Author Topic: The normative case of pre-loved Rohloff pricing  (Read 322 times)

Andre Jute

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The normative case of pre-loved Rohloff pricing
« on: May 25, 2018, 01:06:45 AM »
In a cog-removal thread, a really interesting question has been raised about the price of a used Rohloff gearbox. The "normative case" in the title of this thread is the condition that should in theory prevail; here it's a sort of economist's irony.

I think I probably paid too much for the [used Rohloff] unit but, hey ho, as long as it works, I'm okay with that.

To give you some perspective: You can get a used, working, Rohloff for about 500-600, most commonly in Germany, but those have generally been through some mud plugger's backside, and you can see it in the photos.

Whatever you paid, you've got it now, so yours above is probably the best attitude. Sir Frederick Royce said, "The value of a thing will please long after the price is forgotten."

Anybody have an inclination as to how much an 11 year old, low usage, Rohloff should sell for?

Actually, I'd go further than Paul goes here:

If you know it [the Rohloff gearbox] hasn't had much use, I'd have thought it worth not much less than the original cost, if it was still on its first sprocket I'd consider it just run in.

My Rohloff box is older than yours, from 2006, but what matters is the mileage and the condition, not age. On considering your conundrum, I've decided that anyone who wants my Rohloff would have to pay a premium over new, so it would cost him probably more than small change in excess of a thousand pounds.

How do I arrive at this startling conclusion? Consider these facts:

1. Rohloffs have no MTBF (mean time between failure) because, with many Rohloffs now over 20 years old, and many well over a 100,000 of either kilometers or miles, there have been too few breakages to establish a pattern. It's clearly a reliable box you will leave to your grandchildren. So a low mileage, say sub-10,000km/6000m Rohloff box is just run in. The useful life of a Rohloff is unknown, but conservatively assumed to be well on the far side of 200,000 miles, for practical purpose infinite.

2. However, if a Rohloff, which is assembled by hand rather than mass-produced, is likely to break, it will usually break within a few thousand kilometers; virtually all other breakages (so few that most of them are individually known) happen under continual adverse conditions such as loaded touring in places where civilization is a firing squad offense. So a low-mileage but run-in Rohloff (check the appearance of the casing) is virtually guaranteed to escape the inconvenience of returning it to Germany for repair.

3. A Rohloff hub gearbox is a piece of agricultural German machinery, never intended to be a refined touring gearbox for well-off cyclists. As a consequence it takes a long time to run in. (Chalo Colina, a famous Boeing toolmaker and bike mechanic -- the designer of Aaron's 48-spoke Rohloff shell -- and the owner of several well-used Rohloffs, once said, "A Rohloff starts to be run-in when a Shimano hub gearbox lies down and dies." Actually, two Shimano Nexus gearboxes died on me well before my Rohloff was run-in.) During this extended running-in period of the Rohloff the lower range is a bit noisier, and the gear change much stiffer, than on a well-run-in Rohloff, which by contrast is utterly silent and quite as smooth-changing as the Shimano (which is a noted smooth-changing box if it is well set up).

So any lucky person who bought my Rohloff box would be able to:
a) avoid the careful listening for expensive crunches, and the relatively stiff gear change control for several thousand miles;
b) because the box is just run in, be virtually guaranteed that the box doesn't suffer from the very rare hand-assembly glitches that new owners worry about unnecessarily but quite understandably;
c) know that very little (less than 3%) of the useful life of the gearbox has been consumed;
d) as a consequence be able to ride his new Rohloff with careless abandon.

All of that, I reckon, is worth a stiff premium over the current new price. Another way of looking at it is that I would have to break in another Rohloff, and the wear and tear on my peace of mind is worth something to me, and the absence of that wear and tear on himself should be worth something to the second owner of a well-run-in Rohloff. All that remains is to agree a number for this signal service.

Mike Ayling

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Re: The normative case of pre-loved Rohloff pricing
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2018, 01:11:51 AM »
Interesting post.

Mike

lestat_12345

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Re: The normative case of pre-loved Rohloff pricing
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2018, 08:13:03 AM »
Thanks for the post Andre. It has certainly given me some 'peace of mind' concerning my recent purchase. Also, according to your logic, it sounds like I got a bargain. Still have to get the wheel built and the Rohloff tested but I've done a few preliminary tests and it all looks good.

PH

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Re: The normative case of pre-loved Rohloff pricing
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2018, 11:19:59 AM »
Interesting thoughts as usual Andre Jute, though there are a couple of things I'd place value on that are not accounted for in your musings.  So some musing from me!
Unless you're very lucky or prepared to wait a while, the chances of finding the exact variant of hub seems unlikely, less likely the further away from the most common you want.  Some compromise may be required. you'd have to work out for yourself the Compromise = ratio.
I can'r remember the details of the Rohloff warranty, I still have the warranty card that came with it and it doesn't say!  Nor does it say it's not transferable though as I needed to register it I suspect that's the case, such peace of mind certainly has a value.
Dealer service, I have no similar purchase to compare to, most things either fail within the warranty period or last long enough for me to have had the value from them.  The Rohloff was of course bought as a long term investment and the service from SJS has gone well beyond the warranty.  I've had two flange breakages, the first just bad luck the second may have been the result of changing wheel sizes (See below).  Both were replaced FOC including rebuilding the wheel, it's easy to put a value on that, the shells would have been 125 each plus whatever you pay for a wheel build.
Wheel building - all hubs suffer if you change the way the spokes fit, sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't, there can be no doubt that starting with a fresh hub and sticking with the same build is the better option.
Resale value - On the accounting principle that cost is purchase less residual value,  it's possible the newer hub the hub the higher it's value. Considering my hub cost 720 plus 120 for it's recent conversion to disk, and I'm reasonably confident it would sell for 500+ that cost over 14 years is outstanding. 24 a year  :o :o :o :o :o

I'm bored with people telling me how expensive they are. I can no longer be bothered explaining how wrong they are, I just laugh.
So back to how much is  S/H worth, well that is of course between buyer and seller, as a buyer I think the maximum I would pay is 70% of the new price, if I were to sell mine* I'd let the market decide but anything over 50% of the new price would be considered bonus.

*It'll never happen.

Last point
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than on a well-run-in Rohloff, which by contrast is utterly silent
Having ridden with several other people Rohloffs, there's a noticeable difference in the noise they make, mine usually wins, even after this time it's far from silent.  Apparently they did change something about a decade ago that reduced the noise, I read that I could have mine changed but as the noise never bothered me I didn't follow it up.


Andre Jute

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Re: The normative case of pre-loved Rohloff pricing
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2018, 11:45:48 PM »
Those are good points, Paul. It never occurred to me that anyone would buy a used Rohloff by its lonesome. My remarks assume that the used Rohloff is strung into a well-built wheel, from which you would be able to deduce more about the gearbox condition and prior use than you usually can from the appearance of a used box by itself, especially if the box is shiny aluminium (which once was the only finish offered) rather than the red or black ones which are more likely to display evidence of a hard life.

About the silence or otherwise of Rohloff boxes: It does seem that Rohloff boxes vary in their tendency to be heard over mileage, and between boxes. But we had a piece of new road put in, very smooth, and I made my test on it in the dead silence of 0300 hours (I'm anyway a night owl) on a windless night, riding on the white and orange painted lines, which are smooth enough to subtract tyre noise from the equation. My Rohloff box is silent. (For those who don't know, I've written about performed classical music all my life, and I design and build my own tube hi-fi equipment, and for upmarket Japanese -- read "obsessed" -- manufacturers too, so you might say I'm a professional listener with well-educated ears.)

By "silent" I mean that I can hear no noise when tootling along in gear 11. There's some residual noise around gears 7 and 8, but it is much fainter than when the box was new and doesn't bother me: one expects any gearbox in the harder-working gears to be noisier than in the direct or near-direct gears or overdrives. It is noticeable how often walkers in the lanes are startled to find a bike they never heard approaching suddenly passing them.

Be interesting to know whether Dan thinks his Rohloff is silent. He returned to that point repeatedly while he was considering such a major investment; I seem to remember that he explained that for him noise is a "deal breaker". Matt's also been building up the miles quickly with these big tours of his, so perhaps he noticed the breakpoint.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2018, 08:15:20 AM by Andre Jute »

Danneaux

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Re: The normative case of pre-loved Rohloff pricing
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2018, 12:31:55 AM »
Quote
Be interesting to know whether Dan thinks his Rohloff is silent. He returned to that point repeatedly while he was considering such a major investment; I seem to remember that he explained that for him noise is a "deal breaker". Matt's also been building up the miles quickly with these big tours of his, so perhaps he noticed the breakpoint.
Appropriate you asked this, Andre, as I just finished putting another 200km on my Rohloff-equipped Nomad Mk 2 the other day.

I do prefer my bikes as silent as possible, the better to "disappear" under me and avoid distracting from the experience.  I had my ears tested recently and have no noticeable hearing loss, likely the result of wearing ear protection (plugs and cups) when around loud machinery and listening to music at low volume. My external ears generate a lot of wind noise from turbulence, so I have equipped all my helmets with Cat-Ears deflectors: https://www.cat-ears.com/ Though they give me Elvislike "sideburns", they do reduce wind noise and make for much warmer ears in wintertime cold. My best "test" for bike noise is to turn my head to the side so one ear faces directly into the airflow and this way I can make a good assessment of bike noise apart from wind noise.

My Rohloff hub is essentially silent in Gear 11, or nearly so when riding white painted road lines at speed (27-29kmh/17-18mph) but this makes it far from a silent hub overall. It still makes noise in other gears and especially in the lower range, particularly Gear 7. Not unexpected. In the higher gears (8-14) am more likely to hear the whir of the exposed chain on the rear cog than anything inside the hub while pedaling. This is noteworthy in itself. The chainline is spot-on, but the chain makes a tighter wrap over my 17t sprocket than it does over my 36t chainring. I believe if I could get a Chainglider to fit this combo (Hebie take note! It has been awhile since Rohloff approved this combo), it would effectively mute the noise of my exposed driveline as well as provide the protection I seek.

I do wish the Rohloff gearbox could be made to coast silently, but it just isn't in the cards (design) for an oil-filled hub with a large shell that works as a resonance chamber. For the last 30-odd years, I have used a device to pump my freewheels and cassette freehubs full of Phil Waterproof grease (this turns to oil where it matters, leaving grease outside for a good water seal) and this renders them almost silent, ideal for surprising wildlife on my rides. I can't do this with the Rohloff, but I can instead continue to pedal in a gear above 7 and this results in an essentially silent ride -- enough to make me inaudible to animals as I approach. Otherwise, the freewheel(s) sound closer to a "can of bees" than I am used to on my derailleur bikes. A note: Because of the design, a Rohloff's high-range and low-range freewheel sounds differ. One is not necessarily louder, but the tone is surely different.

My chosen combo results for my needs in a "high" cruising range of 7 gears (Gears 8-14) and the 7 gears in the "low" range (Gears 1-7) are essentially used by me for hilly country and climbing. When I am climbing I am going more slowly and this makes the gearbox seem louder as well (less wind and road noise). Nearly all my riding is in my 55 gear-inch Gear 11 direct-drive with my hummingbird cadence of 110-120rpm making up the difference to result in a reasonable cruising speed.

I'm about to do another oil change so I will make a particular effort to note any changes in volume or tone After. I have just downloaded a phone app that converts sound to a decibel scale. It will be interesting to mount the bike in the stand and see just how loud the hub is at given distance and pedaling rpm in various gears, both under load and while coasting. I can control environmental noise pretty well here and so long as I maintain the same constant distance between hub and microphone and a constant rpm, I should get some usable results. Fun to try, but it may have to wait as bit as I have many other more pressing projects in the works.

All the best,

Dan.

Andre Jute

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Re: The normative case of pre-loved Rohloff pricing
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2018, 01:12:46 AM »
Mmm. I never had a derailleur bike that was silent. But it should be noted that my derailleur bikes were owned before, fed up with careless mechanicking by my LBS, who is from the blacksmith days of bicycling, I put in the effort to learn how to look after my bike myself.

You're very likely right, Dan; the Chainglider must take the major credit for silencing the chain.

My bugbear in isolating noise is that the loudest thing on my Rohloff bike is the noise of the Big Apple tyres. They have only the shallowest of treads, but they totally drown out any other noise there may be. That applies even to a halfworn Big Apple, taken off the rear wheel at 8500km with the tread almost worn off. (It's half-worn because the tread is more symbolic for "traditional" riders too willful to grasp that the fastest and most efficient tyre over almost all touring surfaces is slick, so when the tread is almost gone there is still plenty of rubber left and, in fact, Schwalbe advise you to ride Big Apples until the protection band becomes visible. The likely mileage at that point would be in the region of 16,000km/10,000m or higher; a very economical tyre.) I tried the half-worn, near-slick Big Apple on the front as well but it is still the loudest thing. That's why I need a white line on a dead smooth road at the dead of night even to listen for my Rohloff.

By way of contrast, on another creepily silent bike I own, my all-electronic Trek CyberNexus or Smover, the original fitment of Bontrager Elite Hardcase tyres (functionally equivalent to Schwalbe Marathon Plus -- which are equally loud -- and possibly off the same production line) make a lot of noise to accompany a harsh ride; the minute you fit a more suitable tyre it is so quiet you can easily isolate any residual noise by riding on the white line.

Another datapoint: My Gazelle Toulouse, from a time when the Toulouse was their top range, the "vakansiefiets" (the holiday bike too good to commute on), was fitted with wheels so badly built that I couldn't tell anything about the bike and its components until I fixed the wheels, and then took its Vredestein tyres onto a smooth road with a white line.

About the sloshing in the Rohloff gearbox: It's not a problem I have, or at least not audibly. But then I let the cleaning fluid drain for an hour into a Rohloff hypodermic I keep especially for that purpose, hanging perfectly vertically under the hub, and then draw out the last driblets with the syringe. Then I fill the box with only 15ml of all seasons oil, about 3mm more than clings to the gears, which is 25% (3/12), an adequate safety margin. The safety margin mists out and I rarely get as much as 2ml more than the cleaning oil back; my rear rim is amazingly clean when I wipe it once a year.

The short answer is:
1) My Rohloff-equipped bike is more silent than any derailleur bike I ever owned.
2) My Rohloff is perfectly silent because any noise it makes is lost in the noise of the most silent tyres I know of that suit my bike's various purposes.
3) If you have to take your bike onto a white line on a smooth road to spy out noises, you are an obsessive.
4) Who says I have to be reasonable, especially about noise?

We're actually still on topic here, with this talk of noise: it seems to me that for a bicycle gearbox as long-lived as the Rohloff, it is remarkably quiet when run-in, and smooth enough in the controls too, matters of relative refinement that add to the value.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2018, 01:16:41 AM by Andre Jute »

Danneaux

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Re: The normative case of pre-loved Rohloff pricing
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2018, 01:40:26 AM »
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About the sloshing in the Rohloff gearbox...
No, I think I was unclear in my writing: I don't hear oil sloshing. Rather, I believe the large hub shell serves to amplify the internal whirrings and clickings (especially of the freewheel pawls) more than a smaller shell might...but of course, all the internals would not fit in a smaller shell! Also, the (relatively) small amount of liquid oil is thinner and results in a different kind of noise at the pawls than does the Phil Waterproof grease in my freewheels/freehubs, which themselves have different clearances than my Rohloff. My SunTour New Winner freewheel bodies have adjustable cones so I can minimize free play and wobble compared to freewheels without.

I follow Thorn's method for Rohloff oil changes and have never had a leak and almost completely unnoticeable misting of oil.
Quote
We're actually still on topic here, with this talk of noise: it seems to me that for a bicycle gearbox as long-lived as the Rohloff, it is remarkably quiet when run-in, and smooth enough in the controls too, matters of relative refinement that add to the value.
Agreed!  :)

All the best,

Dan.