I was busy traveling when this was first announced, so I debated whether to even mention it at this point, but the new 11-speed Shimano Alfine hub is something I am pretty excited to see. Up until now, Rohloff had the market cornered for internally geared hubs with a wide range of gearing. According to the Lazy Randonneur, this new 11-speed Alfine has a gear range of 409%, compared to 307% for the current 8-speed version. The Rohloff still has a greater range, 526%, but when you consider the cost difference, the 11-speed Alfine should give it some serious competition.
BikeRadar has a first look at the new hub, which is supposed to be available later this year. They point out that it is new hub is 90 grams lighter than the 8-speed version too. Weight is not a huge issue for commuters and utilitarian cyclists, but it should definitely help the product appeal to mountain bikers who are considering the switch to an internally geared system (which I think will be a trend in the near future). Personally, I would love to try this system both on my commuter bike and on one of my mountain bikes. Anyone at Shimano listening?