Tag Archives: hub gear

Alfie gets another Alfine

Long-term readers of my blog will know that Alfie, my ICE Sprint, had his hub gear internals changed in September 2011, after I’d ridden him a 1300 miles, due to skipping of gears/slipping into neutral.

The new hub gear worked fine and I got quite adept at the oil changes and even changed the sprocket (see various blog posts). 17,000 miles passed, and I noticed that when I did an oil change in late August 2013 that I wasn’t able to get that much oil out. I’d seen some evidence of it oozing out over time (I had to occasionally wipe traces of oil from the outside of the hub) but wasn’t particularly worried.

I happened to send an email to my contact Huw at Madison to ask him if this was normal. I’d read reports on the web of people with Alfine-11s having a bit of oil loss when the bikes were stored lying down. Obviously that’s never the case with Alfie, his rear wheel is always vertical (except when I fold him which is for very short distances in the car and only occasionally) so that wasn’t likely to be the problem for me. But I wasn’t unduly concerned, just thought I’d send Huw an email to check.

He replied that it shouldn’t leak but that Shimano had changed the seals they use on the hub now. He offered to swap the seals for me sometime so we arranged for my wheel to go to him when I was having a short holiday in Germany in early December and wouldn’t be using the trike.

So Alfie’s rear wheel returned to Madison on Milton Keynes for the third time in early December.

Huw had a look and sent me the following message:

Bad news I’m afraid, I’ve discovered the cause of the leak from your hub, but it’s not going to be repairable.

Unfortunately the disc rotor mount has split from the main body of the hub, I’ll have to strip your wheel down and rebuild it for you.

If your happy with me sorting it all out then I can go ahead but it may take a bit longer than expected. Should be back with you early next week?

So that was a bit of a surprise, particularly as I don’t have a disc rotor on the rear wheel so the mount is entirely unused. He explained further:

It is interesting as to how it’s failed, I’m not quite sure what’s gone on, Shimano will want to see it back.

To be fair, you probably wouldn’t have seen it, if you’ve not got a rotor installed then there is a little black cover that goes over it (which was installed).

And then he made another offer:

Having looked at your hub to strip down the spokes/nipples, it looks like your rim is probably on it’s way out, the braking surface is pretty worn.
Would you be able to see if ICE have a replacement wheel available for you? I can cover the cost of the wheel under warranty for you.

It’s worth noting here that the rear rim only has the parking brake, not brakes for normal use, so it’s impressive that I’ve worn the rim out. However this can be explained by the fact I often forget to take the brake off and ride for a mile or two thinking it’s very hard work and my legs are rubbish before I realise! I haven’t been that good at adjusting it to hold very tightly so you can actually move the trike with the brake on.

I agreed to the new rim and spokes (very sensible plan!) and contacted ICE who sent Huw the rim and spokes directly and explained to him how it’s all laced (not as you lace a usual bike rear wheel as it has almost no dishing).

He sent me a message to say the rim and spokes had arrived and then gave me another option:

Did you want a black or silver hub? (you had silver originally but black is available too).

Well of course I went for black for the variety (and it might not look so dirty!).

So after a couple of days the parcel came from Madison, extremely well wrapped up with sticky tape!

Madison Box

And inside was my shiny new wheel with shiny new hub.

New Wheel 2

New Wheel 1

I fitted the wheel back on Alfie and all looked great.

New Alfine Hub Gear A

I’ve now ridden Alfie with the new hub gear for 350 miles and it’s working really well. It’s a little bit smoother than the old hub (which had covered a fair distance), although it’s still in its running in period. I’ll need to do an oil change on it in another 500 or so miles.

It’s looking a bit muddier now, of course, but I like the black colour very much!

New Alfine Hub Gear 1

New Alfine Hub Gear 2

Thanks again to Huw at Madison who has been so brilliantly helpful to me over several years. I wrote a letter to the Chief Executive of Madison praising Huw’s helpfulness so hopefully he got a bit of credit for all the advice and support he’s given me. He did tell me that he’s now changed his job within Madison and is no longer in the Warranty department so I hope that Alfie’s new hub behaves itself so I don’t have to contact a new person at Madison and start annoying them! Mind you, with my new velomobile I expect Alfie will get less use so hopefully the hub will have an easier time of it.

Once again, full marks to Madison for customer service – they have been brilliant.

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Recumbent Trikes, Trike maintenance

Alfie gets a new chain tensioner

I have mentioned on previous blog posts the problems that I have with the Sora derailleur on my Alfine-11 trike.

You may, of course, ask: “Why does someone with an internal hub gear need a derailleur anyway?” The reason is that I have a triple chainring at the front of the trike and thus need a chain tensioner to take up the variation in chain length when changing these gears (plus when folding the trike as well).

When the trike was originally supplied, ICE felt that, as the Alfine-specific chain tensioner wasn’t rated for a triple chainset like mine, it would be better to fit a derailleur which could handle the different chain lengths, so they fitted a Sora derailleur.

This is how ICE explained fitting the Sora (when discussing it last week):

We used a Sora because it was a reasonable quality and price with sufficient capacity for the clearance needed (by adjusting the B screw)… Shimano also make chain tensioners for the Alfine but they say that the capacity is only for 16T total difference on the front chainset.

I have a 21 or 22T difference on my front chainset which is why they didn’t go for the Alfine chain tensioner.

However, I’ve had trouble with my Sora derailleur over the time I’ve had the trike. One problem is that the clearance isn’t quite right in some cases so the jockey wheel cage rubs against the plastic chain guard (carrier) that keeps the chain around the hub. You can just see the problem at the bottom of this photo.


There was also an appalling tendency, when removing the back wheel, for the jockey wheel cages to grab onto the chain guard and not let go. This was a problem for me when fixing rear wheel punctures or doing other maintenance that necessitated removing the rear wheel.


And this was ICE’s comment about the issue of the jockey wheel cage rubbing on the chain guard/carrier:

Normally the position of the top jockey wheel cage is set by the B screw and winding this in would move it away from the contact point (or away from sprockets). The Sora is designed for a largest sprocket of 27T. The plastic chain guard is less than that equivalent so the Sora should clear OK normally. However, that normal capacity is based on the biggest sprocket position on a cassette whereas the Alfine guard is in roughly the position of something like an 18T sprocket so the parallelogram action may be putting the cage too close.

What this means is that, on a normal bike, as you go to the higher gears at the back – the outer edge nearer the derailleur – there are fewer teeth. My alfine has 18 teeth at the back which is a lot more than some of the smaller chainrings at the rear and as the derailleur doesn’t move outward (doesn’t need to) it isn’t able to clear the chain guard/carrier properly. The Sora derailleur works OK but not brilliantly.

But the biggest problem, and the one that caused me to completely change the chain tensioner, was that my Sora derailleur completely seized up. These things, when on a usual bike, will be almost constantly moving, up and down the gears; on Alfie I cycle 95% of the time in the big ring and the other 5% in the middle ring, I don’t use the granny ring at all. This meant that the derailleur moved only a few times per ride. Combining this lack of movement with me cycling all through a snowy winter when our roads were well salted and by early February the derailleur was completely seized. No matter how much we oiled it and leaned on it, it wouldn’t move. The gear hanger that attaches it to the trike started bending ominously, too, and we were unable to separate the derailleur from the hanger, so it became clear I needed to do something about this.

This was the situation earlier today with the Sora derailleur. I have three photographs of its positioning with the front chainring in the large, middle and granny rings. The Sora derailleur should swing to the left of the photo as I ran down the gears – as you can see in the pictures below, it stayed put and the chain just got slacker and slacker. (The jockey wheel cage section did take up some of the change in chain length but could not cope with the full range of variation).

This is the Sora derailleur when the chain is in the big ring at the front
1 Sora in big ring

This in the middle ring
2 Sora in middle ring

And this in the granny ring – the chain hangs very slack to the right of the photo.
3 Sora in granny ring

Here are all three together (click to enlarge):
3 photos Sora

As mentioned above, I contacted ICE when I realised I was going to have to do some major maintenance on the derailleur to see what they suggested. Neil replied:

Not sure about taking it apart at the pivot for service. I think it may not want to come apart and we have never had a close look to see if that is possible. It is a relatively low end unit and may be riveted up for life. Soaking it in oil should free it up if it was going to but sounds like you have tried that.

He suggested that I buy a replacement Sora from any bike parts shop and fit that, taking careful note of how the original Sora was locket out (by ICE) when I bought the trike.

The next day I telephoned to order a replacement gear hanger and spoke to Neil at ICE (who had sent me the email with info about it all) and he had clearly been thinking a bit more about it all and wondered if maybe the Alfine tensioner might work better for me. Knowing that it didn’t have a wide enough range for a triple chainset is less of an issue if I only use two of the three chainrings (big and middle), and am only ever likely to use the granny ring when going up a colossal hill whereupon I would be going so slowly that a slack chain isn’t the end of the world.

We talked for a long time (Neil is excellent like that!) and he gave me lots of information about what to buy (there are two types of Alfine chain tensioner, I need the CT-500 and not the CT-510) and where to get them from (not currently available in the UK but were available from various German bike shops). He said they were just assembling another trike with an Alfine 11 and were putting a Sora derailleur on it but he would be interested to hear how I got on with the Alfine Chain Tensioner.

I ordered the gear hanger from ICE for just over £10 and the next day it arrived. I also ordered the Alfine Chain Tensioner CT-500 from Bike24 in Germany and it arrived two days later. It actually cost less than a replacement Sora Derailleur, 15 Euros.

And here is the chain tensioner – note that it comes with three shims to help align the tensioner to the chainline. I went for black rather than silver in the hope that it doesn’t show the dirt and oil as much!
4 new alfine chain tensioner

Before we started on fitting the chain tensioner I dealt with something that would probably have caused us lots of annoying splinters – a slight fraying of the gear cable on the Alfine 11. You can see a tiny bit of metal sticking up here. It seems impossible to have your hand anywhere near the back of the trike without that thin metal shard puncturing your finger!

5 alfine cable dodgy end

I had bought some smart red ferrules from eBay so, after trimming the spare cable (it was always too long) we put a nice smart red stopper on it.

6 new red ferrule

I had also done a major service of both brakes including cables (which also got smart red ferrules on, although I will need to replace both cables before next winter as they’re pretty grotty inside).

Anyway, time now to remove the old derailleur.

James was on hand to help me with this as I never seem able to undo quicklinks on the chain. He was able to separate the chain very quickly.

Next task was to take off the right hand side axle bolt and washer so that we could get to the gear hanger. The gear hanger is held on with a small screw.

7 removing gear hanger

Fortunately this undid very easily and wasn’t corroded like most other things I am servicing on the trike seem to be at the moment!

8 removing gear hanger

Off it comes, with its permanently-attached Sora derailleur.
9 removed sora

We fitted the new, shiny gear hanger and put the axle bolt back on (it helps hold the hanger in place).

10 new gear hanger

It was a very simple job to screw the alfine tensioner onto the end of the gear hanger. We squinted a bit at it and decided that the narrow shim (probably 1mm wide) might make things line up marginally better so we put that on, tightened everything up and then James started threading the chain through.
11 alfine CT added

James joined the chain back together and we pedalled the trike, going up and down the front chainrings to see how it worked. “Very well” was the answer!

What was nice was that there was no adjustment of the B screw (there isn’t one!) or any other things to line up – it was just a case of attaching it, re-joining the chain and all is done!

Despite Shimano’s recommendation that 16T is the maximum range, this tensioner seemed perfectly able to cope with my 22T range and in fact had even more movement possible at both extremes of its swing. It was also interesting to note that it doesn’t have any springs involved in the top pivot (where it is screwed into the gear hanger), the only springs are on the jockey cages to tighten those up. The pull of the chain is plenty to move the tensioner as necessary and the forces from the jockey cage springs move it if necessary.

Here you can see three photographs of the tensioner position when the chain is on the three chainrings at the front.

This is when the chain is on the big ring.
12 Alfine CT big ring

This is when the chain is on the middle ring.
13 Alfine CT middle ring

And this shows the position with the chain on the granny ring.
14 Alfine CT granny ring

And here are all three positions for the front chainring (click to enlarge):
3 photos Alfine

After another quick task (tightening the friction shifter on my front chainring bar-end shifters which was also looking rather corroded) Alfie’s fettling session was complete!

After a cycle ride of 24 miles I can report that the new chain tensioner works really well! It makes a slight noise when in the big ring (probably related to the fact that the chain is probably a little bit short) but in the middle ring and granny ring it is completely silent. It holds the chain much tauter, which is good, and the shifts all seem to work well. Overall I am really happy with this change and think it was well worth it!


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Trike maintenance

Alfie gets new teeth – changing the Alfine-11 sprocket

A couple of weeks ago my chain snapped whilst out riding.

After being rescued by car by my husband I changed the chain and did some general trike fettling, after which it became clear the chain was skipping over the rear sprocket (the sprocket had done 11,000 miles and was therefore probably rather worn).

Clearly I needed a new sprocket but had no idea how to go about changing it or whether any old sprocket would do.

So I sent an email to the ever-helpful Huw at Madison and he replied:

Basically, it’s a very easy job, you don’t need any specialist tools, just a few spanners and a screwdriver, you will need to remove the cassette unit (the plastic device that the cable routes into).

After taking the cassette unit off (part CJS-700 on the exploded view) you just need to prise a circlip off with a screwdriver, there should be a few notches in the hub where you can get purchase on the circlip.

Once the circlip is off (the circlip will be very tricky to get off) it is just a matter of taking the sprocket off and replacing it on it’s splines, then re-fitting what you’ve removed.

I have attached the exploded view for your hub and the Service Instructions which briefly explain the task, if you’ve done the servicing I’m sure you will find this an easy task.

So, fortified by the knowledge he thought I’d be fine, I went ahead and ordered a new 18T Alfine Sprocket (part number CS-S500, the Shimano Alfine Single Sprocket with Chain Guide 18 Tooth Black/Silver) which was just £7.99. Not a bad price at all!

The part arrived but I held off doing the sprocket change until a day when my husband would be around to help me. Mindful of Huw’s warning about the circlip I thought trying to do it myself with one weak arm might be a bit risky.

So today was the day – James had a day off work, the sun was shining and it was time to do a bit of trike maintenance!

So this is the view of the trike hub attachment in the lowest gear.


In order to remove the rear wheel you need to first disconnect the cable attachment for the hub gear. You can see here how the cable is attached to the hub – a notch in the hub assembly traps a metal widget.


And from the side.


The trigger shifter shows I am in the lowest gear.

5 Shifter low

In order to disconnect the gear cable and remove the rear wheel you have to first put the hub into top gear (11th). Fortunately with an Alfine you can change gear whilst stationary.

6 Shifter high

And this is what the cable now looks like going into the hub – the rubber bellows have extended and the cable is wrapped right round. The widget holding the cable is now right underneath the hub.


Here is the view from the back.


As the cable is so long it’s easy to grab it and pull and so rotate the gear innards upward, leaving the cable slack. I tend to find with my finger the place where the widget is attached and rotate it round, rather than pulling the cable, but either way works. This way is oilier though!


I’ve rotated the cassette unit right round now (as if it’s in first gear) and you can see how much slack there is in the cable.


It’s easy to pull the cable out of the guide area and disconnect the widget so it’s all loose.


Here is the hub now unattached to its gear cable. I try to put the gear cable out of the way but it has a terrible tendency to get in the way whilst you’re trying to remove the wheel!


Next thing to do is remove the blue and green axle washer thingies so that the wheel can be removed. Green for the right (starboard), blue for the left. You can see on the photos that they have a notch that is what stops the axle turning when you put the wheel in – the central hole is not round but shaped and this keeps the wheel in position. Blue and green washers are for vertical dropouts (which is what I have on my trike).


And here is the axle without the bolts. Note that the bolts are chewing away at my gear hanger!


And the other side (I forgot to clean this side before the photography!)


And now the job I hate – removing the wheel. I find this is always difficult for me, on a trike with a normal derailleur or with a hub gear. There’s something about trying to work your way round a derailleur/chain tensioner that just doesn’t work well for me!

However, on Alfie there is a more significant issue which causes more of a problem – my chain tensioner/Sora derailleur always instantly grips the carrier (the plastic guide either side of the rear sprocket) and won’t let it go.



I struggled with this for five minutes before calling James to help me. He was able to sort it out for me as he’s more adept but this is something that worries me about getting a rear wheel puncture when out on my own – will I manage to get the wheel off on my own? Fortunately I’ve only had 3 rear wheel punctures in 37,000 miles so they aren’t that common (and only one was when I was on my own and I managed).

Part of the problem is that my Sora derailleur has partly seized. When we changed the chain two weeks ago James spent ages freeing it up but once again it doesn’t want to rotate at all – you can see here a photo of the offending bit with an allen key stuck in it (I was hoping to remove it to give it a bit of a clean but it was not possible to undo it).


This bit should swing forward and backward to help tension the chain; it’s stuck in its mostly forward position which means it doesn’t get out of the way properly when trying to remove the wheel (plus the chain is a bit slack when in the granny ring).


And the main reason we’re pretty gentle with it? The gear hanger that it is attached to isn’t as strong as I’d like (I have previously broken one) and I don’t have a spare. I shall get on the phone to ICE and order one before I have a proper go at removing this part but I think this chain tensioner doesn’t like not moving very much.


So I now have a trike minus its rear wheel and after a spot of lunch and a cup of tea it was time to attack the hub.

Here it is in all its glory.


First job is to remove the topmost bit which has the large yellow dot on it.

outer widget

This was dead easy – just rotate it anticlockwise and it undoes.


The next bit to remove is the cassette unit (the thing with the sticking-out arm).

cable arm


This just lifted straight off!


This was all seeming rather easy so far.

Next item is a little rubber ring thingie.

rubber widget


There were warnings on the Shimano info document to put this on the right way up so I carefully placed it on my bit of cardboard so I knew which way up it should be.

And this is what we now have. The sprocket and its carrier are now just held on by the Circlip Of Doom.



Right at the bottom you can see the notch in the circlip. This was all we had to help ease the thing off.

26 second one

James attacked it with a screwdriver.


And then with two…


Success! The thing was removed in just a couple of minutes.


Now the old sprocket just lifted straight off.


Here’s the mucky hub without the sprocket.


Old sprocket (on the left) and new on the right.


We cleaned the spindle etc of oil and gunk and random bits of hair! Much better.



The new, very clean sprocket and its carrier slotted straight on.


And now, the Circlip of Doom.

Taking it off wasn’t as bad as we had feared, putting it back on was a bit of a struggle.

We got it started OK.


And then you get to this point – we had to nudge it down so that it was on the very bottom of the pile of things on the spindle. You can see the two ends of it indicated by the arrows – not there yet!

37 with arrows

And here’s the pic without arrows.


Almost there!


Did it!!! Only took about ten minutes.


So now it’s easy putting it back together – first the rubber ring thingie (that I had kept the correct way up). I cleaned it up a bit before replacing it.


Before I put the cable cassette thingie on I decided to give it a clean.


Couldn’t get all the gunk out so we took it apart (two tiny screws) and that helped a lot.



Once screwed back together again, we just had to line up the red dots on the carrier and the spindle and it all went in place. Then it was lining up the yellow dots for the outer metal widget and everything clicked into place beautifully.


A side view of the lovely clean sprocket!


Now all we had to do was put the wheel back on the trike. This went better than I had expected (well, I got James to help me from the beginning).

The difficulty (apart from fighting with the derailleur/chain tensioner and lots of mucky chain) is ensuring the arm thing is in the correct place. It has a real tendency to twist itself into the wrong position and get stuck. We managed to overcome its perversity this time without too much hassle.

Once the wheel is firmly in place we add the green and the blue non-turn washers either side, then tighten the bolts each side of the axle.

And then the last thing – to attach the gear cable! This involves once again sticking my finger underneath to rotate the top widget thing (with the yellow dot on) to bring it round so that the hole for the cable widget is there and I can slot the cable in. Then it is slowly released and all is done!



I haven’t had a chance to test my new sprocket except for cycling across the front lawn (about 10 metres) but the chain didn’t skip for that distance so it looks like it’s been a success!

[EDIT] All works very well! Took it out for a 26 mile ride today and the new sprocket works excellently [END EDIT]

All in all this was a pretty painless task and not as mucky as I suspected either.

The entire kit that I have removed is available to buy separately for under £14 so I think next time I’ll treat the trike to a new one of these too.

all parts


Filed under Alfie the Trike, 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.



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:


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Trike maintenance

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.

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?


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


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Trike maintenance

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!


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…


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Trike maintenance