An unexpected three speed: Heavy Duti 2.5

At the same time I dropped off the Raleigh Superbe’s rear wheel at the shop, I also dropped off my long-neglected Schwinn Heavy Duti. The 2.0 version had a good run for about a year and a half, but needed work. I fully intended to drop it off in January, when the shop was slow. Then I got broke, and didn’t get money until right around pandemic broke. The bike wasn’t a priority. But now is a good a time as ever to get some bike work done.

One thing I wanted done was the front rack. I swapped the smaller Wald basket with the Wald “Pizza Rack” on the Raleigh Crested Butte. I wanted the Crested Butte to be a lighter, nimbler bike. And I figured that the Heavy Duti should live up to its name’s potential: a freight hauler. With a giant porteur rack and a rear rack, it’d be great for grocery runs. Since the pandemic hit, we’ve mostly done grocery delivery and pick-up, so a grocery getter wasn’t high on the priority list. And while I could easily swap racks, turns out I needed a longer skewer for the front wheel, hence getting one from the shop.

But the bigger change was the rear wheel. When I got the work done to make it “version 2.0” back in May of 2018, I replaced the single-speed rear coaster wheel with a two speed kickback one. I wanted to give the whole “shifting gears without a shifter” thing a go. It was fun for awhile, though the change in gearing wasn’t that big. But after about a year of use, the hub shifted infrequently. Chalk that up to taking a chance on an inexpensive wheel by an unknown company. The brake still worked, so I could still ride around, but I was at a crossroads as to what to do.

Fortunately, luck called: In fall of 2019, my friend Vince asked if he wanted a wheel of his. He had built up a 26″ rear wheel around a modern Sturmey-Archer XRD-3 hub, and wasn’t using it anymore. It’s similar to the venerable AW in gearing (75%-100%-133%) but has a drum brake. Since the Heavy Duti wasn’t designed for rear caliper or cantilever brakes, the rear wheel has to have a hub brake of some sort. I said, “Heck yeah!”

I had briefly considered making the Heavy Duti a three speed when I was planning version 2.0. But I was intrigued by a two-speed kickback and didn’t want the complications that putting a three speed wheel would entail. So I passed then. But now my two-speed kickback was no more, and I had a free three speed wheel. So I handed the bike over to Geoff at Portland Bicycle Emporium to do the dirty work.

And “dirty” it was: now I’d need not one, but two cables to route to the rear, on a bike not designed for any cables. Thankfully, zip ties are your friend. I’d also need a rear brake lever, so Geoff dug up something suitable. As for a shifter, Geoff installed a modern but classic styled S-A trigger shifter. What I really would like is the S-A three speed thumb shifter, as it’d it’d look more appropriate. But I had that shifter lying around, and didn’t want to spend that much on the project. At some point I may upgrade, but I’m in no hurry.

I picked up the bike on Thursday June 18th. Later that night I did I little test ride (I wanted to make sure the dynamo front lighting was working properly.) The bike performed well, easily climbing the dreaded “NE 63rd Avenue Hill”, an 8% grade. While the Heavy Duti is indeed heavy, Geoff installed a 24 tooth cog on the rear. With a 44 tooth chainring, I get a low of about 35 gear-inches, pretty decent. Everything shifted as it should, and the rear brake was fine. While I’ve used a modern (grease lube, no “neutral”) Sturmey Archer before,* I’ve never had a bike with a drum brake, so a first! And since I no longer have a pedal-controlled brake, I don’t have to be as conscientious as to where the pedals are when I come to a stop.

Hopefully this bike will give me several more years of service! I don’t intend to do anything else to the bike, this is as far as I want to go with modifications. And without even planning it, I have another three speed, three in total.

I’ve had the Schwinn Heavy Duti for almost six years. When I got it in October of 2014, it was simply to scratch the itch for an industrial balloon tired cruiser. At the time I thought it’d be a bike I wouldn’t “fuss over” and leave it like it was. Of course, me being me, that didn’t happen! But now I have a great, useful, and fun to ride bike. Let’s hope for many more years of use.

*My 70’s Univega Safari three speed conversion, which I had from 2007 to 2010, used the modern AW hub.

8 thoughts on “An unexpected three speed: Heavy Duti 2.5

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  1. Nostalgia! I had a wheel built like that when I used to commute all year and have to park bike outside the work place, I usually cosset my bikes… I now realise that I quit the rat race nearly forty years ago and the wheel is still in the attic of the garage. I rented a back pedal brake bike in Denmark a couple of years ago for a short tour and promptly fell off a bike for first time in decades at half walking speed, brain had not reprogrammed to pedal positioning and I stopped dead unexpectedly. Once used to them both the drum brake and the back pedal brakes were a delight.

  2. Very Cool!!!
    If you get a chance, take me a couple detail photos of the cable stop and cabling back at the r

  3. Very good mod for bicycles not set up for derailers. My Worksman 3 speed cycle truck is set up with the third gear being the riding gear. 2nd gear is for stop light starting and 1st gear is for freeway overpasses and hills. This type of gearing works well on a heavy delivery bicycle that is being used around town. I didn’t need a downhill or downwind gear so I didn’t put it on the Worksman. Same hub with the drum cable operated brake. Keep up the good work on your bicycles, love seeing it.

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