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Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub

13 Jul

This past December my new Surly Necromancer Pugsley arrived at the local bike shop and among the customizing I had done before I took it home was the installation of a Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub. I wanted an internal geared hub because I planned on taking the Pugs to places where most cyclists fear to go—through mud, slush, snow, ice, sand and standing water. I also planned on riding in temperatures well before zero (Fahrenheit). I liked the Alfine hub so much that a few weeks later I had one installed on my Gary Fisher Big Sur mountain bike. Well, if two bikes with internal geared hubs were fun, three would be a blast. In February I had a Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub installed on an old Trek 1200—a road bike I only use for riding in rain, light slush, and when the roads are covered with salt (in other words, from mid-November through mid-April).

Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub

Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub

Most Shimano Alfine 11-Speed hubs are put on commuter bikes to cut down on maintenance. However, I put it on a road bike because I spend so much time riding in foul weather and since this hub is sealed I don’t have to worry about road salt, sand, mud and grime fouling up the gears. In the past few months I’ve logged over 1,000 miles with the Shimano Alfine 11-Speed hub and am extremely satisfied with the performance I get out of it and in this article I am just going to make a few general observations about the hub. If you are a gearhead and need exact gear ratios and technical specs you need to visit the Shimano Website.

Shimano Alfine FC-S500 Front Crankset (45T)

Shimano Alfine FC-S500 Front Crankset

The Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub (SG-S700) weights about three ounces less than the Alfine 8 (3.5 pounds), but it is nearly twice the price. The Alfine 11 has a gear range of 409%, compared to 307% for the older 8-speed Alfine hub, so I decided to go with a single ring in the front and installed a Shimano Alfine FC-S500 Front Crankset (45T). This is a two-piece crankset that comes with an integrated bottom bracket and chainguard.

When I started riding with this hub it would sometimes shift for no clear reason. Eventually I figured out the problem—it always happened after I had shifted into an easier gear while going uphill. To solve the problem all I had to do was to stop pedaling when shifting gears while the hub was under a lot of strain (I’m only talking about missing a single stroke).

One of the advantages of having a single ring in the front is that it is nearly impossible to break a chain since it never has to move side-to-side. A single ring in front also means you don’t need a front derailleur, shifter or cables (this saves a bit of weight). Another advantage of a single ring in front is that in the winter you will never have to worry about the front derailleur freezing shut. Several times last year I rode through a bit of running water and when it splashed up on my front derailleur I couldn’t shift any more.

Versa 11-Speed Road Shifters

Versa 11-Speed Road Shifters

The old shifters on my road bike were not compatible with the Alfine hub so I put on Versa 11-Speed Road Shifters  (VRS-11) since Shimano does not make an 11-speed shifter for drop bars. The Versa 11 shifters/brake levers work well and shift smoothly, but they don’t feel as well made as the Shimano Ultegra shifters I have on my Trek Madone. Versa 11 shifters retail for $320, which is nearly as much as a good pair of Shimano Ultegra shifters. If your bike does not have drop bars you can use the Alfine Rapidfire Plus shift levers (SL-S700-S)—these shifters have an Optical Gear Display so you can see what gear you are in. The only thing I don’t like about the Versa 11 shifters is that they are hard to use when you are down on the drops—the shifter has a very long throw and unless you have fingers like a orangutang it is hard to move the shifter all the way over to get to an easier gear.

Alfine Chain Tensioner (CT-S500)

Alfine 11 Hub With Chain Tensioner

The Shimano Alfine 11-Speed hub retails for $675 and unless you have a lot of experience working on a bike I wouldn’t recommend trying to put this on yourself. Remember, you are going to have to rebuild your entire wheel with new spokes and nipples to use this hub, and then you will have to true the wheel when you are finished. Depending on the drop-outs on your bike, you might also need an Alfine Chain Tensioner (CT-S500).

Since you are probably reading this article because you are considering a Shimano Alfine 11 for one of your bikes, I would strongly suggest you also consider replacing your derailleur cables with a set of Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables. These sealed cables are completely protected from snow, mud, and dirt by continuous liners.

 

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51 responses to “Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub

  1. velophileaustralia

    July 13, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    I’ve heard a lot of talk about the Versa shifters being a PITA to use. I think I’ll stay clear for the moment until they improve the design. I wish Rohloff would get their act together and make a similar device as it’s hard to use a Rohloff IGH with a drop bar bike. I want to eventually get a IGH for my touring/commuting bike once my current gear wears out.

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 13, 2012 at 8:35 AM

      It’s not that the Versa 11 is terrible, it’s just not as good as you would expect for the price. As for the belt drive — I thought about it but three different (very experienced) mechanics talked me out of it. However, I am thinking about building a new bike this winter and trying it out anyway.

       
  2. velophileaustralia

    July 13, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    A belt drive would also be awesome for full pelt all weather commuting.. :D

     
  3. Joboo

    July 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    So are you saying only use the 11 on road bikes and the 8 on anything else?
    Have you found the 8 to be “enough,” so to speak, on your Pug?
    I was thinking of the 8, then saw they came out with the 11; and I’ve been cornfussed ever since!! ;)
    In a perfect world the Rolhoff would be my choice; but alas I’m not independently wealthy!!
    Peace, Joboo

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 13, 2012 at 11:22 AM

      Joboo — This is a tough call, but since I live in a fairly flat area if I had it to do all over again I’d just put the Alfine 11 on both my road and “mountain” bikes. The steepest road I have to go up only has a 16% grade and my road bike with the Alfine 11 does fine on it. As for my Pugs, I would definitely go with the Alfine 11 with a single ring in the front — on half of my rides this past winter the front derailleur got frozen shut anyway. One other thought: you can swap out the cog (external gear) on the Alfine in just a few minutes so you could run with an 18 tooth cog in the winter and a 16 in the summer (you get the idea). Take care!

       
  4. totally2012

    July 13, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    A good read!
    Check out my blog too..several recent cycling related posts!
    http://totally2012.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/london-2012-guide-to-road-cycling/

     
  5. Jeff Shone

    July 13, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    Nice write up. I have looked at the Rholoff one in the past but they are VERY expensive. I would like to read what you make of a NuVinci hub if you ever are rich enough to purchase one. These look really nice. But I am nervous of buying one as I do not have a high disposable income.

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 13, 2012 at 4:55 PM

      Jeff — I’ve never tried NuVinci hub, but actually it is at least $200 cheaper than the Shimano Alfine 11 (at least on Amazon.com). I like the Alfine hubs so much that I am in no hurry to try out any other internal geared hub — too much money is involved to take a chance!

       
    • Unchained Iceland

      September 15, 2013 at 6:01 AM

      The NuVinci is (as my trip proved) highly reliable coupled with Gates Carbon Drive and some fat tires I’m rolling on an all-season all-terrain machine. Its not a light bike however…

       
  6. timscyclingblog

    July 14, 2012 at 2:54 AM

    Being a rohloff owner who got his second… after 12000 miles I would recommend it and only it. See my blog for rohloff stuff, I’ve even got a post on the downsides of them, but I’ve not got enough time to talk about derailleurs as the post would be massive lol.
    Shimano 7 and 8 speed hubs are greased and I would recommend they are avoided at all costs because of the disassembly required to service them.
    Shimano has awful gear change cable attachment and a chain tensioner defeats the point, horizontal dropouts or eccentric bottom bracket are the normal alternatives.
    Rohloff and Shimano 11 are oil filled and servicing is easy, just change the oil.
    A rohloff is an investment, so are decent bike locks.
    A rohloff will keep its value well so you can sell in five or ten years and still get lots of cash back.

     
    • timscyclingblog

      July 14, 2012 at 2:58 AM

      Oh and quick release rather than carrying a chunky spanner around with you.

       
      • All Seasons Cyclist

        July 14, 2012 at 9:49 AM

        I think you have convinced me to try a Rohloff on a future build — I would really like the quick release!

         
  7. timscyclingblog

    July 14, 2012 at 2:56 AM

    Worth also mentioning the rohloff has the best gear range which is something you can’t add later!

     
  8. DummyDiva

    July 14, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    I’ve had an 11 on my Pugsley for almost 2 yrs. now. I love it.!

     
  9. Shoreditch Bakes

    July 16, 2012 at 3:31 AM

    Because I really like your blog, I nominated you for the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’. You can see it here: http://shoreditchbakes.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/rain-stops-play-but-not-the-awards-2/

    Carolx

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 16, 2012 at 5:07 PM

      Carolx — Thank you so much! Since this award is so similar to the Kreativ Blogger Award I got back in April (http://wp.me/p1sFbY-TC) I won’t be able to write another article about it, but thank you so much for thinking about this blog!

       
  10. jeanbaptisteonlinux

    July 17, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Hello,
    I’ve a shimano “nexus” integrated gear but I really dislike that kind of system… It’s really complicated to reinstall it correctly, when you need to repair the wheel. Anyway, I really appreciate your articles and pictures;)

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 17, 2012 at 4:14 PM

      The “Nexus” was an early attempt at a lower cost internal geared hub, but I’ve not read many good reviews about them. The Alfine 11 is the result of a lot more research and trial-and-error.

       
      • jeanbaptisteonlinux

        July 18, 2012 at 7:14 AM

        Interesting, thanks for this information. You know in France, all the sales assistants say that “nexus” is the new and great…( I’d rather prefer to have no speed gear on my bike, but I bought it with that kind of “shimano” integrated gears (and the bike has been paid at a lower cost…).

         
  11. Cary Gossett

    July 30, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    I’m breaking in a new Alfine 11 sp with an Alfine Rapidfire Plus shifter and a Gates belt drive. The hub makes a soft clicking sound in almost every gear, soft or hard pedaling, and I can just barely feel the clicking with my feet. Shifting is unaffected and there’s no clicking while coasting. The cable tension indicator lines are dead on center, so through 150 miles, the sound (a fading in and out clickety click, like a train on tracks) remains a mystery …

    Any Sherlock Holmes out there?

     
    • timscyclingblog

      February 21, 2013 at 3:46 PM

      Late reply from me, sorry, chain tension is my guess, sort it before you wear out the bearings in your hub. Could be the freewheel type things that lock the planet gears in place so they don’t rotate in the wrong direction. I don’t own an Alfine 11, but my Rohloff makes more noise in certain gears because the planets are (un)locked and the littlest gears are werring away.

       
  12. Bel

    August 2, 2012 at 12:22 AM

    I’m the proud owner of a bike with a Shimano Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Hub, and it has the Alfine Rapidfire Plus shift levers, too. My husband convinced me that this was the way to go (I’ve been on a three-speed derailleur gears bike before). Now my husband is envious due to the low-maintenance bike I have. ;) I’m quite happy with it, although I still need to get used to having the brakes on the handle bars and that back-pedalling won’t slow me down if needed. ;)

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      August 2, 2012 at 12:47 AM

      Congratulations on the Alfine Hub! There are a lot of experienced cyclists in the Upper Midwest who would envy you — those hubs are perfect of riding in the snow.

       
      • Bel

        August 2, 2012 at 12:19 PM

        I’m not keen on riding in snow but it’s good to know my bike has the proper hubs for it. :)

         
  13. befitbefullbeconfident

    November 27, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    This is great, I’m glad to start following since I need to expand my cycle knowledge. I signed up for a 100 mile ride next summer, so I need all the motivation I can get. Thanks for following my blog as well. I’d love to add you to my exclusive monthly newsletter I send out to my clients. It has additional info that I don’t post on my blog. If you go to my website http://www.befitbefullbeconfident.com and click on the link on the top left, you are automatically signed up! I also spotlight blogs once a month for my clients to see and to hopefully send some traffic to your page. I’d love to spotlight you at some point if you are interested! Keep posting great content, I look forward to following you!

     
  14. DummyDiva

    February 18, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    Kudos! I’ve had an Alfine 11 on my Pugs for a little over two years now.

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      February 18, 2013 at 7:09 PM

      I just “changed the oil” on my Alfine 11 — I put around 2,300 miles on the Alfine in the first 10 months I owned it (I have four other bikes as well). The oil was a little dirty, but everything looked great inside.

       
      • timscyclingblog

        February 21, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        The older Shimano hubs like my Nexus 7 are grease and are beyond most people to service. Just looking at the awful gear mechanism on your hub (similar to the Nexus 7) is enough to put me off. I took it appart for a service once as no shops would touch it, took me several days of tinkering to get it back up and running, from that point on I saved for a Rohloff! Of course, since then the Alfine 11 came out, which I am yet to try, but I’m 99% sure it wouldn’t impress me now I’m used to the Rohloff, that’s not to say there is anything wrong with it. Rewinding back time I would probably have gone for the Alfine 11 because of the price, but it would have been a compromise purchase if that description makes sense.

        Rohloff say 5000km or every year (whichever is sooner) for an oil change, but some people go beyond that, not me though, I have a bulk buy lot of oil and have no need to scrimp.
        Dirty oil? Rohloff oil is black to start with and looks the same when it comes out after 5k km too, it stinks too :)
        Inside? No need to even take my Rohloff wheel off the bike, oil change takes five minutes max.
        Though you can afford four Alfines because you haven’t spent that money on a Rohloff! Both mine are second hand, one is like new, the other is well worn in (> 30,000 miles, I lost count).

         
        • All Seasons Cyclist

          February 21, 2013 at 4:43 PM

          Your comment about buying four Alfine 11′s for the price of one Rohloff is exactly why I went with the Alfine 11 to start with. I own and use five different bikes — three of which have Alfine hubs. If I had to put a Rohloff on three bikes I don’t think I could afford enough food to give me the energy to ride!

          Also, the oil change on the Alfine 11 just takes a few minutes — the “tool” you use is a special syringe that sucks out the old oil and then pushes in the new oil.

           
        • timscyclingblog

          February 21, 2013 at 4:50 PM

          Rohloff also uses syringe. Do shimano use a cleaning oil? Or is it just drain and replace?

          Slightly different question, do you have to thin down the oil in winter?

           
        • All Seasons Cyclist

          February 21, 2013 at 4:53 PM

          It’s not really a cleansing oil — you basically drain out the old oil, pour in some new — then wait 15 minutes and repeat the process. I did not have to thin the oil.

           
        • timscyclingblog

          February 21, 2013 at 5:01 PM

          Ah I see. Rohloff have a thinner oil for the flushing / cleaning. In winter you mix the two so it’s nice and fluid in the icy temps. Whole thing is 5 mins from start to finish.

          Did you open up your Alfine 11?

          I should never need to open my Rohloffs, nor do I want to given how much they cost!

           
        • All Seasons Cyclist

          February 21, 2013 at 9:30 PM

          I didn’t open the Alfine 11, but one of the Alfine 8′s was opened — it looked dirty, but after the “dip in oil” it looked as good as new (it only had 1,000 miles on it — most in the snow).

           
  15. Charles Vincent McDonald

    April 14, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Very impressive.

     
  16. janelily7

    May 22, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    Hi, Thank you for visiting my blog.

    I’m not in your league but I have a new off road bike. It has double suspension, 18 gears and a very very uncomfortable saddle.

    My hubby and I load our bikes on to our car carrier, and explore different parts of the country. We are not young folk, but now that we live in a ‘safer’ country, riding is our new found form of exercise.

     
  17. MikeW

    June 21, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    OK those road shifters look really easy.

     
  18. cafedharma

    June 27, 2013 at 4:28 AM

    Thanks for checking out my tea stop blog, I’m an avid cyclist though shamefully don’t take a lot of interest in the mechanical side of things. I’m known in my local club the CTC as the Cafe Queen so I suppose that about says it all. Good to hear that there are mechs like you around.

     
  19. Richard McCarthy

    October 6, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Wondering if anyone knows of IGH (specifically Alfine11)shops in the northeast. Aaron is out on the west coast but I haven’t been able to locate anyone within driving range of Buffalo NY who is even remotely aware of (let alone proficient in repair,install,setup)the Alfine setups. Seat of the pants is fine to a point but I’d really like a shop I could (even if I have to drive 200 miles)I could take the bike to should I need a pros touch.

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      October 6, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      I am not familiar with bike shops in your area, but the Alfine is really not that hard to install. I think any competent shop COULD do it (though I would prefer an experienced mechanic do it). The hub goes on pretty much like any other hub — but you do need an experienced wheel builder. If all else fails, the local bike shop I use has built wheel sets and shipped them out to people (some cyclists have read my blog and then contacted the shop I use to build there wheel). I have no connection with the local bike shop, but I would be happy to put you in touch with them if you are interested.

       
      • Richard McCarthy

        October 7, 2013 at 6:18 AM

        I’ve gone to all the shops in my region. Of the two that deal with city bikes and the like neither has any experience with the multi speed alfine style hubs. I’m checking with Toronto Ca. to see if any of their shops work on these and have the hands on experience. I need a shop I can touch base with if something isn’t working quite right. vs trying to do this DIY via internet help. Aaron Goss from Aarons Bike shop Pretty much covered it when he advised: These arn’t seat of the pants learning projects.

         
  20. emanuelferretti

    October 30, 2013 at 5:02 AM

    been thinking about the alfine 11 for a tandem build as it would remove a lot of clutter.
    Though the rohloff is more expensive a lot of established tandem dealers (thorn) swear by them.
    I’ve broken two 3sp nexus hubs and one each of SA 3 & 5speeds.all on road/cx bikes so I’m a bit wary- though I completely agree that commuting is either SS or internal,parts wear out much quicker commuting than any other use I find.
    Belt drive is more than easy,add a splitter and you always have that option. nice blog.

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      October 30, 2013 at 10:08 PM

      I’d love to see how the Alfine 11 works on a tandem — I would imagine a tandem would put a lot more stress on the gears (no trouble when fully engaged, but shifting under a load might be a challenge).

       
  21. Marco

    February 17, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    I have searched the web high and low for Alfine-11 technical specifications, but to little avail (starting with Shimano, of course). For you folks with the actual hardware in your hands, did your documentation come with dimensions? Or – has anyone measured? I’m looking for wheelbuilding details like outside flange distance, dishing distance (or flange offset), spoke hole circle diameter, spoke hole diameter, etc. It’s going on 4 years after the product introduction, and there is still surprisingly little said about it in the bike geek/forum community. Maybe it’s just that stone simple and obvious? ;-)

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      February 17, 2014 at 10:30 PM

      Marco, there was a lot of documentation that came with the Alfine-11 — and I think the local bike shop threw it away! However, I would imagine that Shimano has a PDF file of those specs hanging around somewhere — I just don’t know where they hid them!

       
    • Richard McCarthy

      February 18, 2014 at 6:00 AM

      I found a shop up in toronto canada (Urbane Cyclist) you can give them a try (ucycle@ucycle.com)on your questions or GearedHubBikes@yahoo.com and direct your question to Aaron.

       
  22. Richard McCarthy

    February 18, 2014 at 6:04 AM

    Marco:if you go to edd (it’s an online spoke measurement link) and scroll down to the Shimano Alfine link it brings up all the specs on the hub as well as allowing you to find the correct spoke length for the rim you plan on using.

     
  23. Marco

    February 20, 2014 at 2:38 AM

    Richard, I’m not sure where “edd” is, but your description reminded me to look closer at FreeSpoke http://www.kstoerz.com/freespoke/hub/190 which does indeed have Alfine-11 measurements, made personally by the proprietor of that website, who seems to know what he’s talking about. There’s a wealth of wheel-builder geek info there.
    Also, I did find a photo on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/hugojcardoso/4352191484/in/photostream/ of a Shimano document showing several of their geared hubs. Wish I could find an updated version at Shimano, but there’s nothing.
    However, those two sources don’t really agree with each other, no matter how I add the numbers. The problem is that the Alfine-11 design seems to have changed after the product introduction. I’ve read that it gained some weight, so dimensions may have changed as well. I suppose that engineering stress testing was still underway while marketing was showing it off at trade shows, and they found some weaknesses to fix. You can’t be sure if either set of specs is like the current product. Guess I’ll just have to buy one!

     
    • Richard McCarthy

      February 20, 2014 at 10:53 AM

      Yes Marco; Alfine 11 is now DI2 (electronic shift) and according to the folks up in Toronto, there IS a difference. I have the manual Shimano 11 and after a ton of back and forth(DIY build or factory build) let Universal Cycles build the wheel which I then brought with me down to the Cirque du Cyclisme last may and had Earle Young ‘tutor’ me as I did a final true and tension of the wheel. Like you I encountered several mindsets on the exact way to set the hub up. At that point I also learned that these hubs lubricant can thicken up depending on how long the hub has set on a shelf. At that point I said: Time to have an experienced technician set this up and check it over and hopefully walk me thru hands on in the process.

       

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