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Rohloff vs Alfine bearing lifespan and replacement

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Rohloff vs Alfine bearing lifespan and replacement

Old 06-25-17, 01:46 AM
  #1  
elfmachine
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Rohloff vs Alfine bearing lifespan and replacement

I was happy when I switched to IGH bicycle because internal gears and coaster brakes of Nexus needed very little maintenance, were protected from outside damage. But unfortunatelly I find out that IGH have vulnerability - wearing out bearings. When I wanted to clean my Nexus 7 I found that bearing cones and cups were worn out so much that developed cracks and ball bearings no longer work so there is a lot of friction when pedaling. I couldn't just replace bearings since cups was integral part of housing holding gears. From that point I was angry at Shimano IGH design since these bearings looked like planed obsolescence.

So now I'm looking for smartelly designed IGH system. I was impressed with Rohloff 14 hub design and specs what is examle of German engineering marvel, has a lot of benefits over all other gear systems, more speeds and higher gear ratio, oil bath to wash off abrasive particles, less friction than other IGH systems and replaceable industrial bearings. Downside is that they don't have coaster brakes like Nexus does which I loved because they need very rarely maintenance, high price and weight are worth Rohloff benefits.

Alfine 11 is second hub I would consider since it made improovement such as utilisation of oil bath, adding more bearings and better bearings BUT still what I see from drafts they don't have industrial, replaceable bearings.
So I need opinion from people who have used these IGH and had to replace bearings to help choose.

There is new Rohloff competitor - Norwegian Kindernay XIV which similar is similar but I don't know much yet about this hub. But I guess Europian design is superior.
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Old 06-25-17, 02:43 AM
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As a person who had several colleagues on Rohloff and lived close to then factory, I can tell you that most would see a coaster brake as an increased failure point of the hub and a significant decrease in reliability. I have to say that I've never seen one fail ... Usually the wheel fails first. Usually due to those excellent rim crushing Magura hydraulic brakes.

Last edited by acidfast7; 06-25-17 at 02:52 AM.
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Old 06-25-17, 08:08 AM
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Forget the finicky Alfine 11. My Rohloff14 has 11,000 miles, still getting better. Not even a cable change yet. A Rohloff external shifter box at the hub also keeps out dirt and so simple to take apart to remove the wheel.
For zero service brakes, ONLY Sturmey Archer DRUM brakes qualify. My front XL FDD dyno drum hub has 21,500 miles including 4,000 at 120 lbs. The rear brake just doesn't matter. One of the sealed bearings went at 17,000 miles, fixed myself with the $9 part. 4 balls got crushed up and sucked into the magnet, but it was still ridable if avoiding leaning.
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Old 06-25-17, 09:30 AM
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I have a folding bike with a Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub; this bike has over 12,000 miles on it. Once a year I pull the hub apart and dip the gear clusters in gear oil, and apply Nexus hub grease to the bearings. The bearing races look virtually new; there is no pitting or other evidence of wear. FWIW, I weigh about 210 pounds.

My current daily commuter bike is another folder with an Alfine 11-speed hub. After 5,000 miles and seven oil changes, the hub is smooth-running and shifting crisply. I have not opened it to inspect the bearings, but see no reason to do so. This hub has never been "finnicky".

I have nothing against the Rohloff speedhub, which is a beautiful piece of engineering. Actually, I prefer a trigger-shift over a twist shift, so there may be that complaint. Otherwise none.

I can't explain the OP's experiences with IGH bearings, but I doubt it's a common problem.
Stee
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Old 06-25-17, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
For zero service brakes, ONLY Sturmey Archer DRUM brakes qualify. My front XL FDD dyno drum hub has 21,500 miles including 4,000 at 120 lbs. The rear brake just doesn't matter. One of the sealed bearings went at 17,000 miles, fixed myself with the $9 part. 4 balls got crushed up and sucked into the magnet, but it was still ridable if avoiding leaning.
I run SA drum brakes front and rear on my commuting bike - probably close to 15,000 miles. I can agree that they are low maintenance, but not zero maintenance. I had to replace one of the cartridge bearings on the front X-FDD and I had sticky cams on both brakes. A bit of cleaning and a touch of grease cleared that up. They work much better than coaster brakes and are pretty much weather resistant.

Thinking hard about a Rohloff for my trike!
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Old 06-26-17, 02:39 PM
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Kindernay XIV looks pretty sweet! Separating the hub mechanics from the spoke flange cage is genius! MSRP 15000 Norse Kroner ~ $USD 2250 at the moment.
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Old 06-26-17, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by elfmachine View Post
I was happy when I switched to IGH bicycle because internal gears and coaster brakes of Nexus needed very little maintenance, were protected from outside damage. But unfortunatelly I find out that IGH have vulnerability - wearing out bearings. When I wanted to clean my Nexus 7 I found that bearing cones and cups were worn out so much that developed cracks and ball bearings no longer work so there is a lot of friction when pedaling. I couldn't just replace bearings since cups was integral part of housing holding gears. From that point I was angry at Shimano IGH design since these bearings looked like planed obsolescence.

So now I'm looking for smartelly designed IGH system. I was impressed with Rohloff 14 hub design and specs what is examle of German engineering marvel, has a lot of benefits over all other gear systems, more speeds and higher gear ratio, oil bath to wash off abrasive particles, less friction than other IGH systems and replaceable industrial bearings. Downside is that they don't have coaster brakes like Nexus does which I loved because they need very rarely maintenance, high price and weight are worth Rohloff benefits.

Alfine 11 is second hub I would consider since it made improovement such as utilisation of oil bath, adding more bearings and better bearings BUT still what I see from drafts they don't have industrial, replaceable bearings.
So I need opinion from people who have used these IGH and had to replace bearings to help choose.

There is new Rohloff competitor - Norwegian Kindernay XIV which similar is similar but I don't know much yet about this hub. But I guess Europian design is superior.
I have a Shimano Alfine 8 and the bearings are replaceable although you need a special tool to remove the drive side cone to get at the bearings on that side. People will remove the cone without the tool, but you run the risk of some things coming apart that you don't want to have to put back together.

The Nexus 8 premium is very similar to the Alfine 8. I don't know about the Nexus 7.

How long had you owned the Nexus before you attempted to clean it?

There are a couple of issues with the Shimano IGHs. The earlier ones weren't sealed as well as more recent ones. If you ride with those under wet or dirty conditions, the internal parts can get contaminated and damaged pretty quickly.

However, I think the biggest problem with Shimano IGHs is not the bearings or the seals. It's that the people that buy them are given the impression that they require little to no maintenance. That's only true if you don't ride very much or only ride under pretty ideal conditions.

I bought mine to ride in the winter and I learned that I really need to service it annually or every other year if there's been a mild winter. If you do that, the bearings and the races will do just fine. But eventually the bearings will need to be replaced, and you can do that too. It's a little more work and the bearings are not something you can likely get from your local bike shop.

If worse comes to worse and the races are damaged, there are people that have re-ground them with some success. Otherwise, it's hub replacement time.

Last edited by tjspiel; 06-26-17 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 06-26-17, 09:44 PM
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I was curious and did a little more checking. There's quite a bit of information on the Sheldon Brown Site. Here's an exploded view of the Nexus 8 Hub.

Parts 6,11,12, and 29 are the replaceable cones and bearings. UniversalCycles carries a lot of parts for the Shimano hubs including the cones and bearings. I didn't see a bearing retainer ring that cost more than $7.00. The smaller ones were $4.00 or $5.00

There were/are several 7 speed models. What's interesting about the coaster brake hubs is that they are the only one where they don't recommend replacing the grease with oil. I don't know if it's because of the extra heat generated by the brakes or they're concerned about oil leaks impeding brake performance. Anyway, it was noted that the coaster brake models need more attention, exactly because of the heat they generate.

I'm sorry you had a bad experience with the Nexus elfmachine. You aren't the first and you won't be the last, but in general I think people agree that Shimano's IGHs are pretty good. I suspect some water or dirt got into your hub, or perhaps it was shipped from the factory without being adequately greased. It's happened. It's also possible that you were given bad information about the maintenance requirements and just waited too long to crack the Nexus open.

I have no idea how the bearings used in a Rohloff compare to the ones used in a Shimano, but once the races are shot, it doesn't matter if the bearings are replaceable or not. It's already too late. I do know that a Rohloff costs a lot more than I can currently justify spending on an IGH. For me that is not an alternative.
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Old 06-26-17, 10:10 PM
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Speaking of IGHs, have you seen IKEAs new belt-driven 2-speed automatic bike for 350?

IKEA bike

I'd pick one up as it would never get stolen but my single speed bike is still perfect for seaside flat urban commuting.
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Old 06-27-17, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
How long had you owned the Nexus before you attempted to clean it?

There are a couple of issues with the Shimano IGHs. The earlier ones weren't sealed as well as more recent ones. If you ride with those under wet or dirty conditions, the internal parts can get contaminated and damaged pretty quickly.

However, I think the biggest problem with Shimano IGHs is not the bearings or the seals. It's that the people that buy them are given the impression that they require little to no maintenance. That's only true if you don't ride very much or only ride under pretty ideal conditions.

I bought mine to ride in the winter and I learned that I really need to service it annually or every other year if there's been a mild winter. If you do that, the bearings and the races will do just fine. But eventually the bearings will need to be replaced, and you can do that too. It's a little more work and the bearings are not something you can likely get from your local bike shop.

If worse comes to worse and the races are damaged, there are people that have re-ground them with some success. Otherwise, it's hub replacement time.
Well I bought used bicycle so I don't know how previous owner treated it but it was probably used for long time and hub wasnt maintained. Bearing wear is natural process due to friction between balls, external mechanical damage might also cause pits to develop. There were reports that Alfine 11 after some time was less efficient due bearing wear so they need replacement time to time.
So problem is that cups are integral part of hub mechanism and when they fail you have change expensive parts which are hard to get also. How reground is done, by polishing?
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Old 06-27-17, 11:28 AM
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I bought a 04 bike, so I expect the factory got a hub shipment DE to NL, that year..

1st generation hub seals were Nylon...

got a deal on the whole bike.. hidden secret was the seals leaked, so I shipped the hub to R'off USA, in the SF east bay

and they put in the Neoprene seals, in 08, that type seal is industry standard , and what they still use, .. Its been fine.. ever since.




....
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Old 06-27-17, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by elfmachine View Post
Well I bought used bicycle so I don't know how previous owner treated it but it was probably used for long time and hub wasnt maintained. Bearing wear is natural process due to friction between balls, external mechanical damage might also cause pits to develop. There were reports that Alfine 11 after some time was less efficient due bearing wear so they need replacement time to time.
So problem is that cups are integral part of hub mechanism and when they fail you have change expensive parts which are hard to get also. How reground is done, by polishing?
It's not uncommon for the the "cups" to be an integral part of a hub. If a hub is well maintained, they should last a long long time. In any case, virtually any part of a Shimano hub (8 speed at least) can be replaced now. If you have to pay someone else to rebuild it, it's probably not worth the cost, but getting a new wheel built on a new hub isn't cheap either.

If they're not too far gone, races can reground using a lathe or drill press and a dremel. Since I have neither a lathe nor a drill press it's not something I've ever done.

Again, I'm sorry for what happened to your hub, but since you don't know if the hub was properly maintained or not, I don't know that you can really blame the design. Part of the design constraints is that they have to meet a certain price point. You can get a whole bike with a 7 speed Nexus hub for half of what it would cost just for the Rohloff.
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Old 06-27-17, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by elfmachine View Post
Well I bought used bicycle so I don't know how previous owner treated it but it was probably used for long time and hub wasnt maintained. Bearing wear is natural process due to friction between balls, external mechanical damage might also cause pits to develop.
There's your problem. Sure, bearings wear over time, but the lifetime of a bearing varies from zero to decades depending on maintenance and riding conditions. The previous owner let the bearings dry out or get contaminated.

I've had several used bikes (3 in the family fleet right now), and I always check the condition and lubrication of bearings myself before putting very many miles on any bike.

I'm guessing that in order for the bearing races to be machined into the hubshell, the shell has to be steel and not aluminum.
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Old 06-27-17, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
There's your problem. Sure, bearings wear over time, but the lifetime of a bearing varies from zero to decades depending on maintenance and riding conditions. The previous owner let the bearings dry out or get contaminated.

I've had several used bikes (3 in the family fleet right now), and I always check the condition and lubrication of bearings myself before putting very many miles on any bike.

I'm guessing that in order for the bearing races to be machined into the hubshell, the shell has to be steel and not aluminum.
Hubshell is made of steel but it is other part damaged. Nexus 7 driver unit like shown in photo has integrated bearing races:
It would be great to restore hub and could do it myself gladly. But parts that need to be replaced cost so much that's better just to buy new bicycle.
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