As you will hopefully know by now, at Really Useful Bikes, we really like hub gears, hub gears change your speed within the rear wheel hub, working just like the gearbox in a car rather than having the gear change mechanism that you might be used to, the derailer, that hangs down from the rear of many of the bikes currently in use..
Hub Gears are a little more expensive than the alternative, the derailer, but need very little maintenance and are very hard to break. You can also change gear when you are stationary, so if you stop quickly for some reason, at traffic lights or if your child had thrown his/her favourite fluffy toy from his/her bike seat and you need to stop to get it.., then you can change from a hard gear to a easy gear whilst stationary, giving you a safe easy ride off…you can’t do this with a derailer changer, which has to have the wheel moving to change gear.
The limitation, if you can call it that, is that up against a 21/24 speed derailer equipped bikes, the range of the gears is more limited, if you and your bike take a regular route A-B, then your bike can have 3 gears, as long as they are tuned to your journey you will have a nice easy time. If you ride a random route and hit big hills and want to twiddle up it, then still want to go very fast on the flat or down hill, you need a larger choice of speeds or ratios available. Hence you might have 3 chain rings by the pedals, and 6 or 7 on the rear wheel. Lots of exposed chain movements there, all of which cause wear and tear and greasy trouser bottoms.
You can buy hub gears with 7 and 8 speeds available, they cost about 150-200 pounds, really easy to use and have a good range, good enough for most of us non sports riders riding around. You can get 14 speed hub gears too; these have much the same range of gears as a derailer setup but cost about £1000…so jolly nice, but not so available to most of us…
Today I saw a glimpse of the new Shimano 11 speed hub gear, which is developing the Alfine product line. This wide range hub gear will cost about £400 (or so I am led to believe). So this could be the hub that makes it easier for me to sell you a bike that will be more versatile than ever before, matching the range of gears/speeds that a derailer setup will give you but with all the benefits of an internal hub gear.
Some of those benefits are:
Very clean, can be fully enclosed with a chain case/guard,
Low maintenance, hi reliability, no chain coming off, long lasting,
You can change gear when stopped,
Cannot get knocked and put out of adjustment,
Smooth and quiet.
The 11 speed Alfine should be available at the end of the year.