Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sturmey Archer XL FDD Dynamo and Drum Brake Hub Review

Sturmey Archer XL FDD Review - Introduction

I have a set of Thorn Mt Tura Forks, which do not have disk brake bosses. I wanted a low maintenance brake, a disk brake would have been good, but not an option, I also have a dynamo hub that I like very much, so the the XL FDD looked like the perfect option. This has proved correct: After 5 years if riding I have only had to lubricate it once. It is very reliable, and low maintenance.

The XL FDD has a 90mm drum brake and a 6 volts 3 watt dynamo. There is a smaller version available the X FDD with a 70mm drum brake.

Sturmey Archer XL FDD Review - First Impressions

The XL FDD is a chunky bit of kit, it weighs a fair amount. If you are a built to last kind of guy like me then this is good news, but if you are weight conscious I suggest you look elsewhere at 1.3 kilo grams it is the heaviest front hub you can get I would imagine. The hub is large too, it is around 10 cm (109mm) in diameter, and laced in to a 26" wheel this largeness is emphasized somewhat. This hub does 3 things, it is a hub, and brake and a dynamo, so when comparing it is weight with other hubs you should add on a brake, and dynamo for a fair comparison.

For example a shimano DH-3N20 weighs around 700 grams, and if you add on 350 grams for a disk brake such as an avid BB7 you are up to a kilo already.

Sturmey Archer XL FDD Review - Price

Price wise this hub is a competitive option, a shimano dynohub will cost you around £30, and a disk brake around £40, the XL FDD costs around £80. So we are in the same ball park. One would hope that the long life of the brake pads will realise cost savings over time.

Sturmey Archer XL FDD Review -What is in the box?

Hub, wheel nuts, fixing bracket with rubber padding, barrel adjuster, a bit that clamps on to the end of your brake cable, a rubber spacer, electrical connector. In short there is everything yo need to fit the hub short of the cable, you can use a standard brake cable there is a widget to clamp on to the cable to form an "end".

Sturmey Archer XL FDD Review - Performance

Dynohub - The dynohub adequate and lights up my LED lights frount and rear at very low speeds, I would not say that is a quiet as good as  shimano DH-3N20 but there is less flicker. It is a pity that the contacts between Shimano and Sturmey Archer are not standardised.

Brake - The brake seems very good, and is easily as good a v brake, only a lot smoother, it is very smooth in fact, and even when using the liner pull / v brake levers provide very good stopping power. The brake is not as powerful as the avid BB7 180mm I have on the rear wheel.

Sturmey Archer XL FDD Review - Conclusion

The XL FDD gives good stopping power, and a quality dynamo for fair price, and in my eyes represents good value. It is pretty heavy though. I look forward to seeing how long it will last before intervention.

Update 30/09/2014: I have now been riding  on this hub for 18 months, the dynamo is still working well and the hub brake has not been touched since fitting. I haven't even had to adjust the brake, which may indicate very low levels of wear. By contrast my rear brake (an avid BB7 is on its 3rd set of pads).

On very long steep descents the XL FFD does warm up a little, and is hot to the touch, however with such a large surface area, it soon cools down. The hill in question is 3/4 mile long and requires moderate breaking for the entire distance.

A very good zero maintenance brake after 18 months, although only probably about 2000 miles ridden in that time.

Update 20/05/2015: At around 3000 miles a little squeak has developed, and so for the first time I had to do a little maintenance. Read a post on servicing a Sturmey Archer drum brake.

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Sturmey Archer XL FDD
Reviewed by Kermit Green on Feb 21 2013
Rating: 4.5


  1. Very good article, beautiful old fork you worked with there, good job. Most folks tend to wear through rear brakes first anyhow my question for the drum brake is if you were to slam on the front brake hard would it bring the rear of the bike off the ground as many v brakes do? Also are you using the Avid Speed Dial Lever for the rear?

  2. I am just using standard v brake levers for both brakes. The BB7 is waaaay powerful, so not really interested in increasing performance there, although I understand that speed dial offers better control of braking force.

    The power of the drum brake? I am moderately strong handed and I can just about get a rear wheel lift if I go all out, this is probably due to the choice of brake lever, a v brake lever pulls more cable with less force (leverage) so a proper calliper lever may increase the power. The proper sturmey archer levers recommended for the XL FFD are huge 5 finger jobs. As it stands I am content with performance, but I could see other perhaps wishing to tinker!