Thursday, April 10, 2008

Got Rohloff?

When considering my gearing options for the Big Dummy two paths made the most sense:
  • standard mountain bike gearing [44/32/22 + 11-34 cassette] 16.8" - 104"
  • Rohloff hub [38T x 16T] 17.2" - 90.6"

What is a Rohloff hub?

  • German made internal geared hub
  • 14 equally spaced gears
  • 13.6% change between gears
  • 526% overall gear range
  • on a single bike the smallest chain ring you can use is 38T with a 16T cog on the hub. This is to avoid putting too much torque on the hub.
  • all shifting done by one [2 cable] grip-shift style shifter
  • fully sealed against the elements
  • all the gear changing is done internally so it is not affected by weather or a dirty drive train
  • internals run in an oil bath for smooth efficient operation
  • can be shifted while the bike is stopped
  • service life of 100,000kms
  • weight ~3.7lbs

Standard MTB Gearing

  • free from my spares bin
  • wider gear range
  • easy to get spares
  • known quantity as far as maintenance & performance
  • able to use any standard rear MTB wheel

Rohloff Hub
  • MSRP ~$1500
  • narrower, but equally spaced gears
  • low maintenance
  • good for adverse riding conditions [mud/wet dirt roads]
  • able to shift while stopped
  • no dish in rear wheel = stronger wheel
  • needs proprietary spares
  • unknown performance/maintenance
From an objective analysis of the factors listed above I think the nod has to go to the standard MTB gearing for most uses. The low cost and ease of getting spares makes the benefits of the Rohloff difficult to justify given its high cost.

So why did I get a Rohloff?
  • being an engineer geek there is something magical about the Rohloff that I wanted to experience for myself.
  • I have also read so many Rohloff owners rabidly loyal posts I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
  • I have been wondering if a Rohloff would make a good choice for an expedition touring bike. On all fronts it seems like a good idea except if you have any mechanical problems with it. Thorn Cycles make numerous Rohloff specific expedition touring bikes and are big fans of the German hub. Given the conflicting information I've read the only way to answer this question is to try one out.
  • They tend to keep a high resale value so if I decided I didn't love my Rohloff I should be able to sell it without taking a tremendous loss.
There is lots more to discuss when it comes to the Rohloff hub in general and how it works on the Big Dummy, but I'll save those topics for future posts.

Here is some recommended reading if you want to learn more:

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