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.
Read more on Bike Europe and on the German site Aktiv Radfahren.
3rd February 2010 at 5:00 pm #
Finally. I was waiting for this. Hopefully with a belt drive, too.
3rd February 2010 at 9:21 pm #
I’m not sure about this. To me, it’s pricey but isn’t backed by a great reputation like the Rohloff.
Does it require a special frame size, like the Rohloff?
3rd February 2010 at 9:27 pm #
There aren’t a lot of details yet, so I’m not sure on the frame size. As for durability and performance, you’re right. A lot remains to be proven.
25th August 2010 at 6:28 am #
Shimano made the alfine as an upgrade from the nexus hub. I bought the nexus as i was able to get a whole new bike with it for &100! It is an 8speed hub and as I have made do with SA 3speeds for years it was a revalation. If you are worried about reliability I can only say that I was suprised that an upgrade came so soon, I have not heard of any serious problems with the nexus and when problems do occur they seem to be to do with set up – something that is quite easy if you can read and use a spanner. Frankly I am waiting for the Alfine 11speed hub to come out in September 2010 and will immediatley use it as the basis for my next build.
5th February 2010 at 10:53 pm #
The german article linked below explains that it’s compatible with the rest of the alfine group (read: cranks, meaning same chainline), suggesting that it’s designed with standards and interoperability in mind.
But what the heck do you mean by “frame size.” When people say frame size, they’re talking about fit. Do you mean the rear dropout spacing? 135 is hardly “special.” Or are you talking about the torque arm? That only means a little clamp or special dropouts (or long horizantal dropouts – the oem hub will make a friction connection with long horizantal dropouts.)
5th February 2010 at 11:18 pm #
You’re right, poor choice of wording there with ‘frame size’. Yes, I meant (and assume James meant as well) the special dropouts that Rohloff Hubs require. I won’t claim to be an expert on Rohloffs, so I’ll refer to Sheldon Brown for the details 🙂 http://www.sheldonbrown.com/internal-gears.html#rohloff
6th February 2010 at 1:18 am #
No special dropouts are required for any nexus 7/8 or alfine 8 hubs. I have built 6 projects on 80’s steel japanese bikes with semi horizontal dropouts and all worked great. You do need special non turn washers. Belt drive only requires the rear cog instead of a toothed one for a chain. I think this 11 speed is going to be the cat’s meow. I can’t wait for one.
6th February 2010 at 7:17 am #
Great to know. Thanks for sharing! I still struggle to come to terms with the cost of a Rohloff but at about 1/3 of the price, I think the Shimano Alfine is really tempting.
7th February 2010 at 4:51 pm #
I agree. I would bet Shimano would make it compatible with
their other non turn washers. Same with the cogs. I can’t wait either.
28th February 2010 at 9:25 pm #
I am glad that Shimano are coming out with this new hub as i have been toying with the idea of buying a rollhoff but the price has made me think carefully i cannot wait for the test results on this new shimano 11 speed as i am a great fan of shimano gear and find it very reliable.
PS i do a lot of extended touring and will use this hub to tour with hopefully it will meet my expectations as most shimano products have
2nd April 2010 at 10:01 pm #
The perfect marraige-or threesome-would be this hub, belt drive, and the rivendell reverse diagonal dropouts. The Riv dropouts allow you to change the front chainrings by up to 8 teeth and use the same chain while keeping the same brake pad/rim alignment! No on the fly shifting but perfect for someone who rides on rolling to flat during the week but heads for the mountains or bike camps on weekends. Oh, and a 120mm width version too please to make a track frame truly versatile!
30th June 2010 at 12:06 am #
I believe all the Alfine gear is designed with disc brakes in mind. They’ll never get all that gear in a 120mm package, so you can keep dreaming of your 11 speed track bike. When this comes out I’m getting one for commuting with a belt. Fully weatherproof commuting. Finally!
15th July 2010 at 8:48 am #
I’d expect the 11-speed to eventually come in the same versions as the other Shimano hub gears:
Disc brake, roller brake, coaster brake and free wheel (for rim brakes).
As for weatherproofing:
I sincerely hope they have NOT copied the gearshifting mechanism from the Nexus 7, which is known to seize up, as soon as temperatures are as much as nearing freezing.
1st July 2010 at 5:21 am #
For me, the things that makes this 11-speed Alfine appealing are:
1. Oil bath lubrication, vs. grease on other Shimano IGHs.
2. Helical gears.
3. Triple roller clutches
4. Needle bearings.
If all these are true, then this should be MUCH smoother running and smoother shifting than a Rohloff. Too bad Shimano is silent about date of availability in North America.
24th July 2010 at 7:34 pm #
I am in the process of building a frame! Should I go with 135mm or 130mm spacing. I want the option of using a internal hub and or single speed cog belt of chain! Any suggestions?
25th July 2010 at 5:06 pm #
James, I’m afraid I’m not such an expert on frame building. Maybe track down a mechanic at your bike shop and ask?
6th August 2010 at 12:03 am #
Go for 135. It’s not a problem to add additional 5MM of washers to a 130 hub. I run Deore hubs (135) on my urban and touring bikes. They are built to take more abuse.
10th December 2010 at 12:32 am #
Assuming the frame is steel, 132.5 leaves you the most options.
6th August 2010 at 3:12 pm #
Vin Cox just went roudn the world on the old 8-speed verison, an 18000 mile test drive with no problems. You can adapt to belt drive but this would require abreak in the frame to fit as you cant break the belt like you can a chain.
Removing the rear wheel is easy enough (although not quite as easy as Rohloff) as there is a cable joint to reconnect. I believe the new 11 speed has the two way cable like the Rohloff
8th September 2010 at 12:01 am #
The main difference I see, and IMO a detractor for the Shimano systemin the application of an expedition bike, is the fact that each manufacturer handles indexing differently. Rohloff addresses this design need by putting the indexing in the hub. This over-rides any cable-stretch needs and makes it a non-issue. With the way the Shimano handles this, indexing in the shifter (so it appears), one needs to adjust the cables periodically, and this is counter-productive to the simplicity of use of an IGH. I think the Shimano has its place in the market, being a competent hub design for city bike applications, but I would be reticent to use it in an “expedition” setting…Just my ¢.02 and I haven’t tried either of these fine hubs, so take it FWIW.
6th October 2010 at 2:52 pm #
ive used the 8 speed version for XC/trailriding for 2 years.
I regreased it 3 times with no evidence of water ingression – (even after going throught swollen rivers – water up to the seatpost clamp!)
im currently designing and building a breakapart – Xtracycle equipped trail bike, and will be running it with the 8 speed hub which is well bedded in. Ill give 11 speed hub a go when i can get my hands on one.
Overall, for somewhere like ireland where there is constant mud on the drivetrail its great. Yes its a wee bit slow than a freshly installed 27 speed drivetrain, but so what?, im not racing!
15th October 2010 at 2:53 am #
I run the Alphine 8 speed and use it for touring with no problems at all so far. It’s uncannily smooth, shifts well (you have to back off pressure a shade on gradients) and I’m just about to grease it up for the first time, so I’ll let you know how it’s looking once I’ve done it. The only down side is that I run relatively low gearing overall, but hey, it’s touring isnt it?
It’s a doddle to take the wheel out for punctures and I’ve hardly had to adjust the cable in 2000 miles. The Shimano hubs don’t need a torque arm, special nuts sit in the dropout. i’d love the 11 speed, but that’s quite a lot of miles I can do if I put up with the ‘8’ and save the money!!
The Alphine is streets ahead of the Nexus in every way: noise changing seals etc. The 8 speed may go cheap now as well, bonus.
10th December 2010 at 1:02 am #
“The Shimano Alfine also has a weight advantage, at 1,600 grams versus 1,847 grams for the Rohloff.”
This is not quite true, because the wight provided by Shimano includes only the hub alone, while Rohloff takes the whole system (shifter, cables, whatever) into account. Read more here:
4th February 2011 at 4:03 pm #
Just a bit more food for thought…
I was researching for a new bike while I came across this interesting picture comparing some inner parts of Rohloff and Alfine hubs. The caption was along the lines of “This almost answers the questions regarding load bearing capacity…”
26th February 2011 at 12:21 am #
Indeed, the author is mistaken–the Rohloff is significantly lighter than the Alfine, not the other way around. For a juxtaposition of the two hubs as well as the entire systems, see
26th February 2011 at 12:44 am #
It’s been a while since I wrote this article… when I did, the Alfine had just been announced and there was almost no online info on it, so thanks for adding the links! I’ve talked to a few bike builders in recent months, and while there are some Alfine hubs appearing in bikes, they consensus seems to be that the Alfine hubs are better suited to commuters or perhaps very light day / weekend tourers – not extended bike touring.
20th March 2011 at 5:14 pm #
Now that they’re actually available, the retail price has gone up by $300 or so, to about $750 for the hub + the hardware kit + the shifter (all 3 are sold separately.)
26th April 2011 at 4:31 pm #
I was planning to build a bike with the Alfine 11 thinking it would be better than the 8 speed BUT… I’m reading lots of reports of indexing problems with the new 11 speed. It doesn’t seem to shift reliably. Since the old nexus 8 speed has been proven reliable, you are better off with that if you want a budget Rohloff. 8 speeds IS enough for touring and even with a Rohloff ( I have one) you’ll still rnd up walking your bike up the steeper slopes, trust me! ) and anyway the Alfine 11 only gives you the extra speeds at the high end not the low end which is where you would want them.
Best choices for hub gears remain..No 1 Rohloff speedhub and No 2
Shimano Nexus 8 / Alfine 8. ( same internals)
28th April 2011 at 1:18 pm #
I’m just praying I’m not one of the Bleeding Edge early adopters. I picked up my brand new Cube with Alfine 11 yesterday. Took it out of the car and sat it in front of the garage. by the time I got back with my Allen key to adjust the seat height there was a pool of transmission oil sitting on the slabs. I had a spin up the road none the less and the gears where miss behaving from 7 to 11. Cube are replacing the whole Wheel and Shimano taking the old one back for investigation saying this has never happened before. I’ll keep you posted.
28th April 2011 at 1:21 pm #
They’re already fitted on a few commuting bikes here in the Netherlands and I think for commuting or light touring they’d be okay but after talking to a few bike builders and mechanics here over recent months, I don’t think they’re quite a replacement for a Rohloff.
28th April 2011 at 1:27 pm #
Yes.. I wish I had found this site last week. I should have stuck to my original plan, Cannondale Bad Boy 8. Hopefully it will come good in the end and I’m not going to be giving it hard treatement.
16th May 2011 at 3:13 pm #
On the road at last! A little bit of a delay owing to all the recent public holidays. Cube sent out a replacement bike, no arguments. I’ve only managed a few hours over the weekend and can report back the bike (Hooper) and the Alfine 11 are performing well. I have no complaints. Gear change is smooth and precise through the range (there you go, famous last words probably) I’ve not given it any rough treatment (or going to) so I can’t vouch for using this off-road. Does for me I’m happy now :0)
14th November 2011 at 12:06 am #
Shimano puts limits on Alfine-11 gearing under their warranty. They don’t want too low of gearing, as in the Alfine can’t handle too much torque. NOT what I want to hear for my loaded (30lb bike plus 60+lb gear plus 200lb rider) touring bike. If I go IGH it will have to be Rohloff til I hear proven field reports on Alfine.
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