INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL GEARS: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
When shopping for a bike, you may notice that they are advertised as having eitherÂ â€śderailleurâ€ť or â€ś internalâ€ť gear systems. Ever wondered what the difference was?
The simplest explanationÂ is that derailleur systems are external, while internal are – you guessed it – on the inside.
But first, letâ€™s get our terms straight. What are gears?
Gears and Speeds
Itâ€™s helpful to think of gears as â€śspeedsâ€ť â€“ a bike with 7 gears is a 7-speed bike.
Lower numbered gears are the low gears (slower/easier), and higher numbered ones are the high gears (for going faster/harder).
“Shifting” means going from one gear to another.
Derailleur (External) Gears
Ever noticed that thing that hangs down at your rear wheel? Thatâ€™s a derailleur. It’s a french term referring to the literal derailment of the chain.
In an external gear system, the rear derailleur literally â€śde-railsâ€ť the chain, moving it to different sized rings to achieve different gear ratios, or speeds. Â Because itâ€™s on the outside, it is important to keep it clean and properly cared for.
Pictured above: A rear derailleur system
Internal Hub Gears
In a Hub Gear system, the gears are enclosed within the bicycle’s rear hub. Youâ€™ll notice that the rear wheel hub on an internal system is much larger than usual.
In general, an internal gear hub is less maintenance because it is a sealed system. You can also shift gears while stationary, which is great for gearing down at a light before heading off again.
Pictured above: An internal hub system
Which System is Best for Me?
Take a bicycle with each system for a test ride. Find out what you prefer. Generally, it will come down to your personal preference, the system availability of different bike models, your maintenance expectations, and your budget.
Some find that an internal system is a smoother shifting experience, and prefer the low maintenance of the hub. Others are happy with the cost effectiveness and tried-and-true derailleur.
If you’re in the market for a low-maintenance city bike to ride to and from the grocery store or the occasional Sea Wall cruise, an internal system would be a great choice: say a Loft 7i.
If you’re after a light, fast and easy-to-customize commuter with an ample gear range for tackling hills on your way around town, an external system would be a great way to go – like with our Brooklyn Lorimer or Opus Orpheo models.
At the end of the day, they are both great systems – the fun part is choosing your bike.
So get out there and get riding!