The Alfine hub gear is the upgraded counterpart to Shimano’s successful Nexus hub. It’s smoother, has a higher-quality feel and looks to be robust enough to go for years.
There’s a certain beauty about internally geared hubs; they might be heavier but the bonus is their easy-to-live-with nature. Shimano’s Nexus hub has always impressed, but Alfine is so much smoother and quieter.
Shifting is buttery and it feels like each gear is delivered with a rounded edge rather than a definite clunk.
That gives the impression that the shift is soft and would struggle under load, but far from it. Under heavy pedal load, the double clutch mechanism shifts, and does it well. It doesn’t wait until you back off the power, it just delivers and doesn’t scare you into thinking you’ve mangled the internals.
It’s also very robust. We know of people using it on mountain bikes, an application it was never intended for.
The eight-speed gear range is more than enough for regular town and country use. If you’re interested in the numbers, the gear ratios are: 0.53, 0.64, 0.75, 0.85, 1, 1.22, 1.42 and 1.62. With a 20-tooth sprocket on hub, this approximately imitates the gears on a 12-38-tooth cassette.
That’s a big range and means you’ll be able to get up the hills and down them with a bit of speed as well. Squeezing eight gears in that large range does leave quite big gaps between each gear, but you get used to it, only occasionally missing an in-between gear to smooth out pedal input.
It takes time to dismantle the cable assembly before removing the rear wheel – it’s not difficult but it is a mechanical rather than a quick procedure. However, this is the only fiddling you have to endure and once set up the hub just purrs along.
The hub comes with the option of mounting a Center Lock disc for more braking power and it also needs a dedicated shift lever.
The Rapidfire-inspired lever does one gear at a time, and costs an additional £24.99. This is a bit of a shame because the efficiency of the hub deserves the speed of a multiple gear changer like a twist shifter.
On price and performance the Alfine hub is excellent. It weighs 1590g and is the only system that comes close to the more expensive SRAM i-Motion 9.