Rohloff / Alfine 11 vs high end derailleurs, and other transmission questions

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  • Rohloff / Alfine 11 vs high end derailleurs, and other transmission questions
  • mikertroid
    Member

    Welcome!

    I run an Alfine 8 and XT deraillers on another bike. I’ve got Tiagra/ Sora on an old road bike

    1. Probably

    2. Mis-shifts and skips are so rare on Alfine, it’s streets ahead in that department.

    3. Don’t know but not much tweaking.

    4. I change my Mtb chain every 3-4 months. Road bike lasts much longer but I wouldn’t do 3000 miles on one.

    The Alfine 11 is apparently less reliable than the 8 but the 8 would prove frustrating due to its limited range on the road.

    Off road I love the 8!

    feanor
    Member

    Hi all,

    I thought I’d post here as this forum comes high on google searches for Rohloff and Alfine and you guys seem to know your stuff.

    About six weeks ago I decided I wanted a Rohloff when I discovered it while leaving through my Haynes bike manual while working on the Deore transmission of my 18kg Decathlon hybrid. I always seem to be cleaning or otherwise fiddling with the damn thing and it’s annoying. So I started reading the Internet about Rohloff and IGHs in general. This snowballed and I started reading the Internet about bikes, frame material, custom frames, etc etc etc. It all got rather out of hand and, frankly, I’m almost suffering from too much information now – I’m almost as uncertain now as when I started, both of my own requirements and how my requirements might be met.

    Anyway. I’ll try to stick to gears for now. Eventually I started to suspect that, if I want to switch to drop bars, I’d be better off with the Alfine 11 in order to benefit from STI shifters. I had never ridden a drop bar bike before (I may start another thread on that subject) but I suspected having to move my hand into a completely different position to change gears on a GB Rohloff twist shifter would annoy me. So I test rode a road bike last week.

    My suspicion was partly confirmed – the STI shifters were great. What surprised me, though, was how amazing the ~2010 Ultegra transmission was. It had been perfectly set up and calibrated and it changed so beautifully and smoothly. And where my 9-speed Deore transmission sometimes requires half or a full turn of the pedals to engage fully, the Ultegra felt fully engaged after just a fraction of a turn. This got me wondering whether I really do want an IGH as I have read that both Rohloff and Alfine lack this precision feel.

    I know that “derailleurs vs IGH” has been done to death on this forum and elsewhere but a lot of the discussions are from when the Alfine 11 was quite a bit newer than it is now. Also I’d like to compare with current mid range / high end kit and be a bit more specific. Would anyone be able to answer the following for me?

    1. Would the GB Rohloff twist shifter on drop bars be as annoying as I imagine on drop bars due to the requirement to constantly change hand position?

    2. How do Alfine and Rohloff compare with a perfectly set up *high end* (105 and above) derraileur system that’s had a bit of use and is a little dirty? I have read reports of Alfine taking half a turn of the pedals to change if you don’t stop pedalling. It’s exactly this that I’m trying to avoid – sometimes I go through an entire pedal spin on my Deore kit before it engages and I hate that. I’m a demanding rider, I like to accelerate hard in the city, and I like kit that responds quickly, reliably and lasts.

    3. Once a good derailleur transmission is set up properly and the cables have stopped their initial stretching, how long should it stay perfectly calibrated? At 6-10 miles cycling/day, sometimes in rain, would a weekly or bi-weekly hosedown/degrease spray/hosedown/oil be enough to keep it in that condition? I don’t have time for a regular full workshop clean.

    4. I understand derailleur chains tend to last 3,000 miles, give or take a lot depending on myriad factors, and that a cassette should last for 3 chains if the chains are changed soon enough. When people say “last” do they mean “really needs replacing” or “was working perfectly until now and changes are just starting to get sloppy/skipping”? (It’s the latter I’m concerned with.)

    Basically I’m trying to determine whether I’d be happier with a higher end derailleur setup or an IGH, and whether the reduced regular maintenance of an IGH would be too much of a performance sacrifice. (I’m not interested in racing, I just enjoy cycling and getting from A-B quickly.)

    Thanks for bearing with me through this essay of a first post! 🙂

    shermer75
    Member

    Same as mikertroid I also have a bike with an Alfine 8 as well as a couple with derailleurs. I would start by saying that neither one is better, just that they are quite different and both have advantages and disadvantages.

    So, a few points to hopefully help you out:

    Yes, a twist shifter on a drop bar (if you get it to fit) would drive me insane. Pretty sure that both Alfine won’t work with regular STI shifters. You’ll need these, so look at the price:

    Versa shifters

    The Alfine 8 DOES skip teeth if you accelerate hard enough, most notably in 4th gear. This might be solved with the Alfine 11.

    The changing takes getting used to (you have to back off the power). In this respect your Ultegra or 105 will be smoother and quicker. Even when a little mucky.

    That said, Alfine are great for riding in town when things like dumping a bunch of gears at traffic lights is really useful.

    Despite having all it bits hanging out for the world to see, I find that a well set up derailleur system needs less attention than you’d think.

    The Alfine will need even less attention than that.

    The Alfine is heavier. Although maybe not enough to make a difference on an 18kg bike!

    Alfine set ups aren’t super cheap, help yourself out by ordering from Rose bikes if thats what you decide to do.

    So, a game of two halves really. Very much down to personal preference. When I try to really pin down what I prefer about the Alfine it’s always neat and tidy look, the way you can dump gears while hardly moving and the lack of maintenance. In that order. Then I’ll get on a bike with a decent derailleur and be amazed at how light it is and how crisply it shifts. So, what’cha gonna do?

    trail_rat
    Member

    i have both a rohloff and a pair of alfine 8s ….. (one on my commuter one on mrs TRs)

    my rohloffs languished in the shed if im honest.

    alfine feels like multiple singlespeeds

    the rohloff every gear feels different and it feels like there is is a flex plate or something between your legs and the wheel. Its more like my land rovers gear box.

    alfines nothing like ultegra on that front either BUT its much closer.

    how ever the rohloff wins for touring which is why its still in the shed- the alfine gear range isnt big enough for loaded touring imo.

    trail_rat
    Member

    never noticed the slipping in 4th gear tbh.

    i did get a period of random slipping when i first got it but it seems to have calmed down and hasnt slipped at all for months.

    orangeboy
    Member

    I have a rohloff on a 29er mtb at the moment and would not say it gives the instant quick change that my road bike does
    My work bike has old tiagra 9 groupset and get very little love but does not require constant adjustment ,

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    I have a Rohloff on my mtb (and have done for years), Had an Alfine with drop-bar Versa shifters on another bike for a coupel of years, and have 105 group on my road bike now.

    Rohloff is ace. Power transmission can feel iffy if the oil needs changing (once every 10,000 miles) and shifting can be sticky if the cables have got gunked up (annual on a mtb)

    Alfine had crisp shifting when indexed correctly, but that wasn’t always so. Alfine is also heavier.

    I’ve never fancied the Rohloff shiter on drop bars. I’ve long been toying with the idea (along with lots of others) about adapting some road STis for it, but its only a thought have.

    trail_rat
    Member

    i changed the oil on mine twice in quick succession to clean it out

    it has brand new cables.

    Its no different …. ive also ridden one that the customer thought was running sweetly …

    compared to a well maintained deraileur there are no contest.

    for a pick up and go bike if your knees cant take SS it does well. but its no replacement for deraileurs.

    boblo
    Member

    Not sure this answers your question but the sub text seems to be ‘how much can I abuse/ignore my transmission and still expect perfect shifting?’

    I’d be more inclined to ride as you describe (hard acceleration after changes, infrequent fettling etc) on my dérailleur set ups as the consequences of knackering an ihg are much higher (both cost and inconvenience).

    A well fettled 105/Ultegra is a joy to ride and I make sure mine always is. A well fettled Alfine is also a pleasure to ride but for me feels a bit ‘dead’. That is, the combined weight of the transmission and the rest of the weightier bike lack zing compared to my dérailleur set ups (bit apples and oranges tho so not necessarily a fair comparison).

    As for fettling, my derailleur bikes don’t take much looking after. The adjusters are ‘right there’ and infrequently need a little tweak once set up correctly. The enemy is filth which you’ll need to sort whichever route you go.

    Chains? They can last 3000 or 300 miles. Depends what/where you’re riding. Generally they’ll last longer on an IHG and you can use 1/8th chains.

    In summary, if you’re looking for something to abuse, I’d go the derailleur route simply because the parts are cheaper and you won’t be left completely without drive when the inevitable happens.

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    I do like the feel of my Alfine. Nice shift, and decent range. Like all hubgears you have to relax the pressure as you change gear (analogous to using the clutch in a car).

    A properly set up quality derailleur is a very good system, but its all its components should be regarded as consumables compared to the longevity of a good hubgear.

    Like trail_rat I have a Rohloff sitting unloved. I simply don’t like the feel of it. However my brother uses one in Australia for long distance offroad rides (1,000s of kms) hauling a heavy trailer, and his opinion is you have to put a few thousand kms into a Rohloff before you learn to love it.

    Properly ridden a hubgear can give you 50,000 miles and up of troublefree riding.

    You mention you are capable of strong acceleration – so I second trail_rat’s suggestion you may enjoy using a singlespeed bike. Properly setup they are incredibly capable and you learn to look forward to hills.

    Mackem
    Member

    Alfine is great if you want reliability and good shifting in crap conditions. Since I got a new bike to ride in the winter (a road bike) I’ve ditched the Alfine and put a 1×10 system on. The same bike feels a lot livelier and more fun. The Alfine never had any maintenance apart from a new cable now and then, it just worked.

    Now have both the 8 and the 11 speed alfines. Both superb although the 11 speed does feel like a definte improvement in terms of operation and use (the cable fixing on the 11 speed is much more straightforward if you need to remove.

    They just work. Really gone off the ker-razy world of derailleurs with all that pushing and shoving of the chain. But then I’m not fast and am truly terrible at bike maintenance 🙂

    TM

    shermer75
    Member

    +1 the derailleur bikes definitely feel ‘livelier’

    shermer75
    Member

    Good to hear about the 11. Been thinking about getting one for a looong time…

    So a slightly different set of responses. I’ve ridden Rohloff both off road (on a sus bike) and on road (on a mountain bike I use to commute) for 6 years or so. Katie has both Rohloff and Alfine 11. I’ve got a carbon road bike with 105 on it. My new sus mountain bike has a Pinion gearbox-

    “Facts”
    – All forms of gearing have their advantages and disadvantages. Nothing feels as good as a new, clean, perfectly set up derailleur set up on a road bike.
    – A derailleur set up never again feels as good as it does when it’s new and has a slow inexorable decline into unreliability
    – 105/Ultregra kit is designed for racing not longevity. Do big miles on it in all weathers with the degree of maintenance that commuter bikes get and it will suffer.
    – A 6 year old Rohloff hub feels better than it did when it was new. It’s just run in.
    – The only reason to buy an Alfine over a Rohloff is cost and in the long term it will be something you regret.

    To your questions –

    1. Rohloff shifter on drop bars would be a bad idea for anything but touring.

    2. Shifting on all 3 is instant but different on each

    3. No – you won’t actually do it that often and it will need more work.

    4. They mean need replacing or they will wear out your chainrings or cassette early. Buy a chain checker – a good investment.

    I think the best commuter bike for me would have –
    Flat bars (if you ride in traffic/with a lot of traffic lights)
    Disc Brakes (for all weather performance)
    700C wheels
    Full length mudguards
    Rohloff

    I’m not riding that at the moment though and YMMV.

    I killed this thread dead…

    I’d add Gates drive to that list as well. Clean, long lasting, low maintenance. All the disadvantages of Gates seem to relate to mud/stones/grass and assorted crud off road. On a commuter they seem ideal.

    trail_rat
    Member

    yeah i think it was your self proclimation of “fact” that did it.

    But they were facts on the internet so I gave them “…”‘s 🙂

    I’m one of the few people who races a Rohloff MTB.
    They turn up second hand on eBay fairly regularly for round about £500, depending on rim etc.
    Mileage or age doesn’t affect the price, so if you’re curious, buy one, then if you don’t like it, sell it again. You shouldn’t lose anything.

    Saccades
    Member

    The only reason to buy an Alfine over a Rohloff is cost

    Humm, I disagree, the Rohloff is heavier, you need the 2 cables and the plate thing meaning the bike looks ugly and they have the shift action of a bucket of bolts with a twist shifter until you have used them for a coupla thousand miles and then it’s not a lot better – Do not want.

    The Rohloff is better in that it has a neater and wider spread of gears and has a greater* longevity but that’s it.

    In summary, if you’re looking for something to abuse, I’d go the derailleur route simply because the parts are cheaper and you won’t be left completely without drive when the inevitable happens.

    IGH’s are way better for something to abuse than the derailleur system. I have a mtb IGH bike I have washed twice in nearly 5 years and it’s still shifting perfectly on the original chain and rings. The bearings are borked but that’s what happens when you ignore cup and cone hubs.

    BTW – 18Kg bike? Would you not just start the engine and be done with it?

    the Rohloff is heavier, you need the 2 cables and the plate thing meaning the bike looks ugly

    I’ve not put the stuff on the scales myself but there are sources that claim the Alfine 11 is heavier than Rohloff and the 11 is meant to be lighter than the 8. Very neat with either an OEM dropout or speedbone. Two cables and the shifting go with the territory but if you dump the cables Rohoff supply and use almost anything else, with a sensible routing (minimum bends and not tight radius) shifting can be light and positive. Shifting on mine hasn’t changed with age and the advantage of the pull-pull is that it’s not affected by cable stretch or dirt.

    boblo
    Member

    Saccades – Member
    IGH’s are way better for something to abuse than the derailleur system. I have a mtb IGH bike I have washed twice in nearly 5 years and it’s still shifting perfectly on the original chain and rings. The bearings are borked but that’s what happens when you ignore cup and cone hubs.

    I think you mean neglect not abuse. Not doing anything to an IGH apart from lubing the chain is not the same as slamming it into gear and accelerating hard when changing. I may have got the wrong end of the stick but the OP intimated this is the way he rides.

    I’d be very concerned about dishing out this level of abuse whilst expecting all the hubs guts to put up with it indefinitely. That’s really what I was referring to in my post.

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    simons_nicolai-uk – Member
    …I’ve not put the stuff on the scales myself but there are sources that claim the Alfine 11 is heavier than Rohloff…

    I was in the lbs today and picked up an Alfine 11. It feels much heavier than the 8 speed. Definitely needs to be weighed.

    Seeing as most of the so called problems with hubgears are actually related to, or caused by cable problems, the really big advantage of the Rohloff is that the indexing is in the hub, not the shifter, and that makes it almost idiot proof (but them idiots are getting craftier every year 🙂 )

    http://road.cc/content/review/27971-shimano-alfine-11-hub-and-shifter

    “The stated weight is now 1590g, which is 90g lighter than Shimano’s weight for an Alfine 8 and less than a Speedhub too. However, we’ve now received a second boxed hub to go with our built up one and straight out of the box it tips the scales at 1744g, a fair whack heavier than list. The shifter and cabling bump the overall system weight up to a whisker under 2kg.”

    Rohloff comes in below that in most configs.

    boblo
    Member

    What’s the real world weight of an 8 please?

    avdave2
    Member

    the really big advantage of the Rohloff is that the indexing is in the hub, not the shifter, and that makes it almost idiot proof (but them idiots are getting craftier every year )

    My Rohloff is 7 years old and still running on the original cables which have never been adjusted which means so far I haven’t been able to find out just what class of idiot I am. 🙂

    feanor
    Member

    Thanks for all your replies everyone – VERY helpful. Sorry I didn’t reply sooner – work went crazy all of a sudden. Simons you far from killed the thread – your response was spot on and extremely informative.

    Regarding the thing of neglect or abuse – I don’t think I abuse my bike transmission. I just expect it to perform. I accelerate hard but I lift off the pressure when changing as it’s the only way to get a relatively smooth & quick change on my Deore transmission. I have neglected maintenance in the past but I am getting better at it as I get more experienced and organised. As long as an IGH can deal with the torque I don’t expect to be abusing it during changes – unless, that is, the changes are sufficiently slow to cause me frustration. As said though I have a technical background and am generally able to find the balance between demanding use and abuse of my stuff.

    I wouldn’t want to go down the singlespeed route. Firstly I just don’t get them – but also I have already, with my bike, managed to hurt my knees a bit by trying to accelerate too hard in too high a gear without having warmed up my muscles at all. I’ve learned not to do that, and to ensure my transmission doesn’t get into such a state that I find myself in the wrong gear much, but the dull and deep knee ache I gave myself isn’t something I’d like to repeat. Besides, there are too many hills where I live.

    I think though that it may be more important to settle the flat vs drop bars issue first though as I concur with Simons that Rohloff is the way to go with flat bars. I was going to create another thread about this but as it’s already come up, I’ll stick with this one if that’s OK.

    I do quite like my flat bars 80-95% of the time. The trouble is that I can’t lower my riding position without bending my elbows, and this annoys me. I see the advantage in flat bars though so I did think of getting some drop-bar ends.
    The trouble is that when I tested the road bike I found that the hoods were incredibly uncomfortable for me – they hurt the fleshy part of my palms and put a lot of pressure on my arms. Part of this is that they were too far forward for me – the bike rental mechanic inverted the stem which slightly changed the position of the bars and was much more comfortable.
    What surprised me, though, was that I didn’t feel much lower in the drops as I felt on the hoods. In fact, the drops almost felt more comfortable because the hand pain went away. This has left me rather uncertain: I want the benefits of flat bars while being able to get low and out of the wind when needed. Frankly, I found myself wondering whether drop bars (or flats, for that matter) are the best way of doing things for the urban fast cyclist, but then again people must have tried other ideas already. Also, and I’m ashamed to admit this as I always say that function should come before form, but dorp bars do look way nicer.

    Regarding the Alfine 8 – I would definitely go for the 11 and not the 8, and even then only if I wanted proper drop bar compatability.

    Thanks again everyone – I’ve a feeling I’ve forgotten something but I must shoot 🙂

    shermer75
    Member

    Bars are certainly a personal thing and there is a whole world of different shape and sizes to try BUT if your hands hurt it seems to me something must be wrong. What hoods were they? Maybe the position wasn’t right. For me, whenever I’m using risers I wish I had drop bars and whenever I’m using drops I wish I had risers or flat bars. Never happy! It gives you something to think about on a long ride I suppose…

    Mackem
    Member

    Wouldnt a decent pair of padded gloves sort the hood problem?

    lesoudeur
    Member

    I swapped out an 8 for an 11 and the weight was almost identical. Although the Rohloff is not quite as smooth shifting it is more robust than the 11 which can be a little flaky in 2nd on steep hills when changing…. though it is smoother than the 8. Rohloff for reliability and workhorse against Shimano for price and plaything.

    It takes a while to get used to riding on the hoods if your hands are used to flat bars. I find different gloves comfortable as well – some of my favourite mtb gloves are really uncomfortable on the road bike.

    trail_rat
    Member

    did you stick drops on a bike designed for flats – its probable that your top tube is massively long and your leaning far too far forwards thus putting too much weight on the hands making the hoods cut in.

    thepodge
    Member

    I went from a light frame with standard 21 speed gears to a heavy frame with alfine 8. I’m still bang in the middle of my riding group so I cant say performance has changed for better or worse.

    I never think my bike could do with being 200g, 300g whatever lighter when riding. Weight isnt everything in fact I only notice the weight lifting it into the car.

    it did take me a while to get used to the Alfine as the shifter is backwards / rapid rise but once that was done, its just riding as normal.

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