Author Topic: The right components to build a Rohloff wheel  (Read 1852 times)

Andre Jute

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The right components to build a Rohloff wheel
« on: May 09, 2015, 06:57:03 PM »
Over at Factory lube/chaincase experiment (X8 chain, Chainglider, Surly SS & Rohloff) Matt wants to know:

Your last picture shows clearly your spoke nipple rim arrangement.
On comparing to my own, yours is much neater.
Could you please give us the spec?
My own spokes do not sit as neatly into the rims.

Matt wants to know about the componenets that make for such a neat nipple seat.

Sorry about the delay in replying, Matt, but I was out riding by appointment with a chum and then I had to search for the individual build sheets for my wheels, which I haven't found; as you can imagine, the study of a writer contains tons of paper. Those sheets give the full spec of parts and tension for each spoke and so on, and the name of the craftsman in case of questions arising. I'm afraid I'll have to give it from memory.

Sapim Polyax nipples will settle correctly on the rim or eyelet whatever the angle.

The nipples are special, in the sense that they're different from other nipples, but off-the-shelf special, in that anyone can buy them. They are Sapim Polyax and are famous for aligning by their shape regardless of the orientation of the support (eyelet or rim) and spoke. I don't think there is anything more special about them. You can use them with any spokes for which there is a Polyax size.

The rim is an Exal XL, the XL only meaning extra large, 24mm inside between the beads, 32mmm outside width. But the holes are a special directional Rohloff drilling. (If you've seen a Rohloff wheel disassembled, you've seen how the spokes settle into the ali and groove it: that indicates the angle reguired.) I've failed to find another rim like it. It is difficult even to find a standard Exal XL for sale (usually in Germany), and I found none who want to deliver to Ireland. There are (or were when I last looked) some other rims available with "Rohloff drillings" in which you should be able to use any spoke of your choice with the Polyax nipples, though, as you will see next, I swear by the Sapim Strong spokes (those roadie spokes that are giving Sam trouble would never even be considered for a bike of mine, but then I'm likely 20kg heavier than most of you).

Spare Sapim Strong spokes for my Rohloff wheel. Check the long thick butt and its sudden transition.

The spokes on my wheels are definitely special, and not for elegant variation either; they're butt-ugly, no pun intended. They are Sapim Strong (check the yech long butt at the hub end; it's a 2.3mm diameter section -- it makes a huge difference to how the spoke handles stress), available by special order with a "special Rohloff bend" (I'm translating from German) which angles them to make the Rohloff flanges work with the Exal rims and the Polyax nipples for transferring mimimum stress into the flange and to guide it in on the correct line . I haven't been on the Sapim site in a long time, ever since I understood my wheels won't need rebuilding until the rims wear out and therefore don't need spares standing by, but the last time I was there, these spokes for Utopia were listed as available to everyone with a Rohloff.

My wheels (I have another one built the same way, with a SON hub dynamo) haven't had a spanner on them since I received them at the beginning of January 2009, 8100km of potholed lanes. (Somebody remarked again today that I just ride through potholes while everyone else goes round them.) I conclude that the specification, the components and the build process work together well.

Whether any of this is still necessary is another matter altogether. Utopia, the makers of the bike on which I received these exceptional wheels (the only better wheels I have is a set of prototypes built by Keith Bontrager that I got on a rare and wonderful Trek that the market didn't want) was the first bike maker to specify Rohloff gearboxes, so all of this concerted design effort was a response to Rohloff flanges cracking, usually in the hands of chancers who overloaded their bikes, and typically in tandem service. It's been a dozen years or so since Rohloff beefed up those flanges, so today it's all probably totally unnecessary, something you might do for appearances but not really required for longevity in your wheels.

Nor do I know whether any of these special versions are still available; why keep them in production after the need has passed? I think that very likely, today, the Poleax nipples by themselves will do the job well enough.

PS. And it seems quite likely to me that part of Sam's problem could easily be that Rohloff hub flanges are so strong today that that they transfer some of the stress to the spokes, rather than the other way around, as back when these special spokes and accessories I've described were invented to protect more vulnersble early flanges.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2015, 07:05:17 PM by Andre Jute »


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Re: The right components to build a Rohloff wheel
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2015, 08:33:44 PM »
Many thanks
Lots to take in here
I'll try to post a snap of my set up.
Critical comments most welcome
Never drink and drive. You may hit a bump  and spill your drink