Alfine Hub, Drop Bars: OMG I want that!

Alfine Drop Bar Kudos to the guys over at Hiawatha Cyclery for figuring this one out. I’ve been after this setup for a while for my On-One Pompino. It’s an Alfine internally geared hub with a convensional drop bar-end shifter. The trick is adding the Travel Agent to make up the extra cable pull necessary to shift the internal hub.


My God I want that bike!

I emailed Surly about making such a bike.  Telling them they’d corner a market served only by the late Sheldon Brown’s Bianchi San Jose Nexus.  Google “Shimano Nexus/Alfine” and “drop bar”, or add “Surly Cross Check” and you’ll find a lot of discussion of people’s builds.  People have gone to a lot of trouble.

Which is exactly what Surly suggested I do.  Nice of them to respond, but the fact is that a standard Cross Check is $1000, but I can’t figure how I’d build an acceptable Alfine Cross Check for under $1500.

I hear you!  I really like the concept, but getting it setup at a decent price is the hard part.  I’m not a huge fan of the Cross-Check from an asthetic point of view.  If I had to start over, I’d go with the Bianchi Roger.  You have to buy an Alfine Wheel to match, an 8sp bar-end Shifter and the Travel Agent which is probably ~400 total.

I am going to get a Surly Steamroller in the end: road geometry fixie.  If the fixie thing doesn’t work for me, use a five-speed coaster brake Sturmey Archer hub.  Give me all the gears I really need, less complex, and I’ll actually park a $1000 bike outside a store (with a couple of locks).

Check out the new Raleigh Rush Hour or the Felt Dispatch for some other good starting points.  I really liked the Dispatch at Interbike, but I was after something with Cyclocross Geometry.  At $700 retail, I’m sure you could get that setup with a internal geared hub for about a grand.

Hiawartha wants $1650:

Granted it has a $100 Brooks saddle (good), and a front dynamo hub (don’t want); but to be my city racer it needs clipless pedals, and a good chainguard:

Enough posting for now, but let me ask one question.  Does anyone ride drop bars without clipless pedals.

You need steel for comfort, and 130+mm spacing for the hub, except for some Sturmey Archer hubs.  Also make sure you have the tire clearance you need.

I’ll save you some research to satisfy those three things, as I have done plenty:
Surly Cross Check, Salsa Casseroll Single, Redline 925, Surly Long Hual Trucker, and
Bianchi San Jose.  They are listed in my personal order of preference, based on their versatility, geometry and aesthetics.  All but the Bianchi can be ordered as framesets.


another [Modal mode](/tag/modal/) we’re working on is a nexus hub. Having just rode all over Shanghai with a nexus hub, I’m a big fan.

If you have a contact in Japan, get your Nexus there: half price when I was there a month ago.

We certainly aren’t the first to pull this off. We were inspired by a web page or two that suggested that it could be done, though specifics were definitely in short supply.

To those who took expressed preferences (or complaints) about the chosen part-spec, frame, etc, we don’t do many stock builds at Hiawatha Cyclery. Just about everything is a custom hack. We have other frames that would work as well from Salsa, Surly, Kogswell, etc. Clipless pedals are fine, too, but they aren’t the thing for our test ride bikes. If you want something like this, we will work with you on the details.

I would like to point out, however, that this is a highly nonstandard component match-up. While it works fine now, presumably some ugly problem could rear it’s head 3000 miles from now at an inopportune time. But I guess that’s true sometimes when the components match.

Thanks for stopping in Jim!

Per Sheldon in one of the many threads where this concept was chased - the Nexus 8 can go to 123mm OLD so that’s what I’ll be doing.  I am interested in how the Travel Agent was made to work in that linear fashion.  All the versions I’ve seen have it doing a 90degree turn at the V-Brake.

Although the SanJose8 and others have been around for a while - really solving the drop bar issue is a pretty big deal.  Again - nice work.

The in-line travel agent is a standard item, available from any shop with a QBP account.

I’m not sure if the Alfine can go narrower than 132 or thereabouts, perhaps because of the disc-brake mount (The Nexus is set up for a roller brake at 132 mm, but the brake is optional). I’ll have to take a closer look to be sure.

If you can do the Alfine, I recommend it because it is really quiet. If there is such a thing as a mis-shift with this set-up, you can’t as easily hear it over the clickety clackety of the Nexus. Also note that, while this indexes with an 8sp shifter, it works great in friction mode.

Internal gears are a great idea. 

Having the all the hotness of a fixie but with the advantage of being able to climb hills. Killer! 

The SWOBO otis is an internally geared 3-speed bike that uses SRAM components, 700$ check it!

<a href=“” rel=“nofollow”></a>

Yeah - I like the Swobo stuff.  A new local shop I’ll be profiling soon carries their line.  Very cool.

I’d love to get my hands on an Alfine (esp in black!), but going to 132 poses some issues since I still want to run my bike as a single-speed/fixed option.  Spacing my 120 wheeles out to 130 isn’t a big issue I guess, but it’s one more thing to figure into the equation.  Cold Setting adds a step too, hopefully the chain line will work with the Alfine.

Told Surly about this page and got a pleasant response again.  Got this reply:

“Thanks for your idea, we do appreciate it.  However, we’re not going to spec a bike that needs something like the Travel Agent for it to shift right. I think it’s a great thing to do for an individual bike, but even Jim at Hiawatha isn’t convinced it’s the best idea.”

“We love the odd builds you can do with a Cross-check. A lot of them make sense, but not a lot of them make enough sense for us to do them as a complete bike. The amount of complexity and babysitting that a complete bike needs would blow your mind. Just doing the three we do now is enough to give us all ulcers.”

“We’ll still make framesets available so Jim can do his thing. We rely on the creative impulses of folks like him to make this stuff happen. It just doesn’t always make sense to do things like this on the grand scale.”

Hey, they can build what they want, but I think they are neglecting a market they could easily tap.  Just about everyone building a drop-bar internal is using their frame.

I may be wrong, but it looks like one of these two shifters would go on a drop bar without phutzing:

Shifter 1

Shifter 2

If not, someone has to get on Shimano.  Someone also has to get on Sun Race Sturmey Archer about the 3-speed fixed ASC hub.

No luck Aiden. Those shifters fit to a 22.2mm mountain straight bar, and not a 26.0 drop bar.  I think WTB or someone makes a 22.2mm drop bar, but it’s all splayed wide and funky.  For me, the appeal of the bar-end is that it can be quickly removed when I want to switch wheels back to fixed/single.

Harris Cyclery sells the “Hubbub” to handle this issue so you can put a grip shifter on the end of your drop bar, but I think it looks sort of clumsy.  That’s how they setup their <a >SanJose8.

Shimano could pretty easily make a bar-end to pull the right amount of cable and that may just be the right answer.  Too bad that’ll never happen.

I appreciate Aidan’s enthusiasm, but I share Surly’s cautious tone. I would like to point out with as much emphasis as I can convey through a blog comment that this is a HIGHLY NONSTANDARD set-up. I’m pretty certain that operating this machine in this configuration voids several component manufacturer warranties. Moreover, it’s a little futzy, and, even though it works, is not as smooth as the standard Nexus and Alfine shifters (neither of which work with a drop bar). A bike like this is probably not well suited to anybody who isn’t at least moderately skilled as a mechanic. To be honest, from a hassle and legal liability standpoint, I would be reluctant to sell this bike except to customers who’ve convinced me that they can accept the associated risk and take care of their own fiddly adjustments. Our curiosity has been satisfied, and on some slow day in the future, this Cross-Check is probably going to become something else (fixed gear brevet bike?).

Internal geared hubs NEED indexing.

Jay Guthrie at Jtek is working on a shifter that will match up to internal hubs.  If you ride only half or 3/4 of the way in a gear you will break something internal eventually.  This is true with Sturmey Archer and Sram hubs but I am not sure how the guts of an Alfine or Nexus hub work.  Shimano does not offer any exploded diagrams or parts. might have some info.

It is pretty much in the idea early prototype phase, but give him a call and encourage him!

I don’t agree, Aaron. I know several people who have thousands of miles on old and new S-A 3sp hubs shifted with bar-end friction shifters with no problems whatsoever.

I agree that it seems logical that something should go wrong with friction-shifted gear hubs. On the other hand, how many S-A hubs are being used with the correct shifter improperly adjusted?

The IRO Rob Roy is also a great bike to build up around an IG hub. I just built up a frame with the Nexus Red Band 8sp hub—rear spacing on the frame is 132.5, perfect. Used a moustache bar in mtn diameter so the rapidfire shifter fit. I like moustache bars, so it works for me on a commuter. No way the rapidfire shifters would fit a standard drop bar without some machining… and I didn’t take the shifter apart enough to check if that would even be possible. This 8sp barend setup is sweet, though—even the rapidfire shifter is a lot of hardware hanging off a handlebar even it if is slightly more elegant than the usual hubub/revo shifter carbuncle at the end of drop bars.

I almost got a Rob Roy during the group buy that started last year…and I think just now shipped.  Yikes.  I should have grabbed a frame anyway at that price. 

I rode my single speed in this morning.  Man I wish I had some gears for that tailwind!

After all my griping against Surly, they may have a reason not to fill that market.  Apart from the legendary Sturmey Archer ASC 3 speed fixed hub, and the fantastically expensive Rohloff, the steps between gears on internals are way too big for serious riding.

I need gears within 8” of each other for an efficient cadence, but the Shimano has huge steps: 10” down from 5th, or 14” up.  It won’t shift on the fly, but a Surly Dingle Cog let’s me set up better, lighter and cheaper

looks like I’m late to this party. On-one just announced a Nexus Pompino, which got me thinking about all of this. I have all of the kit to convert my old cannondale F1000 to drops for commuting and figure this sort of project is a better use of the bits. A frame to add to the mix is cotic’s Roadrat. They do a short top tube version for drops and it has sliding dropouts / disc mounts. It’s a bit pricier than the Pompino but includes a fork and cheaper than the X-check ... over here at least. Prices I can find are 150, 260 and 300 GBP respectively. Also the Charge Tap (500, full bike) is a flat h-bar nexus bus chaser that could be converted.

I can see why a manufacturer would not want to use the travel agent in a build like that. After all, if there are any durability issues raised by this, who will be responsible? I rekon it looks easy enough to build yourself, then the responsibility is yours and it’s all good.

OTOH, I could see Shimano offering an alternative shifter. THAT would be an easy solution!

I have a similar setup on my Salsa Casseroll, but today I ordered a bar-end shifter specifically for the Alfine hub I’m using.  Check out JTek Engineering who makes the bar end.  I’m really excited to get the bar end because while my current travel agent system functions, it doesn’t work as well as I want.  I’ll let you know how my revised set up works out.  <a href=“” rel=“nofollow”></a>

Here’s my Casseroll with the Jtek Shifter and Alfine Hub.  Love it!  Got here after reading this post and performing the same mods above, now advanced with the Jtek Bar End Shifter.

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