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 An Evaluation of the Reiss Billet Aluminum 3-Speed Transmission for the Cushman Eagle

By Dan Hudson
 

 

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Right up front I want to say that the Reiss three speed transmission does a great job of increasing the pleasure, safety and utility of the later model cast iron Cushman Eagles.

You really have to want one of these three speed transmissions or just can’t stand the original Cushman transmission…because the price will set you back a bit at about $1200. However, you do get your money’s worth though. A neat looking heavy duty aluminum case with stainless shifter give the look of serious business which it is.

Installation is mostly a straight forward process. In my case some material had to be removed from the bottom of the transmission mount area to allow it to move to the left enough for proper alignment of the pulleys and chain. Cushman seems to have been rather slack about their placement of brackets. Joe Reiss asked me to return the transmission to him for removal of this material at no charge. He has been very helpful and friendly at every point., always making me feel comfortable and inviting more questions. There were no further issues or adjustments in installing the transmission on my 1962 Cushman Eagle other than some simple bending of the pulley brake lever to make the pad contact the pulley evenly and removing a small portion of the corner of the pad. (you really don’t even need the pulley brake anymore)

Due to the fact that this transmission is not synchronized, perfect shifts are not always realized. Some practice is needed to shift without some grind. Shifting up through the gears is practically perfect with use of the clutch, while down shifting is done without the clutch and not quite as easily. When shifting down from high to second, I found that the shifts were easier if done at around 12 mph or lower. I understand that higher speed down shifts to second gear are possible, but I have not accomplished this myself. Most of the time the gears move gently into each other, but sometimes my timing is off a little and I get a minor grind. Sometimes when I think I have done it right, I still get a grind. I have really messed up on occasion and had to stop the scooter before completing the shift…this is my fault for not paying attention to where I placed the shift lever or not making a timely shift, maybe both. The transmission has detents that you can feel to let you know where the shifter is. You have to pay attention and consciously shift gears. This transmission is not for the casual shifter, neither was the original Cushman transmission. It works great for the person who enjoys shifting gears and will practice getting the feel of it…plus you get one more gear to shift with this setup. All this sounds more complicated than it actually is. It really shifts quite easily. I like gear shifting and make most shifts close to just right. I would not go back to the old transmission after experiencing this one.

Second gear allows you to do something you could never do with the original transmission, shift down from high to second at an intersection without stopping. This is just plain great. In fact, you can actually shift into first gear while rolling. No more stopping to shift gears when you only need to slow down. Since first gear is supposed to be a little lower than the original Cushman transmission, some may like to use larger transmission output sprockets to slow the engine while in high gear. My ‘62 Eagle has a 7.3 hp engine which seems to prefer the same size sprocket that was on the original transmission…18 teeth. I tried 19 and 20 tooth sprockets. Even though my engine pulled them OK, I like the acceleration with the 18 tooth best. If I understand gear ratios at all, first gear is a little lower than the original, second gear is almost right in the middle of the span ratio wise while third gear is the original 1:1 ratio. If you have the power on hand, you can increase the output sprocket size allowing you to go faster.

The noise made by this transmission might be objectionable to some. It bothered me for a while. The special cut first and second gears are somewhat noisy while third is nicely quiet. Joe Reiss has practically promised that this noise will diminish as the gears wear in and that you get used to it. I don’t notice it as much anymore myself. Anyway, Joe’s transmission’s benefits and pleasure outweigh the noise.

Joe Reiss made a great upgrade for the Cushman Eagle when he made this transmission. Joe has put 2700 miles on his transmission without any problems. It is like having gravy on your potatoes, not absolutely necessary, but makes them taste better. It expands the pleasure of riding an already fun machine as well as increasing it’s safety and utility.

He is getting ready to design and build a four speed foot shift transmission for the Cushman Silver Eagle conversion to the Vanguard V Twin. More excitement !!!

If you are interested in this transmission, you may call the manufacturer Joe Reiss in Missouri at 636-343-4207 to inquire as to where you can purchase one. Ask about the installation kit. Installation took me two to three hours, but I am a very particular almost perfectionist person. It could be done in an hour by some.

Posted August 3, 2004

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