Review of Shimano 11 speed hub gear (fitted to “Mud” bike). Weight is most peoples first concern when you talk about hub gears and to be honest when I pulled the rear wheel from the box I was a little concerned too. When you take into account you no longer need a rear mech, front mech, front mech shifter and cable, cassette and quite a few less links in the chain…it is much closer, just the weight is all centered slightly higher.
Fitting: I had never installed a hub gear before so it was all new to me, to be honest there isn’t a great deal to do. There is a red mark on the hub and a red mark on the arm that holds the cable, align these, then bolt the hub into the frame, taking care to use the tabs on the axles (that stop the wheel spinning in the dropout). To set the gears up, put the bike in 6th gear (on the shifter) then looking at the rear hub you will see two yellow marks, twist the barrel adjuster on the shifter till these align…job done!
First ride (cyclocross race): For the first 5 minutes of the ride (on the way to the race) I was seated just pootling along, getting a feel for the bike, checking myself out in the refection of the car windows 😉 It felt very natural, just like a derailleur gear system, the shifter works in the same manner and the space between (each gear change) are only marginally wider. Then I tried a few out of the saddle sprints, this is where you feel the extra weight…compared to my weight weenie race (MTB) bike, it felt more like riding a full suspension bike but you get used to this and is soon forgotten about. The other issue people say is “I have heard it is quite “draggy”. I have done quite a bit of research (on the internet) and under lab conditions, hub gears in the most draggy gear hub gears are 2% less efficient but in the direct drive gear they are more efficient. As soon as you add mud to the equation hub gears win hands down. In reality in the muddy conditions of the cross race, a 2% difference would not have been noticed as it was like riding through treacle! The hub gears performed faultlessly, not even the slightest of hesitations between shifts. One issue I did have was on the start line, my natural instinct was to look down to see what gear I was in…my brain got confused at the sight of no gears and my right hand changed up! Lets just say I was dropped backwards through the pack quite quickly! Lesson learned! This obviously does not happen when you are moving because you only change gear when your legs need it.
Conclusion: Loved it, cant believe I didn’t convert my bike earlier to hub gears it would have saved me so much money on chains, cassettes, rear mech etc.