First look: Shimano Alfine 11-speed hub gear

Lighter, smoother and off-road ready

Shimano are bringing out a new version of their top-end Alfine hub gear system that's said to be lighter and smoother, and will offer three more gears.

Targeted at on- and off-road users, and available from September 2010, the SG-700 hub will have 11 gears, with a wider range than before and smaller steps between them, which should mean smoother shifting.

The internals have been revamped with the introduction of helical cogs, as found in car gearboxes, which have angled rather than straight-cut teeth for a more gradual engagement – so shifts should again be smoother and quieter – and oil lubrication instead of grease.

The system looks set to be up to 90g lighter than the old eight-speed hub, at a projected 1.59kg (3.5lb). It'll be operated via a new Alfine Rapidfire Plus SL-700 shifter which will be familiar to users of Shimano's top-end mountain bike units, with Two-Way release instead of the reverse action of the old shifter.

We liked the original hub when we tested it back in 2008 and the new unit looks even better. Shimano were showing it off on a town bike, but it'll be interesting to see how it copes with the rigours of off-road riding on a mountain bike. "It's going to open up a lot of new opportunities," says Mark Greshon, Shimano brand manager at UK distributors Madison.

Shimano alfine 11-speed hub gear:
Shimano alfine 11-speed hub gear:

CW has been riding mountain bikes for more than two decades now. He's the first to admit he's not the fittest or most skilful rider on the hill, but that doesn't stop him sweating up the climbs to have a blast on the downhills.
  • Discipline: MTB, commuting
  • Preferred Terrain: Big mountains and flowing singletrack
  • Current Bikes: Whyte T-129 S SCR, Stanton Sherpa 853, Pinnacle Dolomite 6
  • Dream Bike: Evil The Following
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston Old Peculier
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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