|Plus: Very silent, very fast, very precise, ideal for city bikes, decent price|
|Minus: Relatively heavy weight, no quick release|
Shimano Alfine 8 Speed is, as its name suggests, an 8 speed integrated rear hub. If you ask yourself what this means, you should know that the classical rear derailleur is no longer needed, the drive train becomes more compact, and maintenance work is almost zero. Last but not least, Alfine is perfectly capable of offering the best gear ratios working with only one chainring, so a double or triple crank is no longer needed.
This hub is perfect for city bikes, and lately racers have even begun installing it on various XC or cyclocross bikes. As these riders are still a minority, we will focus on how this hub works on bicycles meant to be ridden inside town.
As soon as you start pedaling you will be impressed by how quiet the whole system works. Gears are shifted almost instantly, sooner than you can realize that something even happened inside the hub. And I repeat, everything happens so silently, which is quite impressive! Another very important feature of this system is that you can shift gears without pedaling!
Shimano Alfine is connected to a lever installed on the handlebar, which allows you to shift gears. If you are used to rapidfire levers common on mountain bikes, you will quickly get familiar with Alfine’s lever. The only trouble is that up and down shifting is reversed compared to a usual rear derailleur. This means that the lower pad will shift into a higher gear, you will have to pedal harder, but you will be able to ride faster. The lever does not have a 2 Way Release function, so you can only shift gears by pushing the lever. The display indicating the gear you’re in is precise and easy to read.
The only situation in which Alfine will let you know it has to work hard is when you decide to shift gears under heavy load, which is to say as soon as you start pedaling hard. But, all you will hear is a slightly louder noise and that is all.
The Shimano Alfine hub basically replaces an 8 speed cassette in a 12-38 tooth configuration, and it can only do this by using a 20 tooth sprocket. A weight of 1.590 grams is not on everyone’s taste, and even if you put together the weight of a cassette, a hub and a rear derailleur you’re still far from reaching these figures. Plus, if you experience technical difficulties, it’s very certain you won’t fix the hub by yourself. Trust us, there’s a real automated power plant inside! But, of course there are persons trained to solve such problems, and in fact there are very few known cases of failure for this hub.
However, mounting this hub presents itself with a minus. It can only be done with two screws, and inherently, a key. Thus, fixing a flat tire can be really frustrating. A quick release would have been much simpler, but this would have involved using another axle. Most probably, Shimano had it reasons not to do so.
Across town, gears 3 and 4 are quite enough. Should you want to go faster, 5 and 6 gears will give you enough power, while pedaling in the last two highest gears is less likely to be necessary.
To conclude, the 8 gears integrated Shimano Alfine hub does an impressive work. It can be used on city bikes but also mountain bikes, if you don’t have a problem with its weight. Alfine’s strengths are rapidity and silent functioning, and if you combine them with a very unpretentious maintenance, you get a very interesting package, an alternative which is worth being considered. It has an acceptable cost, approximately 120 euro, which is to be considered as the hub replaces a cassette and a derailleur and does not require a double or triple crank.
Weight: 1.590 grams