Thursday, 6 April 2017

Shimano Alfine 11 Hub Gear Review

Shimano Alfine 11 Hub Gear Review - Why?


There are a number of reasons why you might want a hub gear, for most is is the lack of servicing required. For others it is the clean look it provides.

For me it was to avoid the waste of replacing my chain and cassette every 9 months, as they get coasted in mud from rural cycling that I rarely have the time to clean off.

They is also one other bonus for me and that is the reduction in noise level. No chain slap. No crunching of gears. It makes for a relaxing ride.

A neat set up (please ignore pipe lagging!)


I live in a hilly area, and a 1 x 9 set up does not really provide enough range (300%). Whilst the alfine hub, gives a little extra range (400%) and make the steeper hill possible without walking!

Shimano Alfine 11 Hub Gear Review - Gear Range


The Alfine 11 speed hub has a gear range of approx 400%, by comparison here are some other systems:


  • Alfine 8 Speed - 300%
  • 1 x 9 (11 - 34) - 300%
  • Sturmey Archer 3 Speed - 130%
  • 3 x 10 Triple - 550%
  • Rohloff - 520%
So you can see that the 400% offered by the alfine 11 is fairly large. You will need a front mech, rolhoff, or new fangled wide range 1 x 11 set up to match it.

View from above drive side.


Whilst a front triple ring setup will offer the same range for less money, the other two will cost the same if not more. 

Shimano Alfine 11 Hub Gear Review - Cost 


Compared with systems that offer similar or better range, at time of publishing.

  • Alfine 11 - £350
  • XT 1 x 11 Groupset  - £350
  • Rolhoff Speed Hub - £935
  • 2 x 10 Groupset Shimano - £260
There is one extra cost which must be added to hub gears and that is the building of the wheel. Which can be done for around £25 plus cot of rim (£30). 

Used with sliding dropouts in this instance.

Shimano Alfine 11 Hub Gear Review - Fitting 


The alfine 11 can be fitted on pretty much any bike with a 135mm rear dropout spacing. PERFECT INDEXING IS A SINCH. But there are a few extra things to consider.

The instructions although excellent but are split between 2 documents for:

When buying your parts just watch out for:

Chain Tensioning

If you have slot drop outs or horizontal drop outs then, you will be able to run the Alfine 11 without chain tensioners. Sliding dropouts are also an option. 

If you have vertical dropouts then you will need to use a chain tensioner. This slightly defeats the object of having a hub gear as it add complexity to the system, but is not too much of a burden. It will also stop you using a chain cover. 

An eccentric bottom bracket would allow the use of vertical dropouts, with an Alfine 11, without the use of the external tensioner. 

Fitting Kit / Small Parts Kit


In order to fit your alfine 11 hub, you will need to obtain the correct "small parts fitting kit" there are 3 or 4 to choose from. The main difference between each will be the non-turn washers, which have lugs at different positions for horizontal, standard and vertical dropouts. For example:

Be sure to buy correct fitting kit.
Wheel Building

If you intend to build you own wheel (and I suggest you have a go) then head over to "Ed Spoke Calculator" and tap in you hub and rim options. Then buy correct spokes.

Go for a 3 cross lacing, and opt for the 36 hole hub. The high the number of spokes and the thicker the rim, the more redundant strength you are building in to make up for amatur wheel building. 



Shimano Alfine 11 Hub Gear Review - In Use


In use the hub is very pleasant to use, but as with so many things it is a matter of preference as to whether the pros outway the cons.

Pros

  • Very snappy gear changes.
  • Shifter several gears at a time
  • Shift at a standstill  - this is really handy
  • Silent whilst pedaling and coasting
  • Perfect indexing very easy to set up
  • large range with no front mech
  • perfect chainline always


Cons



  • slightly spongy feel whilst pedalling.
  • rear wheel removal slightly more difficult
  • no quick release
  • slightly more complicated to fix a puncture

Shimano Alfine 11 Hub Gear Review - Conclusions


Whilst lacking the direct feel of a typical derailleur system, the Alfine 11 hub is an excellent bit of kit. 

If you are a utility cyclist, a tourer, a commuter or a rural rambler, then the quiet hassle free nature of the hub will suit you very well. It is set at a good price point and delivers plenty of range for nearly all situations. 

Time has proven the Alfine 11 to be a reliable component, and I look forward to the reduced service intervals, and quiet riding that is to come.


Shimano Alfine 11 Hub Gear Review - More Pictures 

Line up upper marks for perfect indexing. . . .

. . . .  or the bottom yellow marks.

Cable routing. . . a few zip ties required. 

Rapid fire shifter. . .

Upper indicator window is replaceable if cracked.

Shifter units is rather bulky. . . 

. . . bulky. 


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