My precious Alfine hub will soon be at peace with its maker, but I’ve still got some healing to do. My experience with Alfine has been a roller coaster ride that has left me wary of internally geared hubs. Not to mention anxious, moody, and prone to sudden outbursts of sobbing. Combined with my DualDrive and Sturmey-Archer experience I guess you could say that I’m thrice bitten… fourfold shy? I’ve lost count. What follows is my therapy.
It all began innocently enough. I’d grown weary of my crappy drivetrain performance, particularly my SRAM twist/grip shifters. Nothing seemed likely to improve matters much until I discovered Di2 and with it the promise of Alfine: Clean, rapid, self-contained shifting while pedaling or stopped. Ability to shift gearing up or down by replacing a single sprocket. Perfectly straight chain line. This was seductive stuff and I was hooked.
But I’d been around the block a few times. Previous forays into IGH had left me heartbroken. SRAM DualDrive got me excited and then dashed my hopes by clattering down the road like a hillbilly honeymoon. The Sturmey-Archer CS-RF3 rattled just as much. So my romance with Alfine began with much trepidation. Would it turn out to be just another rusty coffee can dangling behind my trike from a piece of string?
When the answer turned out to be an unqualified no, I was smitten. Alfine did its job silently. Over bumps that would have my old SRAM X9 derailleur skipping and clanging, the Alfine and my suspended ICE frame responded with a barely detectable and satisfyingly solid, low-frequency thud. Even the pawls were silent, without the pervasive click-click-click of a conventional freewheel hub. The only time I heard noise coming from this hub was when I was in an enclosed space like a tunnel that reflected sound back to me. Even then, I barley heard the click of the pawls and only in a couple of gears. Backpedaling sometimes increased the pawl noise slightly, but it was still barely audible. Finally! An IGH with all of the virtues (plus eleven gears and electric shift!) and none of the noise.
Until the problems began, within 100 miles of use. Not OCD problems like a little rattle in the rear, but “I’m not sure I’m going to make it home without shredding my hub” problems. Skipping after having been in the same gear for several minutes. Briefly popping out of gear. And the final straw: not going into 2nd gear without a couple crank revolutions of grinding, if ever. This one made for some pretty sketchy crossings at busy intersections.
The romance is over—I broke it off. I’m waiting to hear Shimano’s prognosis on my hub. I’ll admit I have a reputation among family and friends as the clearinghouse for defective merchandise but I can’t imagine an explanation from Shimano that would make me want to go down this road again. Particularly after my conversation with Shimano customer support.
I give Shimano a lot of credit. On a good day, Alfine is incredible. On paper, it solves a lot of problems for the non-spandex crowd. (No, I don’t wear spandex. You’re welcome.) Combined with Di2, Alfine pushes the envelope for everyday cyclists in a very good way. Maybe next iteration, Shimano.
Update: The following posts document my gradual disillusion with Alfine.
The Trouble with Alfine (this post)
Rest in peace Alfine
I’ve only just found your blog but I thought I should contribute. I’ve also recently installed Alfine 11 di2, in my case on a Bullitt cargo bike. I started running it in mid January and have so far done 6 weeks of roughly 60 miles a week. I’ve just recharged the battery for the first time.
I wish you had been as happy as I am. Not to take away from your negative experience but so far I’ve loved my Alfine di2. I switched from dérailleur gears so there is a significant period of re-education on gear changing technique. It is definitely best to briefly stop pedalling while changing gear. If Shimano are saying that isn’t necessary then my personal view is to ignore that advice. The only significant noise from the hub has been in the early days when I would forget to ease off for a gear change. You then get a painful graunch that doesn’t sound kind to the gears at all. However, I have had 100% perfect, virtually silent shifting as long as I have briefly stopped pedalling.
Possibly I’m just lucky but at the moment I couldn’t be more impressed with Alfine di2 and there is no way I would go back to dérailleur gears and cable shift for this bike. It all seems rock solid and I’m 130kg (gradually reducing!). The gear change is magical and the 11 speed has a much wider range than I expected – more than I need really and I have some decent hills on my regular routes.
Anyway, I just thought I should contribute my very different experience so far. Sorry to hear you’ve had so much trouble.
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It’s great to hear another success story with Alfine. I know a couple people in Boise who rave about their (non-Di2) Alfine hubs. When working properly it is a fantastic hub, and Di2 itself is wonderful. I got a little sidetracked in my review with all the trouble I’ve had, but I agree that talk of shifting the Alfine under load tends to be over stated. Best to back all the way off pedaling while shifting. But it is better at shifting under light load than the DualDrive I used to run.
You’re seeing significantly better battery life than I did, much more in line with other reports I’ve seen. What have temperatures been like while running Di2? Is the display on for the duration of your rides?
I must admit that some of my reluctance to give Alfine another try is the conversation I had with Shimano. If this conversation reflects Shimano’s attitude toward Alfine, they’re pretty conflicted.
Thanks for the comment, I hope you continue to have great success with Alfine.
Hello, I am unable to adjust gears.
I have mechanical Alfine and exchanged by electronic because at that, could not fine-tune gear and in this, I’m having the same problem.
You had great results with Alfine Di2 11, would indicate a publication or speed adjustment tip?
With adjustment for the 1st, 7th and 11th gears, the other does not remain.
Please, if not uncomfortable, to send firstname.lastname@example.org
In advance, I thank you.
You shouldn’t need to fine-tune the Alfine Di2 and Shimano told me they were removing the capability from the E-Tube Project software, though last I looked it was still there. The E-Tube software implies that you can tune each gear individually but I’m not sure it’s anything more than a single offset applied to all gears, like it is for Ultegra Di2. But I got rid of my Alfine hub before I figured that out. If you did try to tune the hub through the software, it’s possible that you’ve got the offset(s) out of whack– this (based on a single conversation with a Shimano Customer Support person) is supposedly the reason why Shimano was eliminating the tuning feature for Alfine. If bad offsets are the problem you’d need to figure out how to factory reset the motor– I don’t know how to do that.
I would take a look at how the motor is mounted to the hub. Make sure the dots on the hub are aligned properly (per the Shimano documentation) before installing the motor. Also make sure you’ve installed the correct cog (that one bit me early on– make sure the cog doesn’t have the black plastic chain guide installed). If all that fails talk to a knowledgeable local bike shop or call Shimano Customer Support. If it worked properly initially and is now skipping or making noise in some gears, the hub may be failing the way mine failed. Because of this I don’t have the Alfine hub anymore, I’m now running Ultegra Di2, so can’t help much further. Good luck!
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I’m also interested in your experience. I’m an everyday industrial-zone commuter in Seattle and was sick and tired of goopy, misbehaving derailleurs and cables, so I got the Alfine 11 and Di2. Like Xander I’m just about to charge the battery for the first time — after 5 weeks and 400 miles I just went to one bar.
So far I’ve been nothing but delighted. It’s everything I hoped for, just as you described during your honeymoon period. I ride rough, too, as far as street commuting goes… I stand, I stomp, I jump curbs, etc. I’m not gentle. I’ve heard the “grunch” when I inadvertently shift while stomping, but it shifts silently and reliably if I do it properly.
I have noticed an occasional click or clack that has surprised me and for which I haven’t been sure of the reason, and I’ve noticed something like a “skip” a couple of times. So far it’s nothing that has impacted the ride at all, and if it never does anything more than that I’ll continue to be delighted.
I feel pretty hopeful, as it sounds like you had pretty serious issues within 100 miles and I’m over 4x that now with no problems. Perhaps there’s a QC issue at Shimano and there’s a percentage of hubs that are lemons? In any case, it’s good to know about your experience, and I’ll be sure to keep a close eye — or ear — on my hub. But at this point, it still seems like it’s the hub you were hoping for!
Best of luck to you,
Thanks for the report Alex, sounds like you’re living my dream 🙂 I’m now a couple months into my Ultegra Di2 experiment after giving up on the Alfine. I’m happy to report perfect shifting all the time, and much improved shifter ergonomics on my trike with the Alfine shifter. It turns out that, for me, electric was more important than internal gearing. Ultegra combines all the Di2 goodness with simpler and more reliable external gearing. But with everything working properly I do still prefer Alfine. More than the obvious advantages of Alfine, I think what I miss most is the silence of that hub. My Ultegra Di2 with the White Industries hub is quieter than any external setup I’ve ever run but doesn’t compare with Alfine. I hope Alfine continues to serve you well but if you ever have issues, a switch to Ultegra Di2 is fairly easy and will equally solve your goopy shifting. At this point I’m convinced neither of us will have that problem again.
I have a Tern S27h that originally came with a SRAM 9×3 DualDrive (which gave me several headaches)
I changed it for a mechanical Alfine 11 and I’m pretty happy with the results.
Now I’m over 1000 Km and I’ll do my first oil change soon.
Now I’m noticing a bit of sluggishness (that could be my body not being prepared to ride in the Mancunian winter) and sometimes, when going uphill, 5th gear is jumping with a sonorous crack.
I hope that with the oil change those problems will be corrected. But so far so good, pretty happy with Alfine 11 and now I’m thinking on getting another bike with Alfine 11 and a Gates carbon belt drive.
Now there is this new SRAM x11 drive train that looks really sexy and nippy and I want to try it
Mario, I hope the oil change does the trick for you. Before I discovered Di2, I was planning to switch to the SRAM X0 shifters that have the bearings because I’ve heard they are a big improvement over the typical plastic shifters. However now that I’m running electric shift, even the x11 looks like a comparatively small, incremental improvement. Better no doubt, but still hampered by all of the issues of mechanical cables.
I’m curious what problems you had with DualDrive. My only issue is that the hubs made a godawful rattling noise.
DualDrive noise is awful… even more when you compared with how silent Alfine 11 is.
I have three problems with my DualDrive, two related with other factors and one purely its own fault.
First, Tern Verge S27H (now called Tern Verge Tour) is a touring folding 20″ bike (Yes, that thing exists) that means that is designed to be used with panniers… but the little DualDrive black box will interfere with any pannier but a small one, which defeat the whole purpose of a touring bike. Some users suggests several hacks with styrofoam or other things. I manage to sort out my Ortilieb panniers using a different tube/position but wasn’t ideal.
Second, probably due to my choppy pedaling technique, but also related to the combination of DualDrive with 20″ wheels I wasn’t able to use the lowest gears of my bike going uphill without doing wheelies that for me in my 30s and with fully loaded panniers weren’t funny at all
Third, once I lost completely the gears on my hub but the lowest one, when I try to use second or third the poor hub sounds like a pig being strangled with a RNC.I ran to my trusted bicycle shop and they weren’t able to fix it. I went home (on my lowest gear) and after several hours I found that the long bolt that connect the hub gears with the little black box went loose… I wasn’t expecting that kind of thing specially when I used that bicycle for less than 4 months. That happens again a couple of times afterwards, is easy to sort out without tools but is annoying and I don’t want to deal with that.
I made my oil change yesterday but I didn’t test my bike yet
Do you have experience with Tiagra group sets? There are some sexy bikes with that group set.
Sorry to hear about all of your DualDrive problems, but I’ll admit to some perverse satisfaction knowing I’m not alone in my experience with DD. Hopefully your oil change will fix the Alfine problems.
Panniers hitting the DD clickbox is a potential problem. I never experienced it though because the rear rack on my trike had side pieces that angled out, away from the hub. This kept even low-slung panniers away from the derailleur and anything else down there.
I don’t have any direct experience with the Tiagra groupset. Looks like it’s between 105 and Sora. From what I’ve seen I wouldn’t hesitate to use 105 or Tiagra. I’m currently running a 105 chain and rear cassette because they were the least expensive 11-speed components I could find. Before I decided to go with the Schlumpf in the front, I was considering one of the Tiagra triple cranks. In the past I’ve mostly used SRAM components. I started at the top of the line for chain/cassette and eventually worked my way down to the bottom or next-to-bottom because I couldn’t tell a difference (aside from minor weight savings). More complicated components might have more significant differences between groupsets but if I liked a bike, the use of Tiagra components wouldn’t prevent me from buying it.
I’d hoped that by adding di2 to Alfines, Shimano would have got round the weakness of them being externally indexed, but from what I’ve read on posts/comments like these it doesn’t seem to always be the case.
Indexing seems to be an inherent problem with IGHs, less of a problem with chunky old ones with 3/5 gears I guess. Even the Rohloff I’ve got eventually went out of alignment, but that was after 10,000 miles of muddy riding. £35 to send it back to Germany, fixed for free (rightly so for the price). If I get the same mileage again out of it seems like a worthwhile “investment” with just the 3 oil changes / gear cables during that time.
I’d definitely agree with trying to remember to stop peddling briefly when changing gears. Going to be switch back from a few months riding a derailleur based bike soon (SRAM GX 1×11). New jockey wheels and chain required in that time, puts the longevity of a (well functioning) IGHs and single speed chain into perspective.
Graham, thanks for the comment. Like you, I thought Di2 would solve the problem of external indexing– the combination of Alfine and Di2 seemed like a perfect fit. I don’t know if indexing was the source of my problem (seems likely), but that experiment certainly didn’t end well. I’m running the Schlumpf now, hoping I see reliability on par with what you’re seeing with Rohloff.
Thank you for the opportunity to add my 2 cents here, for what its worth. Absolutely, the indexing should be done inside the hub. This idea of the cable’s adjusted position, externally, being the determinant of how gears internally align, internally, is flawed, as you have indicated; necessitating electric or hydraulic solenoid systems to compensate. If however, a (dual) cable system were used as and only pull activators, turning the shifter grip in one direction, advancing only one gear at a a time, up or down respective to the direction of the turn. Reiterating: a quick turn to the right advances one, and only one gear up. A quick turn to the left, and the other cable pull actuates an identical, but counter mechanism advancing one, and only one gear down. The internal workings would have precision and permanent alignment detents and ratchets that correspond to gear position. Alignment is completely internal, and has nothing to do with the external cable(s), other than, the cables being adjusted enough to fully advance and fully release (reset) the advancing mechanism. Even if you were able to turn the grip shifter too far, a stiff coiled spring relief mechanism would deflect all excess tension. I would also like to see IGHs use a commonly available lubricant like ATF, synthetic if need be. With generously sized fill and drain ports, more frequent flushing out of the unit may see an extended life span. I could go on, but I will instead, complement the author of this blog in closing. It is well written and the subject matter of importance to me. I’ll get back to reading more posts
Thanks for the comment and kind words Jeff! I think there’s a reason the Rholoff is designed (as far as I can tell) almost exactly as you describe. But I’m so enamored with electric shift, I don’t think I could go back to mechanical cables. Particularly not two for one hub. I’ve seen pictures of an electric conversion for the Rholoff, but it looks pretty sketchy and I’m not sure it’s a real product yet.
The dual cable system on the Rholoff (as described by Jeff above) does work well and mean that you don’t have the cable stretch problems (e.g. single cable and spring, under tension on a derailleur), but I think it could be improved. Either end of the cables go round a pulley. The shifter end is usually fine as its pulley is larger and stays clean. The hub end is a tighter wind and (for my riding anyway, with the external box) gets dirty. Cables get frayed, start to drag in the pulley and over time chew it up.
When you see how small Di2 derailleurs are you’d think there’d be a compact electronic swap in for the Rholoff by now. I guess if the company themselves aren’t interested in it, no ones going to investing in developing it like Shimano have.
Hello Curt and Graham
I confess to not being fully up to speed on the Di2. I read what I could find online, which wasn’t that much, but enough to say that anytime you can eliminate cable linkages, it’s a good thing. High tech aircraft have done so where advantageous and warranted. The vague description, limiting the Di2 usage to a city bike leaves me scratching my head. Back in the day, I road biked in NYC and a decade later in San Francisco. The short hop crush of impossible street traffic vs the long grades of impossible hills suggests a more definitive definition of use is needed. In my old age, I’ve developed an interest in long john cargo bikes, and a more industrial strength IGH seems more appropriate. When the additional stress of eDrive is factored in, I found myself at the door of Nuvinci Hubs. This review of the Gepida Ruga 1000, featuring a Bosch mid drive and an electronically shifting Nuvinci IGN, defines the logical extension of what you’re talking about and where the drive train technology is going. I’m still old school, but I can’t deny this amazing technology.
Shimano first introduced Di2 many years ago for their high-end road-bike component group, and recently introduced it for their top-end (XTR) mountain group. It’s only recently that they even offered it for city-bikes, by marrying it with their Alfine-11 IGH hub. It’s the IGH aspect, not Di2 itself, that Shimano seems to be limiting to city-bikes. To me this is a shame, one of the points of this blog was to document my (successful) integration of Alfine-11 Di2 with a recumbent trike. The Alfine-11 part of this was a bust for me, but Di2 lives on in the form of Ultegra (road group) Di2, which I’m quite happy with. It’s a conventional 11-32 external rear cluster, but shifts better than anything I’ve used (save the Alfine-11, while it worked) and eliminates all the problems with mechanical cables and shifters. The primary reason I started this blog is that, like you, I had a hard time finding detailed information about Di2. Strewn about this blog you’ll find answers to all the questions I had. I tried to consolidate some of this information in the Reference section. I also include some links to other sites that were helpful to me in the sidebar on the right.
IGH aside, I’ve found the current generation of Di2 to be extremely well designed. Shimano deserves a lot of credit for investing what is clearly an enormous amount of research & development money to produce a robust and high performance solution for the masses. Hopefully they’re in the process of doing the same for IGH. Because what I _really_ want is a belt-driven trike, and that will require (among other things) a robust IGH. You can find my thoughts on belt drive in an earlier post.
I’m a recent convert to Alfine, having been bought an Alfine 8 equipped new bike for my significant birthday last month by my wife who appears to have gone from complaining about the number of bikes in my garage to contributing to their number. Happy days. One question, for anyone reading to be honest, and that is about chain tension. I have no idea how much there should be in my chain. On my motorbike I’m looking for about an inch of movement from extreme to extreme when I pull the chain up and down along its length, so for now I’ve used that rule of thumb. But is there a more definitive ‘measurement’ I should be applying? The shop the bike came from went bust months ago shortly after my wife bought the bike, so I have nobody to turn to for professional advice right now.
Well I’m no professional but I’ll give it a go. I’m assuming that you have horizontal dropouts and no front derailleur, and therefor no need to use a chain tensioner with Alfine. But keep in mind that an Alfine chain tensioner exists and provides about the same tension as a typical rear derailleur. So my advice is to tension the chain about the same as you see with a typical derailleur. Which is to say, enough to prevent the chain from skipping or falling off, but not super high tension.
The fact that Shimano provides a tensioner designed for Alfine, provides instructions on installing with and without a tensioner, and makes no mention of chain tension in their documentation makes me think chain tension is not a big issue with Alfine.
It depends on whether what you’re riding has rear-suspension travel. If it’s a roadster type motorbike, you need an inch of chain slack at rest because when you even sit on it the distance between the front and rear sprocket will increase so this need to be taken into account. This distance gets even greater when you go over a bump or load the bike with a passenger / crates of booze / a dead bison / whatever. (If though, your motorbike is a proper off-roader with huge suspension travel, the rear linkage is designed to keep the chain length more constant to prevent ‘bottoming-out’.) However, on a regular pushbike without rear suspension, the distance between front and rear sprockets remains constant. So in theory you only need to make sure the chain doesn’t have any tight-spots. Which in practice means you’ll have about 1/2 – 3/4 inch of slack with light finger pressure
I am a Bicycle Mech., and have been running 8 speed Alfine for a couple years absolutely trouble free. I have assembled and serviced many 11 speed Alfine bikes and have noticed 2 separate issues with them. 1. 11 speed hubs seem to require pedaling with minimal or no load to shift well, 8 speed engages much more robustly but should not be pedaled at full torque. 2. the newer mechanical shifters that make shifting function normal (not rapid rise style) make upshifts more delicate. the old style is more efficient for shifting to a harder gear as you are pulling the cable. Thus with the newer style of shifter pedaling softly is required as well.
In my experience, the 8 speed Alfine is heavier and much more robust and tends to have minimal service issues and longevity, as well as seemingly better shifting with not a significant difference in overall gear range.
Still, I am contemplating an 11 Spd Alfine Di2 setup for kicks, but not for my daily road warrior bike, sticking to 8, possibly Di2 *…
Great information, thanks crankculture! This post and others like it have convinced me that the 8 is significantly more robust than the 11, wish I understood that when I started this project. On a recumbent, the difference in range is significant but I could have figured out an alternative.
At this point I’m very happy with the Ultegra Di2 / Schlumpf drivetrain that replaced the Alfine-11. I don’t think I’ll venture back to the Alfine unless someone comes out with a belt-driven tadpole trike, but good to know there may be a hub that can handle it.
FWIW, I highly recommend Di2. Best improvement to my ride since getting ‘bent.
I’d like to offer one bit of advice to any new Shimano Internal Hub owners. I had received a brand new Alfine 11 from an online store & as part of my routine installation checked it for oil level. Draining the oil out of the hub into a cup & it was practically non existent. Maybe 5 drops of oil. I tried to find out if these hubs are shipped with rust inhibitor only & it is expected that the dealers will fill the hubs with the correct level of oil but was unable to get a definite answer. My recommendation is to check all new hubs to make sure they have oil & this may be one of the reasons some people have had early failures.
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Wow, that never occurred to me. I tried to read all of the documentation that came with the hub but don’t recall seeing anything recommending that. Seems like that would be in big, bold, red letters at the top of the pile. Particularly if they’re going to sell these things on Amazon. But even the bike shop I ordered mine through didn’t know to check this.
I sure wish Shimano had divulged what they found with my failed hub. If it was just missing oil I probably would have kept the replacement (after double-checking the level).
Thanks for the tip.
You’re welcome Kurt. I run my A11 way out of spec on an HPV Gekko & just change the hub oil to auto trans. fluid once per year which is probably not necessary & it runs almost silent without any skips or burps in the shifting. I do the pause between shifts though which in my opinion is a safer bet than trying to lightly pedal while shifting.
Hi Kurt. Thanks for your post on the Alfine. I’m in the hunt for a single chain line possibly e-assit IGH bike for my son. I came across this today. Thought you might be interested. https://www.rohloff.de/en/products/speedhub/e-14/
Poe, thanks for the heads up. That’s the first I’ve seen of the rumored Rohloff electric option that looks real. The design looks great, all the advantages of Di2 with the reliability of Rohloff. This is likely the way I’d go if I went down the IGH path again. Unfortunately they don’t offer it for retrofit so currently not an option for me. At least Rohloff acknowledges the need for a retrofit kit and may even be working on one. This is in sharp contrast to the similar Shimano Steps / Alfine electric auto-shift system that is aggressively marketed as OEM-only. I really wanted to use that system when upgrading my mom’s trike to electric but there was no way for me to get the necessary parts, even though the manufacturer of her trike offers it on new trikes. Swapping her boom with an off-the-shelf Steps boom would have been trivial, as is swapping her rear wheel with Alfine. My mom struggles with shifting, a perfect candidate for automatic shift, but I was forced to go with Bionx electric and conventional rear derailleur.
Not sure where you were told that the Steps system is not retrofittable but ICE, AZUB & HP Velo will offer you a Boom with the Steps unit built in. That should be confirmed as even sales reps get it wrong some times.
Daytriker, that’s not true at least for ICE. I talked directly to the factory, they won’t sell the boom as a retrofit. ICE acknowledged that the reason is an OEM-only restriction from Shimano so I suspect it’s not true for the other manufacturers as well. No doubt some folks figure out a way around this but I didn’t have the time or energy to go there.
I’m curious who told you ICE offers it as a retrofit. I’d love to be proven wrong on this, though it’s too late for my project…
I received it in an email so if I can find it again I will get them to verify that their information is correct.
I confirmed with ICE that they don’t offer Steps for retrofit and their web site prominently states this now. But it was an overstatement to imply this is solely a Shimano restriction. Even though Shimano doesn’t offer Steps to end customers for retrofit, they apparently don’t restrict manufacturers from doing so. In fact ICE has done this for customers able to bring their trikes in to the factory. They have just chosen not to create a kit.
From ICE’s point of view it seems to come down to the complexity and logistics of such a retrofit, and the fact that the Steps design is inherently focused on OEM. Fair enough, but disappointing considering the part of it that I can’t easily tackle is isolated to the boom. In my opinion a missed opportunity to leverage the modularity of their frame design. It wouldn’t surprise me though that there are other manufacturers willing to offer a kit. Maybe daytriker has found one.
Incidentally Bosch seems to be taking the same OEM-only approach with their system. This from the owner of a local electric bike shop who said he wasn’t able to purchase either system unless it came attached to a bike. Makes sense when you consider either system requires a purpose-built frame.
Finally, to dispel another misstatement of mine: Once Rohloff offers their electric shift system for retrofit, which they appear to be planning, they’ll be no better or worse than Shimano with respect to retrofit.
I suspect what has happened is that trikes requiring a replacement Boom would make for a relatively easy conversion to the built in units but on Diamond Frames requiring the entire frame to be changed it was seen as not a viable option. The other aspect of this is that large trike retailers could be offering this unit as an option to new trike purchasers but would have to order in a new trike instead of drawing on their in stock inventory. Doesn’t make much sense to me. Maybe one of the larger resellers may have enough pull to start offering the kits as retrofits then the others will have to follow suit.
I got a response back from Utah Trikes as well. They’re not aware of anyone offering a retrofit kit for either the Shimano or Bosch electric drive systems.
Hey Kurt, guess what? I just found your article. Everything you described is still an issue in 2018. Just sent back an entire bike mainly down to the hub. It’s dangerous and should be recalled. Had too many risky situations within 200 miles of use.
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Stumbled across your article, while looking for advice on why my shifter cable seems to need loosening over time, rather than tightening as has been my experience with other shifters and brake cables.
But my two cents on the Alfine 8: I’ve been riding this hub since 2010. It’s been overhauled just once in that time, and frankly it was right over overhaul that I had the most trouble, due to the lack of competence of the shop that did the work (they failed to adjust it correctly, and damaged the seals on reassembly, resulting in oil leaking out of the hub onto my disc brakes). Other than that, my hub has been 100% trouble-free. I would not go back.
Any time shifting isn’t perfectly clean, or there’s skipping during pedaling, it’s because the shifter cable need adjusting. The Alfine is (as mentioned above in another comment) very sensitive to adjustment. And I’d agree this is a design flaw, but not a fatal one. It just means one needs to pay close attention to it. All bikes have things that need regular maintenance…this is no exception. Use the time you’d otherwise use fixing your derailleurs on the very simple operation of making sure the shift alignment markers are lined up.
The other thing I would be wary of is using this hub on heavy-duty off-road riding. Gear oil leakage seemed, in my experience anyway, to be worse when riding rough terrain. Properly assembled, riding on the road, no trouble at all, with years of uninterrupted service.
Pete, Your summary would seem to be the same as my experience too with the 11. I previously had a Nexus 7 on a trike which due to lack of experience & having a nasty habit of racing anything over the age of 12, I managed to break the shift pawls by over torquing the hub. Now with the 11 running way out of recommended spec & only racing 70 year olds I’ve had 4 years of solid service from my hub.
Pete.d, glad you’ve had such good luck with your Alfine 8. Your experience and others I’ve read lead me to believe the 8 may well be more robust than the 11.
As for my 11, it was Di2 so cable adjustment wasn’t the problem– it’s just a wire. The dots on the motor and hub were aligned when it was failing so the problem wasn’t something I thought I could adjust out. I had hoped Shimano would shed some light on the problem but when that didn’t happen I began taking more seriously all the negative reports that are out there about Alfine-11 and decided to cut my losses.
I’ve now got 7500 maintenance-free miles of perfect shifts on my Ultegra Di2 derailleur (I’m on my second chain) and see no reason to go back to Alfine. The only compromise was slightly reduced gear range which turned out not to be a concern. For me, Di2 turned out to be way more useful than IGH.
I don’t understand the poor reliability claims on the Alfine 11. I can only think a lot of the problems are user error. I am careful with my shifts, change my transmission fluid every Winter & now this year I am feeding a Mid Drive through the 11. So far I have 4 years of extensive touring & in town day trips on some brutal hills pulling 250 lbs through this hub & it has never needed anything except the occasional fine tune & cleaning. A second hub I installed 2 years ago, changed to transmission fluid, by an owner a little lighter than me & his hub has been just as reliable. Could it be the conditions owners are operating in? Lack of maintenance or adjustments? Maybe not using the hub as intended? (Bunny Hops or Off Road?) I cannot speak for the Di system as I don’t have any experience with it & probably wouldn’t go that route anyway. There’s something to be said for simplicity & I don’t think you can get much more reliable than a manual transmission. 🙂
Daytriker, if it’s simplicity you’re after a conventional derailleur would be a far better bet than IGH. Di2 solves two annoying problems for me: Continual cable maintenance and frozen gears in the winter (due to water/gunk freezing in the cables). I get that plus vastly improved shifts (quieter, faster, perfectly consistent) and better ergonomics with the Alfine shifter. This is worth the extra complexity to me, as I assume the added complexity of IGH is worth it to you.
I’m now on my second bike with Alfine 11 Di2 and it’s been fabulous on both bikes. I’m about to sell my Bullitt cargo bike on eBay which has done thousands of miles in all weathers with zero issues. For any bike used daily for commuting and errands the combination of the internal hub gears (much reduced maintenance) and Di2 (again, just stays working perfectly) seems hard to beat.
I’ve seen so impressed by Alfine di2 that I’ve not hesitated to build my new bike (Specialized AWOL) using the same gears, this time with drop bars. Again, it’s been superb over the first few months. My next little project is to convert this new bike over to belt drive for even less maintenance.
I don’t doubt there must be people for whom hub gears haven’t been the answer. For me it’s been flawless on both bikes. As I’ve commented before on this incredibly long running discussion my suspicion is that the trick is to remember that a hub gear is fundamentally different to a derailleur. Pause, or at least back off your pedalling pressure, to change gear. The same principle to changing gear in manual gearbox (stick shift) car or a motorbike.
I commute 16 miles per day but still weigh 125kg (love my food too much!) and the gears have coped with my weight fine. A random thing that I love is a completely quiet bike – no clicking when you freewheel. Of course, some people love that sound so again ymmv.
I do miss the relative silence of Alfine-11 while coasting, pawl noise has never endeared itself to me. I disagree with your comment about maintenance however. I’ve not once had to change the oil on my Ultegra derailleur :). For me the biggest source of maintenance on a conventional drivetrain is the mechanical cables– swap them with wires and the only unique maintenance left is occasionally replacing consumables like the chain and cluster.
Of course there’s the annoyance of regular chain maintenance, but that’s another story that is unfortunately, for me, common to both because I can’t run belt drive on my trike. If belt drive was an option for me, the risk/reward trade-off for Alfine-11 would be very different– I’d almost certainly be running one.
In any case, I’m happy Alfine is working well for you Xander. It is a sweet setup when it’s working.
When I referred to simplicity, I was referring to ‘set & forget about it’ not simple in it’s design. To me derailleur systems are akin to driving a car with a non synchromesh transmission & for those of us that have had that experience it’s hard to imagine why a better method is not common for pedal power. Of course with E Assist slowly becoming the world standard some bikes (and scooters) are doing away with pedals completely so I wonder how long it will be before we not only eliminate the cranks, chain & transmission & have a direct drive hub motor with a 2 or 3 stage capacitor for the extra torque when needed.
I’m with you re: the desire for advances in bicycle gearing technology, and it seems like it is happening. However I hope we don’t eliminate the pedals completely. I’m a big fan of recent advances in electric drive technology for pedal assist. Unfortunately in the US at least we seem to be skipping right past pedal assist in favor of throttles, with pedals sometimes remaining as a place to put your feet (and maybe get around restrictions). Not unlike what happened decades ago with internal combustion pedal-assist, but thankfully without the noise and pollution. I was recently on the Goldmotors web site and they don’t even offer pedal assist for the US market, I presume because no one here cares. We seem hell-bent on eliminating all physical activity in our daily lives.
Muchas gracias. ?Como puedo iniciar sesion?
Hi cwabnchrci, login is only for me but you’re welcome to comment…
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