For those of you who don’t know what a Rohloff is, it’s a Internal hub-gearing system which is popular among long distance bicycle-travellers, because of it’s simplicity, reliability and extremely low maintenance. They weigh more than a chain-gearing system, which may put someone off who is trying to run an ultra-light bike-packing rig, but for anyone doing a longer journey, the weight compromise might seem worthwhile because of the reliability the Speedhub affords. It doesn't require a derailleur, which eliminates a particularly vulnerable spot on the bike, and it is positioned in the middle of the rear-wheel, making it almost un-succeptable to knocks.
They are a significant investment, but for our upcoming tour across South America, which would lead us through some truly remote places, we thought it worth while, and splashed out.
Here are my impressions having just returned from a 6000km journey across South America.
After seven months of cycling along rugged tracks and dirt roads, the Rohloff Speedhub has proven itself rock-solid. We definitely enjoyed never having to deal with jumping gears, the simplicity of having a gearing system that is operated with one lever, and changes gears in regular intervals… (We had been running a 3x9 chain-gearing system until changing to the Rohloff, a 1x11 chain gearing system also affords this luxury)
The only time we had to give the Rolloff any attention, was at the scheduled oil change at 5000km The instructions were written on the oil-change kit, the procedure was straight forward, and we had both bikes done within an hour.
Not having read the instructions manual before leaving lead to an unnecessary misunderstanding. One day, towards the end of our journey, I realised that there was a faint trace of oil on the axel of one of the Speedhubs. I thought this was a problem, and that the hub had a leak. I took photos and sent them to Rohloff, who responded to my email the next day, asking for a number to contact me on. I gave them one, and they called us an hour later, telling us that we had nothing to worry about.
(As described in detail in the manual!) The Rohloff doesn’t have a valve to let pressure out. This is because the pressure would need to escape upwards, and there is no up or down on the Speedhub, which is always turning. When significant changes in pressure occur, because of change in temperature or altitude, a small trace of oil can reach the outside of the hub. This is by design, and is no reason for concern. The amount of oil that reaches the outside of the Rohloff is not enough to have an effect its performance, or increase wear and tear. Apparently, even if every drop of oil were to exit the Speedhub, it would still have enough on the internal cogs for another 5000km before needing a top up.
The hour doing an oil-change on our two Speedhubs, and the two days being worried about leaking oil, were the only times on the journey that I had to think about the gearing system.The second being my own fault and completely unnecessary. READ THE MANUAL! On the upside, I now know that Rohloff’s customer service is up to scratch. We were in a two horse town in the Andes when we contact them, and they called us up on a local’s phone the next day. We had hundreds of kilometres of remote wilderness ahead of us. We appreciated both the reassurance, and the fact that they took our situation seriously.
For the rest of our journey, the Speedhubs were as good as invisible. Not having to think about them meant that we had more time to enjoy the journey, and concentrate on our films.
I can genuinely recommend the Rohloff Speedhub to anyone planning on cycling in remote places.
Since writing this article, Rohloff have accepted us in to their sponsorship programme. Some readers might understandably see a conflict of interest concerning opinions expressed in this article. Thisis my honest recounting of our experiences using the hub, and my opinion is based solely on these experiences.