I recently found a '57 Sturmey Archer SW hub that I am evaluating for a project, my '38 Schwinn Superior. I have all the original parts for the Superior but it came with the worst hub option, a simple coaster brake hub.
Being ignorant except for the AW hub I turned to Sheldon Brown's site and learned a little. The Super Wide was only built in '57, has a wide range of ratios, unique quiet pawls, is lightweight, efficient and breaks a lot. This particular unit seems in great shape and is very silky and precise feeling relative to an AW. I was startled to realize that the 3rd gear is the one to one ratio rather than the 2nd as in an AW. Since my theory when using hub gears is to primarily use the one to one gear for effeciency and to save wear that means that I would have a third gear around 72 or 75 inches and first will be below 40 inches. Kind of neat for a kicking around and bike path bike.
Does anyone know how truly fragile these are? In other words should I use this working example or let it be a museum piece. Any tips on use? I presume it is bad news to hammer in 1st gear.
Speaking of hammering in first gear, the AW is pretty prone to exploding sun gears (at least the sintered ones) when hammered. My friends and I used to ride the AW with a 22t cog which contributed to this. We carried spares and amazed people with rebuilds on the streets of NYC with the parts spread out on newspaper.
So if this SW hub works out, I would like to get a 36 hole SA front hub brake, preferably from the '50s or earlier. Does anyone have anything or a potential source? An American hub brake would also be OK. I have an early 50's Alloy shell AW to swap. I have no idea of the relative value of SA products though.