I became interested in hybrid gearing after acquiring my 1973 Jack Taylor Tourist, about 9 years ago. The bike features a single front chainring, 6 speed cassette and a 2 speed Sachs Orbit internal hub. That gives it 12 gears overall, with a good range for the kind of riding I do, as the internal hub’s lower gear is about a 33% reduction, which is quite significant. For awhile, I didn’t think much about this interesting arrangement, and instead just enjoyed riding the bike, and being able to do a substantial downshift while sitting still at a stop light.
There are a number of ways to accomplish hybrid gearing. You can forgo a front derailleur, and use an internal two or three speed hub to take the place of multiple chainrings. You can also use multiple chainrings with an internal hub, and forgo the cassette/freewheel. Or, you can be like Sheldon Brown and do both, achieving a 63 speed bicycle – his beloved “O.T.B.” which used a 3 speed SA hub, a seven speed cassette, and 3 chainrings. Doing the math: 3 x 7 x 3 = 63. So with modern technology, let’s calculate the possibilities: a 14 speed Rohloff hub, paired with an 11 speed cassette, with a triple chainring = 462 gears! Probably that set up would be a mechanic’s nightmare, so if you really want this many gears, I suggest you purchase a continuously variable NuVinci hub – but be prepared to deal with quite a bit more than a couple of pounds of extra weight.
There is really only one source on the internet for information about the Sachs Orbit 2 speed hybrid hub, and that of course is the Sheldon Brown site, with additional information and clarifications by bike guru John Allen. One of the things I worried about with this hub on my Jack Taylor was being able to find replacement parts, given that the hub was so rare. Fortunately, a while back I found a NOS Sachs Orbit hub, pictured above, which I could use as a replacement in case something went wrong.
Meanwhile, the original hub is working just fine, and needed only occasional lubrication with automotive oil. I had sent the hub out for a rebuild nine years ago, and it is working perfectly, still.
The replacement hub I purchased is quite lovely, and has two different cassette options – for 5 or 6 speeds. The cassette cogs and spacers slip onto the freehub with tabs to line up the rings, except for the final smaller cogs, which screw onto the freehub. As one pedals, these smaller cogs with screw-on threads will get tighter and tighter.
Because this replacement hub is so nice, I have been thinking about using it to build into an interesting wheel set for a road/commuter bike, rather than keeping it in reserve for spare parts. One of the convenient features of this hub is that it can be operated by pretty much any front derailleur shifter, as there are only two positions on the hub. And, if something goes wrong with the hub on the Jack Taylor, maybe I will rethink hybrid gearing altogether.
The bike’s rear wheel was an alteration from its original 1973 build, and whether or not this rear wheel was built by the Taylor brothers is unknown. However, I have noted that British bikes built in the 60’s through the 80’s sometimes featured hybrid gearing. This was especially true for the boutique manufacturers of that era. Sachs internal hub gears are considered on par with Sturmey Archer, and I will say that is true, based on my experience with riding this Jack Taylor. The hub has been totally reliable.
This early 90’s Sachs Orbit 2 speed hybrid hub has 36 holes, so it could work with a number of possible rims. It needs a bit of lubrication to bring it back to full glory, and if I end up needing to rebuild it, John Allen and Sheldon Brown will come the rescue.