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Published Feb. 15, 2021

Three-speed bikes may be the best-kept secret in cycling, and unless you live in rolling San Francisco or pancake-flat Lubbock, Texas, a three-speed bike could be the perfect choice for a casual cruise through town or an urban commute to the office. Unlike a single-speed bicycle, a three-geared bike can handle the ups and downs of many slopes and inclines riders can expect in the average North American metropolis or suburb. On the flip side, multi-speed drivetrains with six, seven, or more speeds come with several extra parts that are unprotected and complicated. Three-speed bikes lack these parts and the inherent vulnerabilities, making the three-speeder an amazing option when it comes to balancing performance with reliability and ease of maintenance.

Sure, Alex in accounting may get places a little bit faster, but we bet that your shiny new three-speeder will cost you a whole lot less in repair, maintenance, and replacement costs as the years turn into decades. Plus,there is absolutely no way Alex’s bike gets close to the number of compliments yours will enjoy as it turns heads on Main Street and side streets.

Three-speed bicycles may be an unusual commodity, but the Firmstrong Urban Man 3 Speed manages to provide riders with a unique combination of features sure to satisfy picky users. This men’s cruiser relies on a 19-inch steel frame in a step-over configuration that combines the spirit of yesteryear with today’s stylistic spin, ideal for plenty of retro riders. The bike boasts an ergonomic, comfortable layout with a highly adjustable saddle and set of handlebars. The 26-inch aluminum wheels lighten the load, turning the bike into a featherweight cruiser weighing only 37.5 pounds. The whitewall tires and coaster brake further add to this bike’s classic vibes, while the grip shifter and Shimano Nexus three-speed internal hub hides the multi-gear drivetrain from all but the most observant eyes. The Firmstrong Urban Man 3 Speed comes in a variety of different colors and includes a kickstand, chainguard, reflectors, and an oversized, dual-spring saddle.

The lack of a pannier rack may leave some riders disappointed. The necessity to purchase the color-matched fenders separately is also a letdown.

Key Features
  • Men’s cruiser bike with 19-inch step-over steel frame
  • 26-inch aluminum wheels with whitewall tires
  • Grip shifter mated to Shimano Nexus three-speed internal hub
  • Rear coaster brake
  • Includes kickstand, chainguard, and reflectors
  • Fits riders between 64 and 75 inches tall
  • Multiple colors available
Specification
  • Brand Firmstrong
  • Model B08BJYH28R
  • Weight 37.5 pounds
PROS

Saddle post and handlebars adjustable for height and tilt

Oversized, dual-spring saddle

Ergonomic riding position

Easy to assemble

CONS

No pannier rack

Color-matched fenders sold separately

Due to their rarity, three-speed bikes may not be super affordable, but the sixthreezero Around the Block Men’s 3-Speed provides buyers with a relatively low price tag. This men’s cruiser features a 19-inch steel frame, ideal for more male riders, and the ergonomical, step-over frame exhibits a rounded, streamlined aesthetic. The slightly knobby whitewall tires reside on 26-inch aluminum wheels and give riders the ability to handle mild unpaved trails. The low-profile gearing equipment comes entirely from Shimano, including the Index Revo grip shifter and the three-speed Nexus internal gear hub. The rear coaster brake and hand-activated front V-brake diversify stopping options for maximum safety. The quick-release saddle post makes proper seat height easy to attain, and the oversized, dual-spring saddle makes for a relaxing ride. Available in multiple colors, the sixthreezero Around the Block Men’s 3-Speed also boasts a kickstand, a chainguard, reflectors, a rear pannier rack, and synthetic leather grips.

Some riders have reported a somewhat unusual quality control issue. That said, the only accessory missing from this cruiser is the fenders.

Key Features
  • Men’s cruiser bike with 19-inch step-over steel frame
  • 26-inch aluminum wheels with whitewall tires
  • Shimano Index Revo three-speed grip shifter mated to Shimano Nexus three-speed internal hub
  • Rear coaster brake and front V-brake
  • Includes kickstand, chainguard, reflectors, rear pannier rack, and synthetic leather grips
  • Fits riders between 64 and 77 inches tall
  • Multiple colors available
Specification
  • Brand sixthreezero
  • Model B08D8C13P1
  • Weight 38.7 pounds
PROS

Quick-release saddle post adjustable for height

Oversized, dual-spring saddle

Ergonomic riding position

Pannier-ready

Easy to assemble

CONS

Fenders not included

Occasional quality control issues

No matter what the occasion, the sixthreezero EVRYjourney Women’s 3-Speed is ready for just about anything you can throw at it. This ergonomic women’s cruiser bike relies on a tough yet lightweight 17.5-inch aluminum frame, weighing in at just 35.2 pounds. The step-through frame design makes this bike sundress and coverup-friendly and can accommodate riders between 60 and 74 inches tall. Available in multiple colors, the frame’s aesthetic styling and the whitewall tires mounted on 26-inch aluminum rims oozes classic vibes. On the flip side, the Shimano Index Revo grip shifter mates perfectly with the Shimano Nexus three-speed internal hub to provide gear options without disrupting the mid-century feel of this design. The rear coaster brake and hand-activated front V-brake combine old tech with new, while the kickstand, chainguard, reflectors, rear pannier rack, fenders, synthetic leather grips, and oversized, dual-spring height-adjustable saddle complete the sixthreezero EVRYjourney Women’s 3-Speed.

Some riders under 64 inches tall may find this bike a bit large or uncomfortable which is a real bummer considering the price tag.

Key Features
  • Women’s cruiser bike with 17.5-inch step-through aluminum frame
  • 26-inch aluminum wheels with whitewall tires
  • Shimano Index Revo three-speed grip shifter mated to Shimano Nexus three-speed internal hub
  • Rear coaster brake and front V-brake
  • Includes kickstand, chainguard, reflectors, rear pannier rack, fenders, and synthetic leather grips
  • Fits riders between 60 and 74 inches tall
  • Multiple colors available
Specification
  • Brand sixthreezero
  • Model B08KGSD2SV
  • Weight 35.2 pounds
PROS

Quick-release saddle post adjustable for height

Oversized, dual-spring saddle

Ergonomic riding position

Pannier-ready

Easy to assemble

CONS

Expensive

Some riders under 64 inches tall may find this bike uncomfortable

If you’re looking for a three-speed bike with a mid-century aesthetic, the Schwinn Huron 3 may not be a replica of 1950s-era bicycles, but it puts out enough of the right vibes to reproduce the spirit. This men’s cruiser features a 17-inch steel frame in a step-over configuration that can accommodate most male riders between 64 and 74 inches tall. The 26-inch wheels feature aluminum frames for a lighter, faster wheel roll, and the traditional rear coaster brake provides an instinctual riding experience. The included kickstand, chainguard, pedal reflectors, and fenders further the old school feel while increasing the bike’s practicality. The powertrain relies on a duo of Shimano components, the Index Revo grip shifter, and the three-speed Nexus internal gear hub, to keep things rolling. The Schwinn Huron 3 also boasts an adjustable saddle post, an oversized, dual-spring affair, a handful of color options, and a limited lifetime warranty.

This bike is both pricey and hefty, weighing 45 pounds. Sadly, it also lacks both front and rear reflectors as well as a pannier rack.

Key Features
  • Men’s cruiser bike with 17-inch step-over steel frame
  • 26-inch aluminum wheels
  • Shimano Index Revo three-speed grip shifter mated to Shimano Nexus three-speed internal hub
  • Rear coaster brake
  • Includes kickstand, chainguard, pedal reflectors, and fenders
  • Fits riders between 64 and 74 inches tall
Specification
  • Brand Schwinn
  • Model B085WZCBJT
  • Weight 45.0 pounds
PROS

Saddle post adjustable for height

Oversized, dual-spring saddle

Ergonomic riding position

Limited lifetime warranty

CONS

Expensive

Heavy

Front reflector, rear reflector, and pannier rack not included

Need a women’s three-speed cycle without inducing permanent sticker-shock? The Retrospec Chatham Step Through 3s 26″ may be the perfect solution. Available in multiple colors, this women’s cruiser features a 16-inch frame constructed of Hi-Ten steel for long-term durability. The step-through frame makes this cycle easy to mount, ride, and dismount while wearing a skirt, dress, or beach coverup. The 26-inch aluminum rims host stylish whitewall tires, amping up classic vibes on the street or at the beach, and the rear coaster brake makes braking a total breeze. The Sturmey Archer drivetrain relies on a solid grip shifter positioned next to a comfortable foam handlebar grip and a three-speed internal gear hub hill-friendly performance. Riders between 60 and 76 inches tall can enjoy this bike’s ergonomic design, and the included kickstand, chainguard, pedal reflectors, and height-adjustable synthetic leather saddle provide convenience and comfort. The Retrospec Chatham Step Through 3s 26″.

This bike weighs a hefty 40 pounds, and its assembly instructions lack clarity. It also lacks front and rear reflectors and a pannier rack.

Key Features
  • Women’s cruiser bike with 16-inch step-through Hi-Ten steel frame
  • 26-inch aluminum wheels with whitewall tires
  • Sturmey Archer grip shifter mated to Sturmey Archer three-speed internal hub
  • Rear coaster brake
  • Includes kickstand, chainguard, pedal reflectors, and synthetic leather saddle
  • Fits riders between 60 and 76 inches tall
  • Multiple colors available
Specification
  • Brand Retrospec
  • Model 3195
  • Weight 40.0 pounds
PROS

Saddle post adjustable for height

Oversized saddle

Comfortable foam grips

Ergonomic riding position

CONS

Heavy

Front reflector, rear reflector, and pannier rack not included

Instructions can be difficult to follow

Honestly, some of us are harder on our bikes than others, but the Firmstrong Bruiser 3 Speed provides even the roughest riders with a three-speed bike that can handle those bumps and bruises. This men’s cruiser boasts a large, 19-inch steel frame with a streamlined step-over profile and 26-inch aluminum wheels. This combination fits most men measuring 64 to 76 inches tall, making it a versatile option. The grip shifter mates nicely with the triple-geared Shimano Nexus internal hub mounted to the rear wheel, while the rear coaster brake provides safe and intuitive stopping power. The included kickstand, chainguard, reflectors, synthetic leather grips, and oversized, dual-spring saddle minimize inconveniences and increase comfort, and both the saddle post and handlebars are adjustable for both height and tilt. The Firmstrong Bruiser 3 Speed boasts ergonomic engineering, comes in a handful of color combinations, and is easy to assemble.

The only knocks against this bike are its unsurprisingly hefty weight of 41.9 pounds and its lack of both fenders and a pannier rack.

Key Features
  • Men’s cruiser bike with 19-inch step-over steel frame
  • 26-inch aluminum wheels
  • Grip shifter mated to Shimano Nexus three-speed internal hub
  • Rear coaster brake
  • Includes kickstand, chainguard, reflectors, and synthetic leather grips
  • Fits riders between 64 and 76 inches tall
Specification
  • Brand Firmstrong
  • Model B08GLTLYP8
  • Weight 41.9 pounds
PROS

Saddle post and handlebars adjustable for height and tilt

Oversized, dual-spring saddle

Ergonomic riding position

Easy to assemble

CONS

Heavy

Fenders and pannier rack not included

Best 3-Speed Bikes Buying Guide & FAQ

Like looking for a Lambo in a trailer park, finding a three-speed bike in the wild can be quite a challenge. The feat of engineering known as the three-speed bicycle manages to combine the simple, sleek styling of single-speed bicycles with the increased capability and power of multi-speed powertrains. Despite this ingenious combination, the triple-gear cycle still eludes most of us during our regular trips around town.

Sure, a three-speed bike may not be ideal for some applications, but when the rubber meets the road, those three gears are plenty for some riders. Instead of dealing with the increased maintenance demands of bikes with more complex drivetrains, go with the simplicity and capability of a three-speeder, and it may turn out to be a better investment than many of us would have ever imagined.

Benefits of a 3-Speed Bike

Male riding 3 Speed Bike
Three-speed bikes shift gears while stopped.

The sleek aesthetic of a three-speed bike’s internal gear hub at the back wheel gives this design a streamlined and deceptively simplistic look. A glance at one of these cycles can prove deceptive as these bikes provide cyclists with a surprising number of unexpected benefits. While most of these benefits are relative either to other bicycle drivetrains, the capabilities can be quite impressive, particularly for riders in relatively flat locales with milder road grades.

The engineering of three-speed bicycles lends itself very well toward a final product capable of handling many common hill climbs or toting a moderate load of panniers without relying on overly complicated components. While the elimination of external gears, derailleurs, and similar drivetrain parts found on higher speed bikes may hold three-speeders back in some ways, the increase in its overall reliability is no laughing matter. Six-speed, 18-speed, and 24-speed cycles present the potential frustration of throwing a chain or attracting extra grease, dirt, and grime into the drivetrain, thus increasing wear and tear, cleaning, and maintenance requirements. With fewer available parts to break, a three-speed bike eliminates many of the concerns of its faster competitors.

There may be nothing more frustrating than trying to shift gears between stopping for a light on one side of the intersection than attempting to shift gears before hitting the incline across the way. The three-speeder’s ability to shift gears while the bike is at a complete standstill, thus eliminating the headache of trying to pedal and shift simultaneously.

  • Ride a simpler, sleeker bike.
  • Tackle mild hills with ease.
  • Gain greater reliability than other geared bikes.
  • Stop dropping the chain.
  • Stop worrying about breaking drivetrain parts
  • Decrease accumulated dirt and grease.
  • Minimize wear and tear, cleaning, and maintenance.
  • Shift gears while stopped.

Types of 3-Speed Bikes

Three-speed bikes may be somewhat unusual in the biking world, but not only do they have their own niche, but they may also surprise some people by their relative diversity in design. While most three-speeders capitalize on the classic lines of the cruiser bike, some build on top of that platform. Other cycles reject old school styling in favor of the lighter, more versatile hybrid pattern.

Cruiser

A three-speed cruiser bike takes old school style and marries it up to new school components, resulting in a cruiser that can handle more than its predecessors ever could have imagined. This bike design preserves the classic look of single-speed cruisers commonly enjoyed during the cycling heydays of the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, yet at the same time, this feat of engineering can handle hills and cargo loads that older bikes simply could not handle.

Some riders may enjoy the urban commuter, a subcategory of three-speed cruiser pattern. Mechanically, these two bicycles match completely, yet the urban commuter includes a pannier rack and, often, fenders. This rack allows riders to carry cargo on one kind of another while avoiding the inevitably obvious sweat pattern that comes with wearing a backpack. The fenders keep riders clean and dry in less than ideal weather conditions.

Hybrid

While quite rare, the three-speed hybrid bike has its own little place in the world, tucked away in a corner like an introvert at a party. This bike may appear to be an odd bird, but with time, its merits begin to shine.

Boasting the sleek looks and low maintenance requirements of a “fixie” (fixed-gear bike), this hybrid was designed with lowland commuters in mind. This bike can handle rough bike paths and mild off-road trails with minimal inclines. This combined with its lightweight frame makes it a better long-haul alternative to the urban commuter cruiser. Hybrids often take advantage of pannier racks and fenders as well to make them even better at a variety of roles.

What to Consider When Buying 3 Speed Bike

using the best adventure sport 3 Speed Bike
Three-speed bikes decrease accumulated dirt and grease.

When shopping for a three-speed bike, be sure to take some time and consider the cycle’s intended use. Since three-speed bicycles usually fall into one of two categories, cruiser and hybrid, contemplate whether or not the bike will be used for casual riders, commuting, or some other use.

In particular, commuters traveling over relatively flat or mildly rolling terrain may appreciate the unique benefits of a three-speeder. Those traveling shorter distances or over smooth surfaces, such as asphalt or concrete, will appreciate some variant of the three-speed cruiser with commuter-friendly accessories, like fenders, front and rear reflectors, and a pannier rack. Those traveling long distances or over bumpier terrain may prefer to go with a three-speed hybrid instead, with or without the extra features.

The Most Important Features of 3-Speed Bikes

Every bike has its own unique features, and three-speeders are no exception to the rule. By design, these cycles have few components that make them stand out in a crowd, and as such, this simple design has few features likely to steal the show. Nevertheless, their “around town” setup requires a few components not found on many other bikes.

Safety Equipment

The number one concern facing any cyclist is safety. An unseen or reckless rider could become a statistic of one kind or another, and without the proper equipment, a bicycle can quickly turn a cautious rider into a hazard to themselves or others.

When shopping for a three-speed bike, pay attention to the cycle’s braking system. Most cruiser and urban commuter bikes come with coaster brakes, and some may include a handbrake of one variety or another. On the flip side, the rare three-speed hybrid bicycle may skip the pedal brakes altogether.

Of course, the visibility afforded by proper bike reflectors can keep riders cool when a storm, traffic, or simply bad planning keeps them out a little later than anticipated. While virtually every bike includes pedal reflectors, many lack front, rear, and wheel reflectors. Know how your desired bike is equipped and supplement accordingly.

Cargo Capabilities

Most three-speed bicycles fall into the cruiser or urban commuter categories, but even the rare three-geared hybrid can handle a limited load of cargo. While this may not be the primary need for many riders, it never hurts to know a given bike’s ability to transport a laptop, books, or a change of clothes should the need arise.

Urban commuter bikes (a cruiser subcategory) come with their own pannier racks, saving riders time and cash on yet another installation job while expanding their bike’s capabilities. This creates convenient storage space for carrying clean clothes and a laptop to the office.

While rarely seen on a bike from the manufacturer, a handlebar basket is another common cargo carrier that a three-speed bike should be able to accommodate. This makes it easy to make a quick run to the grocery store for some bread and milk.

Best 3-Speed Bikes FAQ:

To the uninitiated, three-speed bikes are an odd species and almost as rare as a dodo. As such, these bikes spark quite a few questions that are sure to come spilling out. Are they any good?  Who would ride one? How do they work? Can they compete with other bikes? 

Q: What is a 3-speed bike good for?

Three-speed bikes perform best as cruisers and urban commuter bikes, especially in locations where the topography offers only short or limited inclines.

Q: Is a 3-speed bike enough?

For bike riders living in relatively flat landscapes or among lightly rolling hills, a three-speed bicycle is an ideal choice for cruising, urban commuting, or other two-wheeled adventures.

Q: How do 3-speed bicycles work?

Instead of using external gears and a derailleur, three-speed bikes rely on a hub at the rear axle which contains three gears that can be switched at any time. 

Q: Should I get a 3-speed or 7-speed bike?

Three-speed bicycles perform best in mostly flat or slightly hilly locales with limited cargo. Seven-speed bikes shine in more rolling environments and while transporting somewhat heavier loads.

Our Top Pick

Overall, we love the Firmstrong Urban Man 3 Speed. This three-speed cruiser for men combines comfort, a light weight, and a variety of features with a well-performing bike that is easy to assemble, ride, and maintain. The 19-inch steel frame can accommodate most male riders, while the Shimano drivetrain components provide solid performance from a trusted name. This bike’s styling combines old with new and is sure to satisfy most retro metro riders.

Final Thoughts

The Firmstrong Urban Man 3 Speed provides riders with an amazing combination of reliability, performance, and style without weighing them down. The sixthreezero Around the Block Men’s 3-Speed places the rare three-speed bike within reach of more budget-conscious buyers but does so without compromising on the quality of its components.

Sources:

  1. Three-Speed Bicycle – Wikipedia

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