Rohloff

Eric en Bernhard Rohloff, copyright De VakantiefietserAt The Holidaybiker’s showroom offers one Santos tandem and over 20 touring bikes with a Rohloff speedhub.
These hubs exist since 1998 and I have been riding a prototype Koga Signature with belt drive.
On the picture you can see the inventor Bernhard Rohloff holding speedhub number one hundred thousand. I also interviewed Bernard Rohloff.

All our brands: Idworx, Koga Signature, Santos, Gaastra, VSF fahrradmanufaktur are sporting the Rohloff speedhub.

Rohloff-naaf; Copyright: De Vakantiefietser, AmsterdamI (Eric Schuijt) am conservative concerning new bicycle devellopments. I don’t want my bike to break down during my adventures in far away countries, where nobody ever heard of a speedhub or brakes with oil.

I always test new items, like on my last tours through South-America, India and Malawi, and have been cycling for nine years with a Rohloff speedhub.

There are four devellopments that have proven themselves. These are the Rohloff speedhub, the Magura hydraulic brakes, the SON hubdynamo en the Gates beltdrive. Especially the speedhub has increased in popularity. Therefor a short explanation.

I will tell you about:
the advantages
the disadvantages
cost comparison of a derailler system versus a Rohloff speedhub

the different models
the durability of a Rohloff speedhub and the maintenance

The Rohloff speedhub has 14 gears inside the hub. These 14 gears offer a ratio equivalent of a bike with three chainrings and a 9 sprocket cassette at the back. Yes, you can also peddal swiftly uphill.

Advantages

  • Standstill shifting. After riding a Rohloff speedhub for over 10000 miles I believe this is the biggest advantage. You are standing still in front of a red light and have forgotten to shift back. Or you make a turn and the road suddenly goes steep uphill. Sometimes you forget to shift into a low gear and are too late. With a Rohloff speedhub, you are always able to shift. So also whenyou are standing still. Especially on a tandem, a Rohloff speedhub comes in handy.
  • Low maintenance. The big advantage is that the Rohloff speedhub requires little maintenance. In comparison to a regular derailler system, the chainline is straighjt and therefore wears out less fast. The oil inside the hub needs to be changed every 5000 kilometers or once a year.
  • Easy shifting. With the shifter on the rightside of the handlebars, you can shift anytime. You can shift one gear, or 14 at the same time, only with a twist of your wrist.
    When after riding my Rohloff speedhub, I take my old Koga Worldtraveller for a spin (with shifters on both left and right side), it os disappointing. It feels like chainging my beloved computer to an old fashioned type writer:-)
  • Solid. Notably for long distance riders a Rohloff speedhub is ideal. An average holiday cyclist takes his bike on a plane and in transit most damage is done to a bike. A Rohloff speedhub is more solid than a derailler. It cannot bend or brake like a derailler pad.
  • Not too big differences in gears. You know the feeling of riding a bit lighter, but the next step is a lot lighter. Or you want to cycle a bit heavier, but on tooth less is too much heavier. I have percieved that the steps between gears with a Rohloff speedhub are nearer to each other than with a regular Shimano cassette. In less hilly landscape it is often nicer to have small steps.

rohloff binnenwerk copyright De Vakantiefietser

Disadvantages

  • Running in. In the 6th and 7th gears the Rohloff speedhub makes a snuggy noise. That will get less, but will stay forever. I dont mind, because I only use gears 6 and 7 when I clime a mountain. On flat terrain, you usually use the 10th, 11th or 12th gear.
    About the sound, Rohloff speedhubs till serial number 47.000 are more noisy than recently produced hubs. We are at 160.000 hubs now.
  • From 8 to 7: take power back. Shifting between 7 and 8 goes less smoothly if you continue pedalling. That’s why you have to take some peddalling power back.
    Actually the Rohloff speedhub is a 7 speedhub with doubling mechanism. In gear 7 all the small parts inside the hub are used and the efficiency is at it lowest. In gear 7 the hub is in its highest gear with the lower transformation ratio. In gear 8 the hub is in the lowest gear of the higher transformation ratio.
    So when you shift gears from 7 to 8 the ‘planets’ change from the lower to the higher transformation ratio and afterwards from one gear to the other. This means two steps at once. That’s why you really have to take power back, otherwise the hub may shift to the 14th gear, which is the heaviest. From the 8th gear up, shifting goes swiftly. Pew, I hope that I have explaned it clearly.
    All other gear shifts can be made with more power on the pedals. When the hub has ran in, you can cycle in silence, in particular between the 8th and 14th gears. This higher transformation ratio is also the more efficient one. The 11th gear is the ‘direct drive’, the most efficient one. For certain people (ornithologists e.g.) the noise is a disadvantage as you approach a rare bird in a deserted forest, and it flies away…
  • Cost. An other disadvantage is the cost. A bike with a Rohloff speedhub costs approximately € 900,- more than a derailler bicycle. But on the long term this higher purchase cost is justified, because of lower maintenance cost. The ‘cheapest’ Rohloff bike costs just over two thousand euro. Sometimes there are Rohloff bikes available for less, have a good look at the other parts in that case.
    Bernhard Rohloff himself says in an interview that if you buy a bicycle with a Rohloff speedhub for under € 2.000,-, someting is wrong.
    For a good bicycle with a Rohloff speedhub you usually end up paying € 3.000,-.

Cost comparison derailler-system versus Rohloff-system

A Rohloff speedhub runs a bit less smooth than a clean (!) XT-derailleursystem. But the hub runs lighter if you are too lazy cleaning the chain and cassette. It also weights about 170 grams more.
The hub is cheaper on the long term.
I had some time left and made a calculation, count along. Imagen I ride 60.000 kilometer, these are the cost.

Rohloff speedhub

PartPrice (euro)
Hub950,-
6 x new chain240,-
12 x Oil change120,-
2 x Sprocket60,-
1 x Chainring60,-
1 x New cables20,-
Total1.450,-

XT Deraillersystem

PartPrice (euro)
New chain every 3.000 km600,-
New cassette every 6.000 km750,-
2 x New chainrings200,-
3 x New cables60,-
New deraillers + shifters390,-
Total2.000,-

I take it for granted that you do all the maintenance yourself, otherwise the mechanic’s wages add up. The financial break-even point is around 30.000 en 40.000 kilometer. And 40.000 km is just a beginning for a Rohloff speedhub.
Anther benefit of the hub is that the jumps between gears are always 13,6% and most of the times less than with a cassette. It is possible to chose a chainring / sprocket combination to make your bicycle suitable for flat or very steep rides.

The different models

Inside every Rohlof hub is exactly the same. The outsides are different. Apart from the colours; silver, black, red, green, orange, blue. These are the differences:
the way you shift
the way the chain is tensioned
the momentum
spokes and brake mounting options

The way you shift

The hub shifts with a twist shifter. Two cables go from the handlebars to the hub. There is no spring. It is recommended to change the cables every decade.
There are two types, each with their advantages. It is always easy to take your back wheel out.

  1. Internal shifting mechanism. This is inside the hub. Two cables go from the handlebars to your back fork. Two small cables come out of your hub. The two pairs of cables are connected by way of bayonet closure, which you can open with a single turn.
    The advantage of the internal system is that mud and dirt cannot spoil your ride. This system is usually mounted on mountainbikes. The disadvantage is the size of the littel cables coming out of the hub. Carry a Rohloff easy-fit repair kit when you take a plane or go for long distance tours.
  2. External shifting mechanism (clickbox). This is a small black box next to the hub on the other side than the chain or belt. The cable of the gripshifter goes directly to this box. The advantage of the external system is that the box is waterproof and it is easy to put on and off. The disadvantage of this system is that you have to pay a bit of attention when you put the box back on the hub. By the way, this system is € 50,- more expensive.

The way the chain is tensioned

There are three ways to tension the chain, depending on the frame:

  1. rohloffkettingspanner copyright De VakantiefietserExcentric bottom bracket. An excentric bottom bracket is the most elegant way to tension the chain or belt. By turning the bottom bracket you make the distance between the speedhub and the cranckshaft longer. Idworx, Gaastra and Santos use it on their bikes. The advantage is that your chain or belt line is always straight and that a closed chain guard is possible.
  2. Adjustable back pads. The idea is that you can tension your chain or belt by pushing the back wheel backwards. It is a decent way, used by Koga.
  3. Chain tensioner. The ‘old-fashioned’ way to tension a chain (not a belt) on a Rohloff hub. This looks like a derailler. but it is more stiff and sometimes has only one jockey. The benifit is that you never have to tension your chain. This system we use when we build in a new Rohloff speedhub in your old bicycle.

 

 

Spokes and Brakes

There is a 32 and a 36 hole speedhub version. and there is a tandem version, in which you can put slightly thicker spokes. Because a wheel with a Rohloff speedhub is symetrically spoked, it is stronger than a wheel with a cassette on one side. Rohloff chose a 32 and 36 hole rims because it is worldwide available. Rims are always drilled under a small angle.
Tip for world travellers: Mount a rim in the front with as many holes as your Rohloff speedhub, so you can always use your front rim in case your back one breaks.
Rohloff speedhubs can be mounted with a disc brake. But I am not a big fan of discbrakes anyhow.

How long does your Rohloff speedhub lasts and what about maintenance?

Since 2012 Bernard Rohloff does not know anymore. There is a German cyclist, who did over 160.000 kilometer. I do not have that experience yet, but guarantee 100.000 km.

If you like to know more, soon I will translate the advanced Rohloff page.

Puncture?

It is really easy to take your back wheel out. And put it back in. I usually put on a new tube and fix the puncture in the evening after pitching my tent.

What is a good transmission?

Usually for a 28″ wheelsize bicycle a 42 chainring in combination with a 16 sprocket is used. For a 26″ the numbers are 38 and 16. This is the equivalent of a standard Shimano or SRAM 3 x 9 derailler combination. If you want you gears to be lighter of heavier, the holidaybiker will mount the chainring / sprocket combination of your wishes. On these pages, you will see what your favourite combination is on a Rohloff speedhub. So you can climb up any mountain with the pace of a snail:-)

Download the Dutch guidebook (pdf).
I am working on an English version. You always get a paper version in English when your bike is delivered.

Oh… At the Holidaybiker there are many Rohloff bikes waiting for a testride. Coffee and tea are ready. Our brands with Rohloff possibilities:

  • Koga Signature(leuk om op internet zelf samen te stellen)
  • Santos (chosen by you, custom-built by Santos)
  • idworx (perhaps the most beautifull)

Contact us for more information, ideas or recommendations. Not for rentals by the way…

More information?

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