I’ve analysed most of the top-tier bicycle gearboxes on this web site, however have spent little time discussing the Shimano Alfine inside gear hubs that provide virtually unbelievable worth for cash.
So, how good is a $199 Shimano hub? And must you swap out of your derailleur gear system to an inside gear hub?
I’ll reply all of this and far more on this in-depth Shimano Alfine useful resource.
By the best way, in line with Shimano, it’s not pronounced Al-fine or Al-feen. It’s Al-fee-nay.
I’ve really spent a few years utilizing and abusing Alfine hubs, together with on a mountain bike that I constructed particularly for moist and muddy situations. However over the past decade, I’ve been using world wide on costly Rohloff hubs. With a superb deal with on each gear programs, I’ll be drawing comparisons between these hubs all through this presentation.
What are the benefits of inside gear hubs?
Inner gear hubs change the derailleur gears on a bicycle, and you’ll really take away your derailleur drivetrain out of your bike and match one up proper now.
Inner gear hubs often provide between 3 and 14 completely different gear ratios which can be hidden inside a weather-sealed hub shell. Consequently, you get a big discount in drivetrain upkeep, and with fewer elements uncovered to the weather – a discount in operating prices too.
For instance, I’ve recognized Shimano hubs ($199) to have labored nicely for round 90,000km (56,000mi). Add within the 9 chains ($63), six rear sprockets ($18) and three entrance sprockets ($33) that your drivetrain will put on by way of over 90,000km, and also you’re taking a look at US $313 to experience greater than twice the circumference of Earth!
Moreover, must you crash or drop your bike, there isn’t any rear derailleur (or hanger) to place out of alignment, or worse – destroy.
Different good options embrace the power to shift gears whereas stationary and the rear wheel can be constructed stronger due to the shorter spokes and even spoke rigidity.
To chop down on drivetrain upkeep additional you may pair gear hubs with belt drivetrains. These drivetrains are cleaner, quieter and longer-lasting. In actual fact, they’ll final upwards of 30,000km. I’ve been using belt drivetrains throughout a number of continents for over a decade, and have worn by way of simply 4 belts in that point.
When it comes to gear hub producers, Rohloff and Kinderney make very costly hubs that in lots of circumstances can outperform derailleurs. Sturmey Archer has manufactured IGH hubs for over a century, and Shimano is well the largest producer of drugs hubs on the planet.
The Shimano Alfine IGH
Shimano launched their first inside gear hub in 1957 and has slowly constructed on their multi-speed hub designs ever since.
The Alfine collection elements come below the “city” umbrella in Shimano’s product vary, they usually’re the highest-quality inside gear hubs that Shimano producers. You will get Alfine hubs with both 8 or 11 gears and they’re solely appropriate with common 135mm dropouts (sorry, thru-axle body homeowners).
These hubs provide unparalleled worth for cash. Yow will discover the 8-speed hubs for lower than US $200 and the 11-speed hubs below US $400. That’s considerably cheaper than a Rohloff 14-speed hub (US $1500).
The low value of the Alfine merchandise additionally interprets into full bikes which can be very nicely priced. For about US $1000 or €1000 you may get an 8-speed bike with a belt drivetrain that’s absolutely decked out and able to go.
Maintain a watch out for bikes with Shimano Nexus 8-speed hubs too, as these hubs are just about equivalent to the Alfine 8-speed except for the brake varieties accessible.
Shimano Alfine 8 vs. Shimano Alfine 11
So, what’s the distinction between the 8-speed and 11-speed Alfine hubs?
1. Gear Vary
The gear vary of the 8-speed hub is 306% and the 11-speed hub is 409%.
This merely implies that the largest gear ratio is 3.06x instances greater than the smallest ratio on the Alfine 8, and it’s 4.09x greater on the Alfine 11.
With greater gear ranges, we are able to pedal our bikes throughout a broader vary of speeds, which is particularly helpful for pedalling downhill or with a stiff tailwind.
To know this idea a bit higher, let’s set the bottom Alfine gears in order that they have you ever spinning the cranks at 60RPM at 8.4kph. The broader gear vary of the 11-speed hub will help you pedal as much as 57kph (100RPM) within the prime gear, whereas the 8-speed hub will solely take you as much as 43kph.
2. Gear Steps
Gear steps are the share distinction in gear ratio once you change your gears.
A motorbike with smaller gear steps is especially good at increased speeds, as you may higher fine-tune your gears to attain the cadence (crank revolutions per minute) you’re most snug using.
The Shimano Alfine 8 averages 17% gear steps throughout its gear vary. To offer you a way of how this compares to a derailleur drivetrain, it’s a bit increased than a 1×12 mountain bike drivetrain (SRAM 10-52t, 15% gear steps).
Compared, except for the primary gear (which is an unusually giant gear step of 29%), the Alfine 11 averages a a lot smaller 13.5%. That is extra like a 1×11 gravel bike cassette with 11-42 tooth sprockets (13% gear steps).
It’s price noting that the 11-speed hubs provide constant gear steps all through their vary. Compared, the 8-speed hub has 14% to 22% steps between the gears, which implies that gear modifications gained’t really feel fairly as predictable.
3. Lubrication System
The Alfine 11-speed hub operates inside an oil tub. The massive benefit of this design is that it’s arduous for water and particles to make their means contained in the hub shell.
The draw back is that oil slowly leaks out the aspect, so you will have to wipe every part down recurrently.
Compared, the Alfine 8-speed rolls on thicker greases and oils. It is a fairly fuss-free design, though, if it’s not grease-packed appropriately for moist environments – water can and can work its means into the hub.
4. Drive Effectivity
Each Shimano Alfine hubs obtain round 90% drive effectivity on common.
That is roughly 5-7% much less environment friendly than a clear and well-lubricated derailleur drivetrain. However observe that this doesn’t imply you’ll be 5-7% slower on an Alfine bike – once you do the maths, it’s near 2%, or a minute per hour when in comparison with a well-lubricated derailleur drivetrain.
That mentioned, in poor climate situations, it’s not unfeasible for the Alfine hubs to work out extra environment friendly, as there are fewer locations within the drivetrain for mud and particles to get caught.
5. Shimano Alfine Hub Weight
The Alfine gear hubs each weigh round 1700 grams (3.75lb) whereas common rear bike hubs are sometimes below 500 grams (1.1lb).
It would sound like an Alfine hub will add a big quantity of weight to a motorcycle, however after we peg Alfine bikes in opposition to derailleur bikes at related value factors, we frequently find yourself with a weight penalty of lower than half a kilogram (<1.1lb).
The lightest Alfine bike I’ve ever seen was simply 7.6kg (16.7lb) – it’s pictured above.
Shimano Alfine vs. Rohloff Speedhub
Rohloff hubs are usually thought of the gold normal of inside gear hubs as they’re constructed extremely nicely and expertise only a few failures.
Additionally they provide 14 gears throughout a 526% gear vary, which is about the identical as a contemporary mountain bike drivetrain (1X drivetrain with a 10-52T cassette). As well as, they’ve been examined to be round 4% extra environment friendly than the Alfine hubs throughout the gear vary.
There may be even a man on the market who has cycled 430,000km on a Rohloff hub, which is about 5 instances the life expectancy of an Alfine hub.
These are all nice traits, however the Shimano Alfine hubs are literally higher in numerous methods. In actual fact, on stability, I believe the Alfine is the most effective hub for most individuals.
So, what’s higher in regards to the Alfine hubs?
- The largest cause for me is that they run considerably quieter, particularly within the decrease gear ratios. The Rohloff hub is especially noisy in gears 5, 6 and seven.
- The value is greater than US $1000 lower than a Rohloff setup, leading to an awesome price-to-performance ratio.
- Alfine hubs are constructed round a set off shifter, which many individuals favor over Rohloff’s twist shifter design.
- You need to use some Alfine hubs with digital shifters that may full excellent shifts each time as there isn’t any cable housing that may be affected by grime or grit.
- Alfine hubs additionally are usually higher for drop-bar bikes as they’re appropriate with numerous aftermarket shifters or the Shimano Di2 digital shift levers.
Shimano Alfine Digital Shifting
Okay, I’ve simply talked about that Alfine hubs are glorious due to their digital shifting, so let’s take a better have a look at these elements.
You is perhaps pondering that Di2 digital shifting is a little bit of a gimmick, however once you perceive how Alfine hubs shift, it will probably positively be worthwhile.
It is because it’s the shifter that controls the alignment of the planetary gears in an Alfine hub. That implies that improper cable adjustment and soiled or broken cables can stop the hub’s inside elements from participating correctly – which may end up in gear slipping, grinding, or worse – inside elements breaking contained in the hub and making a large number of issues.
Digital shifters make excellent shifts each time, making certain you don’t injury something contained in the hub from improper cable upkeep. Out of the 2 Alfine hubs, digital shifters take advantage of sense on the 11-speed mannequin, because the cable adjustment is particularly delicate.
It’s price noting that you simply can not improve Alfine hubs from a mechanical shifter to an digital shifter. The Di2 hub design is completely different.
Digital shifters are additionally good on drop-bar bikes as you may simply pair them with Shimano hydraulic brakes for an ultra-low upkeep brake setup too. Moreover, the Di2 drop bar levers will be programmed in numerous methods. You’ll be able to change the buttons in order that your left-hand shifts down and your right-hand shifts up. And you may maintain the buttons and shift a number of gears without delay.
How Do Shimano Alfine Hubs Really feel In Comparability To Rohloff Hubs?
When it comes to experience really feel, the Alfine hubs are ‘spongy’ in comparison with Rohloff hubs on account of using curler clutches contained in the hub.
You’ll be able to really see how a lot ahead motion there’s within the hub once you step on the pedals from stationary. When using, that is solely noticeable should you mash your pedals at a gradual cadence. It’s in no way noticeable at increased cadences.
The gear steps are literally fairly related between the Rohloff and Alfine 11 for probably the most half (13.6%). The factor you would possibly miss is the extra-wide gear vary of the Rohloff (526%).
The shifting on Alfine hubs is extremely quick when the shift cable and cassette joint are operating completely. However when both of those elements will get muddy or gritty, shifting isn’t as instantaneous as a Rohloff hub. The Rohloff holds the benefit right here because the gear indexing is contained in the hub, relatively than from the shifter.
Are Shimano Alfine Hubs Appropriate For Touring & Bikepacking?
You will see that heaps of people that have efficiently accomplished bike journeys on Shimano Alfine hubs. In actual fact, the world wide file was as soon as set on a Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub!
However there are two issues that stop me from recommending Alfine hubs to all bike travellers. Please observe that these ‘points’ don’t apply to everyone in each scenario.
1. Low Climbing Gears
Low climbing gears are essential for bicycle touring as they help you experience up hills at a sustainable effort with your whole baggage. When your climbing gear is just too excessive, you’ll be working a lot tougher than vital, which leads to extra muscle fatigue, and albeit, makes hills a lot much less gratifying.
In the end, the Alfine hubs are optimised for city use, which often means getting round city on flatter terrain.
Shimano’s lowest advisable gear ratio on the Alfine hubs is 1.8:1 (11-speed) and a pair of:1 (8-speed). Once we calculate the climbing gear that this yields in “gear inches”, it’s merely not low sufficient for many bike journey. And it’s not by a bit of bit both; the primary gear on the Alfine is about the identical as my fifth gear on my Rohloff bike (27 to 30 gear inches).
Driving up steep hills with an Alfine both requires extra energy output or a decrease pedalling cadence, each of which can tire you out sooner.
2. Reliability, Spare Components & Repairs
For touring, one other factor an inside gear hub must be is dependable. That is completely paramount. Getting an Alfine hub fastened can waste quite a lot of time – doubtlessly ruining a visit.
Now, Alfine hubs are sometimes very dependable, particularly the 8-speed mannequin. However it’s nonetheless not unusual to listen to of individuals having issues with them.
I wouldn’t be too involved about servicing and spare elements within the UK or Europe, as inside gear hubs are widespread and you’re usually near a motorcycle store that may assist. Within the US, it’s most likely okay too so long as you’re joyful to ship your wheel to a gear hub specialist. However within the extra distant elements of the world, try to be ready to ship your wheel internationally for a restore.
You can say the identical factor a few Rohloff hub, however with their monitor file for reliability, it’s a really protected wager.
How To Enhance Shimano Alfine Hub Reliability
Okay, let’s now discuss upkeep and injury prevention.
Shimano Alfine hubs are low upkeep, however they’re not zero upkeep. Listed below are three issues you are able to do to maintain your Alfine hub dependable for a few years to return.
1. Shift Cable Upkeep
For those who learn to tune the Alfine gears and keep your cables, you’ll seemingly haven’t any issues along with your hub.
Within the digital shifting part, I mentioned intimately why cable upkeep can stop gear slipping, grinding, or inside elements from breaking contained in the hub and making a large number of issues.
Because the 11-speed hubs are far more delicate to cable adjustment than the 8-speed hubs, you will have to maintain a better eye on its shift elements.
2. Make Cautious Gear Shifts
Concerning gear shifting, it’s greatest observe to ease your pedal energy momentarily once you change gears. I’m speaking only a fraction of a second! It is because you may injury your hub by placing excessive masses into the inner elements earlier than the shift is 100% full.
3. Verify lubrication
Because the oil slowly seeps out of the Alfine 11-speed hubs, you will have to conduct common oil modifications. The primary oil change is crucial one, and it’s after simply 500km. After that, it’s each two years or 5,000km.
For those who’re utilizing the 8-speed hub in moist and gritty situations, ensure that to get the hub re-greased yearly. The grease helps to maintain water and grit out of the hub, and can vastly enhance the lifetime of the hub.
Reducing The Beneficial Gear Ratio
I mentioned the difficulty of low gear ratios and Alfine hubs beforehand. However some customers have reported utilizing ultra-low gear ratios (eg. 24t entrance, 20t rear) to attain an identical climbing gear to my touring bike – and with no issues in any respect.
However I’d watch out right here, particularly should you’re a heavier and extra highly effective rider.
With an ultra-low gear ratio (1.2:1), a 100kg/220lb rider can stand on the pedals and put 143Nm into an Alfine hub, which is greater than the utmost enter torque that Rohloff permits (130Nm) – and that’s a hub rated for tandem use.
Rider weight is vital for sustaining a low enter torque. With a 1.2:1 gear ratio, a 50kg/110lb rider solely places 72Nm into the hub when standing on the pedals. But when an 80kg/176lb rider did the identical factor, they’d put 115Nm into the hub, rising the possibility of inside injury.
Right here’s a desk I made that reveals the minimal gear ratios one may use with out exceeding 100Nm of torque. However use it at your individual threat, and please don’t inform Shimano.
Are Shimano Alfine Hubs Dependable?
The identify Alfine is derived from the phrase “At all times Tremendous”, however a fast search on-line reveals infinite boards with examples of Alfine hubs that didn’t do their job.
The primary offender is the Alfine S700 11-speed hub that was in manufacturing between 2010 and 2017. Oil leaks have been a-plenty, the cassette joint generally had manufacturing defects, and if the shift cable was not adjusted appropriately – inside injury was far more possible.
The most recent S7001 11-speed hubs make use of six new inside elements that have been re-designed to stop injury, however these hubs do nonetheless leak some oil that periodically must be wiped off the hub.
The Alfine 8-speed hub is taken into account to be probably the most sturdy possibility of the 2.
The S7001-series Alfine hubs are rated for eBike use, however watch out as the utmost torque of the motor will have to be on the low aspect.
Whereas there isn’t any official torque score for the Alfine hubs, the STEPS E6000 inside gear drivetrain comes with a 50Nm motor, so we are able to assume it’s about that.
Talking of the STEPS inside gear drivetrains, they’re tremendous cool! The Alfine 8 Di2 (or Nexus 5E Di2) hub will routinely change gears for you based mostly in your velocity, cadence and torque.
Shimano Alfine hubs are glorious, and for many individuals on the market, I believe they’re really a greater possibility than a Rohloff hub. It is because they’re cheaper, quieter and make use of set off or neat drop bar shifters. I particularly just like the drop bar digital shifters.
With an Alfine-equipped bike, you’ll get pleasure from simply how simple, low-cost and low upkeep an inside gear drivetrain is. Higher but, pair an Alfine hub with belt drive and revel in a grease-free and long-lasting drivetrain for years to return.
I like to recommend the 8-speed model for a easy grocery-getter or for somebody who merely simply desires a motorcycle that works. For somebody who rides a bit extra critically, the 11-speed model gives smaller and extra predictable gear steps, together with a wider gear vary.
I don’t often advocate Alfine hubs for touring and bikepacking because of the climbing gear ratio that’s too excessive, and indisputable fact that mechanical failures should not unparalleled. That is the place a long-lasting and strong Rohloff drivetrain clearly wins out. However should you experience flatter journeys and carry on prime of the shift cable upkeep, Alfine hubs work out nice.