The Sturmey Archer three speed wide ratio is the ideal starter hubstripping project.