Shimano’s eight-speed Alﬁne hub was originally designed for utility and trekking bikes, but it’s since been adopted by a handful of mountain bike manufacturers.
Rohloff’s Speedhub is an obvious point of comparison, but the two systems aren’t really competing with each other. The Alﬁne has fewer gears and a considerably narrower range (it’s like a 12-38T, eight-speed cassette), but it’s markedly cheaper.
We’ve found that the gear range is adequate for most rides – you’re just losing the extremely low and high gears – although the jumps between gears are big enough that you tend to choose a gear for the next mile of trail and then stick with it.
Being able to shift without pedalling is a boon on technical trails, though, and there’s nothing to snag or break off. Alﬁne’s trigger shifter is ergonomically familiar, although its action is reversed – the thumb lever accesses higher gears.
Shifting is remarkably smooth and the hub is usually quiet. But wheel removal is ﬁddly, requiring a suitable spanner and careful alignment on reﬁtting.