Internal gear hubs don’t need to be adjusted as frequently as derailleur gears, but this doesn’t mean they are maintenance free. Like any other moving part they require periodic maintenance to ensure a long, trouble-free lifespan. The good news is that it’s often a straightforward job and that 12-18 months is fine for most commuters.
Different types of Internal Gear Hubs
There are several different brands and types of internal gear hub (IGH). Shimano makes both grease-based and oil-based IGHs. The grease-based versions range from a 3 to an 8 speed. All are straight forward to service. Shimano’s only oil-based offering is the Alfine 11 speed. Sram makes a range of gear hubs from 3 to 9 speed with which are more variable with respect to reliability and serviceability. The old 3 speed Sturmey Archer hubs are bombproof and require very little attention. Newer Sturmey Archer’s are prone to being problematic. And finally, there is the pinnacle of IGH technology, the touring-spec Rohloff. The Rohloff is a 14 speed oil-based hub that functions quite differently from the Shimano 11 speed. It is more robust than the Shimano and as a result better suited to touring.
Servicing requirements for IGHs
Broadly speaking, grease based internal gear hubs will require cleaning out, inspecting and re-greasing about every 12-18 months.
The two oil based hubs both require periodic oil changes. The Alfine 11 speed will also wear through two seals over time, both of which we keep in stock.
We are fully equipped to service Rohloff hubs. The oil change itself is easy and we are happy to sell you the kit if you’d like to do it yourself. Beyond this, we do a full range of Rohloff work. We work with Rohloff Australia and carry a full range of spare parts, so we can do repairs that many other shops do not do. For instance, we often replace the main seals in these hubs, replace their index bearings and have extensive experience diagnosing leeks.
We recommend replacing the shift cables periodically or at the first sign of mis-shifting on any IGH other than a Rohloff. This is critical because on most hubs the shifter controls the alignment of all of the planetary gears and a damaged or lagging cable can prevent the elements inside from aligning properly, leading to damage and accelerated wear. Rohloff’s control their indexing between gears in the hub rather than the shifter so this is less of an issue with the Rohloff. A damaged or lagging shift cable in a Rohloff will just feel nasty but isn’t causing any damage.