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renton20 08-09-10 12:52 AM

Internally geared hub
So I'm building up a surly 1x1 to use as my winter commuter/trail rider and was thinking of setting it up with an IGH. I rode a single speed last year and wasn't disappointed but I think that throwing some gears on it would make this bike a little more versatile. I was looking into the nuvinci 360 but they say not to use it below 45 degrees fahrenheit. I live in MN and cycle year round, I did a race on last new years eve when it was -15 before windchill outside.

I'm mainly looking into the alfine or the i-motion 9. Does anyone have any experience with these hubs in the winter? My theory was that they would keep water out better and therefore not freeze up like I've had derailers do to me.

Juha 08-09-10 02:04 AM

No experience on those particular hubs, but IGHs in general seem to hold up well in winter commuting use. Overwhelming majority around here are sold with Shimano 7/8 speed, but I suspect not many people actually pay attention to the make and model. They just buy an IGH bike for utility riding.

As with derailleur systems, the first thing to freeze is the shifter and/or cable, not so much the hub itself. Especially if you have indexing mechanism built in the shifter and not in the hub. I'd run the shifter cable(s) bare where possible, and use high quality cable housing only where needed. If you use housing, try to avoid creating low hanging spots where water collects and then freezes.

I downgraded my derailleur equipped winter bike to friction shifters a couple of years ago, as I got fed up with indexed shifters requiring a LOT of attenion in winter.


CharlieFree 08-09-10 12:07 PM

I think IGHs do hold up well for winter. In fact, I was in my LBS last week receiving the bad news that my el cheapo mountain bike is not worth replacing components (entry level bike).

The tech said that in his opinion if he was building a winter bike he would have an IGH with a belt drive system. Sounds great but not cheap. My follow up question is do I do something like that or just do what a lot of folks do and buy a cheap used bike from CL/Kijiji that is essentially disposable after a season? Any thoughts or opinions on that choice would be much appreciated.

irclean 08-09-10 01:24 PM

I just recently purchased a belt-driven, disc-braked, IGH-equipped bike for a 4-season commuter. I got tired of cleaning my drivetrain and having my dérailleurs and/or rim brakes icing up. Time will tell if the bike works in winter as well as I'm hoping it will. Admittedly, there is a part of me feels somewhat nauseous at the thought of subjecting my new baby to snow, ice, and salt, but that is what I bought it for.

To the OP: If you can hold out a little longer on your hub purchase, the Alfine 11-speed is supposed to be available beginning in September of this year. It uses an oil bath for lubrication (like the more expensive Rohloff) vs. the 8-speed's grease, so it should hold up better to extreme temperatures, and of course it has more range.

I think the used bike build is a good idea, but could prove frustrating depending on the level of maintenance needed. One idea is to have a decent wheel with an IGH that you can slap on whichever bike you buy and can be kept for next year's purchase. An even simpler route is to go SS; many fixed-gear winter commuters swear by their setups.

CharlieFree 08-09-10 03:08 PM

Interesting point about the single-speed; my summer commuter is SS (but not fixed). I really like it and the lower maintenance. But it is a road style so I would want something more stable with wider tires (I like studded tires for winter), etc. Also it is nice to have gears to push through snow, etc. But I can definitely see the appeal.

wolfchild 08-09-10 03:13 PM

My only concern about IGH's is what happens when you get a flat in winter time ,when its snowy,cold and messy out there. I heard that removing and installing a wheel on IGH bikes can be a little bit of a challenge. You need to disconnect a shifter cable at the hub and then line up all the settings when installing the wheel back on a bike. I have no experience with IGH's , so I am just asking a question ? How difficult is it to remove and install a wheel ?

PaulRivers 08-09-10 03:22 PM

I used an Alfine all last winter, but I'm more of a recreational winter rider than an actual winter commuter. The Alfine's shifting got a little slower and more wonky as it got colder (you know, 0 degrees Fahrenheit), but it never stopped working.

At least one local commuter shop (Hiawatha Cyclery) told me they had had several early Nexus hubs that weren't very well sealed and required just as much maintenance as a derailler. But the modern Nexus hubs (and the Alfine ones) have probably fixed this problem.

As a recreational rider, I would sometimes feel like the hub was slowly me down when it was really cold (got less efficient), but I'm not sure if that was really happening or not. I can say definitely, with confidence from personal experience, that my road bike with a derailler slows down as the temp goes from 70 degrees to 25 - so I might be going slower but it's not the hub. And I've heard of people putting oil in the hub rather than grease so it doesn't get sludged up - haven't tried it myself, though. Heard that's good in the winter, but doesn't work well in the summer.

However to your question - yes an alfine did work, cold weather and wet weather didn't seem to bother it other than slowing down the speed it shifted at, though I did not put a great deal of stress over the winter either.

If I was going to get a new winter bike, I'd get a belt drive bike. But - I also have some money to drop on bikes, no doubt I would have a different opinion if I was more poor. They seem to be the ultimate in low maintenance bikes - you don't even have a chain with oil to worry about.

PaulRivers 08-09-10 03:31 PM


Originally Posted by wolfchild (Post 11261085)
My only concern about IGH's is what happens when you get a flat in winter time ,when its snowy,cold and messy out there. I heard that removing and installing a wheel on IGH bikes can be a little bit of a challenge. You need to disconnect a shifter cable at the hub and then line up all the settings when installing the wheel back on a bike. I have no experience with IGH's , so I am just asking a question ? How difficult is it to remove and install a wheel ?

Civia has videos on how to do it so you can see for yourself - go to

And I think it's "Rear Wheel Removal–Alfine".

On the one hand, it definitely is a bit of a pain in the ass. For starters, it's just different and unfamiliar compared to the rest of my bikes. I wouldn't necessarily say it's "more work" if you were experienced with both, but it is less intuitive overall and it's more difficult just because you don't know how to do it. You also have to thread this little cable with stops back around the hub when you're done - you'll have to take off your gloves to do it.

On the other hand, for whatever reason I've never actually gotten a flat on my winter bike. I'm not sure what it is, but other people have told me the same thing. Maybe when there's snow on the ground, sharp point things that would otherwise dig into your tire get pushed into the snow instead. I have no idea really, but I've never had a flat so far. I do run flat-resistant tires (Panaracer TServ's) on both wheels...dunno. I carry a cell phone, and there are people who would be willing to pick me up if I had a flat and it was super cold out and I couldn't fix it. Hasn't happened so far though.

irclean 08-09-10 05:18 PM

+1 on the flat-resistant tires, but of course they're not 100% puncture-proof. You could resort to Stan's tire sealant, which can be seen in action here:

Rather than resort to such drastic actions, you can practice removing and re-installing the IGH wheel over and over until it becomes routine; they are, after all, designed to be removeable. Once that is no longer an issue, fixing a flat is no more difficult to do than it is on any other bike, which is still a PITA in the winter months.

I like to add a new tube to my patch kit and multi-tool in my saddlebag; that way I can patch the other tube later in the comfort and warmth of my home. IMHO it's a lot quicker to change a tube than to patch one. On my bike I don't even have to fully remove the wheel - I just have to drop it out of the dropouts far enough to remove the tire and tube.

PaulRivers 08-10-10 10:25 PM

While I'm not saying you shouldn't try it, from people who have tried and reported back on here, it hasn't sounded like the tire sealant is nearly as effective as it appears to be in the video. I don't know what the difference is really, just sayin'.

tsl 08-11-10 02:14 AM

As Paul says, sealant isn't nearly as effective in real life as it is in Marketingland. My first bike had Slime in the tubes. It lasted for six weeks and two flats. I switched to puncture-resistant tires instead.

I'm sure it's fine for its intended use in low-pressure mountain bike tires, off-road, out west, where the major flat producer is the goathead thorn. They produce a nice, neat, round hole like the bed-o'-nails in the video above. Here in the east, and in urban riding in general, glass flats predominate. The Slime sealant web site even says it's not likely to work on glass flats and other slicing punctures. You'll notice the Stan's video doesn't use broken glass or twisted metal to slice a puncture into the tire…

Besides, this is the winter forum here. Water-based sealants and sub-freezing temperatures don't seem to go together. How do you expect frozen solid sealant to flow into a puncture?

electrik 08-11-10 07:30 PM

I had a hard time to justify the added expensive, I just stuck with what I had as nothing was really broken. I was also put off with the possibility of having to send the wheel away if the IGH required service - not many shops can do the work.

MichaelW 09-20-10 05:36 AM

Removal of the Alfine hub requires a wrench and the removal of the gear cable from the cassette arm. The cable unhooks by hand but it can be easier to grab with needle-nose pliers (leatherman). There is a technique to it, you have to rotate the locating bolt on the cable a little before pulling out. Just practice a few times in the warm and dry, its not hard.

hairytoes 09-20-10 08:50 AM

In the UK, it's still fairly easy to get hold of Sturmey Archer 3 speed hubs. These run with oil rather than grease, so should cope just fine with sub-zero temperatures. The shifters are robust and reliable and shouldn't get snarled up with ice - they are a very open metal design, so you can dribble oil into them to keep the water/ice out.

An SA AW hub would make for a great winter bike. I fitted one to an old track frame and used it for years, riding year round in really hilly areas.

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