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

By “c_g”:

Part 1 – INTRO: Who of you has heard about the Rohloff Speedhub 500/14? For those of you who have – it probably holds the image of German engineering par excellence – and of high pricing probably.

For those of you who haven’t I will give you a very brief wrap-up of the thing:

The Speedhub is an all German made, internally geared hub with 14 gears spaced evenly at 13.6 % resulting in exactly the same range as a standard MTB 27-speed drive train. By following extremely low tolerances and keeping the system completely encapsulated Rohloff claims to have comparable power loss by friction to an externally geared system (aka derailleur driven) and will run virtually forever with minimal servicing (only an annual oil change recommended). The hub has been in production for over 10 years And yes, it is costly, even here in its homeland.

(Before you readers start raining a myriad of technical questions, I herewith redirect your enquiries of such kind to the Rohloff website: www.rohloff.de. There is tons of technical info to be read about the working, on Rohloff´s – including compatibility charts, gearing ratios, exploded drawings. They even have done a book covering the Rohloff story)

fig_rohl_1

fig. 1 The ROHLOFF Speedhub 500/14 in the test – condition like it should be: spotted with dirt. The labeling is laser etched into the black anodized hub shell. Each hub is individually numbered.

What motivated Bernd Rohloff, the man behind the hub to build this? – Before the Speedhub Rohloff has been producing (and still is for that matter) premium bicycle chains including several precision tools in that area.

There is a neat anecdote about it (rephrased to keep it short): “He was doing a vacation on the French Atlantic coast, riding along the sandy beach … or at least trying to as it only took two breakers to completely foul the drive train. It was there and then that the idea for a ever-running system was born. Two years and countless hours with technical drawings and engineering later, Bernd was pedaling it away happily without a second thought to the drive train-hostile environment. That was 1998 and by now there are over 100.000 Speedhub units in use on all kinds of bikes.

Here comes a bit more tech talk though:

The Rohloff 500/14 Speedhub basically consists of three units:

1, The 14-speed internal geared hub (available in a disc- or v-brake specific, and a QR or through axle version). Consisting of a hugely oversized hub shell housing the transmission unit (32 and 36 holes available in the colors silver, black and red anodized with laser etched logos), interchangeable side-plates on both sides and a screw on cog (standard is 16 teeth, 13, 15 and 17 teeth are available separately)

2, The mounting hardware: It takes special attachment systems to compensate the rotational forces induced by the internal gearing. Depending on the drop-out and frame design these can be simply a plate (if the frame is Rohloff-specific like in fig. 2), or varying torque arms (depending if the frame has disc brake bosses or not, one version shown in fig. 3)

fig_rohl_2

fig. 2 This set up shows Rohloff specific dropouts, where the torque is taken up by the long slotted dropout and a special plate (only visible by the “in the know” near the lower end of the slot). Chain tensioning here is done by the sliding dropouts. The shifting commands are transferred by dual cables and the external gearbox.

fig_rohl_3

fig. 3 Here a version with the long torque arm is shown. This version is needed when the frame is not suitable for disc brakes or when the disc brake tabs are not on the seat stays of the frame like on this frame. Why? -Think about which direction rotational forces will work.

3, The twist shifter proprietary to the system. This shifter is driving dual cables to the hub – usually in full length housing. The attachment to the hub can be by an external gearbox, like shown, which is recommended when running disc brakes or by an internal system which is about 100 g lighter. The shifter is not indexed like all other bike gearing systems but the indexing is happening directly at the place of shifting, inside the hub.

(Bikes with no built-in chain tensioning option or suspension bikes will need a chain tensioner) The rest of the modifications is like converting into a single chainring crankset and a specific 4-bolt disc rotor, as the standard systems don´t work with 6-bolt rotors.

fig_rohl_4

Fig. 4 The shifters are like any twist shifter – only these actuate two cables. Yes, they are a bit clumsy looking.

So much for the marketing talk.

What is the Speedhub really all about? Does it work fine? How does the planetary gearing react when put through its paces? What about the total weight or weight distribution on the bike, compared to a standard derailleur system or SS? Is the system really bomb-proof and maintenance free – regardless of riding and climate?

And most important to many reading this site: How does it work when used in a 29er set-up?

I will see into all these matters in the course of this Rohloff specific series. Wait for more to come.

Ps: … and if you want specific info, let me know – I will see to incorporate them in the course of the review.

Look for further updates from “c_g” in the near future!