Musings on Derailleur Drivetrains and Internal Gear Hubs

Alfine 8 IGH

Anyone who has ridden a bike with a derailleur drivetrain pretty quickly learns when, where, and how to shift smoothly. Mostly it’s a matter of shifting while pedaling, but not while under too much load. Shifting while under too much power can cause mis-shifts and may even cause premature wear on drivetrain components. And, of course, attempting to shift while the pedals are stationary doesn’t accomplish anything; in other words, the chain needs to be moving for the derailleur to do its work of “derailing” the chain from one sprocket to the next. As long as these basic techniques are used, derailleur drivetrains are pretty easy to shift.

The difficulty of keeping track of 27 gear combinations may be one reason for the growing popularity of single speed drivetrains. It may also be a strong argument for internal gear hubs on commuting and city bikes.

The main difficulty with using derailleur drivetrains is not so much the technique of shifting the chain from one sprocket to another, but keeping track of where the chain is running on both the front and rear gear sets, particularly with triple cranks. As most experienced bicyclists know, it’s a good idea to avoid gear combinations that simultaneously place the chain on the inside chainring on the front and the outside cogs on the rear cassette, and vice versa. “Cross chaining”, as it’s called, places unnecessary wear on the drivetrain and may cause mis-shifts and even slippage. It’s perhaps a bit much to expect beginners to keep track of this while contending with traffic, pedestrians, dogs, joggers, and other bicyclists. I know of more than a few novice riders who rarely, if ever, shift out of the the middle chainring on their triple crank for this reason (my wife jokes that she rides a 3-speed even though her bike actually has 16 gear combinations). Of course, this completely defeats the purpose of having a wide-range triple drivetrain in the first place.

The difficulty of keeping track of 27 gear combinations may be one reason for the growing popularity of single speed drivetrains. It may also be a strong argument for internal gear hubs on commuting and city bikes.

Internal gear hubs (or IGHs as they’re often referred to), contain all of the shifting components within the hub. As such, they’re visually clean, they require minimal maintenance, and all of their gears are usable and controlled with only one shifter instead of the usual two found on most modern derailleur drivetrains. Shifting an IGH is linear, straight from the lowest to the highest gear with no possibility for cross chaining and no need to keep track of chain position. This straightforward shifting experience is a real boon to novices, and arguably, it provides a less-distracted riding experience for even more experienced riders.

So what’s it like to shift a modern IGH such as a Shimano Nexus/Alfine 8-speed, or a SRAM iMotion 9-speed? In general, they’re simpler and easier to use than double or triple derailleur drivetrains, with fewer mis-shifts and quieter operation, particularly for novices. Most use either indexed trigger shifters or twist shifters, though we’re starting to see road-style shifters designed specifically for drop bars. Probably their biggest advantage for city riding is that they can be shifted while sitting still. This allows the rider to roll up to a stop light in a high gear, then shift down to a lower gear while waiting for the light to turn. They can also be shifted while coasting and pedaling lightly. It’s not impossible to shift an IGH while under a heavy load, but it’s not advised; doing so is hard on the hub, and you will get some mis-shifts. And again, the linear quality of the shifting experience is simpler and less distracting than keeping track of three chainrings in front and 8-10 cogs in the rear.

I don’t expect to see internal gear hubs replace derailleur drivetrains. They’re heavier, mechanically more complex, and they can be expensive. Derailleur drivetrains are lightweight, highly efficient, relatively inexpensive, user serviceable, and they potentially offer a wider range and larger quantity of gear ratios than are currently available in IGHs. Internal gear hubs, on the other hand, offer simple operation, low maintenance, and a clean, simple look. Each has their advantages and disadvantages in different situations. The key is to fit the drivetrain to the needs of the rider. In my case, while I still enjoy the visual and aural aesthetics of a derailleur drivetrain (there’s nothing like the whirrr of a well-lubed chain snaking through a derailleur), I’m finding internal gear hubs more-and-more appealing as I ride them on a daily basis for commuting and utility use.

49 Responses to “Musings on Derailleur Drivetrains and Internal Gear Hubs”

  • Aaron C says:

    I love the concept of an IGH. I had a bike with an Alfine hub, and my wife has an Alfine on her Polyvalent. My only issue is the loss of efficiency. It simply takes more effort to turn the wheel at a given speed and cadence than it does using a derailleur.

    Many people don’t seen to notice it but for me it was like pedaling in the mud. It’s only when getting up to normal “road speeds” that I notice it but it seems like the second I stop pedaling the bike wants to slow right down. Riding slower doesn’t seem so bad. Maybe the efficiency losses are more in the higher gears?

  • Ira Kinro says:

    The notable exception to your comment being the N360 which is pretty simple inside and shifts just fine no matter how hard you’re pedaling. That thing is so under appreciated…

  • Cassidy Castleman says:

    Alan, have you tried the Nuvinci IGH yet?

  • Alan says:

    @Aaron C

    Efficiency of internal gear hubs varies fairly dramatically from one to another. I read somewhere that S-A 3-speed hubs are more efficient than even derailleur drivetrains (can’t confirm that, perhaps someone else can). For me, my Alfine, Nexus, S-A and iMotion hubs run freely enough that it’s a non-issue for commuting and utility riding.


  • Alan says:

    @Ira & Cassidy

    I rode the first generation NuVinci which was pretty neat. Like Ira said, it was possible to “shift” under a full load. That first hub was a boat anchor (what was it, 8 lbs.?), and the throw on the shifter was waaay too long. Those issues have been addressed with the new hub, but I’ve yet to give it a try. Breezer has been promising an Infinity to try out – if that pans out I’ll be able to make a good comparison to my other hubs.


  • brad says:

    I recently got a Trek Soho and am really enjoying the internal gear hub. The only thing that took me a while to get used to is the non-intuitive direction of the twist-shifter. To me, if you’re going to have just one shifter it would make sense that if you twist clockwise (“forward” on a grip-shift), you would be shifting up, and if you twist counter-clockwise (back toward you), you would be shifting down. It’s intuitive because shifting forward corresponds to the notion of going faster and shifting back corresponds to the idea of pulling back or going down a gear.

    But on the Soho it works opposite to this, which even after a month of riding this bike still trips me up occasionally. I realize this is an issue with the shifter setup and not the hub itself; I wonder if this confuses anyone else.

  • Matt says:

    Yeah I think if all I wanted to do was go fast or tour long distance over a variety of terrain I would have a derailleur setup but mostly my riding is in traffic, stop and go, through a lot of urban grime so for reasons mentioned before the IGH better suits my everyday riding.

  • Neil says:

    I have been riding my commuter bike with a Alfine 8 for just over a year now. I agree that it is not as efficient as a well set up derailleur system and Alan is correct the buzz and chink of gear changing is lovely to hear but I tend to have a different mindset when I am commuting.

    I am really not that bothered about beating the bus to the next stop, I simply use it for what it is designed to do, a low maintenance workhorse of a system.

    If I want to race or fancy a speedy run to work, I take the road bike.

  • Cassidy Castleman says:

    We have two Infinty’s in stock, feel free to come check them out anytime.

  • Evan says:

    I think the Alfine hub is a great component, however the execution on the Civia dropout makes it a colossal pain in the butt to adjust anything connected to the hub. They could have improved this several ways, the most obvious benig some kind of sliding dropout or eccentric bb. Another would be an integrated chain tensioner so that it stays set to the same alignment if you remove the wheel. Lastly they could have specced a BB7 instead of a BB5 so that at least you wouldn’t need to fuss with the pad alignment as much when reinstalling the wheel. As much as I like disc brakes in the rain, I am really excited for the Kingsfeild to come out simply because it will be so much quicker to set up. As Sheldon said, horisontal drops + disc brake = Arrrgggg!

  • Don says:

    I concede the convenience and maintenance benefits, but to my mind, the cost factor trumps all of that. Assuming one has limited funds, it makes much more sense to allocate one’s investment proportionately to how it affects the ride, putting frame and wheels on the top of that list, with attention to saddle, pedals, grips, and tires. One can argue that a budget derailer setup will call much less attention to itself than a budget version of any of the above. Even a midrange front and rear derailer set can be replaced at least twice for the cost of an IGH. So to include an IGH within a moderate price point makes too many sacrifices everywhere else.

    I look at your Bryant as longingly as the next person, but I just can’t justify it for myself in my head, particularly since I regularly lock up my bike in a college town. And don’t think I haven’t tried!

  • Don says:

    I’d also suggest that, for your hypothetical new rider, one of your own 1×9 setups would probably fit the bill. The challenge for the new rider would primarily be to internalize the need to shift to an easier gear before you come to a stop at an intersection, so startup isn’t so crunchy.

  • Roland Smith says:

    There is an interesting article comparing derailer drivetrains to internal gear hubs in the Summer 2001 (number 52) edition of “Human Power” (technical journal of the IHPVA)

    In short; the efficiency most internal gear hubs is about 2% lower than that of a derailer drivetrain. However, the difference between individual gears can be up to 3% for both derailers and IGHs.

    The grease in the simple 3-speed hubs from Sachs and Sturmey-Archer was replaced by a light oil. The efficiencies for these hubs compared well with the best derailer transmissions.

    In the test all chains were “well oiled with light machine oil”, and presumably clean.

    My personal gut feeling is that things like over- or underinflated tires and not perfectly maintained chains will have a more significant effect on drivetrain efficiency than the difference between derailers and internal gear hubs.

  • voyage says:

    “The difficulty of keeping track of 27 gear combinations may be one reason for the growing popularity of single speed drivetrains. It may also be a strong argument for internal gear hubs on commuting and city bikes.”

    27 gears to commute to work, run errands, go to the grocery store? Pluuuleeeze! 27 gears make sense for El Tour de Wherever, Lance Armstrong, etc. 1×8 or 1×9 der setups are enough for most commute/util applications. The whole 27 gear thing is engineering and mindless hyper-aggressive marketing run amok…as if you are Lance Armstrong. I’m not seeing how the mass market industry’s playing with emotions makes a credible argument for IGH.

  • Sam Joslin says:

    I’ve been trying out a Dahon Bullhead with a 7-speed Nexus rear hub, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. The shifts are very positive, though, as Brad noted earlier, the twist-shifter operates opposite to the shifter attached to a normal derailleur. Not a problem if you have one bike, but something that requires conscious thought when you have two different machines. Another big advantage of the single chainline is the ability to almost entirely encase the chain in plastic on the Dahon; you can’t have a plastic “snake” traveling along with the chain through a derailleur. A plastic-covered chain is almost as good as a belt drive in protecting your legs against grease marks.

  • Daniel M says:


    I have two bike with grip shifts: My Dahon folding bike uses a 7-speed derailer and the grip shift turns in the same direction as your Trek, i.e. “backward” for upshifts. However, my Rohloff is set up in the opposite fashion, as it sounds like you would prefer.

    I actually prefer the “backward-upshift” direction because it matches the way a motorcycle throttle works – you twist backwards to rev the motor and you roll off (pun intended) the throttle forwards to slow down.

    Luckily, the Rohloff is easy to reverse. It will be set up “motorcycle-style” on the new build, which I’m expecting to be done any day. The most important thing is that both bikes will match!

  • sherrill says:

    My Diamondback Wildwood has twenty-one gears and is not a IGH, and I only use three of the gears. Great point on why the commuter and city bikes are so popular. I know for me I get set in on one gear that is comfortable for me and then I don’t need to worry about it. I can keep my eyes on everything else around me.

    Great information. I enjoyed the read.

  • Mel Hughes says:

    Alan, even though your photos of these new drives, belts, and shifters are wonderful eye candy, the internal hub is still not a reasonable, cost-effect or efficient replacement for conventional chains and derailers for folks who live in areas that involve a lot of climbing. They are just not as light or user friendly yet. The other side of this is that combinations like the Shimano Deore XT Shadow and Bar-Cons or brifters are pretty well proven, developed technolgy in and of themselves.

    I guess my real point is that there are more great choices available now than ever and it all just keeps getting better.

  • Aaron C says:

    Roland, on that same article there are charts on page 10 showing the specific numbers for each hub and gear. The Shimano 7 (the 8 is not listed) has a few gears that get down near 80%, not 98%. A loss of nearly 20% is certainly worth taking into consideration.

    The bottom line is that there can be considerable losses. Whether that means anything to you or not, that’s up to you.

  • Alan says:


    “Another would be an integrated chain tensioner so that it stays set to the same alignment if you remove the wheel. “

    I agree that the current set-up is not ideal. Civia tells me there’s a tensioner with a anti-rotation tab built-in due out anytime now. One on each side should vastly reduce the hassle factor. I’ll report about it here when it’s available.

    One thing I do that helps is to back off the tensioner by a specific amount (usually 1/2 turn) before loosening the axle nuts. That way, when I put the wheel back in place, I only have to turn the tensioner the corresponding opposite amount to place the drive side at exactly the same position. I then use the disc caliper to align the non-drive side. Again, a pair of the new tensioners will be much better, but this method has been working well for me so far.


  • Alan says:


    Most stock 8-9 speed IGH drivetrains have a low of somewhere around 30 gear inches which is the equivalent of approximately the low gear on the middle chainring of a touring bike (32r x 36f). At least in terms of gear range alone, an 8-9 speed IGH should be sufficient for those who live in moderately hilly areas and only occasionally use their granny gear. Those who live in hilly areas and use their bail out ring on a regular basis are probably better off sticking with a derailleur triple.


  • Alan says:


    “Even a midrange front and rear derailer set can be replaced at least twice for the cost of an IGH. So to include an IGH within a moderate price point makes too many sacrifices everywhere else.”

    Your point is well taken. There are possibly a few exceptions though. I thought Raleigh did a great job of speccing their Detour Deluxe this year. The 8-speed Nexus IGH and roller brakes perform quite well, yet the bike came in at $800 retail (less than half of what the Bryant costs). Not exactly budget, but in what many people might consider a reasonable price range for a fully outfitted commuter with lights, IGH, dynamo hub, fenders and a rack.

    The Breezer Uptown 7 is another nice fully-outfitted IGH commuter for around $800. My son has this bike and it’s been perfect for his commute back and forth to college (around 10-12 miles each way).


  • Alan says:


    “We have two Infinty’s in stock, feel free to come check them out anytime.”

    I’ll have to drop by sometime. Thanks!

  • Pete says:

    @ Mel Huges
    I would think you could combine an IGH with a compact double crank and get all the low-end gearing you’d ever want!

  • Aaron C says:

    @ Voyage – Harping on the 27 speeds thing is sort of unfair. For starters, many of those combinations are redundant so really you’re talking about 13-16 gears in most cases. In other words, as many gears as a Rohloff. I don’t ride like Lance Armstrong (to continue abusing the cliché) – I outweigh him by probably 80 lbs with most of it in my belly. Most of those gears are far lower than any gear you can get on an Alfine hub. We’ve got hills in Vermont that are no joke… a few that required me to use my 26t granny with the 32t cog in the back.

    There’s nothing marketing or “hyper engineering” to it. It’s simply what works best for me. Most touring bikes have similar gearing – there’s nothing racy or “El Tour de Wherever” about a Surly Long Haul Trucker.

    And about that 18% efficiency loss – here’s the thing: That can translate to 18% sweatier when I get to work, or 18% hotter on a 90 degree day, or that hill can feel 18% steeper… you get the point. It doesn’t make me a racing wannabe to want the most efficient drivetrain I can install. Acting like there’s no downsides to a loss in efficiency is being silly.

    If you saw me, you’d never mistake me for a racer wannabe :-)

    Now, after all that, just a reminder that I don’t hate the IGH. I would love to make it work for me but I’ve just had bad luck so far. I’ll say that my wife absolutely ADORES her Alfine-equipped Polyvalent. I have to admit too that although it’s a tad small for me, sometimes I’ll hop on for a quick spin and I can’t help but have a gigantic grin the entire time I’m riding it!

    Different kind of bike, though….

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    It was mentioned earlier, but I’m still surprised how few commuters are offered with 1×9. It addresses virtually all the issues you mentioned except gear range.

    That said, still not giving up my Rohloff any time soon :)

  • Dale says:

    @Aaron C you said “it seems like the second I stop pedaling the bike wants to slow right down” – at this point it’s coasting – nothing to do with the IGH.

    @Alan – you indicated a significant difference in the weight between IGH and derailleur – if you take into account all of the components the weight difference is not that large.

  • Eric Jenkins says:

    I actually use a Shimano Nexus 7 for most of my riding, often with a heavy load. That has become my baseline. It is slow and clunky, and I wish for one higher gear – but it is very good for carrying loads of 70 lbs. Shifting at a stop is a feature that I cannot rate more highly – might be the number 1 ‘killer app’ for an IGH.
    Having said that, when I commute to work on my 6-speed Altus on the folder, I am amazed at the feeling of efficiency and power that the derailleur provides. But I am looking at replacing it with an 8 or 11 speed IGH to give them a fair try. In my mind ease and maintenance issues outweigh cost and subjective efficiency. I can tinker and adjust the derailleur systems, but I don’t do so happily.

  • Aaron C says:

    @ Dale: I’m not sure what you’re getting at, it’s coasting but it has everything to do with the hub. I’m not the only one to report drag on Alfine hubs. Search google, you’ll find it’s a fairly common observation.

  • Alan says:

    One other thing to consider regarding IGH efficiency is run-in. It’s widely acknowledged that hub gears are nearly always stiff out of the factory and improve in efficiency over time, sometimes fairly dramatically.

  • Alan says:

    Here’s the classic “IGH versus derailleur” article at

    For some serious IGH geekery, read the 176 comments under this post on the Alfine IGH:


  • Rob says:

    I’d always been intrigued by IGHs, but didn’t want to shell out close to $1,000 (or more) for a bike that was a bit of a wildcard. So, I set up a saved search on Ebay for ‘Alfine hub’ and scored this bike about a month later – in barely used condition – for a touch over $400 last fall (MSRP $1100).

    In my limited experience, IGHs really shine for winter commuting. The Alfine hub, disc brakes and low standover height (for numerous quick dismounts on heavy snow days) seemed like the perfect recipe for a winter commuter – after adding full Planet Bike plastic fenders and studded Nokian tires. My Alfine hub performed incredibly well, during one of the snowiest winters on record here, and I biked to work (5 miles RT) every day. I don’t know that I would have committed to riding daily through ice and snow if I didn’t have instant confidence in the drivetrain — too many mis-shifts due to sluggish, frozen derailleurs would have spelled disaster.

    All I did at the end of each day was wipe down the bike and chain and re-lubricate, which took me all of 5-10 minutes. I haven’t commuted in the winter with a typical derailleur drivetrain, but I imagine the daily routine would have taken a bit longer. I’m certain that shifting while climbing uphill to work every day wouldn’t have been as smooth and dependable with snow and ice gradually building up on my derailleurs and cassette.

    As Alan (and Eric) stated, the ability to shift gears while stopped is incredible. And the 8 gear range is perfect for my hilly commute. Could I use one or two more gears on occasion? Sure. Do I really need them? Not really. The trigger shifters on my bike were easy to use, especially with Pearl Izumi lobster mitts on my hands.

    Adding an IGH-equipped bike to my stable, and knowing that I can travel with confidence in the wintertime, has me seriously contemplating selling my car.

  • Alistair Williamson says:

    And for those that want the best (or if you wish – the worst) of both words thiers the
    SRAM dual Drive. 540% of range. Use the derailer when you want and the internal for the shift down at stops. PLUS ints all in one control.

    I think it’s simply design inertia from the old days the link to racing that means commuter bikes are speced with two independantly controlled levers to change gears. Yikes, how odd. It feels to me like Control-Alt-Delte from the DOS days still haging oin in the age of smartphones.

    Cheers, Alistair

  • Don says:

    Alan, you are nothing if not fair! No doubt that’s why the sponsors love you. A couple more value-based, quality IGH bikes are the Trek\Gary Fisher Waubesa and the Jamis Commuter 3 and 4. But these are both alu frames. Still, I will stray from my obsession with The Next Bike long enough to allow that the general trend toward getting more people to use bikes as transportation is positively supported by such offerings.

  • Matt DeBlass says:

    I came to my IGH commuter bike from fixed gear, so for me it made hills WAY easier, especially the downhill side. I’ve got a Nexus 8 and have noticed that does run a bit rough on the lower set of gears, but not unforgivably so.
    I think the low-maintence, lack of dangling RD and trouser-friendliness of the IGH make it pretty well suited for many types of riding, and it certainly suits my purposes just fine. I wouldn’t race on it, and I’d think twice about putting one on a loaded touring bike (maybe a Rohloff), but for commuting, casual riding and even light touring, I think it’s a pretty good alternative.

  • Nate says:

    I have been using the Nexus 8 for almost five years now. I bought a Stevens City Flyer (German bike) while living in Europe as a commuter bike. I was attracted to the bike because it had an IGH and therefore gave me the ability to shift while at a stop. This was particularly useful while commuting 34 km round trip daily through countless intersections in Paris. I made one serious mistake with the hub, however. I used to regularly take my bike to the do-it-yourself carwash where I would use the pressure washer to clean it up. The high pressure forced water into the hub causing the gears to rust. After a year and a half I had to replace the insides of the hub. I still use the pressure washer to clean my bike, but I am careful to avoid spraying near the hub. I have also used my bike for touring. In 2008 I rode from Indiana to Pennsylvania. I was initially concerned about the durability of the IGH, but I had no problems on the trip. I just had to be careful not to shift while pedaling. The only drawback I can see to an IGH is that a tire change requires wrenches. IGHs do not appear to be available with quick releases. Fortunately, I have never had a flat with my bike.

  • David says:

    FWIW, I have a triple up front and 8 in the back but in 15 years can count on one hand the number of times I used my granny gear. Since I was effectively running a double up front, that brought me down to 16 theoretical gears. When I took into account the fact that I almost never cross-chained the three most extreme rear sprockets for whichever chainring I was in, I was down to 10 effective gears. With that, I decided to see if I could live with the constraints of an Alfine 8 by moving my large chainring to the middle of my triple for a better chainline and disabling my front derailler. Now I run 8 fully-utilized gears on my commute and love the simplicity of shifting, but I’m a one-bike guy and would like a wider range so I can tour with the same bike. Between that and my unrequited belt lust, my next bike with be a Gates/Alfine 11 of some flavor. I’m hoping that Breezer updates their Finesse accordingly and puts a usable rack on it (what were they thinking?) so it’ll work with my Ortliebs. It’s aluminum, but in every other way seems like the best value among the Civia/Norco/Tout Terrain style fast commuters.

  • Eric Jenkins says:

    Quick Note on Winter Riding:
    Keeping in mind I am most definitely a commuter/urban type rider who values reliability and ease of use over weight and efficiency, and one who has ridden inexpensive bikes for 30 years:

    I have been riding in Canadian winters in the city to work on and off for 20 years. Most of those years have been on derailleurs, almost all Shimano SIS systems. They froze and jammed with regularity. Almost all the front shifters stick, so that in the winter I kept using the middle or larger ring because I knew it might stay there for months at a time. It was only in the last 10 years have the cables not been routed along the bottom of budget bikes, right where the ice built up. Often after -15 (+5 F) the rear froze up also, so that I was riding a fixie years before that was a term!

    For me and my riding style, as I guy who only tinkers with the bike when I have to, IGH’s are a godsend. If I only had the brains to get an old Raleigh when they were often given away for free in the 70’s and 80’s….

  • Joe says:

    I rode all winter this year for the first time in 35 yr. of riding (I’ve given up owning a car). I had continual problems with my Nexus hub in sub-freezing temperatures. They were not caused by the hub though. The cable housing would freeze up, preventing the cable from moving. Luckily my commute is dead flat. I just had to make sure when I parked the bike during a thaw that I left it in a gear I would want to ride in when the temps dropped again :). I did not miss not having a derailleur.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Joe,

    Those are some extreme conditions!

    I’m curious why the IGH was different than a derailleur? In other words, if the cable freezing was the issue, wouldn’t it have affected a derailleur in the same way, or is it that the derailleur has a stronger spring than your IGH?


  • Darryl says:

    Like most other things, one size does not fit all. However, I love my IGH bikes for most of the reasons already mentioned by others. I’m sure the tech will continue to improve. At this point, I will not consider a bike without one.

  • Thomas G says:


    I have experienced Nexus IGH’s freezing up too. The return springs are simply not up to the task.
    This problem does not occur with my NuVinci, but I suppose that it’s because it has a double cable system – always one cable that’s pulling.
    Same thing for a Rohloff i suppose.

  • Ira Kinro says:

    I just did a little math.

    In front: Schlumpf High Speed Drive with 27 tooth chainring.

    In back: N360 with 22 tooth cog.

    Gear range: 900% with no duplicative gears and no derailleurs

    Wow. (but I don’t think you’re supposed to run 27/22 with the N360. I’d do it anyway.)

  • eli says:

    While bike technology keeps evolving I love living in the past. For me a 3×6 with bar ends is heaven. And while I have a 3×8 too, I love my old school Schwinn Le Tour Luxe touring setup. I got it as a frame a year ago. I found some old school shimano bar ends at a swap meet. At first as was bummed I couldn’t find any suntour ratcheting shifters. But now the my brain and hands are integrated with the bike and the shifting is perfection!
    I think the problem that many people dont have proper strategies for shifting. If you ride a racing bike with a corncob cassette its pretty simple. If you have a wide range cassette you have to plan the shifts better and know when to double shift.
    I’m sure the IGH hubs will continue to have a place in the market. It is possbile that for some their evolution will lead the to a 3×9. It is possible for those not wanting to wrench on their bike or fuss with keeping track of so many gears their evolution will lead them to an IGH hub. I also commute in Fairbanks Alaska and love my triple, and even though I don’t use the granny gear often I’m glad I have it.

  • Matt DeBlass says:

    Another point for the IGH commuter: I was halfway to work today and busted a drive-side spoke on my rear wheel. Fortunately I knew a bike shop not far off my route, so I was able to pick up a replacement spoke. I was able to lace the new spoke without even having to take the wheel out of the bike, let alone remove a cassette/freewheel. Trued the wheel up and on my way with less than 20 minutes lost.

  • Alan says:

    Very cool, Matt. Thanks for sharing…

  • Brian Wilcox says:

    I hate the Nexus/Alfine 8-speed hubs with a passion.

    There. I said it. They are great hubs in many ways, but there is one huge deal-breaker for me: the gaps between gears. My wife has a Nexus red-band hub on her city bike and I can never get used to that one jump that is like 22%.

    I have an iMotion 9 on one of my bikes and I really like it. I’m building a new commuter for myself with an Alfine-11 and I’m expecting to enjoy it, too.

  • Alan says:


    You must really dislike 3-speed hubs… :-)

  • Brian Wilcox says:


    Not at all. When there are only 3 gears you have to have big jumps to get any sort of usable range. It just really makes Shimano look bad that they can’t design an 8-speed hub without crazy jumps between gears, especially after they previously did a much better job at it with the Nexus-7 and created nicely-spaced gears with the Alfine-11. SRAM made nice even jumps with the iMotion-9, too.

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