Shimano is stirring up the market for internal hub gears with the launch of its new 11-speed Alfine model. Could this be a new challenge for the German-engineered Rohloff hub, by far the favourite of touring cyclists to date?
The Shimano option is certainly less expensive. With an expected retail price of just $419 U.S. or about €300, it costs a fraction of the Rohloff and will be infinitely more accessible to cycle tourists who love the convenience of internal hub gearing but aren’t prepared to spend thousands of dollars on a top-notch expedition touring bike.
The Shimano Alfine also has a weight advantage, at 1,600 grams versus 1,847 grams for the Rohloff.
And while the Shimano doesn’t have quite the gear range that Rohloff does, at 11 speeds to Rohloff’s 14 speeds, or a ratio of 409% compared with 526% for the Rohloff, it’s getting close. Some cyclists may be more than willing to compromise.
If you’re wondering what those numbers mean, a 409% gear ratio means the highest gear is 4.09 times greater than the lowest gear. The increments between the gears are 17% in 2 cases and 13% for the remaining 8.
The first models of the new 11 speed Shimano Alfine are due out in September 2010.