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  1. #1
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    Sturmey-Archer 5 spd vs Alfine 8

    Ok, I've been thinking for a while about building up a IGH bike. My ideal hub would tick off the following boxes:

    1) Trigger shifter (must have)
    2) Not be stupidly expensive (>500$)
    3) Be reasonably light (2kg). Flexible on this one, but 2.5kg max
    4) Be reliable.
    5) Withstand enough torque for off road use
    6) Disc brakes (this is a must)
    7) Big bonus for >250% gear range -- I figure I can skip front der.
    8) Minimal servicing. Annual oil change/grease change is fine, but that's it.
    9) Noise. I like my bike quiet.

    Stuff I care about less:
    1) Quick release skewers. Since I switched to ghetto tubeless tire removal is pretty much over with
    2) Extreme gear range. 400%+ gear range is not worth what you have to give up for it, especially money.
    3) Efficiency loss.

    Researching this, the only hubs that meets all the requirements seems to be the SA 5 speed and the Shimano Alfine. At 100$ for SA, the price is right and the weight is great at around 1200g -- considering I get to drop both derailleurs and have a 100% straight chainline I think it's worth a shot. The main disadvantage of the SA seems to be lack of reliable reports of off road use, and the maximum input torque is not listed (but I don't see how MTB is really that much higher than utility bike/recomb. etc)

    The Alfine 8 seems to be more robust than the 11 based on reports as well as significantly cheaper. I consider that to be a good trade off for the gear range.

    thoughts?

  2. #2
    saddlemeat
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    I recently got the Alfine8 hub, small parts kit, cog, cassette joint, and trigger shifter for ~$275. I was previously running a 34/20 ss, and I am using a 20t cog on the Alfine8 too, so I now have four lower and 3 higher gears, which seems about right. Added 3.25 lbs. over ss weight.
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  3. #3
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    all right -- yeah, the alfine 8 seems to be it. I asked 2wagondragon on his youtube channel (he's the guy who made multiple videos on the SA mechanics) and he said flat out that he does not advise it for MTB use. That plus the fact the alfine 8 is whisper quite seals the deal for me...I guess it's the only option if you want trigger shifters IGH for mtb with reasonable gear range.

    That's a great deal on the parts -- are there more available at that price?

  4. #4
    saddlemeat
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    ^I shopped around on Google, Ebay, and as I wasn't in a hurry, I cherry picked the stuff as it came along. BTI didn't have any of it in stock at the time. I'm looking for a decent twist shifter, the rapid fire shifter is awkward and puts my brake lever too close for one finger braking.
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  5. #5
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    New question here.

    so is the consensus among MTB bikers that the Shimano Alfine 8 speed is the next strongest IGH (internally geared hub) before the Rohloff for mountain biking off-road / All-Mountain terrain?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by dejacky View Post
    so is the consensus among MTB bikers that the Shimano Alfine 8 speed is the next strongest IGH (internally geared hub) before the Rohloff for mountain biking off-road / All-Mountain terrain?
    Yes, basically. It is the base line standard against which I compare other IGHs.

    My used Alfine hub several years old is still going.
    Disclaimer: I run Regular Cycles (as of 2016). As a profiteer of the bicycle industry, I am not to be taken very seriously.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinm View Post
    Ok, I've been thinking for a while about building up a IGH bike. My ideal hub would tick off the following boxes:

    the only hubs that meets all the requirements seems to be the SA 5 speed and the Shimano Alfine.

    ...The main disadvantage of the SA seems to be lack of reliable reports of off road use...
    Hi Drew, strange how our thinking keeps intersecting

    I've just acquired a 5 speed S-A hub with the 90mm drum brake to build up for my fatbike.

    Reasons - I don't need a huge range of ratios, it's more so I can have a decently high gear for road transits, one in the middle for offroad, and a very low bottom gear for snow and bog riding. I considered the 3 speed (it's slightly lighter) - it would have been fine for the last 2 uses, but the top wouldn't have been high enough for a longer haul on a road (20-30miles).

    I spent my youth goobling about in the guts of old S-A hubs with tens of thousands of miles on them, so I have healthy respect for their quality. The 3 speed and 5 speed are in common use on industrial bikes, so they are strong enough for whatever we may use them for IMO.

    Weaknesses? they're not designed for uses where they may get immersed* and they're not designed for big jumps - the straightness of the axle is critical.

    The drum brake? Utter reliability and the hub+brake weight is similar to the Alfine without brake at 1,760gms

    *It's not too hard to seal them up better, and so long as it's not salt water, even if some water does get in, it's not the end of the world if you're prepared to do a clean out when you get home.
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  8. #8
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    I have a Sturmey Archer 5 on my commuter and I have never gotten it to work right. The neutral spot is too wide, so I pretty much always lose second gear. Sometime I get it dialed in where I can grab second on the downshift, but not the upshift, but just as often it will pop right into neutral while I'm climbing a hill. I may have gotten a dud, but I'm not the only one who has had the same experience.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by formicaman View Post
    I have a Sturmey Archer 5 on my commuter and I have never gotten it to work right. The neutral spot is too wide, so I pretty much always lose second gear. Sometime I get it dialed in where I can grab second on the downshift, but not the upshift, but just as often it will pop right into neutral while I'm climbing a hill. I may have gotten a dud, but I'm not the only one who has had the same experience.
    Cables or adjustment (ie not the hub) - or eventually, riding it while out of adjustment - in which case you've buggered the hub..
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    Cables or adjustment (ie not the hub) - or eventually, riding it while out of adjustment - in which case you've buggered the hub..
    I had the wheel built up with the hub right out of the box, professionally installed, and took it to several shops with a lot of internal gear experience including a guy who rebuilds the old ones. Replaced the cables, shifter... nobody has ever managed to make it work. I just call it a four speed at this point. I was considering buying another and swapping the innards, but found so many similar reports on forums that I figure on just living with it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by formicaman View Post
    I had the wheel built up with the hub right out of the box, professionally installed, and took it to several shops with a lot of internal gear experience including a guy who rebuilds the old ones. Replaced the cables, shifter... nobody has ever managed to make it work. I just call it a four speed at this point. I was considering buying another and swapping the innards, but found so many similar reports on forums that I figure on just living with it.
    It's not for me to argue S-A's cause, but I've seen cases like this before. It always came down to the "professionals" twiddling the adjustment and not setting it to the mark like it should be, thus causing mayhem in the gear selection, and damage if it was ridden like this.

    Things to check:
    selector rod fully screwed in
    is it the correct rod for your hub
    is the hub adjusted to the marks

    It should work properly unless it has been damaged by a lot of riding out of adjustment. If not, then you should be claiming under warranty.

    Become your own expert - here's a good place to start - I wouldn't regard any bikeshop as expert unless they can actually disassemble and rebuild the hub - and I'm not talking about just removing the assembly to dip it in lubricant.

    I'll soon be finding out if there is a systematic problem - I'll be building my 5 speed wheel up this weekend.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    It's not for me to argue S-A's cause, but I've seen cases like this before. It always came down to the "professionals" twiddling the adjustment and not setting it to the mark like it should be, thus causing mayhem in the gear selection, and damage if it was ridden like this.

    Things to check:
    selector rod fully screwed in
    is it the correct rod for your hub
    is the hub adjusted to the marks

    It should work properly unless it has been damaged by a lot of riding out of adjustment. If not, then you should be claiming under warranty.

    Become your own expert - here's a good place to start - I wouldn't regard any bikeshop as expert unless they can actually disassemble and rebuild the hub - and I'm not talking about just removing the assembly to dip it in lubricant.

    I'll soon be finding out if there is a systematic problem - I'll be building my 5 speed wheel up this weekend.
    I'll be sure to ask how that turns out. I do have the right indicator rod in the right place, etc. It could be I just got a bum hub and maybe there were a bunch of bum hubs out there since I've seen others with the same issues. That would be good, because I would like to be able to just buy a new hub and swap the innards.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by formicaman View Post
    I'll be sure to ask how that turns out. I do have the right indicator rod in the right place, etc. It could be I just got a bum hub and maybe there were a bunch of bum hubs out there since I've seen others with the same issues. That would be good, because I would like to be able to just buy a new hub and swap the innards.
    I haven't had the modern 5 speed apart, so this may not apply.

    On the old 3 speeds you had to be careful when adjusting the hub cones to keep the protrusion of the right axle from the locknuts to a certain length. Otherwise it would throw out the gear selection. Which meant you could carefully adjust to the mark but because the length was wrong the gears wouldn't index properly.

    I've looked at an exploded diagram for the 5 speed and it has cones too, but I can't find anything about the protrusion length.

    If anyone has adjusted your cones, this may be the problem (or not ).

    5 speed exploded diagram

    Edit:

    I missed it first look. Different way of saying it and measured using the axle nut not from the dropout.

    "Make sure that no more than 2.5mm of
    axle protrudes from the axle hex nut."


    Last edited by Velobike; 07-31-2013 at 03:08 PM.
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  14. #14
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    hello everyone,

    just to say that I recently put an alfine 8 on my kona unit (2013). very easy to set up, runs silently and like silk. fantastic.

  15. #15
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    I am an old fan of SA, especially the 3 speeds,, and in my bike shop we regularly tore down and rebuilt them. The 3speeds were most dependable in our rental fleet and messengers had custom wheels buiilt with the drum brakes.

    I am now looking at IG hubs to replace my NuVinci 360 (I think it's a pig). The bike is an Evelo e-bike and I feel lots of energy is wasted and absorbed by the hub.

    Alfine and SA-8 speed looked like viable choices, and I liked the internal drum brake as being a clean braking system, but I have these 2 considerations for SA:

    1. in watching a video of a mechanic showing how the hub works, it was really noisy with the palls clattering away; moreso as the speed/gear got higher

    2. Back then (1980s) the drum brakes looked good, didn't always stop that well. I haven't seen anyone comment on current SA drumbrakes

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBikeBuff View Post
    I am now looking at IG hubs to replace my NuVinci 360 (I think it's a pig). The bike is an Evelo e-bike and I feel lots of energy is wasted and absorbed by the hub.
    If that's the case, the hub should be heating up right? That energy has to go somewhere.

    I'm quite happy with my A11 even though I've had some issues with it. For ebike it might make a lot of sense...just make sure cable tension is really dialed in (or use DI2). It's super quiet in almost every gear. Just watch your torque limits.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBikeBuff View Post
    I am an old fan of SA, especially the 3 speeds,, and in my bike shop we regularly tore down and rebuilt them. The 3speeds were most dependable in our rental fleet and messengers had custom wheels buiilt with the drum brakes.

    I am now looking at IG hubs to replace my NuVinci 360 (I think it's a pig). The bike is an Evelo e-bike and I feel lots of energy is wasted and absorbed by the hub.

    Alfine and SA-8 speed looked like viable choices, and I liked the internal drum brake as being a clean braking system, but I have these 2 considerations for SA:

    1. in watching a video of a mechanic showing how the hub works, it was really noisy with the palls clattering away; moreso as the speed/gear got higher

    2. Back then (1980s) the drum brakes looked good, didn't always stop that well. I haven't seen anyone comment on current SA drumbrakes
    1) This is a personal requirement. Noise doesn't bother me, it might bother you. I've come to accept/expect some rhythmic ticking from IGHs. The [roller clutch] Alfine hubs still have pawls that click in them, they just happen to be buried in the mechanism, so they are fairly quiet. You can hear them on a quiet road, in certain planetary combinations.

    2) The current crop of SA drum brakes are quite good--they have more than enough oomph to stop a cargo bike at a combined weight of 400 pounds ('tadpole' with two 70mm drums in the front) or 350# (in-line with 90mm drums). I've never personally loaded more than that onto any of them. Bear in mind that 'stop' with that much weight doesn't mean on a dime--but they are equivalent to a good sized (160/180, respectively) disc. The larger 90mm drums are quite powerful, though I think only the 3/5 speed IGHs are made with that option.

  18. #18
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    The modern S-A drums are quite good. I use them on a couple of bikes.

    What I like about them is how free running the wheels are, and the ability to use them in really foul conditions that would wear out a disk brake in short order.

    Like all cable brakes, the quality of the braking is actually down to the rigidity of the levers and the amount of compression in the cable outer, because the drum brake itself is well made and rigid. I use solid outers for all the parts of the cable run that do not have to flex. (I do 24 hour races on them).
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBikeBuff View Post
    I am an old fan of SA, especially the 3 speeds,, and in my bike shop we regularly tore down and rebuilt them. The 3speeds were most dependable in our rental fleet and messengers had custom wheels buiilt with the drum brakes.

    I am now looking at IG hubs to replace my NuVinci 360 (I think it's a pig). The bike is an Evelo e-bike and I feel lots of energy is wasted and absorbed by the hub.

    Alfine and SA-8 speed looked like viable choices, and I liked the internal drum brake as being a clean braking system, but I have these 2 considerations for SA:

    1. in watching a video of a mechanic showing how the hub works, it was really noisy with the palls clattering away; moreso as the speed/gear got higher

    2. Back then (1980s) the drum brakes looked good, didn't always stop that well. I haven't seen anyone comment on current SA drumbrakes
    Have you looked into the new SA C-50 5-speed?

    Sturmey Archer | RXL-RD5

    It is billed as being a "heavy duty" hub and was, I suspect, built with eBikes in mind. I have this one: Sturmey Archer | RX-RK5. with a disc brake on a mid-drive hard tail fat ebike and it seems to be quite quiet. I have been listening for the freewheel sound, but on my first 40 miles I cannot hear it, perhaps it will develop as I put the miles on. It is a new design 5-speed with a direct drive 3rd gear and the others each 25% apart. They are just hitting the market and there are zero alternate cogs available yet since they are a different size from the common SA/Nexus 3-speed standard or the Alfine 8-speed standard or the old SA 5&8-speed standard! However in my case it is workable with the stock 18t, but the catalog lists a 24t that has yet to be released which would be better for the trail riding I do: YMMV

  20. #20
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    I have had it apart to inspect it. It seems very robust and well made.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by aaronsbicyclerepair View Post
    I have had it apart to inspect it. It seems very robust and well made.
    Oh, boy, heeeee's baaaaaack. Aaron, please tell us how standing whilst pedaling an IGH will destroy it. Or how we can't run an Alfine with primary gear below 1.9....

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by WoodlandHills View Post
    Have you looked into the new SA C-50 5-speed?

    Sturmey Archer | RXL-RD5

    It is billed as being a "heavy duty" hub and was, I suspect, built with eBikes in mind.
    That's interesting. Never considered that e-bikes might lead to wider usage acceptance of IG hubs.

    I've been riding an Alfine8 for about a year, and lately have been noticing that I really don't even need 8 gears. 1-3-5-7 would be plenty, so if somebody made a 5 speed that was stronger, with the same weight, I'd be very interested. My only other requirement is that it be belt drive compliant. I really have no interest in ever going back to a chain.

    The drum brake looks interesting too. Currently using V-brakes, which are a little more fussy than I remember, but that's primarily due to the horizontal dropouts in my frame. A drum would be a nice clean solution to that issue....and would totally freak people out who didn't know what they were looking at.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by _CJ View Post
    That's interesting. Never considered that e-bikes might lead to wider usage acceptance of IG hubs.

    I've been riding an Alfine8 for about a year, and lately have been noticing that I really don't even need 8 gears. 1-3-5-7 would be plenty, so if somebody made a 5 speed that was stronger, with the same weight, I'd be very interested. My only other requirement is that it be belt drive compliant. I really have no interest in ever going back to a chain.

    The drum brake looks interesting too. Currently using V-brakes, which are a little more fussy than I remember, but that's primarily due to the horizontal dropouts in my frame. A drum would be a nice clean solution to that issue....and would totally freak people out who didn't know what they were looking at.
    I love the stopping ability of the Shimano drums (which only fit the nexus line), but I despise the use of brake retarders...which means SA is the only one in the game (good thing they work well!).

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by _CJ View Post
    ...The drum brake looks interesting too. Currently using V-brakes, which are a little more fussy than I remember, but that's primarily due to the horizontal dropouts in my frame. A drum would be a nice clean solution to that issue....and would totally freak people out who didn't know what they were looking at.
    Here's my set up. It's a 90mm S-A drum.

    This is a bike I use for 24 hour races in muddy conditions, so I've set the wheel up for quick removal. The QR is to enable the brake torque arm to be released, and the wingnuts are because there is no QR version of the hub. I have demonstrated to friends that I can have the wheel off in the same time as their disk wheels with QRs because by the time they have unwound their QRs past the lawyers tabs, I've spun off my wingnuts.




    This is the condition of the internals after 3 years of use including 3 muddy 24 hours. It's now 5 years, and although I haven't measured it again that's because there's still plenty meat left in the linings. (For reference in a previous race I got through several sets of disk pads, which is why I switched to the drums. I suspect disk pads have improved in the intervening years, but this works so well I don't see any need to switch back).



    The drums are slightly heavier than disks, but I suspect any disk brake made to the same standard of reliability and longevity would be just as heavy. If S-A made a lightweight version, I'd snap them up.

    As always with cable brakes, the brake itself can be made useless by using poor quality cables and flexy levers, so I pay particular attention to that.
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