You say ‘Alf-ine’ and I say ‘Alfeen-eh’…

With my Troll now Rohloff-ed, and efforts redoubled to sell my Thorn Club Tour, I’m in the market for a new off road rig.

As good as the Troll is, I prefer the steam-rolling capabilities of a 29-er and I’m going join Surly’s 29+ movement – such a sucker for Surly’s anti-marketing marketing – in the form of an ECR. The order’s been placed and I should get my grubby mitts on the frame in January all being well.

While die-hard MTB riders may struggle with the notion of the ECR, finding it limiting over the trail-hungry Krampus, it seems perfect for me. A stable, dependable animal for my ponderous progress off road… plus the all-important ability to load it up with camping junk.

Having to wait until January means I have plenty of time to consider the build. I’m leaning towards Velocity Dually rims, Surly Knards, trusty Avid bb7 brakes, Jones bars, and a similar chainset arrangement to my Troll, Middleburn.

Shimano Alfine 8 (Pic: Shimano)

Shimano Alfine 8 (Pic: Shimano)

However, I am struggling with the rear end. I need a fairly low range yet reliable set up on this machine. The bike is already heavy – particularly in the mahooosive size I need – not to mention the various stuffsacs and associated crap I’ll lash on to it for these weekend jaunts.

Early positive impressions of the Rohloff have me optimistically eyeing the uber IGH again. However, I don’t think I can find the funds unless someone is very generous on my 40th birthday.

So I’ve looked at alternatives, namely Shimano’s Alfine units.

Tap seemingly innocent queries into Google – ‘ Alfine reliability’ or ‘Alfine low ratio’ – and you’ll be greeted with acres of forum chuntering about this hub. Available in an eight speed and a more complex 11 ratio unit, the Alfine has loyal followers in the MTB community and a fair number of detractors who claim it is not up to the rigours of off-road touring.

I’ve spent a few hours wading though this stuff and it would appear that you can push the design constraints of the simpler eight speed over its pricier brother.

In the interests of a clean drivetrain I’ll take a long, hard look at the simpler eight speed, ideally running a 32 up front and a 22 sprocket on the rear. However, this may lead to its premature death and I might be better off with a 1×10 or 1×9.

Decisions, decisions. Any thoughts gratefully received…

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About Matt Hobley

Hillwalker, backpacker, cyclist, whisky fan.
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19 Responses to You say ‘Alf-ine’ and I say ‘Alfeen-eh’…

  1. I own five bikes and have Alfine hubs on three of them (two 8′s and one 11). I’ve published several reviews of them on my blog. Here are two of the links:
    http://wp.me/p1sFbY-18z
    http://wp.me/p1sFbY-K3
    I use this hubs both on and off road and they are wonderful in the snow!

    • Hi, and thanks for the links… I’d already found them on my web trawl ;-) So, it seems you have no problem pushing lower ratios on your Alfine 8? I think I am going to give one a try. It won’t be the end of the world if I do manage to mangle it. I really do like the ‘clean’ set up provided by an IGH . I don’t change gear under great load on any of my bikes, either, even those with derailleurs. I’ve always backed off… it’s a muscle memory thing I guess.

      • I’ve not had any trouble with either of the 8′s or the 11. However, if I had it to do all over again I would have put an 11 on my Fat Bike with a single speed up front — that way I wouldn’t have to worry about the front derailleur freezing over — it has happened a few times after riding through deep snow — then there is no easy way to thaw out the derailleur (OK, you can urinate on it to free it up, but NEVER tell your bike mechanic what you did or no one will want to work on your bike again).

      • Ha ha…thanks for the tip :-) A guy in my office is a similar fan of the 11, if not the technique you suggest!

  2. derf says:

    here’s some eccentric feedback: I had an Alfine (8 speed) on a pedelec (and old lafree) – it broke after around 5000 miles (a bit over a year) – to be fair this included many drag starts with maximum torque

  3. I have a similar problem… You know that green 18″ Ogre frameset in the shop? It’s mine at a ridiculous price, if I pull the trigger…

    But, what to put on it? I’m thinking of a Nexus 8 speed with dynamo up front and roller brakes front & rear… The ultimate (affordable) Manchester commuter?

    Does one need a Troll AND an Ogre…?

    • Of course one does :-) No good asking me though… I am like Nick O’Teen from the old TV ads.

      The sounds like a great ride. I was very close to an Ogre myself (and the had the Troll/Ogre debate) before opting for the ECR (with the option of Ogre-ing it in future if I grow weary of the fat rubber).

      I feel a wee bit more comfortable about this purchase now I’ve found a buyer for my Club Tour (all being well).

      By the way, if you need a set of decent 26er disc wheels for commuting/touring my old Troll set are available for silly money. Deore hubs, DCR rims 36 spoke (!) Built by the shop and retensioned after Iceland. Couple of scratches but in very good order. Probably not for you given your Ogre plans, but if you need them for a build or know someone who wants give me a shout. Deffo do a deal…£40?? Failing that, they’ll go on the ‘Bay.

  4. I’ve just orders an ECR and I am going for the alfine 11 speed hub at the back. I’m hoping I’ll have mine rideable in December or early January so I will let you know how it goes. I’m hoping the ECR with IGH and dynamo becomes the ultimate bike!

    • Please do… I was going to go fully fat with a Pugsley but think I have made the right choice with this rig. We’ll see. Interested to know what ratios you plan to run on the Alfine 11

  5. Pingback: that’s not my name | life in the cycle lane

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