The Chainlink

Hello all, I'm a daily bike commuter here in Chicago, from my home in the West Loop up to my job in downtown Evanston (woo-hoo reverse commuter!).  My dedicated foul-weather/winter bike (Scott SUB 10) has an Alfine 8 IGH. From some of the experienced IGH riders over on bikeforums.com, I've learned that the Alfine 8 is lubricated with grease instead of oil, as is used in the higher-end Alfine 11. Apparently this grease can cause extra drag in the hub in colder weather. As a daily 4-season rider in Chicago, the situation is less than ideal.

The solution is to open up the IGH and give it an oil bath. I've visited the hubstripping webpage to learn how to do it, but I'm still honestly intimidated and would rather not tackle this mod by myself.

Does anyone know of any bike shops in the city that are especially knowledgeable with IGH servicing? I got the bike from REI, but I'm not inclined to trust a product-mover like REI with a highly technical service job like this. What would be THE shop in Chicago to get an oil bath for my IGH?

Thanks in advance for any insight anyone may provide, and as a die-hard cycling freak, I look forward to contributing to the discussions here, cheers!

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I'd talk to either Doug at Rapid Transit or Owen at Blue City, they've both seen their fare share IGHs.

Dan, we'd be happy to help at Roscoe Village Bikes. Alex, John E. and Austin W. in particular have a lot of experience with this and one of them is always in the shop.  We're open everyday but Wednesday and are located at 2016 W. Roscoe St.. Call 773-477-7550 if you have questions. Lesley 

Uptown Bikes might be worth a visit. They rehab a lot of old IGH's

Not applicable for the OP, but for those in or near Hyde Park, DJ the Bike Doctor has some serious IGH chops. 1500 E 55th St.

I can do it at Rapid Transit however I think that the benefit you see from it will be slim to none and I would hesitate from moving away from the manufactured recommended lubricant in the hub unless I was quite sure about it being a suitable lube.  

I ride an internal gear hub, and internal gear crank, myself on my 'winter' bike.  Both the newer Sturmey 3spd and the Patterson transmission use grease for lubricant and I have only noticed an issue with their performance on the coldest days of the year and even then it usually has less to do with drag and more to do with shifting performance.  The Patterson Transmission uses a grease that is much thicker than the Shimano lube the the Alfine and Nexus hubs and it has never had any performance issues.  I have also ridden older oil lubed Sturmey hubs as well as some other hubs in the cold and I have never noticed an issue with the cold affecting their performance.

Fact is all lube is going to get sticky when it is cold oil even more than grease.  

^ Interesting info, thanks.

The only reason I'm exploring this option is because a couple of other Alfine 8 owners on bikeforums.com (in the commuter sub-forum) have stated that their Alfines now perform better in the cold after making the switch from grease to oil. Also, the fact that Shimano uses oil in their higher-end Alfine 11 instead of the grease found in their lower-end IGHs lead me to believe that oil would be the superior lubricant.

I'm not sure what to believe now.

Thanks all for your replies.

Your logic on the one lube being superior is bad science.  Think of it like this; Shell Rottella T 15/40 is one of the best diesel engine oils on the market but if you put it into a gas engine in a civic it is not going to lubricate that engine properly.  

Shimano specs a different oil for the different hubs because they have different lubrication needs.  That said I doubt changing lubes would damage the hub or cause you problems; I just question the benifit.

What problems are the people who have made the switch saying the lube change helped with?  Was there an actual operational problem with them or are they just claiming it works 'better' now?  Be very, very skeptical when people claim a benefit but cannot give a clear case of an actual problem being solved or having solid data that there is an improvement.  I cannot imagine that a lube switch would make enough of a difference that you could notice it.  Also, unless they are doing it on pretty much brand new hubs it could have less to do with the lube and more to do with cleaning it up.

Well, if putting an IGH on your bike means it will always be in the shop, I guess I don't need to know that badly what it is.

Roscoe Village Bikes said:

Dan, we'd be happy to help at Roscoe Village Bikes. Alex, John E. and Austin W. in particular have a lot of experience with this and one of them is always in the shop.  

Part of the perceived value of an Internally Geared Hub is exactly the opposite. People ran IGHs for decades with no more maintenance than dropping a bit of oil in a hole once or twice a year.

The current crop of IGHs seem to be a different story, or perhaps the old story was fuzzed up by the mists of time and nostalgia.

I came to build my three speed after finding a single speed/fixed gear inadequate. I came to the SS/fixed after growing weary of maintaining derailleurs and freewheels or cassettes, especially those exposed to chicago winters. Currently my three speed's Archer Sturmey hub is pretty messed up and for the moment I've replaced the rear with a fixed/SS! 


h' said:

Well, if putting an IGH on your bike means it will always be in the shop, I guess I don't need to know that badly what it is.

Roscoe Village Bikes said:

Dan, we'd be happy to help at Roscoe Village Bikes. Alex, John E. and Austin W. in particular have a lot of experience with this and one of them is always in the shop.  

Sturmey 3 speeds old and new are very durable baring the coaster break version.  Same for modern Shimano 3 speeds.  More gears can often equal more problems.  I am not a fan of the Sturmey 8 but the Shimano 7 and 8 speeds seem to be pretty trouble free.

That would match my limited experience. My coaster break equipped S-RC3 (i think) (a new Sturmey Archer) after a year and a half started getting stuck in fixed gear mode - which was annoying and probably a sign that I should have stopped riding it. Then last week the thing locked up on me for a while. That was a sign that I had to stop riding it until I got it fixed. 

Dug, do you have any experience with the new Sturmey two speeds? I'm on the fence now about getting one for my next commuter build...  I was planning to get a coaster brake 2 speed, but perhaps I should avoid that version?


notoriousDUG said:

Sturmey 3 speeds old and new are very durable baring the coaster break version.  Same for modern Shimano 3 speeds.  More gears can often equal more problems.  I am not a fan of the Sturmey 8 but the Shimano 7 and 8 speeds seem to be pretty trouble free.

They had some issues with them to start with but those are allegedly fixed.  The coaster brake ones seemed to be the worst and I am not sure if I would trust them.

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