While new innovations and model series are presented almost every year for derailleur gears, things are much quieter in the area of hub gears. In this respect, it is more than welcome when a new competitor appears that also shows a quite promising product – as is currently the case with the new 3×3 NINE hub gears.
3×3 is the manufacturer, a brand of H+B Hightech GmbH from southern Germany — a highly specialized manufacturing company with a focus on future-proof engineering. NINE, on the other hand, is the product name of the hub gears, which (unsurprisingly given the name) offer nine gears. Remarkable is the maximum torque that the circuit tolerates: this is 250 Nm and is thus suitable for any currently available mid-drive motors!
Made for heavy load, especially for e-bikes
A circumstance that must be emphasized because, for example, the Nexus and Alfine hub gears from Shimano tolerate much less power and therefore the power of the motor must be throttled. Certainly also a reason why Shimanos hub gears are now rather rarely installed. The resulting gap is now often filled with the continuously variable transmission from Enviolo. This, however, works completely differently, is less efficient and more comfortable than sporty to ride. Only the Rohloff Speedhub circuit remains, which can handle a torque of 130 Nm — but plays in a different league in terms of price and is therefore only available in the high-end range.
In this respect, the new 3×3 NINE is an exciting addition here, especially since it also offers a large gear ratio of 554% — which denotes the range between the smallest and the largest gear. For comparison: an Enviolo circuit offers a maximum of 380% and even Rohloff’s Speedhub can “only” cover a range of 526%, although this offers 14 gears. However, it can also be deduced from this that the distances between the individual gears are larger in each case with the 3×3 NINE — but this is compensated for on e-bikes by the power of the motor.
This certainly makes the e-bike the focus of 3×3, but the gearshift can also be operated manually and thus be used in any conventional bike (a prototype was shown in a steel frame bike from Mika Amaro at the Eurobike Show 2022). In addition to the mechanical twist grip shifter, there will also be an electrically operated version that is controlled via a pushbutton. This will even offer convenient features such as auto downshift, which automatically shifts to a lower gear when the bike is stopped for easy starting.
Great advantage of hub gears is the encapsulated gearbox, which is well protected from the weather. In addition, these circuits are also compatible for use with a belt drive — so this duo plays all the advantages in terms of low maintenance! In addition, the NINE is to get along completely without maintenance: neither an oil change nor a calibration of the gears should thereby ever be necessary.
Disadvantage of a hub gear, however, is the — at least compared to the derailleur — somewhat higher weight. For the NINE, the manufacturer specifies a weight of exactly 2 kg. For comparison: Rohloff’s Speedhub is slightly lighter at around 1.8 kg, while the Enviolo models are slightly heavier at 2.4 kg.
With it’s new NINE 3×3 offers a promising product that should enrich the range of e-bikes with hub gears. The range of the gearshift should leave little to be desired and the compatibility with all currently available mid-mounted motors is a big advantage. In terms of price, the new hub gears should then be in the range between Enviolo and Rohloff. Meaning: a bit more expensive than bikes with the Enviolo gearbox, but a good bit cheaper than those with the Rohloff gearbox. Concrete urban bikes with this drivetrain are not yet announced — but perhaps the prototype at the Eurobike Show gives already a first hint: there, the gear hub was installed in a Roadster e-bike from Riese & Müller, combined with Bosch’s powerful Performance Line CX motor.