Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Hub Review

Update: I now have my own Alfine 11 bike! The Avanti Inc 3 with Gates Belt Drive and Alfine 11 Internal Hub.

So this is the Alfine 11 internal hub that many people have been talking about, and how they would like to use it on their bikes. I had the chance to try out a bike equipped with the Alfine 11 gear set over the weekend.

This bike is actually a Montague bike, which is a full sized mountain bike that can be folded. When paired with an internal hub, it creates a wonderful bike that is able to tackle rough terrain, is low maintenance and still folds! Quite an unique and amazing mix of features.

The Alfine 11 is a new internal hub released by Shimano late last year, and has a completely revamped construction from the previous Nexus and Alfine 8 hubs. This actually makes it slightly lighter than the Alfine 8, even though it has 3 more gears!

Good for off road too! No more chain drops or bouncing/broken rear derailleurs. Works perfectly even without much cleaning!

The Alfine series of internal hubs is able to accept disc brakes, unlike the Nexus series which only accepts roller brakes instead. To me, this is a great feature, as disc brakes with internal hubs makes the bike highly weather resistant, looks really good and works really well!

Chain tensioner is required for frames without horizontal dropouts. The chain seems to be longer than required, but is not an issue with the chain tensioner.

Another highlight of the Alfine 11 is of course the 11 speeds available! Other than the 11 speed drivetrain by Campagnolo, the Alfine 11 is the only drivetrain with 11 speeds on one shifter.

The 11 speeds available gives a really wide range of gearing, and can handle uphills or downhills with the spread of gears available. If there is a need to shift the whole gear range up or down, the size of the rear sprocket can be selected to give your desired gear range.

11 speeds! Without the indicator, it is easy to lose track of which gear you are in, because there are so many!

Other than the excellent internal hub, the Alfine 11 shifter also works brilliantly, just as a high end shifter should. The new construction means that the main lever downshifts, while the release lever upshifts, just like all high end Shimano MTB shifters. The previous Alfine drivetrains had the functions of the levers reversed, due to a different hub construction.

As with high end Shimano MTB shifters, it has 2-Way release, Instant Release and Multi Release features built in. This allows you to easily shift multiple gears both ways. The Alfine 11 is also perfect for commuting, as it allows gear shifting when the bike is not moving. Downshifting while stationary at the red light is now possible.

Had the bike over the weekend, and brought it out to the LCSG ride! Quite a few people were interested in it and had a go on the bike. Everyone who had tried the bike said that the shifting is very smooth and quick! In fact, some of them commented that compared to the other internal hubs, this Alfine 11 is way better. Also, it is hard to actually find and test ride an Alfine bike in Singapore as the LBS don't bring in these bikes due to low demand.

The smoothness of the gear shifting is largely due to the oil lubrication of the internals, the helical gears used and better designs. All these results in lightning quick shifts, where there is no need to wait for the chain to climb or drop onto the next gear. As soon as the lever clicks, the gear change is done, no delay.

The good stuff!

Of course, the shifting is not perfect everytime. When pushing hard on the pedals, sometimes the gear does not shift. This is very different from a bike with a derailleur, where you have to continue pedalling in order to complete the shift. For an internal hub, it helps to pedal lightly when you shift in order for the shift to be successfully executed.

The main downside to this internal hub is probably the weight. At around 2kg for the whole system (hub, chain tensioner, shifter), this is quite hefty compared to a conventional rear derailleur (rear hub, cassette, RD, shifter, around 0.9kg in total). It certainly does not come cheap too, due to the complex internal construction and precise tolerances required to manufacture the hub.

Most bikes should be able to use this hub, with its hub width of 135mm. Even bikes with a rear width of 130mm might be able to use it, although it will be a tight fit.

Overall, it can be said that this is a really good alternative for people who wants to have a low maintenance drivetrain, yet have multiple gears to use. The ease of shifting when stationary is definitely a plus, although the weight penalty is something that has to be overcome.

Great bike, great hub system!

14 comments:

  1. Hi!
    I´m some bike folding geek from Spain and i read your blog every two days to read your updates :)
    I need some of your bike parts, and i looking in your blog the contact form or an email but i don´t found any method to contact your directly.
    Please can give me an mail address or other similar method to speak about some upgrades that you did.
    I´m owner of a Dahon JetStream P8 :)
    King Regards from Spain.
    Peter

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  2. Thanks for the review...

    One small note...

    "Chain tensioner is required for frames without horizontal dropouts. The chain seems to be longer than required, but is not an issue with the chain tensioner."

    It's actually VERTICAL dropouts like the one pictured that need tensioners...

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    Replies
    1. hmm, this is exactly what I meant? Please read the sentence again, thanks.

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  3. Hi I would question the weight comparison, 0.9kg is extremely light for rear hub + casette + r der + shifter (eg shimano SLX is 1196 grams). also to make a proper comparison you should include the front der + shifter + 2 x chainrings which are no longer required with the alfine hub.

    personally I think the issue of weight in bikes is massively overstated anyway, the important thing actually being the combined weight of bike + rider + luggage (including food, water, emergency tools) in this context an extra kilo is no big deal especially if the gain is efficient and reliable power transmission and gear changing in all weather/surface conditions. Also worth bearing in mind that in very muddy conditions the weight of mud sticking to the rear derailleur can be over a hundred grams!

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  4. thanks for the constructive comments! I stand by the weight of the rear d components at around 0.9kg (hub 300g, rd 200g, cassette 300g, shifter 100+g.)

    As for the weight of the front shifting system, that is assuming that there is a front shifting system in the first place! I'm comparing a typical 1x9 RD system with an Alfine 11 system.

    And I agree that weight is not such a big issue when you ride unless you are competing. but the extra weight can be clearly felt when the bike is being handled, such as up the stairs.

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  5. Hi, sorry , just to check where do u install the alfine 11. And wat the cost of it. Thanks

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  6. ooo this is actually a friend's bike, and he built the wheel himself after getting the hub.

    not too sure about the price, but you can buy the Alfine 11 set online, and get a local bike shop to build the wheel for you.

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  7. Very good review - well done keep it up.

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  8. "Of course, the shifting is not perfect everytime. When pushing hard on the pedals, sometimes the gear does not shift..." It's YOUR fault. You are like trying to shift the manual transmission while accelerating without using clutch. The best practice is to relieve pressure on the pedal completely (for a split second) when you shift. Do not carry on your derailleur habit to the internal hubs.

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  9. Hi! can u pls tell me where to buy Shimano SG-700 Alfine Hub Oil in malaysia? Thank You

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  10. I don't stay in Malaysia, so I don't know. Best is to buy it online.

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  11. sorry i thought u are malaysian. u singaporean? or u can tell me where to buy Shimano SG-700 Alfine Hub Oil in singapore? Thank You

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    Replies
    1. I stay in Singapore. I have no idea where to buy that oil in local shops. There are few shops in Singapore that have internal hub bikes, even fewer that can service the hubs. My suggestion is to get the oil online, and refer to online guides to service the hub.

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