I have a Moulton with a FW and the first gear is lower. 2,3 and 4 are the same as an AW hub. If you get one make sure you get a 4 speed shifter for it. I paid more for the replacement shifter than I did for the whole bike with broken shifter. Mine is a refurbished 1965 Huffy sold Moulton built "4 speed". Roger
I would say yes they are hard to find but that doesn't make them necessarily more valuable. I would guess Sturmey Archer sold 1,000 AWs for every FW that they built. I forgot to add in my first post that it took me more than a year to find a shifter for mine. If you do a E-Bay search for Sturmey Archer hubs compare the number of AWs you see to FWs. Roger
Make sure the shift chain and rod are with it. If it is a FW(wide ratio) hub they are less rare than the FC(close ratio) or FM(medium ratio). FW gives you a lower first gear. Some are alloy and worth more. If the shift chain is missing you may pay a lot for one if you can find one.
They're a good hub, but except that they aren't prone to "going neutral" like an AW, I personally don't think they justify the extra money versus an AW, plus finding a replacement shifter is an exercise in the absurd. I finally gave up looking for a sanely priced replacement shifter for the last one I had, and just retrofit a twist grip shifter to it. I really didn't think much of it, or the whole experience in general, truth be told...
Forgive me for resurrecting this old thread of mine and beating a dead horse, but I have to ask. I'm looking at a 26x1-1/4 wheel set and before I spend more than I should (and usually do) I wanted to ask about the FM hub. We talked here about the FW some, but what about the reliability of the FM? Any experience with them? Are they as reliable as the AW? The one I'm looking at seems to be all there and I have a 4 speed trigger.
The FM was a popular hub with club riders. The idea is that you set up the cog/sprocket set up that best suits your terrain/riding needs and then you have a hub with tighter gear ratios so you are able to maintain your best cadence. But the FM is not an FW with just different gears - it's a mechanically different hub with its own set of issues, particularly if it has an alloy shell (the alloy ones can split apart). Proper adjustment and maintenance is very important with the FM, even more so than the FW and much more so than the AW. But when they're set up and maintained well, they're nice hubs if you want a closer gear ratio than the FW.