Talk to me about Hub Gears

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  • Talk to me about Hub Gears
  • danielgroves
    Member

    Been looking at the 8-speed Alfine, current £150 from On One.

    Whats the gear spread like on them?
    How reliable are they?
    Would one be suitable for Touring purposes?
    Is the gear range bigger on the 11 speed, or does it just fill the holes in-between?
    Anything else I should know about them?

    Thinking of getting one for my 29er horizontal dropout Inbred. It’s currently single speed for minimal maintenance through the winter, but I’ve heard hub gears are minimal maintenance in themselves and would prefer gears. If they require much effort on my part, then I won’t bother though as the build isn’t supposed to need touching often.

    Premier Icon jwr
    Subscriber

    I have Alfine-8 on my Cotic Roadrat and it has been flawless. So far it’s been used for touring, so I have a relatively small chainring to cope with hills when fully laden. The gear spread seems fine to me, but I’m not too worried about running out of gears at the top end. The ‘rat will soon be used for a commuter, so I’ll perhaps look into a larger chainring to steepen the gears a little bit.

    As for maintenance, I just dunk the innards into an oil bath every 6 months (easy job when you’ve got the hang of it). Mine has now got just short of 3,000km on it and it’s still running great.

    bristolbiker
    Member

    Alfine 11 spd in a Pompetamine here, so exclusively road miles. Had its second service and is now at ~5000km. Yes, gear spread is bigger than the 8-spd. I’ll go for a smaller ring if it ever wears out as the top two gears seem huge, but the gap to bottom is quite big. In the middle the spread is pretty good.

    It’s built as my winter commuter but, TBH, I pretty much do anything to avoid riding it as a) the hub is a big lump which makes the bike feel dead and b) in comparison to my derailleur bike, which is a similar build, the gears feels draggy. You have to go at the speed of the bike and maintain momentum, head winds and gentle rises in the road can be mental and physical torture. On the flip side, it only goes out on the sh!tt!est of days and has been 100% reliable. Yes, rear tyre changes are considerably more faff, but I have only had to do this once in 3(?) years ‘out in the wild’ and it isn’t so bad once you have the knack. I have a constant mental battle over the bike in that it is bombproof, dependable and (almost) maintenance free, yet it is the most lumped, uninspiring bike I have ever owned.

    Pick the bones out of that as you will! 😉

    Premier Icon Cheezpleez
    Subscriber

    I’ve been considering doing the same with my Inbred but the only person I know who has owned an Alfine says the same as bristolbiker (dead and draggy) so I think I’ll think again.

    shermer75
    Member

    Off the top of my head the 11 has a 407% range as opposed to the 8 which has a 307% range. I have an 8 myself, it’s been trouble free so far. I have it on my commuter, I could certainly see it being fine for a tourer although the spread is much less than a 3×9- it’s feels more like a 1×9 tbh. I can relate to that ‘dead’ feeling bristolbiker talks about- it definitely makes single speeds and dérailleur set ups feel much more ‘springy’ and ‘direct’. Also there is a lot of stuff in the Internet about the 11 having reliability issues, but I have no first hand experience of this.

    shermer75
    Member

    Ps since I’ve set it up and got the ratios to what I wanted, the only expense has been one chain in two years which makes it a good budget option…

    drlex
    Member

    I’ll echo bristolbiker’s sentiments, perhaps not unsurprisingly as I too have an Alfine 11 Pomp. Additionally, I’ve found the shifter to need a little bit of adjustment now and then, else one can “lose” a gear. Knowing what I do now, my next winter/foul weather bike will have a derailleur

    Martin B
    Member

    Ive got my Alfine 8 ona Singular Swift, which has seen untroubled service for the last 3 years. Ive specced the Cogs to be 34(wonky ring at the front) to 18, as I found I was spinning out too much at the top end. Changing the Alfine cog is just over £5 so easy to change as necessary to suit

    thepodge
    Member

    I’ve got an 8 on my trance & despite it being allegedly dead & draggy I’m in exactly the same position in my riding group as ive always been, only time I notice anything is lifting the bike in the car

    Saccades
    Member

    Have a look through my post history, but the basics are:

    SG-500 on XM819 – 32:20. Has been my winter mtb for 5 years on an EBB equipped bike. I have ignored it and the cup and cones are shot after being jet washed (bontrager 2011? I think) and not re-lubed – which is a shimano hub thing as opposed to alfine. I’ve washed the bike 5 times, I lube the chain occasionally (once/twice a year) and that’s it.

    Shifting is still perfect. I have a replacement hub to be laced into a new wheel but not actually sorted it yet as I’m using the rumbly wheel just fine.

    SG-501 on Open Pro 44:18. Has been my all year commuter/pub/kiddie tow machine for 4 years over 3.5k miles I reckon, I’ve had it serviced once (as soon as the cup and cone went on the mtb) when it had a new set of bearing on the Alfine crankset and it’s been very good. I’ve had the plastic cover/pin thing come off once (hooning after a fella that cut me up) but that’s a 10 minute fix. It’s been washed and oiled less often than the MTB. I did struggle on the Wicklow 200 with it up the Shay Elliot but that’s a power (low) to weight (high) ratio as opposed to the hub.

    Shifting perfect.

    Swopping the rear out is easy with a 2.5mm allen key, afaik the newer hubs have a tab instead of requiring that. It’s a 20 second job instead of a 10 second job. Lining up track ends is harder than the EBB and you need a 15mm spanner for the bmx thread nuts. I’ve gotten stubby 15mm spanners drilled for wingbolts attached to my frames rather than carry one in my back pocket.

    A lot of people don’t quite like the difference in shifting between the derailleur and a hub, it’s not something you use to chase down every last extra erg of power. Tend to sit in a gear and keep spinning away with occasional shift up or down, rather than constant shifts. It will feel heavier than a SS though (obviously), but I don’t find it noticeable until I throwing the bike over a gate/style.

    My other bike is bog standard shimano FS which I tend to only bring out when it’s dry because I can’t be arsed with the maintence post ride.

    As above plus the slow pick-up from freewheeling makes any kind of trialsy stuff far harder to get right that with a conventional hub.
    I really wanted to like my Alfine 8 but it only ever felt OK when spinning along in not much of a hurry.

    shermer75
    Member

    Also be aware that as well as the hub you also need to buy the shifter and all the fixings, which come seperately…

    Premier Icon TPTcruiser
    Subscriber

    Jeez BristolB, 5000 km on a bike that is lumpen and uninspiring, that’s a lot of miles of pain and punishment. I had looked with great interest at the hub geared On-One bikes at the shop when looking for a Cycle to Work scheme Courier Nexus replacement.

    bristolbiker
    Member

    Jeez BristolB, 5000 km on a bike that is lumpen and uninspiring, that’s a lot of miles of pain and punishment.

    Agreed, to a point – it is damn comfy to ride, provided you’re not in a hurry, and has entirely neutral/predicatble handling, which is what you want at 7am in the dark through traffic! Also, I spent quite a lot of time speccing and building it, so I am reluctant to give up on it….. plus, did I mention it is (bar 1 puncture) 100% reliable in that 5000k….. but it is consistently 3 mins slower over my usual hour ride to work….. I could go on listing the competing pros/cons 🙂

    As I say, I have a very love/hate relationship with it – it ticks so many boxes, and it should be the perfect tool for the job…. but it just isn’t.

    danielgroves
    Member

    Ok, thanks everyone.

    Sounds like it’s something which I wouldn’t want to do without having a go on something running one first. Making what is currently a pretty winter fun play bike into a dull and boring one is the last thing I want to do!

    Premier Icon RRD
    Subscriber

    Hold your horses Tonto!

    I reckon they are ideal for touring. Over 3000km in mine without a service. Yes, some gears can feel a bit draggy and they are not as sharp as a derailleur set up but for reliability I think they are unbeatable.

    I’m running an on-one inbred slot 29er and loving it for ease of maintenance

    shermer75
    Member

    I could go on listing the competing pros/cons

    This pretty much sums it up for me too. It’s fine on my commuter, if I built it up again again I’d make the same choices (Alfine 8) and I could see it being good for a tourer also. One more tick on the plus column is that when I get bored cycling along I can carry on the endless debate in my head about whether hub gears are better or not

    trail_rat
    Member

    Like mine more than my rohloff

    Use it for commuting, less drag than a rohloff.

    Less maintainance than a normal set up 🙂

    TiRed
    Member

    Alfine 8 here. Works flawlessly and best of all, can be completely removed in one piece (including cable and shifter) in minutes for SS conversion. I ride SS most of the time but wanted the option of quick gears for bigger trips away.

    Mackem
    Member

    Alfine 8…
    [
    Zero maintenance, reliable whatever the weather, decent spread of gears.

    Weight concentrated on the rear wheel, makes the bike feel kinda dead.

    It did the job very well for me for a couple of years. But, overall, 1 x10, has proved to be as reliable, far lighter and the bike feels livelier.

    Duffer
    Member

    20 posts, and no mention of the Sturmy Archer? An old 3 speed will cost you peanuts and will go for decades without a service.

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    You can’t gear an Alfine 11 any lower than an Alfine 8, – the extra 3 gears are at the top end, so the extra cost is generally only worthwhile if it’s for a road bike.

    shermer75
    Member

    You can’t gear an Alfine 11 any lower than an Alfine 8, – the extra 3 gears are at the top end,

    Not sure if I completely understand you here. Surely you can change the sprocket and/or chainring and make the gears as low as you want?

    trail_rat
    Member

    shermer – too much torque and youll shear the sacraficing pins that protect the rest of the internals.

    ndthornton
    Member

    Not sure if I completely understand you here. Surely you can change the sprocket and/or chainring and make the gears as low as you want?

    In theory thats true although Alfine 11 does have an upper torque limit that prevents you doing this – Alfine 8 doesn’t have a limit so “in theory” you can actually run the 8 speed one lower than the 11.

    Of course it could be that that both hubs should have a torque limit (just the 8 never did for whatever reason) – or equally that neither hub should have a torque limit (shimano covering ass).

    Everyone seems to have a different view on this……

    One thing is for certain though – if you do go over the torque limit (like I have to make my bike work for where I ride) then the risk is much less with an 8 as it costs over £150 less.

    Premier Icon letmetalktomark
    Subscriber

    Alfine 8 speed user here.

    The hub has been part of my Fortitude set up now for 18 or so months and before that was on my Pace 104.

    Initially I found that the hub felt a little draggy. That didn’t last very long and I found that loosening off chain tension helped.

    I’ve run my 8 on my Fortitude 29×18 and the low gearing is far too low for these parts.

    I plan on giving 32×18 ago next.

    I’m considering another for my Skookum to run with a belt 🙂

    Premier Icon ratherbeintobago
    Subscriber

    Not sure if I completely understand you here. Surely you can change the sprocket and/or chainring and make the gears as low as you want?

    High Latitude Alfine was 32:18. Anyone run lower ratio on an 11 than this with/without any problems?

    Premier Icon nuke
    Subscriber

    High Latitude Alfine was 32:18. Anyone run lower ratio on an 11 than this with/without any problems?

    I asked recently… http://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/one-for-the-alfine-11-owners

    I really don’t get the torque thing…if you have lower gears suitable for a steep offroad climb then you’re going to be applying less torque rather than grinding it out in a high gear 😕

    danielgroves
    Member

    20 posts, and no mention of the Sturmy Archer? An old 3 speed will cost you peanuts and will go for decades without a service.

    Although a three speed doesn’t really interest me, this has got me thinking a little more. Anything else out there worth considering other than the Alfine’s or a Rohloff (which, for the record, there is know way I can afford).

    Saccades
    Member

    SRAM has a version too, I-Motion 9 (340% range but weighs more and I don’t recall ever seeing a post for them wrt off road stuff).

    Nexus (7&8), shimano “cheaper” commuting hubs, some people were using the red band version off-road before the alfine showed up.

    Sturmey archer also have an 8 speed (305% range) that I know nothing else about, weighs a ton? hard to get hold of?

    ndthornton
    Member

    I really don’t get the torque thing…if you have lower gears suitable for a steep offroad climb then you’re going to be applying less torque rather than grinding it out in a high gear

    I think……….

    In the case you described above you’re right – the torque would be similar for a given climb (hammering a high gear Vs Spinning a lower gear).

    However you now have the gears with which it is possible to tackle even speeper hills whilst hammering the pedals. if you were to do this (i.e. on a really steep hill that would be impossible to climb with the recommended ratios) then you would be applying too much torque.

    so you would have to remember – stuff I used to push up – I still have to push up cos I cant hammer the really low gears.

    Premier Icon faustus
    Subscriber

    If you’re worried about gear range, you can run Alfine with two or three chainrings up front, and any old rear mech to take up the slack (small old road one will do – shimano made a alfine specific one). Slightly defeats the object but still less maintenance as the rear mech doesn’t do any shifting.

    Premier Icon nuke
    Subscriber

    However you now have the gears with which it is possible to tackle even speeper hills whilst hammering the pedals. if you were to do this (i.e. on a really steep hill that would be impossible to climb with the recommended ratios) then you would be applying too much torque.

    I see what you’re saying but that could apply to any gear you’re in regardless of the ratio or the steepness of hill…its saying there’s a maximum torque or effort you could apply in any gear before it blows the Alfine. Its seems pointless basing the torque limit on the 1.9 gear ratio…there are to many other variables such as different wheel sizes or the strength/fitness of the rider

    ndthornton
    Member

    I’m guessing they based the maximum ratio on the strongest pro athlete using 26in wheels.

    ndthornton
    Member

    I dont practice what I preach by the way 🙄
    Yesterday I was happily honking up a super steep climb in bottom gear (32×22). Happy until the loud bang however! Worked fine after so my optimistic side is putting it down to incorrect cable tension possibly from frame flex

    but who knows
    could be buggered

    Premier Icon nuke
    Subscriber

    I’m guessing they based the maximum ratio on the strongest pro athlete using 26in wheels.

    Quite…regardless of gear ratio, wheel size, steepness of hill, we’ll all have a Max torque/effort we can apply before we get off and walk. If the max torque of the alfine is based on a pro rider well then I’m in no danger of reaching the same torque so effectively it doesn’t matter what gear ratio I were to use 🙂

    ndthornton
    Member

    Yeah I went through that thought process too 🙂

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    Saccades – Member
    …Sturmey archer also have an 8 speed (305% range) that I know nothing else about, weighs a ton? hard to get hold of?

    It’s problem is bottom is direct drive. It’s really aimed at 20″ wheel bikes IMO so they don’t have to have mega chainrings. I don’t know of anyone who has used it on an mtb.

    thesurfbus
    Member

    If anyone is interested, I have an Alfine 8 laced to a Stans Flow for sale.
    Includes:
    2 Fitting Kits
    5 Cogs (Various sizes, some new)
    Allen Bolt Nuts (New)
    2 Shifters, 1 with window cut off
    Various Anti turn washers
    Chain tug

    All in great working condition.
    Also have a 29er front wheel, Superstar Switch hub on FSA 290, DB spokes, in really good condition.

    Lookign for £180 posted for the lot.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    For commuting, hmm.. I’ve done many thousands of miles over 6 years on a hybrid with 8 speed Alivio. It’s still on original parts, and has never gone wrong. It’s needed a few tweaks to the barrel adjusters lately, but that’s it.

    I’d suggest that on-road commuting is so easy on components that you probably don’t need the drag.

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