Having a knee injury that has kept me off the bikes for a month, it has had a few (limited) positives. The main one being that all my bikes are now fully maintained and even those jobs that I have been putting off for ages have been done. Top of the “put off for a rainy day” job list was to strip down my 8-speed Alfine hub and to give it an oil bath.
There was a fair bit of research and planning for this project. First stop for anyone looking to take apart an Alfine should be the excellent site www.hubstripping.com which is an oracle for anyone wanting to find out more about hub gears. The Alfine page is detailed and importantly gives a pictorial guide to stripping down an Alfine hub.
Before starting I had to get the LBS to order the large £17 Shimano ring spanner which undoes the plastic nut that locks in the hub internals. I gave the £90 “Shimano service kit” a miss and replaced it in best Blue Peter fashion with a 2l plastic drinks bottle (Diet Coke!) cut in half and a bottle of automatic transmission fluid.
Taking the hub apart was really straightforward after all the research. First came off the centre lock rotor, then the parts that locate the gear lever arm. Then the C-ring that holds on the sprocket. Next off came the sprocket and the large plastic lock nut cover. At this point I couldn’t find the specially bought Shimano O ring spanner, so with the spirit of Old Iron Hands (Keith) I wrapped the lock nut in a towel and moved the nut very slowly with prolonged pressure. All that was left to do was to take off the disc brake side cone and nut, and the hub internals could be drawn out of the hub.
So what was the hub like after three full winters? Well in very good condition. The disc side ball race with very clean with grease almost like new. For the hub itself, the large caged ball race around the hub was slightly dirty but easily cleaned up. The rest of the hub internals / roller bearings sparkled like new.
Alfine hub oil bath – Blue Peter style
Soon the hub was sitting happily in it’s oil bath and I moved the hub around to work the oil in.
After 10mins in the oil bath it was left to drain. I repacked the disc side hub race with new BB and very lightly greased the roller bearing races in the hub shell. Then the hub was slotted back in and the fitting was the reverse of disassembling. Even the sprocket wasn’t worn, so it went back on. The only tricky bit as usual for any hub was getting the cone tightness just right.
Although the hub internals looked clean I did note that there was a fair bit of particulate matter at the bottom of the auto transmission fluid after I left it to stand for a day. Fitting the hub back on the bike, the hub spun much more freely than before, with a fraction of the drag it had given previously. Gear changes were as smooth as when the hub was new.
When the Alfine 8spd hub was first introduced I think that we all wondered how reliable it would be. Well after three full winters (this hub was one of the first imported) I was impressed as to how well it has held up. Plus now that I have taken one of these hubs apart I will be giving my hub more regular maintenance and I think that hub gears are definitely a solution to our bike destroying winters.