Shimano Alfine 11 IGH Oil Change…

15 05 2013

It’s been over a year since I started running an Alfine 11 IGH. First off in my On One Scandal 29er MTB and now in my Surly Krampus. Shimano wants you to do an oil change after the first 1000kms and every year or 5000kms after that. I was putting off my first oil change since I hadn’t acquired the supplies I needed and I know oil change intervals are conservative.

Alfine 11 cleaned and oiled...

Alfine 11 cleaned and oiled…

On my last tour I made a poor decision to ride across a washed out trail which submerged my Alfine 11 at least partially. IGH seals are not designed to keep water out when the hub goes under so I assumed I had at least a little water in the hub. While I might push the limits of bike maintenance sometimes I also know when I am fooling with an expensive repair. Leaving water inside an IGH for any length of time can lead to a hub failure that could necessitate a total factory rebuild.

So I got my lazy ass in gear and figured out an oil change plan. Since I own a couple Rohloffs I have used several of that brand’s oil change kits. I kept all the old parts for re-use and they conveniently fit my Alfine 11. Stocking two separate sets of expensive IGH maintenance supplies seemed like too much of a PITA. So I decided to stick with Rohloff products.

The Fairfield Bicycle Shop kindly sold me 300ml of bulk Rohloff cleaning solution and Rohloff hub oil. You need 25ml of each fluid for an oil change so I’m good for 12 IGH services. That’s a lot of years of IGH maintenance.

Rohloff Bulk oil and syringe...

Rohloff Bulk oil and syringe…

Just for the IGH Geeks here is why Rohloff says you should use their oil:

“The SPEEDHUB requires a pressure resistant oil with the correct viscosity so as to ensure this works over a vast temperature range (making the SPEEDHUB suitable in all climates) whilst not increasing friction/decreasing transmission efficiency or escaping under the special seals. For this reason we insist that only original Rohloff oils be used.

It is incredibly important that the oil does not react with the hard-nylon components within the gear-unit. Our early tests proved that various different oils reacted with hard-nylon components within the gear-unit. These components would sometimes swell and increase friction to the point where the SPEEDHUB failed to operate correctly. The sheer number of different percentages and types of additives used in oils is so vast, that we were forced to produce our own oil so that we can safely offer and uphold a warranty on our products.

The use of non-original oils is easy to detect after opening a SPEEDHUB transmission and in every service case where this is apparent, we are unable to offer warranty repairs.”

Now it would be legitimate to ask why a Rohloff product would be good for a Shimano IGH? I don’t know that it is for sure, but I’m willing to take the chance that an oil safe for a Rohloff is safe for a Shimano hub. If something bad happens I’ll let you know! ;)

BTW – the Rohloff syringe and injection tube fitting work on the Alfine 11 perfectly.

Here is my Alfine 11 oil change process:

  1. clean outside of hub shell
  2. open hub via oil plug
  3. inject 25 ml of Rohloff cleaning solution
  4. pedal hub through all gear combos for 5 mins
  5. let drain for 30 mins
  6. suck out any remaining cleaning fluid and old oil with syringe
  7. inject 25 ml of Rohloff hub oil
  8. seal up Alfine and ride
  9. dispose of dirty oil/cleaning fluid responsibly

The oil change went without a hitch and took about 45 mins including the 30 mins of draining time for the old oil.

Dirty oil...

Dirty oil…

Tip – there is a tiny o-ring on the Alfine 11 oil plug. Don’t lose it! ;)

Here is what you need for an Alfine 11 oil change:

  • Rohloff 25 ml cleaning solution & 25 ml Rohloff oil
  • or 50 ml Shimano hub oil
  • syringe with injection tube and hub fitting
  • 3 mm allen key
  • paper towels
  • ziplock bag to collect dirty oil
  • electrical tape to attach ziplock to tube while it drains
  • 2 cold beers

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15 responses

15 05 2013
Wilburforce

But did you find any water?

15 05 2013
thelazyrando

I posted a picture of everything that came out of the hub. I can’t tell how much of the dirty liquid is water. I added some water just to see if the solution would turn milky and it doesn’t.

THe A11 was not submerged for long and may only have been partially underwater. This wasn’t a worst case situation like dropping the bike in a raging river and leaving it there for 10 mins before recovery. At the same time it wouldn’t take a lot of water to damage the hub so better to change the oil then find out I should have changed the oil. ;)

16 05 2013
northernwalker

Interesting… how would you rate the Alfine against the Rohloff? Thinking of a hub transmission for my Surly Troll and wondered if the Alfine is an option for touring.

16 05 2013
thelazyrando

@Northenwalker – Well I can say that the two A8′s I’ve used for the last 4yrs+ doing this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikapproved/sets/72157610461277546/

Have survived without a single issue. I’ve read lots of other people’ reports and they are happy with A8′s as well in MTBs and touring bikes.

That said I still have more confidence in a Rohloff and the Rohloff will give you a bigger gear range and much longer service life [over 150,000kms+].

The A8 is a great value and seems to hold up very well to hard use.

How to decide between a Rohloff and a A8?

- if you need the big gear range = Rohloff
- if money is not much of an object = Rohloff
- if you can see yourself racking up 50,000kms+ on the hub = Rohloff
- if reliability is critical to you = Rohloff
- if cost is important = A8
- if you are not going to ride crazy mileage = A8
- if you want a trigger shifter = A8
- if want to equip multiple bikes/wheelsets with IGHs = A8
- prefer a lighter shifter feel & simpler shift cable setup = A8

I think where the I would always go with a Rohloff is for really high milage applications like RTW trips. For most people that tour a month or less a year I don’t think the kind of miles you will accumulate are a problem for the A8.

One nice thing about an A8 is the whole internals slide out of the hub shell easily for maintenance or repair. So even if you had a problem you could literally slide some new internals in your existing wheel in 5 mins and keep rolling while the old internals were repaired off line. Two A8′s are still far cheaper than a single Rohloff.

16 05 2013
sam davidson

Just wondering you thought on an alfine 8 vs the 11, at twice the price are the 11′s really that much better, I heard they may have a better seal?

16 05 2013
thelazyrando

@Sam – if you are shopping on price the A8 is impossible to beat.

The A11 gives you an oil bath and a bit of a higher gear range. Low gear is the same on both.

My A8 is going strong after more than 4yrs of hard use. The seals on the A8 seam to be more than adequate.

5 08 2013
M.W

So the fitting on the plastic tubing threads into the A11 just fine?

5 08 2013
Vik

Yes it works fine.

6 08 2013
M.W

Thank you kind sir, after changing my hub without the proper tool it will be 20 dollars well spent to rid myself of the headache and mess.

25 02 2014
Kevin Binder

Did the oil rohloff oil affect your alfine 11 or is it too soon for a service

25 02 2014
Vik

No effect. No issues using Rohloff oil.

25 02 2014
Kevin binder

Cheers mate thanks for the quick reply I will give it a go

1 11 2014
augsburg57

Hi, thanks so much for posting.

Based on your posting, I changed the oil in my Alfine 11-speed for the first time today, after about 800 miles, or 1,300 km. of use. It took me about an hour including oil draining time. My old oil looked similar to yours. It was dirty, but not cloudy or milky. My hub had never been submerged. (I doubt you got any water to penetrate into yours.) My hub has seen extreme duty. I weigh 135 kg, and ride a lot of hills.

A couple of thoughts:

I put the bike in the house over night so the oil would be warmer than if it had been left outside in the garage. (This job is probably best done on a hot summer day.) I used the Shimano oil and changing kit, both from Amazon.

I was unable to drain a full 25 ml of old oil out of the hub (in about 15 to 20 minutes and two full syringe extraction pulls I got about 20 ml). Therefore, I decided to only use 20 ml of fresh oil for the cleaning “rinse”. (I did not want the hub to end up over-filled.) The oil came out almost as dirty after the rinse as the old oil did. The rinse is definitely a good idea. Of the 20 ml of cleaning oil rinse, I could only extract about 15 ml – again in about 15 minutes of draining and two syringe extractions. I was pulling the syringe VERY slowly and stopping and starting the pulls, but would still get air bubbles. When the syringe was pulled all the way out, I would rotate the wheel to put the port back on top, disconnect and empty the syringe and then collapse for a second go-around at sucking oil.

I then put in 25 ml of fresh oil. This went smoothly.

Some say to super glue the tube to the syringe tip, but I did not find this necessary. The connection never slipped or leaked. In fact, I never had so much as a drop of oil escape the system. I did have a rag handy to wipe off the tip of the tube after immersing it on the fresh oil when it was sucked into the syringe.

I found the job very easy to do. Shimano’s prices are exorbitant, but at least I can now make the change next time by only purchasing the oil.

1 11 2014
kevin binder

I have also done an oil change on my alfine 11 except i bought a food syringe and a length of pipe for about a fiver.i did use the proper shimano oil but when i filled the hub with new oil after draining and flushing i filled it with 50ml of oil after i read that shimano had changed the amount of oil.hope this was helpful ,cheers kev

1 11 2014
kevin binder

Also i forgot to mention i used a grease nipple with the insides drilled out with the correct threads to fit alfine 11 drain hole

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