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Alfine – short test ride impressions
I’ve been interested in an Alfine hub along with a few other people on here it seems but there doesn’t seem to have been a huge amount about on how they work in practice.
A mate of mine has recently got a bike with an Alfine hub and I’ve had a go on it around the carpark at work so I though I’d just post my initial impressions.
First thing is that the shift is very smooth – no clunk, just a smooth change from one gear to the next. The ‘reversed’ shifter is annoying for me, being used to original rapid fire but I guess that I could get used to it and despite it being a bit clunky cosmetically, it feels just like any other Shimano shifter in use.
One of the key things I wanted to know is how an Alfine hub works when you mistreat it – ie shifting under full load – as this is what tends to actually happen out on the trail at awkward times.
I put the bike in a fairly high gear and then with the brakes dragging and pushing hard on the pedals, tried shifting to an easier gear. As I suspected, it wouldn’t shift to the easier gear until I lifted off the pressure on the pedals a fair bit, at which point it shifted nice and smoothly. The same was true for trying to shift from an easy gear to a harder one while under pressure (though I guess that this is less of an issue unless you’re sprinting!).
To compare, with a geared bike while it’s not something that you’d normally want to do (shifting under heavy load), I reckon that the geared bike would have shifted under the same conditions though it would probably have been a bit clunky.
I guess, that for me, it confirms what I expected – the Alfine is perfectly useable and seems to work well but it may cause problems while out riding on the occasions where you’ve been caught out in too hard a gear and need to shift quickly to an easier one to avoid stalling. It hasn’t put me off getting an Alfine but I guess that I’m not quite so keen to have one as I was before.
….however if you try to shift under heavy load using a deraileur system they can skip quite badly (or in extreme cases break the chain – it happened to me last Monday) with ensuing bolleux/stem interface issues.
With the Alfine it won’t shift, but a short pause (I’ve previously described it as a ‘hiccup’) in pedalling will plonk it solidly into the selected gear – even if that gear is 5 or 6 notches away from the one you’re currently in – no fuss.coffeekingFree Member
None of that is what the bikeradar review said, and I’d probably trust you more…
hat gives the impression that the shift is soft and would struggle under load, but far from it. Under heavy pedal load, the double clutch mechanism shifts, and does it well. It doesn’t wait until you back off the power, it just delivers and doesn’t scare you into thinking you’ve mangled the internals.
That certainly wasn’t how this one worked…
Another guy here also has an Alfine-equipped bike and he commented that his was the same…
“….however if you try to shift under heavy load using a deraileur system they can skip quite badly “
They can do but IME only if you try to shift a whole load of gears in one go – shifting one gear only never seems to be an issue, even if it does feel/sound a bit rough.
meh, learn to change gear properly? :p
riding a mech gear set up in such away that it crunches is akin to trying to do clutchless crash gear changes on a car surely?
bad for all parties involved.
the thing that i wonder about alfine is the sealing, iirc its still aimed at the touring market, ill bet the seals arnt designed to deal with porker mountain bikers loading it up and mashing it through mud etc.
and strength wise, if shimano freehubs are anything to go by, ill bet it cant handle the wear and tear that a hope could?
My point is that if you’re trying to shift under heavy load, you are probably trying to grab a whole load of gears at once (as clubber suggested in the original post; “….awkward moments”)
I for one have found that the Alfine is better in these situations – you can preselect a gear you want before ‘choosing’ to change: You keep the pressure on whilst you select an appropriate gear – even 5 or 6 clicks away and then do your pedalling ‘hiccup’ after which you are solidly in the selected gear. I don’t know if this is a designed feature, but once you’re used to it, it can be very useful. (There is a slight grinding noise if you have elected to change gear but are putting too much pressure into it to allow a change)
Whilst not wishing to be dismissive of Clubber’s remarks, you need to ride the Alfine in anger a few times to get used to it and understand some of the features.
I agree the Bikeradar review isn’t quite right.
Olly – longevity is something I’m keeping an eye on. I am aware of keen cyclists who have run these hubs for a long while (18 months +)without issue (albeit these chaps are whippets).
I’m told that once the internals wear out then it’s a quick swap-out of an £80 cartridge that contains the mechanism, so comparable with a deraileur set up as long as the mileage is equal.thisisnotaspoonFree Member
dunno, been running rapid-rise mechs for a while now
you can shift into an easier gear under load, just click away the tension and the spring in the mech does the rest, waiting for the cassette gate and moving accross.
And going the other way its fairly iompossible to need to shift under load?
when it weights about 1/3 what it does now, and comes installed where the BB/front mech is currently i’ll get one, but not untill then.
Horses for courses.
There’s a big surprise!!gtkidFree Member
My observations –
Shifter – big but you soon get used to the rapid rise style shift
Changing under load – it isn’t great, but then i always avoided it on derailleurs anyway to preserve component life so no big deal
Weight – lifting over deer fences I notice it, other than that and bunny hops I don’t
Reliability – so far so could, just a tweek for cable stretch
Punctures – have perfected that, similar to derailleur
Overall, I love it for what I use it for but I still have a derailleur bike.
As Blobonastick said, horses for courses!geoffjFull Member
ill bet the seals arnt designed to deal with porker mountain bikers loading it up and mashing it through mud etc.
My 2 seem to be putting up with that treatment.
Olly – thanks for posting exactly the comment I was waiting for. I’m well aware of how to shift and when, thanks and I think that my mechanical sympathy is well up there. 99.999% of the time I shift in a textbook manner. The fact is that admit it or not, we all c0ck up sometimes and find ourselves in too high a gear. On a geared bike, while not ideal, I don’t actually find that it’s much of an issue shifting under heavy load – it’s noisier and doesn’t feel as smooth but a properly adjusted bike shouldn’t skip, slip, etc. – it’s just not something that’s great for the life of your drivetrain.
I totally accept that you’d get used to Alfine’s particular traits fairly quickly but it’s in the situations at the margins where it will always be an issue. Like I said, I still reckon that it’s something that I might get for my winter/all round bike but my experience has tempered my expectation somewhat having originally read comments like those in the bikeradar review.
Just one more thing, when reading up on Alfine, the weights quoted (1.6kg IIRC) sounded pretty high and I expected that the bike would feel very rear-end heavy. Suprisingly, when picking up the bike, it didn’t feel particularly rear weighted, even though the bike is a fairly light rigid commuter. Doing a few bunny hops didn’t feel particularly unusual either.
lol, no worries clubber 😀 :p
its all innovative progress, the more the better IMO.
I WOULD be interested in trying one,
Ive never used one, so cant comment from experience,
im sure your skillz are second to none, but 90% of peoples “mechanical sympathy” makes me want to cry, so im going with the “average rider”
im not so much proud of my silent running drive chains, just wonder how so many people can ride sexy expensive bikes and let them make horrid crunching noises from the drivechain when its only a short fiddle to get them spot on
expecting 100% useful productive comments from STW?
live n learn ;p
“just wonder how so many people can ride sexy expensive bikes and let them make horrid crunching noises from the drivechain when its only a short fiddle to get them spot on”
Amen to that brother!
You can trackstand and change gear though, so it isn’t all bad.
yeah, i did like like that 🙂
very useful in traffic i would imagine, coming to an unscheduled halt behind some erratic old dear occours much more often, and when it does, you dont really want to be fannying around in the wrong gear with a bus bearing down on you.
“You can trackstand and change gear though, so it isn’t all bad.”
I wasn’t suggesting that.
You can carry on pedalling and provided you keep the pressure on the unit won’t change.
Yeah, it reminded me of an old style sturmey archer which did exactly that – take a run up to a hill, preselect the lower gear then just as you hit the hill, back off and it auto shifts…
Like a pre-selector.
Still, fun it might be but I do prefer the way that a normal geared bike shifts but clearly Alfine has other advantages to make it a potential good solution for winter/hassle free riding.
You do get used to it, I have been running one for about 4 months and it has been great so far.
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