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If the honey badger died and spent its afterlife working in the bike industry, it would be the FSA Metropolis Patterson internally geared crankset. Here we review the Metropolis ($279; MSRP $299) specifically for its use with internally geared hubs. For a much better technical review with much nicer photos, click here to view this piece from Bicycle Times. We first brought the Metropolis into our shop last fall as a way to radically expand the gear range of the kind of bikes we specialize in: high-performance city and utility bikes that have internally geared hubs, that are as weatherproof as possible, and that are as clean and maintenance-free as possible. The Metropolis fit that bill pretty much beyond our expectations. First, when matched with any of three bombproof and increasingly affordable internally geared hubs—-the Alfine 8-speed, Nexus Redband 8-speed, and the Nuvinci n360—the Metropolis gives you wider range than a road triple and about as wide a range as a mountain triple (data below). Depending on the size of the cog you use, that means you can get ridiculously low low-end gearing for climbing, without sacrificing the ability to go very fast when the opportunity presents itself. Or you can get ridiculously high high-end gearing while still being able to climb really steep hills with heavy loads. In short, you don’t need to choose between high and low anymore. Mate it to an Alfine 11 and then go find a roller coaster to ride. (Actually, we’d recommend you stick to the 8-speed or n360 at this point for any IGH/Metropolis hook-up where you’ll be pedaling hard. Anecdotal evidence suggests the 11 is a little less rugged.) Upon installing it in one of our test bikes, we learned the Metropolis comes with a lot of other advantages. Shifting is much more precise than with a front derailleur system and doesn’t require the use of a chain tensioner. Have you ever blinked without really being aware of it? You’re pretty sure you have? Well, that’s what shifting is like with the Metropolis—too smooth and subtle to be called crisp, it’s effortless and just about instantaneous.


Just like with internally geared hubs, you can shift the Patterson while stopped. (Or even while pedaling backwards.) This is always nice when you’re hauling cargo around town. And here’s where the honey badger fits in: the Patterson will shift just as effortlessly under a heavy load as under little or no load. It really does not give, shall we say, a dang. It will do its thing no matter what you throw at it. So you don’t have to plan your shifts ahead of time quite so much. We don’t know if the honey badger chatters, though we imagine it does when blissed out on nutmeg, but there is a little bit of chatter with the Metropolis. Just imagine it’s the gentle trickling of a stream in the woods and you’ll be fine with it.



Sometimes we like to point out the obvious: there’s no front derailleur. And your chain won’t drop. A Gates Carbon Drive (belt drive) version of this crankset was spotted on a bike entered in the 2012 North American Handmade Bike Show. That bike was made by Ti Cycles, who remachined the Patterson ring to work with a Gates belt. We had Ti do the same for us, and we’ll post about that soon. Patterson now offers a spider adapter for Gates Carbon Drive compatibility. There’s more. Much like an internally gear hub, the Patterson’s planetary system is protected from the elements, though the chain itself is protected only on one side. And your pants are protected from the chain, so no pant guard is necessary. And if you run belt–well, the belt is a honey badger in its own right. There’s a lot of protecting going on, and FSA offers a 2-year warranty that’s officially limited to on-road use. But the Bicycle Times review mentioned above says that mud and crap are not the Metropolis’s, nor is mountain biking generally. The Patterson website disagrees about the latter. We didn’t take our test bike off road and we don’t sell mountain bikes, so we don’t offer an opinion either way. We have, however, been exchanging emails with Sam Patterson himself, and here’s one thing he told us: “The Patterson Transmission crankset is very well sealed. Not much difference between city mud and road grit and off-road soup. Obviously it is good to clean and re-grease it after the muddy season if it has been super wet.”


Compatibility: fits any standard 68 mm bottom bracket shell. That excludes most, but not all, mountain bikes. Cable runs for a front derailleur at the bottom of the downtube are needed. Update: Patterson now makes an optional cable stop bracket that allows any cable routing, and more improvements are in the works. Some disadvantages: at about 1700 grams (including bottom bracket, which is Patterson-specific and comes with the package), it’s a few hundred grams heavier than a lot of conventional commuter-bike cranksets. For city and cargo biking, that isn’t a big deal. Price: available for under $300 and includes cranks (three lengths—165, 170, 175 mm) and bottom bracket while obviating the derailleur. Other applications: The Patterson doesn’t have to be used with an internally geared hub, but that’s just what we mostly do. It can also work with, say, single-speed drivetrains or with Sturmey-Archer’s 2-speed kickback hub, too, as well as with standard derailleurs and cassettes. Sam Patterson is a co-founder of SRAM. The Patterson website is a lot of fun to visit. Similar products: Truvativ’s Hammerschmidt offers a very similar 1:1.6 differential. Costs about $200 more. Weighs about the same. And of course Schlumpf makes both mountain- and high-speed drives and is already belt-compatible. Made in Switzerland and priced commensurately. Hammerschmidt and Schlumpf are mountain-bike compatible (i.e., fitting 73 mm bottom bracket shells), whereas Patterson is typically not–it is, as its name suggests, intended more for the city. Some data on the Patterson: With a 19t cog on the rear and the 28t and virtual 45t chainring up front, the range is 21-103 gear inches with Alfine 8. That’s what we’ve got on the bike shown in the photos. With the Alfine 11 and a 22t cog, the range would be 18-119 gear inches, which is a wider range than a mountain triple. But don’t match this crankset with the 11, because you’ll probably void Shimano’s warranty. Bummer. You’ve got to mind the input ratio. To avoid overtorquing the hub, say when you’re downshifting the hub under lots of torque, just use the Patterson to downshift instead and spare the IGH. Upshifting under load is never an issue for any planetary IGH. With the n360 and a 20t cog, the range is 19-109. Update: Note that Nuvinci’s stated minimum input ratio is 1.8:1. They used to say you couldn’t overtorque the hub. For comparison: A mountain triple with the same 700c tires and 22-32-44 chainrings with an 11-34 cassette (and supposing it has the same 700c wheels) gives a 17-108 gear inch range. Want to try it out? Stop in and ride it to Mt. Tabor. Want to order one? We offer the Metropolis in all lengths if only you’d call us at 503 232 1107 or email info.

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