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.



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:


  1. Excellent article and I liked the previous version too. I kept a 3-speed (Sturmey Archer AW) running for 44 years, just by cleaning it and putting in new oil, running about 3,000 to 8,000 km per year. Changed to a Nexus 7 (new bike) because the frame on the old bike cracked. Both hubs were still good.

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