Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

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Brucey
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Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by Brucey »

I am, I confess, an electronic shifting sceptic. I quite like hub gears. New for this year, the unholy progeny of.... 'electronically shifted hub gears'.

http://www.bikeradar.com/news/article/shimano-alfine-di2-first-pictures-33229?ns_campaign=Other_br-article-test&ns_mchannel=hl&ns_source=article_type_c_most_viewed&ns_linkname=0&ns_fee=0

Words fail me. Really..... If they had put the indexing inside the hub it would have been a worthwhile improvement, but instead they have bolted a load of electronic gubbins on the outside. Instead of a simple cable and a single shifter, we have a shifter, wires, a display, batteries (inside the frame somewhere...), more wires, and a pie tin full of horror on the hub itself.

Ergonomically the end result is the same, expect now there are many more ways for your bike to go wrong. Having ridden an Alfine 11, I would say that the shift was very light indeed, just as it should be bearing in mind that you are not throwing the chain around the place. Shimano have not given us any alternative shift positions (which might have been one good reason for doing this) and have seemingly concentrated on solving a problem that didn't really exist.

All this whilst apparently ignoring the fact that many utility cyclists already worry about fixing punctures because the back wheel is difficult to take out; I can't imagine that this will improve matters....

Is it just me or have they somewhat lost the plot with this one? :shock: :shock:

cheers
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snibgo
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by snibgo »

The article says: "The number of possible shifts is dictated by the hub, not the shifter, which merely sends electronic pulses."

This suggests the indexing is in the hub, but with an indicator on the bars saying which gear is in use. I last used bub gears 40 years ago, and I'm very wary of needing batteries to change gear, but I suppose someone will like it.
MacBludgeon
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by MacBludgeon »

It's a strange one, I really hadn't expected it and I'm not averse to the concept. I have looked at the Shiftezy system for the Rohloff hub but haven't committed to it as yet. Looking at them:-

Rohloff Shiftezy - you replace the external clickbox with the servo motor mechanism which is basically performing the same function as the clickbox. Then a single wire runs from that to the battery and then another wire from batterry to control unit. From there you run one or two wires to shifters depending on whether you run seperate push button affairs for up and down or a single rocker switch to cover both. Everything remains on the bike and the battery is removed for charging. - I can see the attraction of this as it replaces the twin cable affair and twist shifter but they are easy to reinstate and the servo mech could be removed and shifting done manually at the hub, in a get you home sort of way.

Alfine Di2 - so the same sort of setup though I can't quite see where the control mechanism is, whether it's part of the battery unit, part of the bar display(doesn't look like it) or within the hub add on section. My guess is the control unti and servo mechanism are both in the hub add-on as a sealed unit that just receives power. - I can still see an attraction here but think the shift options could/should be expanded, some sort of push button affair that can be positioned where you want would be beneficial. I'd also have concerns around the 'get you home capacity' in case of fault. I'd be hoping there's some sort of screw fitting to the hub add-on allowing manual shifting/setting of gear in case of electrical/servo failure. It would also be nice if the servo mech was interchangeable with the standard mech for Alfines.

Overall the concept of a sealed shift unit that removes the need for lengthy cable runs seems like a decent idea. As long as there is scope for manual intervention or an easy return to manual useage instead. More shifter options would be a bonus and much easier to move a shifter around to work out your ideal location. A big downside could be additional weight added by the servo, control unit and battery pack, with their accompanying wires, are likely to be a fair chunk heavier than what is removed.
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stewartpratt
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by stewartpratt »

Once they lose the battery and run it (and a pair of lights and maybe a USB charger) from a dynohub it'll all make perfect sense.
Malaconotus
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by Malaconotus »

stewartpratt wrote:Once they lose the battery and run it (and a pair of lights and maybe a USB charger) from a dynohub it'll all make perfect sense.


Agreed. I like it. To me it looks like the indexing has moved from the lever to the 'pie-tin' on the hub.

I see there will also be a drop-bar lever, based on the Ultegra lever, for it, which will be very popular on sporty commuter bikes here and in the US.

And the handlebar display has the unexplained letters A, S, and M on it. (Automatic, Semi Automatic, and Manual???)

Far from complicating things for the average user, this starts to move bikes into the territory that cars and computers have already occupied. It is a downside that bikes are, and need to be, user serviceable. The average user just wants to ride the thing, and a dynamo-hubbed, belt-driven, hub-geared, auto-shifting, bike demands less user intervention. The market for cars and computers hasn't been dented by the fact that users no longer consult the Haynes manual or boot to the C:\ prompt.
Brucey
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by Brucey »

there is already an STi type lever that works a cable for the Alfine 11 hub. I've ridden it and it is fine, very light in action. If you can work a brake lever you will be unlikely to struggle with this gear lever. I can't believe that this is going to be any more or less 'user servicable' TBH. The electronic version has a gear display, but so what? I mean if they covered up the mechanical version with a pie tin and told you it worked by magic would you be very much the wiser?

There are as yet no signs of any of the possible 'advantages' that a system of this type might permit such as automatic shifting or multiple shifter positions. If these appear, but come with any downside then there is a value judgement to be made....

The 'pie tin' looks large enough that it might prevent either a belt drive or a chaincase from being fitted. D'oh! :roll:

cheers
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PW
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by PW »

The whole idea of a modern hubgear is reliability and low servicing costs/intervals. You're right Bruce, they've got this one around their necks. :roll:
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s1965c
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by s1965c »

Replacing cables with electronic controls? Renault electronic handbrake anyone?

That was a resounding flop, even by Renault's standards. A broken cable = a £400 bill. Even when not broken (not a normal situation with a Renault), randomly refusing to release the brakes until the car's been rebooted isn't unheard of.

No thanks, replacing a simple system with one that's brilliant if it's working but which has the ability to leave you stranded if it isn't doesn't do it for me. Let's be honest, is this really about a better system for normal users, or is it driven by the need to extract more money from commuting MAMILs?
Last edited by s1965c on 2 Mar 2012, 11:39am, edited 1 time in total.
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Malaconotus
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by Malaconotus »

Brucey wrote:there is already an STi type lever that works a cable for the Alfine 11 hub. I've ridden it and it is fine, very light in action.

The Versa lever has had mixed reviews. I know of at least one person who returned a bike when after two replacement levers were fitted the lever broke a third time. YMMV, of course. (and it is hard to separate user error from technical problem when reading web reviews)

Brucey wrote:There are as yet no signs of any of the possible 'advantages' that a system of this type might permit such as automatic shifting or multiple shifter positions.

Reading between the lines of the journalists' reports, Shimano are hinting that this is coming, but it will all be under NDA with the press currently. Basically, let any cats out of bags and that's the last time your organisation gets a launch invite.

Brucey wrote:The 'pie tin' looks large enough that it might prevent either a belt drive or a chaincase from being fitted. D'oh! :roll:

I reckon that pie tin, the battery box, and the bar indicator are completely non-functional bits of plastic at the moment, and the real gubbins is still in development. Alfine will have to be belt compatible, but may not be chaincase compatible, which would wait for the trickle down to Nexus.
Brucey
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by Brucey »

Malaconotus wrote:
Brucey wrote:there is already an STi type lever that works a cable for the Alfine 11 hub. I've ridden it and it is fine, very light in action.

The Versa lever has had mixed reviews. I know of at least one person who returned a bike when after two replacement levers were fitted the lever broke a third time. YMMV, of course.


interesting... do you know what broke? I didn't see any reason why it should be any different to any other STi (i.e. not my first choice but reliable enough for most uses) but that doesn't mean that they didn't drop a b****ck with it.... :wink:

cheers
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Malaconotus
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by Malaconotus »

Brucey wrote:interesting... do you know what broke? I didn't see any reason why it should be any different to any other STi (i.e. not my first choice but reliable enough for most uses) but that doesn't mean that they didn't drop a b****ck with it.... :wink:

cheers


Google-fu is failing on the chap who sent the bike back, but there are two reports of failure and replacment on this YACF thread. The OP reports his failure on page 2 and a 2nd poster relates a similar tale on page 6... http://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=50729.0

EDIT: Mention of a returned bike in the 4th comment here, but no detail... http://road.cc/content/news/53529-shima ... alfine-di2

I don't have first hand experience, and the two regular customers in the shop I work in are happy with the Versa shifters on their Genesis bikes, but I have seen more web-reported negative experience, certainly in relation to the likely sales volume, with these than with, say, Shimano Sora brifters.
Last edited by Malaconotus on 2 Mar 2012, 12:09pm, edited 1 time in total.
TwoWheelsGood
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by TwoWheelsGood »

I think that more people will be happier with Alfine Di2 if it offered automatic shifting modes as well as manual gear selection, and given the additional indicators spotted on the prototype gear display this is a distinct possibility, even if not offered in its first incarnation. Shimano once sold an electric shift unit for the (now discontinued) Nexus 4 speed hub about 12 years ago which offered two automatic shifting modes as well as manual gear selection (Halfords sold a bike which had this system), so Alfine Di2 should be based on reasonably proven technology.

Also I hope that at least the 11 speed version of Alfine Di2 will have some means of shifting down more than one gear at once otherwise it will be at least five button pushes required each time you have to stop quickly.
stewartpratt
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by stewartpratt »

s1965c wrote:No thanks, replacing a simple system with one that's brilliant if it's working but which has the ability to leave you stranded if it isn't doesn't do it for me.


Although will it leave you stranded or will it leave you with a singlespeed? I suspect the latter for nearly all failures.

In any case, you need to account for the failure rate, which may well be much lower than for a derailleur setup. If it never leaves you stranded then there's no need for it to be serviceable.
Brucey
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by Brucey »

stewartpratt wrote:
Although will it leave you stranded or will it leave you with a singlespeed? I suspect the latter for nearly all failures.


with a mechanical system there is usually a way of setting it in the gear of your choice by jury rigging; with the electronic system I doubt this is the case. BTW there is no 1:1 gear in the Alfine hub if the specs are to be believed... Weird huh?

stewartpratt wrote: In any case, you need to account for the failure rate, which may well be much lower than for a derailleur setup. If it never leaves you stranded then there's no need for it to be serviceable.


It should be compared to the cable operated hub gear, not a derailleur, surely?

cheers
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Malaconotus
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Re: Alfine Di2; lost the plot?

Post by Malaconotus »

Brucey wrote:BTW there is no 1:1 gear in the Alfine hub if the specs are to be believed... Weird huh?


Does anyone know if the 0.998 ratio is for real or a rounding error in calculation?
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