5 Best Internal Gear Hubs for Your Bike in 2020

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Looking for the best internal gear hubs? Then you know the importance of internally geared hubs and the fact that they are a refreshing change to derailleurs – a component that bikers have used for a long time but is now due for retirement.

Here’s a complete guide on how to find and shift to quality internally geared hubs effortlessly.

Internal Geared Hub Reviews

Below is a comprehensive guide on the best internal gear hubs, complete with our reviews of the top picks on the market, as well as the criteria we used to test the different options so that you too can end up with an ideal option.

We also answer some of your most frequently asked questions about internally geared hubs and we’ve left no stone unturned to bring you this analysis.

1. SHIMANO SG-3C41 Universal Hub Kit

First up, we have one of the best Shimano internal gear hubs. We all know that Shimano is one of the best manufacturers of cycling components and equipment. So, it’s no surprise that they’ve created a high-quality universal hub kit with a clean, simple and straightforward design that’s easy to work with.

One of the first things we noticed when working with it is just how easy it is to install. This is despite the fact that it requires some assembly upon delivery before you can ride it.

Note that this is a very straightforward model that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance and it has a very wide gear range of 186%. This means that you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. This internal hear hub will transform your bicycle into an incredible machine that’s super easy to ride and maneuver.

In addition to making your bike feel like new, this universal hub kit is super durable and long-lasting. Overall, this is one of the best internally geared hubs for comfortable and smooth cycling.

Pros
  • Makes for a much smoother ride
  • Operates noiselessly
  • Easy to install
  • Offers great value for money
  • It has a wide 186% gear range
Cons
  • There’s some assembly required

2. Sturmey Archer S80 8 SPD Internal Drum Brake 36H

Internal geared hub reviews often feature this internal gear hub from Sturmey Archer due to how affordable and effective it is.

It offers a wide range of gears and enables you as the rider to handle all types of different terrain without sacrificing performance.

You’ll find that it’s easy to shift gears with this 8-speed hub. This allows you to effortlessly tackle gentle slopes and steep hills with equal ease and without sacrificing your preferred pedaling speed. As we mentioned, this is a relatively cost-effective product considering what the overall kit comes with.

This includes all the cables and shifters that you’ll need to install and use it throughout its lifespan. Most competitors can’t promise the same, and in terms of performance, we haven’t found a better system to work with.

Pros
  • Features a shifter and cable
  • It’s cost-effective
  • Offers reliable shifting
  • It’s great for navigating hilly terrain
  • It has an impressive gear ration of 325%
Cons
  • It’s heavy
  • Hard to install

3. SHIMANO XT HB-M8110 Centerlock Disc Brake Hub

Next, we have one of the internal gear bicycle hubs for mountain bikers, as it’s a rigid and durable model. It features such relevant features as a lock riding mounting system that makes it easy to install. It’s beginner-friendly too.

The body is constructed from durable aluminum while the overall hub itself is a lightweight product that you won’t even feel after you’ve installed it on your bicycle. It comes with a cup and cone bearing that’s known to infuse your bike with way more strength than regular sealed cartridge industrial bearings.

That’s because it has better load distribution ability which translates to better weight balance. It also comes with a quick engagement system that Shimano is known for. This means that you get 18/16 notches and two pawls sets that help to improve acceleration and engagement.

Taken together, these features make this one of the best for mountain and enduro biking.

Pros
  • Offers quick engagement
  • Super rigid
  • Comes with cup and cone bearing
  • Makes for proper weight distribution
  • Lock ring mounting system
Cons
  • It can be noisy when your bicycle is at a certain gear

4. SHIMANO Alfine 11-Speed Internal Geared Disc Brake Hub

Our internally geared hub review wouldn’t be complete without the Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal geared bike disc brake hub.

The trusted Shimano once again has knocked it out of the park with an option that comes in two sizes, mainly 32H and 36H. This means that it’s compatible with a wide range of different bikes. It’s also designed to ensure high drive efficiency due to the durable sprockets.

What’s truly impressive about this gear hub is the fact that it has an impressively wide gear range of 409%. This means that it empowers your bicycle to handle different types of slopes and terrain. Not only that but with regular oil changes you can really get more from this oil-lubricated hub.

It doesn’t take much to maintain it and yet it’s something that will keep the hub and your bike operating smoothly for longer. Overall, it provides a reliable riding experience.

Pros
  • Offers smooth and quiet shifting
  • It has a gear ratio of 408%
  • Features an oil-lubrication system
  • Durable sprockets
  • High drive efficiency
Cons
  • It’s pricey
  • Leaky hub

5. SHIMANO SG-3D55 Universal Hub Kit Nexus

Next on our list of the best internal gear hubs, we have another great universal hub kit from Shimano with all the features that you’d expect.

This reliable hub offers a wide shifting range of 186%. This is pretty decent and will enable you to handle all types of different terrain, except for off-road, mountain, and steep terrain.

Otherwise, this universal hub kit won’t let you down, as it sports a handy lightweight aluminum shell that won’t add any weight or drag to your bicycle. This ensures a comfortable ride and also included in the kit is a non-turn washer as well as a 19-tooth cog.

Because you don’t have to purchase these components separately, we consider this to be one of the best deals that you’ll have access to in a long time. We highly recommend this high-quality product as it’s one of the most reliable gear hubs that we’ve come across.

Pros
  • Features a 19-tooth cog
  • Constructed from a lightweight aluminum alloy hub shell
  • Comes with a non-turn washer
  • Has a gear range of 186%
  • Offers reliable shifting
Cons
  • It’s not compatible with off-road or steep terrain applications
  • Doesn’t come with cables and shifters

How to Get the Best Internal Gear Hubs

The key to finding the best igear hubs is to know what to look for. To this end, we present to you some of the most important features to look out for when searching for an internal gear hub.

Material

An internal hub is installed inside the system. This means it doesn’t suffer from exposure to the elements. Therefore, it won’t suffer from the same amount of corrosion and wear and tear as external components.

That’s why you want a high-quality hub that’s made from durable materials so that it can keep the internal components safe.

Assembly

Not everyone is a DIY nut, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t appreciate the inner workings of an internal gear hub.

There are plenty of models that are easy to install so you don’t have to worry about being machine savvy. In most cases, you won’t even need to hire a professional to install it.

Lubrication

Before you buy an internal gear hub, check the manufacturer’s handbook and manual to see how often you have to lubricate it.

You’ll be able to tell if the components require grease or oil changes on a frequent basis.

Gear Ratio

Gear ratio refers to the internal hub’s capacity to handle different types of terrain. For the most part, hubs with high gear ratios are able to handle uneven terrains, hilly areas, and mountains as well.

However, if you mainly use your bike for the daily commute, then you can easily make do with an internal gear hub that has a 186% gear ratio.

Maintenance

You want a low-maintenance internal gear hub because this is one of the calling cards of a good quality model.

But, different models have varying levels of maintenance requirements. For instance, an internal gear hub might require regular oil changes compared to another.

Before you buy an internal gear hub, check how much maintenance it requires. Make sure that you’re prepared to keep up with the amount of maintenance needed.

The last thing you want is a gear hub that you won’t be able to keep up with.

Benefits of Internal Shifting for Bikes

In case, you’re wondering, here are some of the benefits that come with upgrading to an internal gearing system:

Quicker Shifting

The internal gear hub doesn’t have the same design as a derailleur-based drivetrain because you’re able to select your preferred gear quickly and effectively.

You don’t need to pedal your bike in order to engage and shift gears while experiencing delayed speed due to a steep hell or after stopping at a stop sign.

Lower Maintenance

Shifting adjustments aren’t a requirement for Nuvinci/Neviolo, Pinion, and Rohloff systems.

But, systems like Shimano Alfine do require some adjustment although not as regularly as something like a derailleur system, for example.

Versatile

Most of the drivetrain’s components are in the gearbox or the hub itself. This means that it’s fully protected from the elements and is less likely to suffer the same damage as other external systems.

This means that you get to enjoy the same level of shifting performance regardless of what the weather conditions are.

Long Lasting

Thanks to the latest improvements in internal gear hub design, drivetrain components don’t require regular replacement.

Of course, the external chain belt and sprockets will require some upkeep due to regular wear and tear.

But you can bet that the gearbox or gear hub will last for well over hundreds of thousands of miles.

No Chain Falloff

Bikes that are designed to handle gearboxes or gear hubs usually come with a tension chain belt method. This includes an eccentric bottom bracket, adjustable dropouts, and horizontal dropouts.

It makes it impossible for derailment or slack to happen on the system.

Even if your bicycle has a second-hand retrofit or you have a full-suspension bike with a belt tensioner then you’re unlikely to lose your bike’s chain or belt.

Quiet

Internal shifting has been known to reduce the noise generated by your bike when you’re driving it.

That’s all thanks to the internal shifting system which enables you to utilize a belt drive system that reduces noise that would come from hitting the frame or bouncing around.

Belt-equipped bikes are usually whisper quiet because then you don’t have to worry about noise coming from the chain.

How Do Internal Gear Hubs Work?

Planetary gearing is the process utilized to operate an internal gear hub. Planetary gearing operates on one or multiple planet gears or even a sun gear. This article was mainly focused on how to operate an internal gear hub specifically.

Three-speed hubs typically feature a single sun gear which is attached at the center of the axle. The sun gear revolves around 3 or 4 gears which are referred to as planets with a gear ring surrounding them. The gear rings look more like teeth than anything else.

As you can see, the internal gear operates according to a very unique and organized system. This is because the planet gears must be attached to the revolving planet cage.

We’re not generalizing when it comes to gear ratio because internal gear hubs have a different ratio according to their unique system.

An internal gear hub typically comes with three gear parts:

Low Gear

Low gear means the gear ring is driven by the sprocket, while the planet cage is responsible for working the hub, allowing the wheel to turn multiple times.

Middle Gear

Internally, the middle gear sports a sprocket that’s responsible for operating the hub. The internal gears in the middle are always spinning according to the sprocket’s motion.

High Gear

High gear means that the sprocket is responsible for driving the planet cage and the hub is, in turn, driven by the annulus. This increases the gear function by 33% on average per 4 revolutions.

It’s important to ensure that your compound planet gears are timed appropriately when upgrading a hub. If not, the hub can be exposed to damage and will fail to operate as expected.

That’s basically how an internal gear hub works. If you’re working with three or more planetary stages, it’s important to refer to it internally.

Internal Gear Hubs vs. Derailleurs

Internally geared hubs are becoming popular because they’re so easy to maintain and they come with long-lasting chains when compared to derailleurs.

Derailleurs are also susceptible to damage and they don’t allow you to shift multiple gears at the same time.

Of course, there’s more to gear hubs vs derailleurs than this. But at the end of the day, the option you pick will depend largely on your personal preferences based on the research you gather.

Conclusion

Now that you know what the best internal gear hubs are, it’s time to give you our top pick.

It’s the SHIMANO SG-3C41 Universal Hub Kit, which we like because it’s easy to install, it has a decent gear range, and it makes for a smooth, noiseless ride.

James is a passionate bicyclist who has done about every kind of biking there is. He loves the wind in his hair, the sun over his shoulder and maybe even the bugs in his teeth. No, just kidding about that last item. He isn’t crazy about road burns, either, but acknowledges that to have the good there is the occasional tumble. James feels that his bike is the place where he can unwind, leave troubles alongside the road, meet new people, go new places, and live the life of adventure that he loves. He is ready to share the ride with you.

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