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.
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!