Category Archives: Trike maintenance

Alfie’s hub gear gets its second (and more successful!) service

Today was to be Alfine 11 Hub Gear service day, in preparation for my Berlin to London cycle ride for Help For Heroes next week.

I wasn’t sure if it was due a service yet (it had done 2,653 since the last service) as I have variously been told 5,000 miles between services or 5,000km. If 5,000km then it was just about the right time and I didn’t think it’d hurt to do it early anyway.

My last hub gear service went both brilliantly and disastrously; brilliantly in that it all worked fairly well and I was happy that I had followed the instructions successfully, and disastrously in that an online cycle parts retailer had sent me the wrong oil and it could have been damaging to the hub. Fortunately Huw at Madison (UK Shimano distributor) spotted this and did a service of my hub free of charge. Hurrah!

So today was the big day. This time I had the correct oil – green!

I had also left myself with a week to hopefully correct any other unexpected disasters before setting off to the Fatherland.

Because the weather is a bit horrible at the moment I decided to do this oil change in the shed. Although the Shimano Oil paperwork warns you to do the oil change in a well-ventilated place, I thought the shed was fine. There are so many warnings on the paperwork anyway I’m surprised it doesn’t warn you that the Apocalypse might take place whilst you’re doing the oil change and so you might not complete it successfully.

Another change this time was that I didn’t wear rubber gloves. I read all the dire warnings of hands dropping off if exposed to one drop of oil (slight exaggeration there) and decided that, as I remember you have to keep leaving the thing for five minutes for the oil to settle, I might as well do some work at the same time and just wash my hands a lot.

So, all prepared, all the tools in place: off we go.

For those who have an ICE trike like mine with the rack fitted, the side portion of the rack gets a bit in the way so I decided this time to remove it. This was well worth the small effort as it meant I could rotate the wheel easily, even with the syringe/tube attached.

Before:

After:

This time I couldn’t find the paper written instructions so was using a PDF on my iPad which isn’t optimal but I managed to keep the iPad from being bathed with oil, so that was a win.

I attached the nozzle, discovering that this time I seem to have two O-rings on the bolt (a bonus gift from Madison?) This was good to know as those things have a tendency to fall off and are very hard to find.

I didn’t read the instructions as closely as I should have as they say to remove the locking nut and the O-ring but then say, a bit later, use the O-ring with the tube to stop oil leaking out. I didn’t see that so had a few drops of oil leak out as I was doing the procedure; you’ll see in some photos some kitchen towel to mop it up. There wasn’t that much though.

Now the nozzle and syringe were attached

I the rotated the wheel and left it for five minutes for the oil to settle downwards

Then it was time to start the long procedure of sucking out the old oil with the syringe. You really have to do this for a minute, then leave it for five, then do it for another minute, leave it for another five etc etc to give the oil time to ooze down to the hole. So, I started extracting the oil and stopped when I was getting more air bubbles than oil, giving it a rest for a few minutes and then continuing.

This is a bit of a drawn-out procedure so time for a cup of tea and piece of cake (I washed my hands first, of course).

I realised it would be easier on my knees/back if the trike rear wheel were raised up so I found one of our many orange buckets (used by James sometimes in cycle training) to hold up the rear wheel.

I only got about 15ml of oil out (and a lot of air!) but spent about half an hour (on and off) doing this and decided to leave it there. Of course I would be flushing oil through as part of the procedure so hopefully if there was any bunged up somewhere it would come out.

Then I rotated the wheel so the syringe/nozzle were at the top (this is so much easier to do without the side rack extensions!) and then took off the syringe and emptied it into my jar of muck.

I then opened the new GREEN oil (remember, it’s Green and not Pink!):

I discovered that the neck of the oil bottle is narrower than the syringe so you can’t just dip the syringe in there to suck up the oil. This was a bit annoying as I had to undo the nozzle from the hub, attach that to the syringe and then suck up 25ml of green oil.

Here it is – definitely green!

The nozzle was dripping green oil when I lifted it out, of course, which then dripped onto the hub.

Anyway, I was able to screw the nozzle back in OK and this time included the O-ring to prevent any more drips. The oil pushed in very smoothly, much better than last time, and the syringe was empty in a minute or so.

I forgot to pull the syringe back slightly before undoing it and had a small amount of oil bubble out but that was no problem.

I then put the bolt in and, as the instructions say, pedalled for a minute whilst changing up and down the gears to give the oil time to spread around inside the hub and flush any grotty bits out (hopefully).

So then it’s a repeat of the previous procedure – fitting the nozzle, turning the wheel so the hole is pointing downward, leaving it for five minutes to settle, then using the syringe to extract the flushing oil.

As you can see, when the first few mls came out there was a faint greenish tinge to the black…

But by the time more had come out, it was all decidedly yucky black again. This is from two minutes inside my hub! Scary!

And now back to the start of the procedure again, this time putting in the green oil which will be the lubricant for the hub for the next 5,000km.

I actually seemed to get almost 30mls of oil from the remainder in the pot, not the 25 they say, but I thought I’d see if it’d all go in – and it did.

Then I replaced the cap on the hub and gave the top a wipe (had various drips of green oil on it) and all was completed!

I then re-attached the side plate to the rack and went out for a ride. The hub shifts even more smoothly than before, it’s great!

The whole procedure probably took an hour but my actual time that I was doing something was probably only 20 minutes (5 minutes of that was removing and replacing the rack side). It takes longer than you might think because of the waiting around for the oil to ooze down so that it can be removed with the syringe.

Anyway, this second attempt appears to (so far!) have been a success. In a couple of days’ time I will change the chain and give the whole chain tensioner/front derailleur a good clean as (as is evident on many of these photos), it is all appallingly mucky now after winter!

And a reminder of what my hub looks like inside:

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Alfie’s Alfine 11 hub gear gets its first service

So, I’ve finally done it! The Alfine 11 hub gear service.

According to Shimano this should be done after the first 1000km and then every 5000km thereafter.

Alfie my recumbent trike has done a shade over 2,000 miles already and this is my first hub gear service. This is because the original hub started misbehaving and Madison replaced it under warranty. The new hub had done 700 miles so it was time for its spa treatment.

So what do you need to do this operation?

(a) A bike with an Alfine 11 hub gear
(b) The replacement mineral oil (Shimano part SG-S700)

(c) The Oil Maintenance Kit (Shimano part TL-S703)

First thing to note is that the oil was extremely hard to come by (it was out of stock almost everywhere but I managed to get some from a small mail-order bike shop). It’s also expensive at £16 for 50ml.

Second thing to note, that I didn’t know about when I first wrote up this blog post, is that the oil the bike shop sent me was the wrong stuff, it was hydraulic mineral oil (pink) rather than hub gear oil (green). Of course I didn’t know what the oil was supposed to look like so wasn’t aware of this at the time. The correct stuff is in the photo above, the photographic commentary to this blog post has the wrong stuff (pink). More on this later.

I initially thought I’d get a local bike shop to do the job but once I’d downloaded the servicing instructions from Shimano it seemed fairly easy. I’d need the oil maintenance kit which was about £45 but once I had that I could always do my own servicing so it should work out much cheaper in the long run.

Preparation
The instructions say to do this outside in the fresh air. A slightly less windy day would have been preferable as my instructions had a tendency to want to fly away.

I also needed a size 10 spanner and a small allen key. I also wore latex gloves as suggested but didn’t bother with the eye goggles – that seemed a bit overkill.

I got the trike ready on the grass with the front wheels chocked.

The back wheel was on some cardboard in case any small bits got dropped.

So here are the two bits needed – the very pink oil and the Oil Maintenance Kit.

Note that the £45 Maintenance Kit consists of a syringe, a bit of pipe with a metal end, and a big jar for your waste oil. This is not good value for money – I reckon that lot should cost less than a fiver. Ho hum.

Here am I, latex gloves in hand, ready to start.

The Service

So, firstly I have to undo the oil port bolt with a small allen key.

This is surprisingly difficult on my trike as with the spoke lacing there is barely any room. A shorter allen key would have been much more helpful but I managed it eventually.

This is what came out – a small bolt and an O-ring (which actually needed to be back on the hub the whole time; I was always paranoid about losing it though!)

Now to screw on the pipe that will go from the syringe to the hub.

Once again, it was difficult to do this as the pipe is long and the spokes don’t leave much room for wielding a spanner. I think this would be fine on a normal-sized wheel but a 20″ one is a bit of a challenge.

The instructions say to hold the syringe within the spokes as you rotate the wheel 180 degrees but this wasn’t possible with my 20″ wheel and it was easier to just thread the syringe round the chainstay and mudguard metalwork.

The instructions say to leave it all for five minutes like this for the oil to drain down.

Then I had to very slowly use the syringe to suck out the old oil.

The oil begins to appear:

It came out as thick, black grot.

It was actually quite hard to do this well without getting loads of air bubbles. I don’t think the air bubbles matter much in themselves but the syringe was only 30ml and I was expecting 25ml of oil so didn’t want too much air. The slower I pulled the syringe the better as I had to wait for the oil to flow down to the bottom of the hub to be sucked out.

The whole procedure probably took about 10 minutes.

Here I am with about 20mls of old oil which is about all I was able to extract.

Now the instructions said at this point to turn the wheel again so the oil port was uppermost and then remove the bleed nipple and pipe along with syringe. Due to the difficulties of getting tools onto the hub, and the fact that the pipe seemed pretty much clear, I decided to just remove the syringe.

Here it is – yuck!

And here it is poured into that vastly-expensive pot that came as part of the kit. It was like thick, black treacle and was quite hard to squirt out of the syringe.

The next set of instructions are to use half of the oil in the kit to flush through the system, i.e. it would be put in the hub, sloshed around a bit and then drained out again.

The instructions said to add the pipe first before the syringe. Mine was already in place, of course.

I then looked at the oil bottle and discovered a crack in the plastic at the top. James helped me to fix the tube that came with it to the syringe and he held up the bottle as I used the syringe to drain 25ml but it was clear the top was leaking as oil was running down the side of the bottle. And this is expensive stuff!

In the end we took the whole top off the bottle and put the pipe in it, using the syringe to suck it up from there. I wasn’t sure how much oil had been lost so only picked up 20ml.

It’s a lovely pink colour (if it’s hydraulic mineral oil you want, of course, as I discovered eventually!)!

I put the syringe onto the pipe coming out of the hub and started slowly squeezing it in.

I had to pull the syringe plunger back a couple of times to let some of the air pressure out but the whole job was pretty easy and all 20ml was in the hub after 30 seconds or so.

I then had the fun of undoing the bit of pipe and putting the oil port bolt back in without losing the O-ring. This was quite tricky again but I managed it.

The instructions say to pedal for a minute, changing up and down the gears, so with James’s assistance (can’t lift the back of the trike and pedal and change gear on my own!) we did so.

Then it was back to the beginning of the procedure – oil port facing up, adding the pipe, adding the syringe, rotating the wheel 180 degrees, leaving it for five minutes to settle, then using the syringe to slowly drain the oil.

This time the oil came out much more readily as it was clearly thinner – but look at the colour change!

From pink to black in five and a half minutes!

Really black, but it came out with fewer air bubbles which was a relief!

A good 25mls extracted so it’s clearly helped some more of the original oil to come out.

Once all the oil appeared to have been drained I once again spun the wheel 180 degrees ready for the second 25mls of oil which would be what stayed in the hub for the next 5000 miles.

It was tricky to drain the oil out of the bottle seeing as I had to use the tube. It picked up lots of air when it got near to the bottom (and I could see I only had about 19mls) and then, horror of horrors, I had pulled the plunger a bit too far out and a trickle of oil was leaking out that way. Argh! I pushed it back in and hoped I hadn’t lost too much.

In the end I managed to get about 22ml from the bottle; there was still a tiny bit left in there but it seemed almost impossible to remove. I hope that Alfie doesn’t mind being down a few mls.

I pushed it in very easily as before.

I then did up the oil port bolt, having managed not to lose the O-ring at all which was a bonus!

I wiped a few drops of spilled oil (that came out of the pipe when I removed it) from the hub and we were ready to go.

So this is what everything looked like afterwards:

It wasn’t a particularly mucky job and was basically very easy. it would be easier on a larger-wheeled bike of course.

I shall take Alfie out this afternoon to check all works OK. I did the oil port bolt up reasonably tightly but it was very hard to wield the allen key in such a small space so I shall check it again in a day or two to check it hasn’t worked loose at all.

I now have 5000km or two years until the next oil change, whichever is sooner.

An Update

After writing up this blog post and before riding the bike I sent the link to this page to Huw at Madison who did the swap of my hub a couple of months ago.

He sent me the following reply:

Hope all is well.

Well done on the servicing, it seems you’ve got the procedure correct.
Unfortunately, the only thing I noticed from reading through your blog is that you may have used the incorrect oil.

From what I can see from the photos (and colour of the oil) its hydraulic brake fluid you’ve used.

The Alfine oil is a dark green sort of colour, and is very thick. (which would explain the difference in thickness/colour of the oils).

The shop that sold you the oil, did they say it was for Alfines specifically?

Ah.

So I sent Huw a reply saying, in effect, “HELP! WHAT DO I DO NOW?” and whilst awaiting further correspondence from him I looked up the receipt from the shop that sold me the oil. My order definitely says Shimano SG-S700 oil which is the oil for the SG-S700 hub gear (Alfine 11).

So I phoned the shop who seemed a bit confused about it all. In the end they agreed to send me the correct stuff (they blamed Madison’s confusing website for picking the wrong product, although it looked perfectly clear to me). However they were going to have to order it in from Madison, who are currently out of stock, so it wasn’t going to arrive in a hurry.

Clearly I needed to get this sorted so I did a bit of googling and found a supplier who had the 50ml bottle and another supplier that had the 1 litre pack which might be a better idea, but I decided to wait to hear from Huw as to how much I’d need to wash out the wrong stuff.

Huw phoned me to say that the mineral oil really wasn’t very good for the Alfine innards and it would need to be stripped down, cleaned and rebuilt. He offered to send a courier to collect my back wheel and to do this, do the correct oil change, then send it back.

I drained out all the mineral oil and the wheel is now packed up ready to go to Madison again.

Huw said it’s being collected tomorrow morning so hopefully it’ll not spend too long with the wrong stuff inside.

 

The Wheel Returns

My wheel arrived back after a week which included two days of TNT failing to find our house (in the end we delivered the box to their distribution depot in Basildon so at least the thing was sent off!) Huw at Madison, who was servicing it, was off work for a couple of days at the beginning of the week so it spent a few days in Milton Keynes enjoying the change of scenery.

Anyway, the wheel returned this morning looking much shinier than it did when it left here!

In refitting it to the trike we have discovered a tip to help you line it all up right as there’s the arm that holds the cable that can be a pain to get in the right place.

We found that it’s best to take the blue and the green spacers off either side of the axle before putting the wheel in. Then the wheel can be rotated until the arm thingie is in the right place, then the spacers can be put in (they stop the axle rotating). This was way easier than my previous attempts of getting everything lined up.

I went out for a ride this evening and the hub is wonderfully quiet and smooth – the service has made a huge difference. Huw said “I have taken the unit apart and cleaned out the hub, then refilled the unit with fresh oil for you.” Based on this, I shall definitely be servicing it again sooner rather than later (with the correct green oil!) as it has clearly improved its running.

He didn’t take any photos of my hub in pieces but did send me this cutaway pic.

Having used the Trice Q for the last week and a half, the Sprint initially felt a bit odd (much heavier at the back – the gears-in-a-can are heavier than the sprocket and derailleur setup on the Q) but it’s a much more comfortable ride and I was soon back into the groove. And very happy again to have gears that I can change when stationery and which always change properly, unlike my derailleur on the Q.

And once again quite remarkable service from Madison who are looking after me wonderfully with my Alfine!

Follow-up posts

Here are some follow-up blog posts relating to the Alfine:

Alfie’s back wheel gets repaired. This is the original hub replacement before I did the oil change (referenced above)

Alfie’s second Alfine service

Alfie – a winter service

Changing the Alfine-11 Sprocket

Alfie gets a new chain tensioner

Alfie gets another Alfine

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Alfie going in for repair… well, his back wheel

I have now had Alfie just over two months and absolutely love riding him!

I am really, really impressed by the dynamo in the front right hand side wheel – it makes life so easy to be able to have lights whenever I want without worrying about batteries. Also the Busch & Müller IQ Cyo Senso Plus light is incredibly bright and I don’t need another light at all (except for mending punctures in the dark!).

I have found the seat very, very comfortable. When I go out on the old trike I find the seat seems very slippery and doesn’t hold you in as well. It’s also clear, when I get on the old trike, that the boom is higher with Alfie. This may explain why I had some muscle tiredness when I first started riding the new trike.

But all is not entirely rosy in this garden. Unfortunately Alfie’s back wheel is going on a little trip tomorrow to Madison, the Shimano distributor for the UK. The reason being that his Alfine hub gear seems to be playing up.

The Alfine hub gear (before the chain was attached!

Those who have read my reports from Berlin will see I had a few gear problems whilst away. In summary, gears 2 and 4 in the Alfine hub have started slipping so badly that they are unusable. If you change into that gear you get a horrible crunching sound when you put the trike under any sort of load and it skips into neutral, suddenly catching again and giving you power for half a pedal-revolution, before jumping into neutral with a nasty banging sound.

Now Alfine 11s are meant to have an oil change at 1,000 miles and every 5,000 thereafter. It turns out this oil is rather difficult to get hold of (out of stock everywhere until early October). I have now done 1,350 miles on Alfie so am over that distance by a reasonable way. However, the combined wisdom of ICE (Inspired Cycle Engineering), BikePhil in Berlin and Colchester Cycle Stores suggest that the problems I am having seem far more significant than needing an oil change, even if I were able to source the oil (which, magically, I was finally able to do and I now have some!)

ICE contacted Madison, the Shimano reseller, and they have agreed to look at the hub and possibly exchange it under warranty. So they are sending a courier to collect the back wheel tomorrow morning and it will be looked at.

This is disappointing but I’m glad it’s getting sorted as some of the other gears have now started playing up. Plus climbing steep hills with only gears 1, 3 and 5 to choose from has meant my knees are complaining a bit, and I seem less able to get away quickly at traffic lights when I gave to shift from 1st directly to 3rd.

I hope to get a report of what was actually going on in the hub when it returns. It all seems a bit of a mystery, locked inside that nice shiny chrome outer…

Wheel has now been collected. Poor Alfie looks rather forlorn!

A two-wheeled vehicle!

UPDATE

I had an email from Madison today to say that they have replaced the internals of the hub and it will be making its way back to me later today, hurrah.

The very helpful Madison contact Huw included a photograph of himself “prepping the hub shell for the new internals.”

So I’m really looking forward to getting back on the road with Alfie again. The Trice Q is still a good machine but I am decidedly used to disc brakes now…

Another Update

On Friday morning the postman delivered a very large box marked “Shimano” – this was my back wheel with replacement hub.

I couldn’t check it out until the afternoon (too much work to do in the morning!) but eventually I unwrapped the box (indeed, it was my wheel!)

I would never be employed by the Tour de France teams to change back wheels as I am slow at it and always end up oily. True to form it took ten minutes to fit and I ended up oily, but all looked good and after I had washed most of the oil off my hands I went out for a ride.

15 miles later and it was clear that all was fixed. Gear changes were lovely and smooth and all the gears worked fine. Since then I’ve done another 60 miles or so and it’s still brilliant. Here’s hoping this hub isn’t afflicted by the same mystery ailment as the last one but I am confident all will be well. And I now know who to contact if it does go wrong…

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