Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

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TwoWheelsGood
Posts: 189
Joined: 6 Feb 2007, 8:32pm

Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby TwoWheelsGood » 31 May 2012, 11:53pm

Now that the Shimano Alfine 11 hub gear has been around for a while, I'm possibly interested in this hub for a future bike build because it seems to offer everything I want for a relatively reasonable price. I've tested a Scott Sub 10 Solution bike featuring an Alfine 8 hub which I liked, and the Alfine 11 addresses my concerns with the Alfine 8 (flat bar shifter design, gear spacing, etc.), therefore it seems perfect as long as it ends up within budget. However, Alfine 11 reliability reports still seem to be rather mixed; some people appear to have no problems whilst one person has worked their way through at least five different hubs under warranty. The majority of problems seem to relate to Gear 2 failing in particular, with some suggesting that it doesn't like to be placed under undue stress; one hub was OK for quite a while until it was ridden hard in Gear 2 up a hill, then the hub started to skip gears, etc., though many of these reports relate to off-road riding and the chainring/sprocket combination used isn't always divulged either.

One consensus appears to be that it's OK for any chainring/sprocket combination to be used as long as they are supplied by Shimano as being "suitable for Alfine", since they would otherwise get sued if this wasn't actually the case (therefore 39/23 ought to be permissible), though 1.9:1 is Shimano's 'recommendation' therefore I personally wouldn't risk go lower than, say, 39/21 (1.85:1) to be on the safe side.

So are people who suffer repeated Alfine 11 hub failures just unlucky or are they putting their hub under too much stress and/or perhaps unwittingly riding it whilst out of adjustment? Or are there genuine unresolved concerns relating to its durability? Perhaps the hub shouldn't be stressed at all until after its first oil change? Some claim that the Alfine 8 is FAR more robust by comparison, with the hub being thrashable using absurdly low input ratios without complaint.

Does anyone here use an Alfine 11 hub and 'thrash' it up steep hills on a regular basis?

Brucey
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Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby Brucey » 1 Jun 2012, 12:52am

I have a theory that when offroading, mud and dirt can get into the cassette pulley groove and this throws the indexing out. This is only a theory though...

What I do know is that some offroad alfine users regularly shift under load even though there are 'crunching sounds' coming from the hub. This kind of thing rarely ends well....

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

niggle
Posts: 3200
Joined: 11 Mar 2009, 10:29pm
Location: Cornwall, near England

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby niggle » 1 Jun 2012, 9:35am

A friend bought the Alfine 11 version of the Genesis Day 01, which came with 40T chainring and 19T sprocket. The resulting 31" first gear gave him a fair bit of difficulty on the Cornish hills, so he has had the gearing lowered now, I think with a 21T sprocket to give a 1st gear of 27" and stay just within 1.9:1 limit. For me this would be OK for climbing with a light to minimal load, but I would want substantially lower than that for loaded touring, so that appears not to be a viable use for the Alfine 11- shame.

As for the Alfine 8, I have given my Nexus 8 plenty of grief on and off road, current gearing is 40T chainring and 19t sprocket but I have run it lower, and it has withstood this without problem, but the previous Nexus 8 failed due to water ingress which seems to be the Achilles heel of that hub. I have swapped to the 'improved' drive side seals and used waterproof grease in the hub bearings to try and guard against this for the current hub, which has worked so far.

Brucey
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Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby Brucey » 1 Jun 2012, 10:03am

the '1.9 limit' may be a myth. I believe that somewhere on the web (linked to in an earlier thread) is the text of an e-mail from Shimano USA which indicates that there is not such a lower limit, even though the service instructions hint at this in the examples given.

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

niggle
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Location: Cornwall, near England

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby niggle » 1 Jun 2012, 10:21am

Fair point, the Shimano tech doc says "It is recommended that the gear ratio of the front chain ring be set to approx. 1.9" (then gives examples), which does not read to me as a limit as such. OTOH the Alfine 8 tech doc does not give any ratio recommendation.

bobc
Posts: 495
Joined: 5 Apr 2012, 11:59am

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby bobc » 1 Jun 2012, 1:31pm

Done 6-700 miles on my 11 now. So far it's been absolutely perfect. My journey has a steepish 1st gear & a 2nd gear hill, I have it geared high & I weigh 17st (+).
I just gave it its 1st oil change.
I believe early units had quality issues & it toook a year or so to iron out the gremlins.
Bob
PS I never had indexing problems due to crud on the shifter groove ;^)
I never shift under load

TwoWheelsGood
Posts: 189
Joined: 6 Feb 2007, 8:32pm

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby TwoWheelsGood » 1 Jun 2012, 5:51pm

bobc wrote:I never shift under load

This seems to be a contentious issue with Alfine 11 owners; Shimano definitely states that you CAN shift under load, and all (?) of its internal gear hubs are now supposedly designed to specifically allow this, therefore this should certainly not be an issue for its most expensive hub.

However...there's circumstantial evidence suggesting that shifting under load might be a factor relating to at least some of the persistent problems encountered by a few Alfine 11 users, but without more detailed information it's impossible to prove either way as it stands. At least one person also claims that hubs supplied as recently as this year are still breaking, which suggests either extreme bad luck or some other factor involved if the vast majority of Alfine 11 owners are now perfectly happy.

Thanks for all of the responses so far, and it seems that keeping the chainring/sprocket ratio close to Shimano's recommendation as well as ensuring that the hub is correctly adjusted and relatively clean may help to minimise potential trouble. I would also avoid shifting under load until after the first oil change as well as avoiding extreme pedal pressure when shifting to the lowest two gears unless it's categorically proven that this isn't a factor. Manufacturers are still supplying mountain bikes with Alfine 11 so it can't be that fragile!

Brucey
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Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby Brucey » 1 Jun 2012, 5:56pm

TwoWheelsGood wrote: Manufacturers are still supplying mountain bikes with Alfine 11 so it can't be that fragile!


-who carries the can though....?

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TwoWheelsGood
Posts: 189
Joined: 6 Feb 2007, 8:32pm

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby TwoWheelsGood » 1 Jun 2012, 11:37pm

Brucey wrote:
TwoWheelsGood wrote: Manufacturers are still supplying mountain bikes with Alfine 11 so it can't be that fragile!


-who carries the can though....?

Shimano of course, though there's a small but significant reputational risk to the company who manufactured the bicycle in the first place even if warranty claims are very quickly handled with no fuss whatsoever. Shimano would naturally benefit from the "extended public testing" that users would give the hub in more extreme conditions, and the Alfine 11 hub probably costs less than £80 each to manufacture (excluding R&D costs) therefore the purchase price probably pays for something like three hubs before Shimano (theoretically) loses money per customer. But if the majority of Alfine 11 customers breaks, say, three or more hubs during the warranty period then Shimano starts to lose a lot of money...

MacBludgeon
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Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby MacBludgeon » 3 Jun 2012, 11:20am

Well I've collated and posted a lot of the info on the A11 before and I do keep an eye on certain threads/forums for updates to progress. I've decided to wait until there're enough tales of surviving offroad hammering to make me as confident of it as I would be of the A8.

As for the shifting under load, I see that as a risk that is generally avoidable, if you're used to riding hub gears then you're used to that little pedal pause while shifting. I've always imagined that there would be a sort of sliding scale of damage potential, going from zero shifting with no load, to worst case scenario under the highest load. Yet the times at which you're most likely to feel 'forced' to shift under load are probably going to be the times that you are under the highest load. For example the Rohloff is meant to be designed with minor parts that will shear to avoid serious damage in these circumstances. I'm sure that's well designed and as effective as the other aspects of the Rohloff, but I still don't want to put it to the test.

Whatever the hub gear I'll stick with a pedal pause for a shift, it's such a natural part of the style in which I ride these bikes that it would take a concious effort on my part to ride differently. Though I accept that as my riding style isn't agressive then it's easier for me to ride in this manner than someone really trying to push for a time. I'd be more likely to stop and push than risk an overly agressive change, if it's a regular route then I'd learn and change earlier the next time.
nuns, no sense of humour

Brucey
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Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby Brucey » 3 Jun 2012, 2:34pm

I don't know which applies to the Alfine 11 but in general there are two different sorts of hub gearshift;

1) ones where as soon as the control is moved to the new position, the gear is in (or is as good as in)

2) ones where the control moves, but the shift isn't done until various springs have moved various things inside the hub.

The first type of shift is typified by the 2-1 shift on an old AW three speed; if the control moves, the shift is done. You can make this shift whilst pedalling, but in this case if you pedal too hard you can't make the shift.

The second type is typified by the 1-2 or 2-3 shift on an old AW hub. You can move the control as much as you like but the gear isn't in until the spring has moved the clutch parts. Easing pedal force on 1-2 is good enough but for 2-3 the pressure has to come off completely, or there will be all kinds of crunching sounds.

The worst gear manglings come when you have a type 2 shift but you don't know it. I recently discovered that my SA five speed hub (with the ball-locking sun pinions) has a type 2 shift on 2-1. It feels just like a three speed 2-1 shift when you pull the trigger, but it ain't; the inner part of the control rod (which comes built into the axle permanently) is itself in multiple sections which are spring loaded WRT one another. You can pull the control 2-1 but until the springs have worked their magic the wrong sun pinion is still engaged.

If pedalling under continuous load the wrong sun pinion may stay engaged until it is forced out, (which will quickly happen one you have two sun pinions engaged; this is not a tenable situation...). I speak from experience when I say that this can be noisy and destructive-sounding. I stripped my hub down just to make sure there were no pieces of shrapnel inside after few 'gotta-keep-pedalling-so-as-not-to-conk-out' 2-1 shifts which sounded terrible.

Now I ease off more on 2-1 and there are no nasty sounds.

I mention this because I find it hard to believe that the alfine hub has every shift such that it can safely be made under full load; my guess is that there are some shifts where this might be fine, and others where it is risky.

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

tandemrider
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Location: Rochdale

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby tandemrider » 4 Jun 2012, 7:40pm

Just a personal thing ,I have always just eased the pressure when changing any type of gear whether hub or derailier or car or motorbike it make engineering sense. It only needs to be a slight easing of power, therefore no loss of speed but a faster change with no breakages.
Discussion is great but RIDING the bike is what counts!

bobc
Posts: 495
Joined: 5 Apr 2012, 11:59am

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby bobc » 5 Jun 2012, 1:16pm

As others have said above, also with deraillieurs I always ease off the pressure when shifting, can't help myself ;^) Back on topic.... I help a local school with their greenpower electric racing team, and for many years we used nexus 8 and then alfine 8 gearboxes. These were always shifted under load, generally at high power levels (up to 600W) and frankly, they behaved perfectly, seemingly as good after 3000 miles of racing as when they started (better in fact - losses reduce after a few races "running in").
On my bike, I noticed a tendency (with the alfine 8) to sometimes not change down until you slackened off the pedalling torque, but in general I eased off to shift and with the 11 I stop pedalling to shift. It's no big deal - I was brought up with sturmey archer & it feels like the natural thing to do. The 11 does feel as though it would object to shifting under load, more than the 8 did.

Elizabethsdad
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Joined: 15 Jan 2011, 7:09pm

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby Elizabethsdad » 9 Jun 2012, 6:51am

I wonder what the Alfine 11 combined with the Schlumpf HSD would be like?

niggle
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Location: Cornwall, near England

Re: Shimano Alfine 11 - Longer term reliability

Postby niggle » 9 Jun 2012, 9:07am

bobc wrote:As others have said above, also with deraillieurs I always ease off the pressure when shifting, can't help myself ;^) Back on topic.... I help a local school with their greenpower electric racing team, and for many years we used nexus 8 and then alfine 8 gearboxes. These were always shifted under load, generally at high power levels (up to 600W) and frankly, they behaved perfectly, seemingly as good after 3000 miles of racing as when they started (better in fact - losses reduce after a few races "running in").
On my bike, I noticed a tendency (with the alfine 8) to sometimes not change down until you slackened off the pedalling torque, but in general I eased off to shift and with the 11 I stop pedalling to shift. It's no big deal - I was brought up with sturmey archer & it feels like the natural thing to do. The 11 does feel as though it would object to shifting under load, more than the 8 did.

I would agree that, as long as you keep water out, the 8 speed Shimano gets better with use. However I do find that the Nexus 8 gears shift better with a pedal pause, particularly when down shifting. Without the pause it can hesitate, then go in with a harsh jerk, particularly going from 5th to 4th, though that has improved with time and lubing as well. Incidentally what did you do in the way of maintenance? I have a Nexus 8 with about 7000 miles on it and I have only lubed it by drizzling some oil over the internals and re-greasing the main outer hub bearings. I really feel I should strip it totally and degrease to remove any metal filings etc, but there is one tool that costs a lot and appears to be indispensable, TL-8s10 for removing the right hand cone.

'Back in the day' I remember it seemed some (poorly maintained or adjusted?) SA 3 speeds would not shift without a bit of actual back pedalling, or maybe that was a needless ritual that coincidentally gave the internals time to do their thing?