There is a new Front Planetary Gear Hub on the market now called an Efneo. This hub is revolutionary in that it is the first 3 speed triple crankset equivalent to become available & compete with the well established Patterson & Schlumpf 2 speed Drives. My honest evaluation follows -
I finally was able to get some free time & take the Trike & Hub out on a good run today. Our area is mostly paved roads & hard packed trails with lots of climbs & fast down hills. In other words just about perfect conditions for a trike evaluation, not so good if you are a Mountain Bike Rider & wondering how it will work on your bike.
I spent the better part of 5 hours riding with a few stops for water, photo taking & always people want to ask me about the trike. I covered 35 kms. in these conditions with a top speed of 55 kms/hr. about an average ride for me. I have one word to describe the hub - AMAZING! The ratios chosen are almost perfect! For the climbs I was able to spin without getting too winded & even though I was slow on some of the steeper climbs, about 4 mph (6 kms) the hub never missed a beat. In fact one of the things I found amazing is gear changes are imperceptible.
There isn't any clunk, hesitation or noise as a gear is engaged or dis-engaged. I have been told that Schlumpf drives are noisy while the Efneo is almost silent. I think I get more noise from my Alfine 11 behind me & it is pretty quiet. Another small item that proves convenient is both large Paddle Shifters Down Shift. This saves the confusion of having the right shifter go the opposite way to the one on your left. With the Alfine 11 this proves to be intuitive as they only come with Paddle Shifters. I'm going to give your new hub 10 Stars & a big thumbs up! Great Job!
If you have a few $$$$ just desperate to be spent. - https://www.rohloff.de/en/products/speedhub/e-14/
One of the secrets to getting speed out of an Internal Gear Hub is to gear it up like you are either pushing a large chainring or a big drive wheel. If you have ever seen the Folding Bike Races held in many cities it explains how Bromptons always seem to dominate the races. What I never understood was how they were getting so much speed out of those tiny 16 inch wheels. - Now the secret is out. This company along with several others takes off the shelf IGH's & modifies them to fit the narrow 115 mm OLN spacing between the forks which for most bikes is 135 mm. The other option which is more expensive is to change the rear tri-angle to one that will take standard hubs. Secrets slowly reveal themselves if you keep looking. :) Imagine on those tiny 16 inch wheels with a 50 tooth chainring getting a Gear Inch of 22.5 up to a high of 130 Gear Inches.
There are a few problems when converting to an internal gear hub from a standard derailleur drive train. Not only is it more difficult to cram a wide gear spread into such a compact space but the ratios between each gear need to be comfortable to your cadence. Too narrow a gear spread & the changes between gears will leave you pedaling too fast & wishing for a higher gear. Too wide a spread between the gears will leave you feeling exhausted from pushing too hard. Sturmey Archer & Shimano engineers overcame this problem by adding more steps between the gear ratios, first with their 5 speed Internal Hubs, then their 8 speed hubs & currently with Shimanos 11 speed & Rohloffs 14 speed. Rohloff was revolutionary & a game changer in that it not only managed to get 14 gears in such a compact space but each gear change was the same step up or down - 13.6% Shimano Alfine hub managed an impressive range of gears but the steps are not so precise. This leaves you with one or two gears feeling like you need to be one gear up or down. This is especially noticeable on the Nexus/Alfine 8 speed hubs so they are recommended more as a city bike hub where you may not need as many gear ratios for shorter commutes. Sturmey Archer engineers recognized this short coming of the Internal Gear Hubs & came up with a different solution. They gave their 8 speed hub an extra low as well as an extra high gear & kept the jumps between the middle 6 gears at 14 %. This gives you an incredible high gear inch of 125.8 with a 20 inch back wheel & 175.2 with a 26 inch back wheel. Unfortunately, this also means your low gear is on the high side for trike riders - 22 & 31 Gear Inches respectively. Compare that to the Rohloff hub with an absolute Best High Gear Ratio of 133 Gear Inches. For a complete hub assembly with shifter & cable costing approximately $200. u.s. they are a bargain for that level of performance if you have the legs for it.
For those considering switching to an Internal Gear Hub, you may be wondering should I go Rohloff, Alfine 11, Sturmey or NuVinci? Before you decide on changing your Gearing it is wise to know what the outcome will be before you change since it is a fairly expensive project. So for your reading pleasure, here are the BEST Gear Spreads you can get with either hub. Please note going with these numbers will void your warranty & if you are operating under severe conditions you should stay within the recommended warranty ratios which will be significantly narrower.
It looks like I was remiss in not including the Sturmey Archer hubs in this list. They are still available & used on a number of Terratrikes as well as available for other makes as a re-fit.
Rohloff on 20 inch wheel with a 30/42/52 Triple & 13 Sprocket
- Low - 12 G.I. / High - 109.6 G.I.
Rohloff on 26 inch wheel with a 30/42/52 Triple & 17 Sprocket
- Low - 12.2 G.I./ High - 113.6 G.I.
Alfine 11 on 20 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 20 Sprocket
- Low - 14.8 G.I. / High - 104.6 G.I.
Alfine 11 on 26 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 23 Sprocket
- Low - 17.1 G.I. / High - 121.1 G.I.
Nexus 8 Speed on a 20 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 18 Sprocket
- Low - 15.3 G.I. / High - 87.2 G.I.
Nexus 8 Speed on a 26 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 23 Sprocket
- Low - 16 G.I. / High - 90.8 G.I.
NuVinci 380 on 20 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 20 Sprocket
- Low - 14.0 G.I. / High - 92.3 G.I.
NuVinci 380 on 26 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 22 Sprocket
- Low - 17 G.I. / High - 111.7 G.I.
Sturmey Archer X-RF8W on 20 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 23 Sprocket
- Low 24.4 G.I. /High 136.8 G.I.
Sturmey Archer X-RF8W on a 26 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 23 Sprocket
- Low 33.9 G.I. /High 190.4 G.I.
Nexus 7 Speed on a 20 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 20 Sprocket
- Low - 16.5 G.I. / High - 75 G.I.
Nexus 7 Speed on a 26 inch wheel with 30/42/52 Triple & 23 Sprocket
- Low - 19.9 G.I. / High - 90.5 G.I.
So what do these numbers mean? Shown here are the most popular Internal Gear Hubs available on the market today. (2017) There are others but if you are going to upgrade you might as well go with what is readily available for Parts &/or Service. On a Bike or Trike your gears are your Transmission and no matter whether you are a Lance Armstrong Wannabe or an 85 year old Pensioner out for a casual ride, your gears are going to help in your efficiency. For most average riders you will want to be able to climb hills without feeling like you are having a heart attack or needing to spend the next 30 minutes recovering from a 2 mile hill. To do this you need to pedal up hill with a slow & steady pace so your LOW Gear Inches need to be around 12 - 15 to be comfortable. On the HIGH end is when you are rewarding yourself for beating that hill you just climbed & are now feeling like Mario Andretti ready to fly through to the finish line. Having a High Gear Inch measurement will help increase & maintain your top speed while you take in the applause & accolades from admiring spectators as you take the chequered flag. A good HIGH Gear Inch for most riders is around 105 G.I. but higher numbers are nice to have if you have the legs & strength to push them. These higher gears are usually only useable on steep descents where gravity is your best friend. On level ground or even a slight uphill grade you will tire yourself out very quickly trying to use the higher gears. If you look at the numbers above it is easy to see that the Rohloff has the advantage on the 20 inch & 26 inch wheel in the Low Gears & The Sturmey 8 speed has the advantage on the High Gears only. It illustrates that if you were riding with someone using the Rohloff set up this way, there is a good chance they would reach the top of a hill before or be in better shape than you riding the Alfine 11, NuVinci or Sturmey hubs. However, where there is an up there is usually a down & once heading down a nice long descent the Sturmey rider would be covering ground faster than any of the other riders IF they have the legs to push those high gears. On the Nu Vinci it is easy to see that your hill climbing gear is about the same as the Alfine but loses out to the other hubs on top speed. This isn't necessarily a bad thing and just means it is designed to be used in the ratios where you will spend most of your time anyway. It is just a nice benefit to have the 'Passing Gears' when you want them. Note also that the figures above are based on a standard off the floor triple chain ring as most trikes come equipped & fine tuning your own trike to have available lower or higher gears is quite possible using the same hubs & sprockets shown above.
A slightly sarcastic tongue in cheek dig at Shimano.
Shimano I love your products. Given a choice between yours & the other main 4 letter competitor, I would take Shimano products any day. Your engineering & innovation take a back seat to no one. With one exception. Why did you hire the Engineering School Drop Out to design the Snap Ring From Hell? Is this some dastardly plan to take over the world by incapacitating anyone that tries to install your dreaded snap ring? Is it your plan to count the number of times a customer can stab themselves with the recommended ice pick to install this deadly piece of shrapnel? Have you never heard of SNAP RING PLIERS? Would you like a photo? They come in various sizes & are cheap. Just like the Bastard that designed your SNAP RING! It's not that I am inexperienced. I must have changed a snap ring at least 6 times by now. You would think it would get easier wouldn't you? No, it still takes me 30 minutes on a good day. More like 60 minutes on most days. With a pair of SNAP RING PLIERS it would take what? 10 seconds? It's not as if you are new to Internal Gear Hubs, you have been making them for several years now. Different Hubs - Same Old Snap Ring. You would think a Responsive Company would look into a product that develops it's own Moniker. - SNAP RING FROM HELL! You would think that after many, many years you would put 2 small holes in the S.R.F.H. so it would work with a pair of Snap Ring Pliers thereby saving your many customers from the ICE PICK INJURY or 60 minutes of frustration. Maybe I need to be thanking you for my increased awareness of Zen Philosophy or something. Or maybe I should start a Class Action Suit for Damages & Injury.