IG hubs for vintage touring bike

lae Posts: 555
edited March 2010 in Road buying advice

I'm looking to get into touring as I have a rather handsome 1970s Coventry Eagle 531 double butted touring frame. I saved it from the fixie fashionistas before they could ruin it completely - they've filed off the rear derailler hanger but left all the other braze ons. I did a bit of touring with my girlfriend last summer (Bournemouth - Penzance) on my old Raleigh 10-speed, but this bike (in singlespeed form) is my daily bike and I can't be bolting on chainrings and swapping cassettes and adding shifters and deraillers all the time. In fact, I can, I just want another bike.

I'd rather have a hub geared bike because:
1. Less to go wrong and less maintenance to keep it shifting well
2. Sturdy, won't be damaged and therefore I won't get stranded if I drop the bike or knock it with the panniers
3. Looks. Yeah, you heard me :oops:

I've been looking at Shimano's offerings - anyone got experience of Nexus or Alfine hubs? 8 speed sounds great to me but they do seem rather heavy (1.6kgs!). Also, can you use them with downtube shifters (friction or indexed) or do you have to use Shimano's ugly thing that would look totally out of place on the bike

I've also got a SA 3-speed hub of similar vintage to the frame - the gear range isn't great but it's quite a bit lighter than the other offerings I've looked into, and suits the frame more. Plus I think I'm right in saying that they can be used very easily with friction shifters. And one more massive advantage is that I've already got one and don't need to fork out £150 odd quid! But the lack of a really low bail-out gear worries me - the range is about .75 to 1.5 rather than .5 to 1.6 like Shimano ones.

Anyone got any experience with this?