by Mike Flanigan
Well, I finally made a 29er with a converted Bendix lever action hub.
It all started with 63xc.com. I read the article about converting the Bendix two-speed (not to be confused with the kickback version) and was instantly hooked. I was familiar with the hub, having owned an old Scwhinn that carried one as standard, but I had no idea how to get hold of 'em. I wasted a lot of time on eBay trying to secure one.
Then one day I got a call about building a bike around a Bendix two-speed. The customer had already bought several Bendixes -- probably outbid me on eBay -- and he was working on the conversion. I convinced him to trade me a converted hub for one of my D-racks, and I was ready to go.
It was nice to see the old Bendix. It had a few issues -- too much play in some directions, too tight in others -- but that's normal for an old, well-used component. Also, you're stuck with the built-in 18t cog, so I had to look out a 38t ring to get a usable small gear.
I'd already decided to build the hub into one of my 29" wheel frames. The finished bike came out to 26lbs, but that was with my standard 'old bike' components -- Brooks saddle, SRAM front drum brake. You could get the weight down fairly easily, though of course the Bendix is no lightweight!
My impressions of the bike so far are good. It's defiantly fun to ride. The big wheels and fat tires roll well and are great for dirt road riding, old rail beds and other flat stuff. It's maybe not so good for true New England singletrack, where smaller, quicker 26" wheels score. This is a bike for the west.
The hub works well. Shifting is great. I don't know the exact ratio of the overdrive gear, but it's just tall enough for me. The Bendix has some backlash, but not to notice. I have also heard cracking noises when I pop a wheelie to go over something -- that's a bit scary, but the hub hasn't let me down yet.
I am interested in having the two-speed redesigned and manufactured locally. This is a low priority right now, but it's something I want to work towards. (At the same time, I wonder if I am making it all too complicated! I love my Light Roadster and having it as a single fixed is the beauty of it.)
Incidentally, I ran into the guy from whom I bought the Bendix at a 'cross race. He'd set his bike up with some Jeff Jones H-Bars and some fairly light parts, but he broke the Bendix on his first ride! He plans to repair it and give it another go.