Editors Note: Our European contributor, “c_g”, has checked in with the second in a series on the Rohloff 14 speed internally geared hub.

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(First of all thanks for the patience on this follow up of the first article concerning the ROHLOFF Speedhub 500/14 and the great input by so many of you.)

So let´s get started. This winter is slowly passing for the spring (at least that´s what the
weatherman said before the recent blizzard turned all into a late winter wonderland) and I have been riding the Speedhub 500/14 in 29er set up for a fair amount of time – that is every time I had the derailleur gearing on any of my other rigs frozen or mucked up, I simply turned to my Rohloff build and rode away.

My story with the Speedhub: The last sentence pretty much states my story why I (and so many others) had turned to the Rohloff Speedhub in the first place: Because I was spending simply too much time cleaning and adjusting the external shifting, time that I wanted to ride instead. I could have turned to SS but some reluctance to self-induced suffering, and the desire to ride everything (that is everything I had been riding on my standard geared bike) made me turn my attention to internally geared systems.
The offerings of trail worthy internally geared systems are few and the Rohloff was and still is by far the one with the largest gearing range. I had been riding my Speedhub for more than 2 years in a 26” wheel but as I was turning more and more towards exclusive 29er riding, and the Speedhub was getting less and less use. Not because of the hub, but because of the wheel size it was built into … eventually, after a considerable time of neglect, I felt it was time to rebuild the Speedhub into a 29er wheel – and so I did.

One more word on compatibility: Initially I was using the Speedhub in a standard frame with vertical disc mounts and without disc brake tabs, which required me to run a chain tensioner and the external torque arm – which both worked flawlessly but looked dead ugly. Later I had the frame retrofitted with Rohloff specific sliding dropouts (incl. disc brake tabs) and I was able to use the much more elegant OE1 torque plate and leave tensioning duties to the sliders. Like I stated before almost any frame can be converted to Speedhub with one of the multiple mounting options. (again: turn to the Rohloff website and their step-by-step Speedhub finder.

II_1The build
Building a Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 is nothing spectacular but can be a bit peculiar -only two things need to be considered:
1, Spoke length: The large diameter of the Speedhub´s shell requires considerably shorter spokes than with other hubs. In a 26” configuration getting the right length spokes can be difficult at times but running the larger diameter 29er hoops puts you in the range of your standard 26” spoke lengths. For finding out your required spoke length have a look here (http://www.rohloff.de/en/technical/speedhub/spoke

2, Lacing pattern: The other issue is that lacing is recommended to be different. This is because the spokes can interfere with the hub shell. When doing a 26” wheel it is only possible to execute a 2-crossed, lacing. With 29er wheels and their common ERD of 600 to 605 mm Rohloff clearly recommends doing the same but there is more flexibility.
On my rebuild I had done a 3-crossed lacing with good results. (This was primarily because I wanted to use some high end Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes that I had laying in my shop.)

Adapting the bike and gearing limitations: The changes to the bike are analogue to the steps of converting your bike to single speeding; meaning you only need a single chain ring, do away with the front and rear derailleur plus shifters, shorten the chain, ….One thing is worth mentioning and that is the ratio between the chain ring and the cog is recommended to be no lower than 2.35 / 1, which basically means in order to not exceed the maximum input torque you should not run a combination lower than 40/17, 38/16, 36/15 or 32/13. By design this also represents the same gearing range of a 9-speed 11-34 configuration. I kept to these recommendations with my 26” wheel but decided to neglect them in my 29er build to compensate for the larger wheels. During the last 7 months I was running my bike most of the time with a 36/16 configuration (yes, this is lower than recommended) and on some specifically grueling alpine trips was even doing a 34/16 combination – (you can see the double ring configuration in the front on the next picture). And this much needs to be said at this point: All without any adverse effects. (Note that this was my personal choice and is not encouraged here.)

fig 21

When confronting the Rohloff people with this they sure enough told me that this was not covered under warranty but in the same breath assured me not to worry as the hub was built to last. First of all it is built plenty strong (it is designed to handle Pro racing and tandem usage!), secondly there are several safety features built in the hub that would fail when overloaded before serious damage occurred to the hub. For example the internals of the hub are fixed to the shell by 9 small nylon pins that will shear when overloaded prior to any gearing damage. Then there are the bolts that hold the torque plate in place and the list continues …. All things that are easy to fix. GERMAN ENGINEERING at its best.

altprev_8026Weight and mounting:
The weight of a fitted Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 including twist shifter, shifter cables and cable guide is 1700 to 1825 g. This variation is mostly attributed to the way the shifting action reaches the hub. The different mounting options can vary by up to 100 g as well with the OE1 version being the lightest.

The external gear box (picture with the red hub, courtesy of Rohloff AG, also showing n OE1 torque plate and disc brake hub shell) is generally recommended when running disc brakes. It requires full length cable housing running from the shifters right up to the to the box and acts as a transmitting device to the hub. The two screws at the intake act as the cable tensioning devices. The box part can be easily detached by loosening a single tool-free screw for easy wheel removal, while the longer arm remains fixed to the hub. The fixture of the gear box can be rotated by 30° steps all around the hubs axis, independently of the torque arm setup – to allow for maximum flexibility. In the unlikely event of any failure of the shifter or cables this configuration allows to set any gear by a simple 8 mm open wrench.

altprev_8007z_lThe internal gearbox (shown on black hub with OE2 plate and non-disc hub shell) is about 100 g lighter by having the shifter cables run directly into the hub but requires some kind of frame mounted stop for the cable housing. In addition the cables need to have a splitting device for wheel removal. (no worry, all these parts are readily available through Rohloff or your dealer). These cables may interfere with the disc rotors, which is why it is not recommended for use with disc brakes. The proprietary twist shifter weighs in at roughly 140 g (with a very small number of tuning shifters available (e. g. by Tune called the “Rolff” or REWEL, Italy) and can be mounted on either side of the bars.

speedhub50014_bild1[1]The Rohloff specific rotors (with a 4-bolt attachment by standard chain ring bolts) weigh roughly the same as standard rotors and are available in 160 and 180 mm diameters. There are several aftermarket versions available to get the rear rotors match your front rotors if you are worried about your bikes appearance. All in all my rear wheel with Speedhub and all mounting hardware weighed roughly 2530 g (sans tires that is). This sounds like much (and it is) especially when the comparable wheel with XTR hubs (incl. cassette and rotor), comparable spokes and rims weighs at a seemingly featherweight 1380g. But keep in mind there are about 700 g of other components you get to take off when running the Speedhub (like granny and big chain ring, front and rear mech, and part of the shifters weight). So when you do the math, your bike running on a Speedhub will gain between 500 g (when compared to a SLX/XT level drive train) and ~1100 g (when compared to other high end componentry) – It can be more when considering ultralight components but these riders don´t usually look at the ROHLOFF Speedhub anyway.

Ultimately my personal bike gained ~700 g compared to my XT/XTR drive train I was running before. Was it worth it? Wait and see the riding report. This weight difference will always be there (until ROHLOFF releases a light version of the hub that has been rumored for years now) and it is one of the strongest arguments among weight weenies and XC racers against the Speedhub 500/14, but when you take a look at the internals (shown in this cut away picture, courtesy of Rohloff AG) you begin to appreciate that it is only this much.

If you want to get even more impressed by the engineering side of the Speedhub take a look at the videos or the “striptease of the SPEEDHUB” here http://www.rohloff.de/en/download/video/mix/index.html
ml). So much for now. The actual riding report and final
thoughts will follow shortly – I promise.