Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
A reader named Bill wrote us saying, “I’d like a review of the Classified Powershift hub gear.” I had heard of it but not looked into it. Visiting their website I learned the basics. It’s an ingenious device you might appreciate knowing about.
The Powershift is a 2-speed planetary gear rear hub operated by a wireless remote shifter and designed to do the job of a double chainring and front derailleur. This is a nice idea since all-surface road and gravel bikes often come equipped with single-chainring drivetrains (called 1X, say “one by”).
The issues with today’s 1X drivetrains is that they often use oversize cassette cogs in order to get low enough gearing. Also, to make a large change in gear for suddenly steep hills or drops, you have to shift multiple times to get all the way up or down the cogs on the cassette.
The Powershift lets you shift much faster than a front derailleur and it also lets you shift under full pressure. No need to back off as you should with a derailleur. It also shares the 1X’s advantages of a straighter chainline, which means less chance of dropped or thrown chains and more efficient pedaling.
So you get the best of both worlds with the Powershift: perfect chainline, super quick shifting no matter how big a change in gear you need and no front derailleur and associated chain issues. Plus, Classified says the hub is sealed to the elements so it’s water and mud proof – unlike front derailleurs and double chainrings.
The equivalent chainring sizes you can choose from are 54/37, 52/36, 50/34 and 48/33. Their proprietary 11-speed cassette is available in 11-27, 11-30, 11-32 and 11-34.
It would be fun to review it, as Bill requested. If Classified makes units available for testing, I’ll ask for one. If bike shows start up again later in the year I might get to shift one there. If I do I’ll tell you about it.
I’m interested because the idea is not new. I was first introduced to something similar in 1959 as a boy. Of course the Powershift wasn’t around then. Wireless shifting wasn’t either.
What was around was the venerable Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub (well, Sturmey made lots of different models, but the 3-speed was very popular and original equipment on many bikes).
At the time my dad commuted to work at MIT every day on a Raleigh 3-speed with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub. These hubs actually came out in 1902 and the company is still in business today.
Even though Boston isn’t very hilly, my dad wasn’t happy with only having 3 speeds. So, he looked into a way to add more. And what he found was a Cyclo Benelux conversion kit that added 3 cogs to the Sturmey hub for a total of 9 gears. Plus a rear derailleur and lever to shift. I remember as a boy being very impressed that my father was capable of making the conversion.
Here’s a nice article about it if you’re interested in taking a look back – as I did: https://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/classic_components/hybrid-hub-derailleur-gears/.
The Powershift has a nice very modern feature. The internals come out of the hub so that you could have multiple Powershift wheels and just move it to whichever set of hoops you’re riding that day. And the Classified wireless shifter is sure to outperform the old Sturmey trigger lever and cable shift.
I would also expect the Powershift to lighten the typical adventure road/gravel bike simply because you wouldn’t need a giant cassette anymore. Classified makes a custom one-piece 11-speed steel cassette for the Powershift and the largest they offer has a 34 tooth cog. Currently it looks like to get the Powershift you must buy it as a whole system and built into a Classified wheelset at a cost of $2,399. So it’s not cheap.
To see it in action and learn more, here’s a excellent video by GCN about the Classified Powershift.
Ride total: 9,962
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.