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Cycle Monkey

Internal Gearing Specialists, Bicycle Distribution & Service Center

Benefits of Internal Shifting for Bikes

There are many factors to consider when shopping for a new bicycle. Type, frame size, wheel size, component spec, and even color are all important considerations. But many riders fail to consider which drivetrain system is best-suited to their needs before purchasing a new ride.

Most bicycles are equipped with a drivetrain based around a chain and derailleur, which moves the chain between different sized sprockets to adjust the amount of effort required to turn the cranks. Internal gearing systems eliminate the need for a derailleur, and change the gears from within an enclosed shell, much like the transmission on your car. This type of drivetrain includes internal gear hubs and gearboxes, and they work well on all types of bikes—from dedicated touring rigs to road bikes, mountain bikes, gravel bikes, daily commuters, and everything in between.

This cutaway shows the gears inside an internal gear rear hub
An internal gearbox, which is centered at the bottom of the frame
Riders often ask us to compare the benefits of internal shifting vs. external shifting to help them decide whether to make the switch. At their core, internal shifting systems offer reliable, user-friendly options that require little to no maintenance and function well in variable weather conditions.

So, what are the main advantages of switching to an internal gearing system?

Internal Gearing Advantages:

  • You can ride anywhere, anytime
    • The bulk of the drivetrain is contained inside a hub or gearbox, away from the elements and protected from impacts that can damage external systems. The lack of external shifting components ensures shifting performance doesn’t deteriorate when the weather is bad or your bike gets dirty. 
Cassettes and derailleurs do not work when covered in mud
  • You'll spend less time and money on maintenance
    • Rohloff, Pinion, and Nuvinci/Enviolo systems never require shifting adjustments. Other systems such as Shimano Alfine require adjustments far less frequently than derailleur systems.
Your bike's not having fun up there, and neither are you...
  • Your drivetrain will last longer
    • Dramatically improved durability means that drivetrain components do not need to be regularly replaced, as they do with external systems. The external sprockets and chain or belt will wear over time, but the gearhub or gearbox will reliably cover many 10s of thousands—potentially even 100s of thousands—of miles when used as intended.
Internal gear hubs frequently work longer than the bike they're on...
  • You can shift much faster and while stopped
    • Unlike a derailleur-based drivetrain, where the chain must move across the sprockets one at a time to reach the new gear you want to select, an internal system will go to the new gear as fast as you can move your hand. Pedaling is not required to engage the shift, so you can change gears while delayed at a stop sign or after losing your momentum on a steep hill.
Twist shifters change lots of gears, fast. Even when you're not pedaling...
  • Your chain won't fall off
    • Bikes designed around gearhubs/gearboxes have a method for tensioning a chain/belt (horizontal dropouts, adjustable dropouts, eccentric bottom bracket), which prevents derailment because there is no slack in the system. Even on bikes with aftermarket retrofits of gear hubs or full suspension bikes that use a chain or belt tensioner, the fact that the chain/belt does not leave the single front and rear sprockets makes it extremely unlikely that these bikes will ever lose their chain/belt.
No more of this nonsense
  • Your bike will be quieter
    • Internal shifting eliminates the noise of the chain bouncing around and hitting the frame. Internal shifting systems also allows for the use of a belt drive system like those from Gates Carbon Drive. Bikes equipped with belts rather than chains are nearly silent, as the running noise of the chain is also eliminated.
This system runs silent

Types of internal gearing systems:

Internal shifting systems can be split into 3 levels in terms of quality, with associated price points: Basic (Sturmey Archer, SRAM/Sachs, Shimano Nexus), Mid-range (Shimano Alfine, Enviolo/Nuvinci), and Premium (Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 & Pinion).

Basic options are intended for lighter duty use, predominantly in a short commute setting. They typically have smaller gear ranges, higher weight, and reduced efficiency along with low cost. These systems are ideal for short commutes on flatter terrain.

Basic internal gearing options are usually sufficient for short commute on flat terrain
Mid-range options typically see an increase in gear range, reduced weight, better efficiency, and higher quality. These systems work well for commutes with gently-rolling terrain, as well as those riding to meet their fitness goals or take on more moderate adventure rides.

Consider a mid-range option like Shimano's Alfine if you plan on taking some longer rides...
Premium options offer wide gear ranges, high efficiency, the ability to handle high torque produced through lower gear ratios or tandem/e-bike use, and extreme durability. These systems are ideal for any type of riding, including daily commuting, world touring, mountain biking, bike packing, and adventure riding. 

Premium hubs and gearboxes are up to any terrain or challenge
Whichever level of internal gearing system fits your riding needs and budget, you can expect to gain confidence in your bike’s reliability and enjoy more versatility in terms of when and where you can ride. Cycle Monkey specializes in helping customers find internal gearing setups for any type of riding, so don’t hesitate to drop us a line to discuss the options.

If you’re interested in seeing the latest internally-driven builds we are working on, be sure to check out our blog and give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram.