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Shimano Alfine Hub Gear

bike gear ratios

The Shimano Alfine hub gear is a real all-round talent. It offers the advantages of a hub gear at a very attractive price. Thanks to its efficient design, it is suitable for use in classic trekking or city bikes powered solely by muscle power. Since it is also stable, it can also be used in an e-bike. Here, in conjunction with the Shimano Steps e-bike system, it plays out all its advantages and takes over the gear shifts (if desired) completely automatically. We present further details of the hub gear from the Japanese manufacturer here.

Hub gears are especially recommended for use on bicycles for everyday use. Because of their design, they are significantly less wear-resistant, less maintenance-intensive and less sensitive to dirt than derailleurs. However, high-quality hub gears are often very expensive. With the Alfine gears, Shimano offers an inexpensive way to enjoy a hub gear.

Who should use the Alfine hub gear?

The Shimano Alfine hub gear is suitable for all those who want a reliable gear for carefree use of the everyday bike or for longer trips on weekends. The hub gear is optionally equipped with 8 or 11 gears. The 8-way variant is suitable for flat to undulating terrain, but reaches its limits on steep climbs. The 8-speed hub is therefore predestined for use in urban terrain and for cycling tours in areas that tend to be flat. The 11-speed Alfine circuit already allows a more flexible use. It is suitable for longer trips to work and can be used on weekends on longer tours over one or the other longer climb.

Shimano Alfine Variations

Shimano offers several versions of the Alfine hub gear. It can be shifted mechanically or electronically and is available in either version with 8 or 11 gears. All Alfine hubs are equipped with a brake disc mount and can be used on wheels with disc or rim brakes.

The difference between the electronic and mechanical Shimano Alfine gears is how the shift impulse is transmitted from the gear lever on the handlebar to the gearbox inside the hub. A shift cable is used for the mechanical shifting. In the electronic version there is a servomotor on the right side of the hub. This sets the desired gear after the rider has actuated the gear lever.

The number of gears is noticeable with the Shimano Alfine hub with regard to the gear ratio range, i.e. the difference between the smallest and the largest gear. With the 8-speed shift this difference is 307%. If the rear wheel made one revolution per crank revolution in the lowest gear, it would be three wheel revolutions per crank revolution in the highest gear. If you choose the 11-speed shift, this difference is 409%.

How does the Shimano Alfine shift gears?

The gear change between the 11 or 8 gears of the mechanical Shimano Alfine hub gear is done via a classic shift lever, which is attached to the right side of the handlebar. This has two levers that always spring back to their starting position and can therefore be reached in any situation. The front lever is designed for thumb operation. With this you change to the next lower gear. The rear lever can be easily reached with the index finger and is used to change to a larger gear ratio.

If you use the electronic Alfine hub gear, the so-called “DI2” version, the shift impulse is also triggered by a thumb shift lever. A servomotor, which is attached to the outside of the hub, then takes care of the gear change. Alternatively, the Alfine DI2 can also be operated via a brake lever, which was developed for mounting on the racing handlebar. You can shift up and down using two buttons on the outside of the brake lever.

The Alfine gearbox also has the option of an automatic gear change. If the hub is used in an e-bike with a Shimano Steps motor, it is possible to “teach” the system when to shift. The on-board computer then registers the situations in which the driver preferably shifts and the cadence that is preferred. On this basis, it is then possible to have the gears automatically changed by the on-board computer.

Is the Shimano Alfine compatible with e-bikes?

As you have already read, the Shimano Alfine hub is designed for use in a classic bike that is powered solely by muscle power, as well as for use in an electronically supported e-bike. It easily copes with the higher forces that occur when using an e-bike. In combination with Shimano’s e-bike drive, the Shimano Steps System, it is possible to change gears automatically using the on-board computer.

Can I retrofit every bike with it?

The Shimano Alfine hub is equipped with a 10mm axle and is 135mm wide. It can therefore be installed in any bike with “normal” dropouts. Retrofitting is possible on almost any trekking or city bike. When retrofitting, it makes sense in most cases to buy a complete rear wheel with an Alfine hub.

If you buy a new bike with an Alfine hub, you can consider choosing a frame that is designed for use with a hub gear. Such frames are characterized by horizontally movable dropouts. These allow the chain to be kept at the optimum tension at all times.

Advantages & Disadvantages of the Shimano Alfine

The advantages and disadvantages of the Alfine hub relate on the one hand to the decision between derailleur and hub gears and on the other hand to the positioning in the field of hub gears, i.e. compared to the competition.

lasting reliabilityheavier than derailleurs
little wearlower transmission than the Rohloff Speedhub
hardly any maintenance necessary
high resistance to external influences
very good price-performance ratio
versatile – in e-bikes and “normal” bikes
easy, intuitive operation – option of different gear levers
automatic gear shifts possible in connection with the Shimano Steps motor

The advantages of the hub gear are its permanent, low-wear use. A hub gear generally requires less maintenance than a derailleur. Furthermore, the chain always runs perfectly straight, which keeps wear to a minimum. Because the actual shifting process takes place inside the hub and is sealed off from external influences, this type of shifting is less sensitive to external influences than a chain shifting system, in which water and dirt from the streets get directly onto the shifting components.

Compared to other hub gears, the Alfine gears are characterized by their good price-performance ratio. The slightly heavier Rohloff Speedhub can be seen as direct competition. With a purchase price of around $1200, it is three to four times more expensive than the Alfine hub. Rohloff offers a hub with 14 gears and a transmission range of over 500% for this price. The Rohloff hub is thus the upper class of classic hub gears. Anyone who can do without the additional range of gear ratios is well served with the Shimano Alfine hub.

Pinion, Rohloff, Enviolo NuVinci and Alfine in comparison

With Pinion, Rohloff, Enviolo NuVinci and Alfine there are different gear shifts for the bicycle. You can read about how the individual manufacturers compare in the following comparison.

 PinionRohloffEnviolo NuVinciAlfine
Gear Ratio636%526%380%307 – 409%
Gears1814Stepless gears8 or 11
Guarantee5 Years2 Years2 Years2 Years
Weight1.8 – 2.7 kg1.7 kg2.45 kg1.7 kg
UpgradeabilityRequires special frameCan be used with almost any frame due to individual configurationCompatible with 135x10mmFits in any frame with a rear triangle with the dimensions 10x135mm. This is almost every trekking or city bike frame
Use in e-bikesWorks with hub motors. Automatic shifting is not possible. The transmission also does not communicate with the electronics of the engine / display.Works with mid motors. The hub gear is intelligently integrated in combination with Bosch motors. Recommended gear shifts are displayed, in standstill the gear is automatically shifts to an easy gear to start offWorks with mid-drive motors. You can set the preferred cadence, which is then always kept constant by automatic shifting processes.Works with mid motors. In connection with the Shimano Steps motor you can also switch automatically.
MaintenanceAlmost maintenance-free. An oil change is recommended only every 10,000 km or once a year.Almost maintenance-free. An oil change is recommended only every 5,000 km or once a year.Maintenance freeMaintenance-free, sometimes shifting cables have to be adjusted on the mechanical version
HandleRotary handleStanding, rollingRotary handle“Rapid Fire” thumb shifter, in the electronic version shift button on the handlebar
ShiftingStanding or rolling and under partial load. In faster gears under full load.While standing, rolling and under partial load.While standing, rolling and under loadWhile standing, rolling and under load
EfficiencySince there are only two gear stages, a Pinion transmission is more efficient than a derailleur. The efficiency is somewhat below a RohloffOffers the highest efficiency of all hub gearsThe increased friction results in a slight loss of performance compared to derailleur gearsSlightly less than Rohloff Speedhub
Costsstarting from $700starting from $1000starting from $350starting from $150