Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Shimano Alfine 11 - Character assassination

My previous experience of Shimano products had been pretty good, you can't really avoid using Shimano components at some stage, they are ubiquitous in the cycling world and generally pretty good. But after becoming an owner of an Alfine IGH I began to realise that Shimano are a long way from having great customer service. I contacted one of the official UK Shimano representatives with questions and problems about my hub and the feedback I got was.......zero, no answer, no response, nothing. 

 Now I didn't buy the bike with a Shimano Alfine 11 on it - no I built the bike from scratch and specifically chose the hub. So, I bought the hub, and then discovered that I had to buy the 'fixings kit' as well. This kit isn't some optional extra to bling up the hub and pimp my ride, no - it's an essential component of the hub without which it will not work. Why therefore is it sold separately? As I learnt more about the hub, I could see the costs spiralling. When I looked into performing a service I couldn't believe the cost of the gear oil and servicing kit. And Shimano cleverly won't give any detail of the oil so owners worried about using incompatible products will be forced to use the branded stuff at massive cost.

What are the specifications of the Alfine 11? Surely this is an easy question, like what are the gearing tolerances? What is its weight? How do I service the hub? This information just isn't out there, it's like the engineers created a product but never actually thought about its use in the real world. When the product was released Shimano should also have been putting all the associated information out into the public domain so that owners can use, maintain and service their hubs. Instead it has been hearsay and some brave pioneers tinkering with their hubs and putting the info online. 

effing heavy.com

So, with the Alfine 11 you will experience little information, poor product support, nil customer services, and massive price tags for anything associated with it. My recommendation is don't by it. I have removed mine and gone gladly back to derailleurs.  I even considered boycotting Shimano altogether after this experience but that's nigh on impossible, plus there are some things Shimano do well and I recognise that - just stick to the tried and tested products and steer clear of anything new on the market.

No bike should be this complicated - ever!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Alfine question - Crap or Not Crap?

The Shimano Alfine 11 speed internal gear hub. Apparently its pronounced Al-feen and not All-fine, the latter indicating a blatant un-truth so the marketing department spent a few hundred thousand dollars re-branding the pronunciation of the product - clever chaps!

Click, click, click, crunch, crunch, click, click, is that my knees? Hmmm no, the body seems to be in working order so what can that noise be? Oh its coming from the back of the bike, from the Alfine hub, I move up a gear, the noise goes, I move back down a gear - no noise, all seems well again.

Crunch, click..................crunch, click..........hmm, let's just check and see that the gears are lined up (This is a regular check). Those little yellow dots, like two planets coming into alignment, this amuses me somewhat since the Alfine has planetary gears. The dots line up just as they should on the chosen gear. Continue peddling.......click! Seriously! This happens a lot, sometimes the little yellow dots have moved out of alignment, sometimes they haven't, bring them back under control if they have moved or give them an accusing stare if they haven't, carry on pedalling......crunch.

I move down a gear, a miniature car crash occurs in the Alfine hub, a few random gears throw themselves at each other and both they, and I, am unsure just what will occur this time. Click, crunch...pedal, pedal...that's it - phew, looks like we made it through that gear change. 

I relax slightly, trying to let the adrenaline pass before the next gear change.
Pedals are turning, I am cranking away, my foot fires down uncontrolled, the squishy bits between my legs impact the saddle ...christ, bloody hell, wtf! My chain just snapped! Look down, nope the chain is still there, sat on the cogs just like it should be. I turn the cranks, the chain goes round but I am turning air. All of the sprockets cogs and gears inside the Alfine have just disappeared, it's the only explanation. There is just nothing there. I move up a gear - air. I move up another gear - contact! We have drive! I move back down two gears just to check if the space/time portal that stole my fourth gear a moment ago has deemed fit to return it - it has. There they are, working as they should be, almost slightly apologetic about what just happened.  I carry on like nothing happened, well except now the squishy bits between my legs hurt more than they did a moment ago.

I have a road bike with regular dérailleur gears, I have a mountain bike with regular dérailleur gears, they both work really rather well, I chose the Alfine hub to give me trouble free, low maintenance, low cleaning, cycling. The promise has fallen a long way short. The little magic leprechaun who lives within my Alfine hub is an evil little bugger. Shimano obviously ran out of good leprechauns at some point and had to start putting evil ones in instead, maybe he wasn't always evil, he must be pretty bored in there, I mean his only joy is occasionally stealing my gears and using his angle grinder on the rest of them.
Crunch crunch, click click, this alfine is a piece of shit.

Now there will be many people out there who will respond to this with; oh well, what you're doing wrong is......I'll stop you right there - you see the trouble is I don't care anymore. I followed the instructions - it didn't work. I followed a few bits of 'knowledge' on the web - they didn't work either. It's not like I haven't persevered with this thing, in 500miles I have yet to get it to work properly. Even if it had a complete change of heart tomorrow and promised to give me trouble free cycling from here on in, it's too late - I just don't trust you anymore little Alfine. I'm going back to derailleur's.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Surly disk trucker with Alfine 11 - Components List

At the risk of appearing to be an enormous geek I have been keeping track of all the components I've put into building the Surly, partly to keep track of how much it was all costing but mainly for my OCD nature.

Its cost rather more than I intended but every item on it has been considered and chosen carefully to meet my needs - there's no way an off the shelf bike would have been exactly as I wanted so there would have been extra cost in changing and upgrading components.

So, if its of use or interest to anyone undertaking a similar build then here is my list of what, how much, and where from;

Component Name
Frame + Forks
Surly disk trucker 54cm
Edinburgh cycles
Hub Gear
Alfine 11
Back cog
Shimano alfine 23 tooth
ebay shop
Front Hub
Shimano XT centre lock M785
On One
Sun-Ringle Rhyno
On One
Inc.in build costs
Wheel Building
On One
Chain tensioner
On One Doofer
On One
Front chainring
Shimano Alvio 32 tooth
On One
Crank Arms
Shimano Alvio
On One
Front chainring bolts
MKS Sylvan Touring Pedals
Pedal clips
MKS Half Deep Section Toe Clip with Leather
Bottom Bracket
Shimano UN55 68x113mm
On One
Crank bolts
Ebay - New
Gear Shifters
Versa 11
On One
Brake Leavers
Avid BB7 - Road
Shimano LX centrelock
On One
Brooks B17 special
ebay shop
Seat Post
On One Twelfty 27.2mm
ebay - second hand
On One
Handle Bars
On One Midge
On One
Handlebar Tape
Easton cork bar tape
Bontrager SSR 75mm 10 deg
Had it already
Brand X alloy spacers 5x10mm
Chain Reaction Cycles
Schwalbe marathon dureme double defense 26x2
Had it already
Brake cable
Jagwire Hyper (cable kit)
Mud Guards
SKS Bluemels 60mm
Panier Frame - Rear
Tubus cargo
Panier Frame - Front
Unbranded aluminium lowrider
Ebay shop
Paniers - Back
Ortlieb back roller classic
Ebay shop
Paniers - Front
Halfords 20 litre pannier pair
Handle bar bag
Altura 7l
Ebay - Second hand
Cateye strada wireless
Ebay - Second hand
Bottle Holders

Had it already