Blessed Silence!

5 04 2013
What noise?

What noise?

As I was pounding along last weekend I suddenly realized something was missing from my usual ride experience – noise! My MTB has a Hope hub that sounds like angry bees making love when I coast. It used to make a lot of noise from chainslap as well, but I cured that with a clutch derailleur – although I still get various shifting noises when changing up gears on the Nomad.

My 29er bikepacking bike has an Alfine 11 IGH in it and horizontal dropouts. That means the chain is tight all the time and can’t really move around or make any noise. The A11 coasts and pedals silently. Even the shifts are accompanied by only a very soft click.

I’m so used to my bikes making a lot of noise that it’s a bit of a surprise to experience the peacefulness of a silent drivetrain.

That silence leaves more room for me to hear what’s going on around me and let’s me get lost deeper in my own thoughts.

There are times when making noise to give bears notice I’m coming through is a smart move. However, I’d rather attach a $4 bear bell to my bike when needed. It makes noise anytime I am moving – rather than just when I am coasting and I can take it off when I don’t want to make a racket.

There are loads of good reasons to use an IGH and specifically an Alfine 11, but at the moment silence is what I am appreciating the most.


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16 responses

5 04 2013
doc

I was thinking just yesterday how the whole Gates belt drive movement has quieted down in the last year.

5 04 2013
thelazyrando

@Doc – when you see a list of all the improvements folks who swap to carbon belts experience most of them are actually because they switched to an IGH.

That leaves you with belts which are supposed to be cleaner than chains and the need for less maintenance. Although when I look at belts breaking and wearing out early because of debris damage I’m not sold on the later 100%.

You can fit a chaincase over a IGH + chain and you get near zero maintenance and clean to touch in use for ~$50.

For me anyways an IGH and chain drive is pretty much ideal for a low maintenance, modest cost [long term], robust drivetrain.

I’m sure there are a few folks who are really benefitting from carbon belts, but I don’t see it as a great general purpose solution.

People always get horny for whatever is new. The question is what stuff is still sexy 10yrs later????

5 04 2013
Eric

So what is your review of the Alfine 11 for mountian biking/bikepacking? Pros and cons? Other than being quieter. Is it geared correctly, tough enough, etc…?
Nice blog, good reading.
Thanks,
Eric

5 04 2013
thelazyrando

@Eric – I’ve only had the A11 a year and probably put less than 2000kms on it so it’s too early to talk about durability. OTOH I haven’t broken it yet! ;)

I never used any gear higher 7 [geared 32T x 23T] so I don’t have much need for the A11 vs the A8. Note the A8 and A11 share the same low gear.

I have used 2 Alfine 8s enough to say they are tough enough for bikepacking use and they are cheap. So if I was buying a new IGH and couldn’t afford a Rohloff I’d go with the A8.

The main reason I got the A11 was to test it. Not because I needed 11 gears.

5 04 2013
Jolly Wahlstrom

My bikes are quiet because I can’t afford fancy hubs. I am always amazed how loud those expensive hubs are.

5 04 2013
adruve

How is the clutch derailleur going? Which one have you been using?

5 04 2013
thelazyrando

@Jolly – the fancy hubs have some benefits other than just being noisy and I don’t mind some hub buzz when riding with others as it lets me know the relative position of everyone without having to look.

On a tour – especially a solo one I really appreciate the silence.

@Adruve – I’m using a Shimano Zee derailleur. I love it so far. No chain slap so quiet on the downhills and shifts great. It was a reasonable price as well which was why I pulled the trigger on it. I can’t imagine going back to normal derailleurs on a MTB.

6 04 2013
Micheal Blue

I had a flash of thinking about getting the Alfine 11, but the price and availability of the oil change kits, plus some reports of the oil seeping through the seals didn’t feel encouraging. OTOH, it would be nice not having to take the hub apart just to lubricate it. In the end Nexus 8 won. Using Nexus 8 on my LHT I very rarely shift to the 8th gear. I can’t even imagine the practicality of having three more higher gears. Alfine 11 must be meant for pro riders.

6 04 2013
coldbike

Does the Zee work with 9 speed, or did you convert the whole drivetrain?

6 04 2013
thelazyrando

Doug – Zee is 10spd. I’m not sure what happens if you try it with 9spd parts. I switched to 10spd shifter and 10spd cassette…single ring up front.

7 04 2013
Mike Y

I wanted to throw my $.02 in here because I could find limited real world information on the Alfine 11 when I spec’d it on a bike build last Fall. I had Andrew Watson at Watson Cycles build me up a commuter with the A11 and a Gates belt drive setup. I couldn’t afford a Rohloff and my recent experience with a new model Sturmey Archer turned me off to a grease lubed IGH. The A11 had the price, maintenance, and shifting method/direction to work for me. I have ridden this Hub through the winter and all its temperatures and various percipitations. I’ve got about 1300 miles on it since Oct 2012. I performed the first oil change at 500. I was surprised to see the particulate content of the oil. It contained many metal bits and almost looked like paint with flake in it. Shimano calls for a single oil flush during the maintenance, I did two. Currently, I believe the drive side seals are weeping a slight amount of oil. I’ve had the rare bad shift and it will shift flawlessly if you let off the power slightly. I too LOVE the silence of this hub. Due to the hub’s width, or lack thereof, and my list of wishes (e.g. wide tire, fender, belt drive, etc.) it was a bit of a headache to design the frame. The narrow hub width may account for a little added maintenance to the rear wheel as I’ve had to re-tension and true it a couple of times. Then again, it may be my riding style and particulars. Overall I am really happy with the Alphine 11 and would get another if needed.

Pros
-robust
-oil bath lubrication
-easy shift setup

Cons
-cost of oil and oil change kit
-no oil level check
-Q factor of hub limits frame design

7 04 2013
Micheal Blue

Mike Y, how long did the oil change take? Did you find the use of the oil change kit challenging? Thanks.

7 04 2013
Mike Y

The oil change kit and process is easy. The cost, not so much. Take the plug out, screw in the syringe and fitting, spin the hub so the port and syringe are down, drink a beer or two, SLOWLY suck out the oil. Fill up the syringe with fresh oil, SLOWLY inject into the hub, replace plug. That’s the process. Per the manual, you should flush the hub with fresh oil once before the final refill. There are several recommendations that suggest you allow time for the oil to drain and collect prior to the sucking out procedure, hence the libation step.

7 04 2013
thelazyrando

Initially I thought the A11 bath would ease maintenance, but with the cost of the kit and the ease with which my A8 came apart and could be cleaned I think the A8 has the easier maintenance setup.

You can run your A8 with oil vs. grease and you can clean it more throughly and with not much more effort for next to zero cost depending what you have in your garage already.

7 04 2013
Graham

Vic,

I thought you sold this bike? Decided to keep it?

7 04 2013
thelazyrando

@Graham – I haven’t sold the frame, but I moved the parts to a new one. I didn’t have a good close up of the A11 in the new frame so I used an older photo of the IGH in the Scandal frame.

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