Author Topic: Rohloff - What's YOUR Opinion ?  (Read 55548 times)

John Saxby

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Re: Rohloff - What's YOUR Opinion ?
« Reply #165 on: April 20, 2015, 05:49:14 PM »
I have much less experience with the Rohloff than a great many others on this forum, just a year-plus on my New Raven, maybe 3500 kms in all. I have more experience with derailleur bikes, but again, probably much less than many others. I bought the Raven + Rohloff because I wanted a capable and versatile touring bike which I could also use on day rides.  I no longer use a bike for commuting, as I did 15-20 years ago. Although I do loaded touring, I travel mainly on tarmac roads, on tours which are on the shorter side, from a few days to a few weeks.

Here's my take on the question, then:

A decade-plus back, I bought an Eclipse, a good quality ti-framed touring bike with carbon forks, well equipped with a T105 grupo. The Eclipse is the brand of a well-known bike shop in Ottawa/Gatineau.  If I'd known then what I know now, I think I'd have opted for a quality all-steel touring bike, but I didn't so I didn't. The Eclipse fits me well, but is better suited to credit-card touring and day rides than to loaded touring.  When I began to adapt it to carry heavier loads, I began to run into problems--not with the frame or forks, interestingly enough, as the bikes's handling has been good, even with loaded panniers. The problems have been with the drive train, particularly the chainset and cogset, and the rear derailleurs. Without getting into the mind-numbing details: (i) I still have the T105 brifters and front derailleur. The brifters in particular aren't perfect, because they interfere with mountain a handlebar bag, but they're OK, as are the Avid canti brakes. (ii) I'm now on my 4th cogset, two 105s, a Shim LX and now a 12 - 36 Shim Deore, and the fourth RD. (iii) I'm now on my third set of chainrings, a Deore 24-36-48.  

After a lot of experimenting and changing, I've found gear-inch ratios which are are reasonably OK, though I'd want a lower gear or two if I planned to continue using the Eclipse for loaded touring. The big hassles have been rear derailleurs (the LX and the Deore) forever getting out of adjustment. These problems were never catastrophic, and sometimes they happened in places like Vermont or the Rhine Valley, good places to have a bike problem. They were common enough, however, that eventually I lost any confidence of finding the low gear I wanted going up a steep hill.

I retrospect, I think these problems were a combination of my initial lack of knowledge about touring bikes, my changing requirements & tastes, the limits of the bike's versatility, maybe the specs/capabilities of the different drivetrains, and not-so-good advice from at least one LBS.

A couple of years ago, I reached the end of my patience, and started researching options for a dedicated but versatile steel touring bike. I also learned about the Rohloff. The best options seemed to be a Surly LHT and a Thorn Sherpa or Raven, with the latter built for the Rohloff. I swallowed hard at the cost of a Rohloff--you can buy a well-equipped LHT here for the price of a Rohloff!  When I thought about getting the right Shimano or SRAM combination on the Surly, however, my enthusiasm for that option disappeared, especially because, on the Eclipse, I was beginning to run into Shimano's road/MTB component incompatibility. (As I looked at the pricetag of a Rohloff, the ghosts of Scottish ancestors wagged their fingers and frowned severely while they intoned, "A penny saved is a penny earned." I told them to pxxx off, and showed them the bills for Eclipse drivetrains. I also countered with "Buy quality or repent at leisure," pointing to Hans, my old-but-still-sound BMW airhead. They retreated, grumbling all the while.)

My experience with the Rohloff, then, is part & parcel of a wholly different bike:  different frame & forks, different geometry and saddle-stem-bars positioning, different wheel size, tires & brakes & fenders, different hubs fore & aft. I kept the same pedals, cleats & shoes, and my beloved B17 saddle, ditto the VO rando bars (though the Raven has a wider set). The core issue for me had been the drivetrain, however, both the ratios and the confidence in getting the right gear when I needed it.  I never worry about getting the right gear with the Rohloff -- I missed one low-speed shift on a very slight upgrade on my second day of riding the bike -- and on a couple of savage uphills in Sweden last September, the Rohloff rolled all the way down to 1st gear with no problem at all.  I am going to try out a 36T chainring later this summer (currently, I run a 38 x 17), to see how a slightly lower overall gear-inch range improves my cadence, especially on hills.  I can do that by buying a Surly ring for $30 (in the US, that is) and a new KMC chain for $12 here -- I won't have to buy a new cogset and/or rear derailleur, and perhaps a new front derailleur as well.

My Indicator of Quality in all this is whether I think about a component, other than to say, "Dang! This thing works so well!" I almost never think about my chain now, happily spinning around encased in its 'glider; ditto my garden-variety Deore V-brakes with their Koolstop pads; ditto my spiffy brown Brooks saddle; ditto my SON 28 and ditto the Rohloff--except to remind myself that I'm now liberated from derailleurs. When I ride the Eclipse--which now works better, with wider tires, no loaded panniers and better-placed brifters 'cos there's no nice Arkel bag mounts on the bars--I still finding myself waiting for a missed shift going up a steep hill.  I have learned how to adjust my rear derailleur 2 or 3 times a season, and occasionally my front one, but this, it strikes me, is a skill I didn't really want to master.  Fussing with my F & R derailleurs in my workshop, I have felt like the poor souls who used to spend their Saturday mornings fiddling with the tappets on their Brit vertical twins, or sending out positive vibes to persuade their Lucas devices to work, while the rest of us were out and about.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2015, 11:14:39 PM by John Saxby »

Andre Jute

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Re: Rohloff - What's YOUR Opinion ?
« Reply #166 on: April 20, 2015, 10:54:09 PM »
That's a very interesting report, John; we've all been there more or less: the Rohloff is the resort of the last exasperation with derailleurs.

It's amazing how in bicycles, basically simple mechanisms, the slightest disturbance at one point always reflects somewhere else. The hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone is connected to the... etc. In that sense the Rohloff brings with it a lot of solutions at once.

gearoidmuar

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Re: Rohloff - What's YOUR Opinion ?
« Reply #167 on: May 25, 2015, 04:07:30 PM »
This is is the way of an update. I've had my Thorn Raven Tour for five and a half years. It's my main touring bike and I use it for some winter training as well. Has done 21000 miles. Hub was serviced free of charge at about 13000 miles by Rohloff for a minor changing issue. I've never had a broken spoke on it and the bike is phenomenal. I discovered Schwalbe Performance Big Apple tyres 7000 miles ago and they're still going strong with NO punctures at all. For roughish stuff you can ride them, even fully loaded at 30psi or less.

Anyway, the latest revelation. I've a Rohloff chain gauge and change the chain when it's worn according to steel cogs. I changed one again this morning after my tour. Rode it. No slippage or anything and this is the third chain on this sprocket and I've yet to reverse it. These sprockets are really tough and Sram Single Speed chains are really cheap.

Andre Jute

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Re: Rohloff - What's YOUR Opinion ?
« Reply #168 on: July 31, 2015, 11:23:19 PM »
By way of an update in my bike's sabbatical year, a few observations:

1. With over 8000km/5000m on the clock, my Rohloff box now shifts smoother than best Kerry butter from cows virgin-milked under the full moon. It is still not as smooth as a Shimano Premium Nexus 8sp hub gearbox, but then none of my Shimano boxes survived to 8000km.

2. There is absolutely no sign that the Rohloff won't go on marching on forever. I fully expect it to see me out. ("Little old bespectacled nonanagerian intellectual only rode it to church on sunny Sundays.")

3. A properly setup Rohloff transmission chain is very economical. Again, comparing to the Shimano, in 8000km on the Shimano I would have fitted no fewer than five (5!) complete transmission chains of crankset, sprocket and chain, whereas is my Rohloff runs on its original sprocket, showing no signs of wear, and on its third chain (and it would be on its second still if I were not forced to change the electric motor which necessitated a new chain) which compares very favourably indeed with the Shimano Nexus setups. The Rohloff is also on its third crankset, but none was worn out: it came with a cheap crankset I specified to be fitted until I decided what I wanted, which was then changed for aesthetic reasons, which was then changed because the new midmotor requires a custom crankset and a dished chainring.

4. Less than twenty euro for an annual service with the full oil-change kit is also not only convenient but economical. I'm not sure the 250ml cans now available would make sense for me, though I might buy a pair just for storage convenience; they probably make sense for people who do a much higher annual mileage than mine.

5. The requirement to service the EXT external klickbox with a shot of grease every 500km is just Herr Rohloff covering his ass and can safely be ignored. A shot of Teflon or Phil or your fave anti-HO2 grease in there every time you change the oil, i.e. at 5000km/3000m intervals seems perfectly adequate. Do take care to wipe it out as thoroughly as you can if you change the grease; I was irritated when an experiment with the longevity of the Phil was aborted when the Phil was contaminated by minute traces of the previous grease, and from the looks of the new mixture I thought it likely the efficacy of the grease was decreased.

6. SPECIAL NOTE FOR CYCLISTS CONSIDERING AN ELECTRIC MIDMOTOR. This is a point everyone knows, though proofs are rarely offered: even beyond it's longevity in normal touring/utility service, the Rohloff gearbox is immensely STRONG. I have an application that demonstrates it. My Bafang QSWXK front-drive motor developed some issues; at first I thought I melted the drive gears but on disassembly of the control system I found some badly burned wires, so it could possibly be an electronic problem -- in any event I wanted a midmotor so I decided not to buy the expensive tools to rebuild the QSWXK. (I still recommend the Bafang QSWXK if you want a front motor. Mine was hard used on roads adverse to the point of hostility to an electric motor, and served and lasted beyond my expectation.) Instead I fitted a Bafang mid motor in the BBS series as more closely suited to my hills; I literally am surrounded by hills on all sides the moment I step out of my door; there are no cycling-safe flat roads accessible to me. My Bafang BBS-01 has a peak torque of probably (reliable hard information is difficult to come by when dealing with Chinese engineering firms and I no longer have access to a rolling road dynometer) 112Nm , which is more than many hatchbacks, certainly enough to rip apart any bicycle hub gearbox except the Rohloff. People in the States run BBS and other mid motors up to 750W continuous on Rohloff HGB but I expect they operate them on throttle only, not on any of the automatic "pedelec" programs built in to the controllers, which in the Chinese versions (as distinct from the Panasonic-Bosch type which offers torque management but only for pretty limp motors) can be a bit sudden; and a few speak well of the NuVinci when operated with much smaller motors (250-350W). But any appreciable power, fully applied, requires the Rohloff; note that even a modest motor, rated for say 250W continuous can spike at 650-750W for many seconds on end, certainly long enough to rip a weak HGB a permanent goodbye. I've found that you soon learn to adapt your riding style with the motor to the Rohloff and that then it is possible to use either the throttle or the very useful pedelec styles, which is like having another gearbox of however many speeds you want, up to 9. In short, the usable strength of the Rohloff box makes a bigger midmotor possible than you can fit with the only other gearbox that seems a candidate (the Nuvinci), and the Rohloff also makes fuller use of the motor and electronic facilities possible than lesser gearboxes do.

7. If you have an electric motor for any reason, and moreover sophisticated electronics to control it (which is like an extra multispeed gearbox), a Rohloff with its 14 speeds and huge range just isn't necessary for the smooth operation of the bike. A box as strong as the Rohloff but with only three widely spaced gears, or with a limp motor seven or so gears as closely spaced as in the Rohloff, will do fine. Until something goes wrong. All those electrics and electronics and the battery weigh quite a bit, and if you're hauling home their dead weight across the hills and with the bad heart (or whatever) that in the first instance necessitated the motor, you'll be glad of the Rohloff's fourteen evenly-spaced gears and huge range.

8. Yesterday I adjusted the chain length on my bike, which besides the Rohloff HGB has a Hebie Chainglider. After I parked my bike again in its heated space. I went inside and held up my hands to my wife. "What am I supposed to see?" she asked. "It's what you don't see after I work on my bike." She grinned. "No oil." The Rohloff is central to making the bicycle a clean mechanism that you can ride in the clothes you wear every day without fear of getting oil on you.

9.All in all, the very fact that I've kept my Rohloff-equipped bike for seven years, tells you I think it earns its way. I simply cannot conceive of ordering another bike without a Rohloff.

10. Metaphysically, I don't put much store in still-common stupidities like cycling being a working class sport (on bikes the obscene price of ours? give over!), or that cyclists have to suffer for their sport, or that the manhood of a cyclist depends on being able to adjust derailleurs or patch a tube under two minutes out on waterless road. Modern gear releases us from these silly shibboleths, with the Rohloff hub gearbox in the forefront. God bless Bernd Rohloff, and his merry men and women.

« Last Edit: August 01, 2015, 08:07:42 AM by Andre Jute »

pavel

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Re: Rohloff - What's YOUR Opinion ?
« Reply #169 on: August 12, 2016, 06:26:06 PM »
It's good to re-visit threads such as these.  So much good experience said so well.  I have never been at odds with deraileurs, but at the same time it seems to soothe something in my soul to have a slick machine, which works in a way so as to disappear from my consciousness as I ride. The evenly spaced and fairly tight gearing on a Rohloff is sublime as far as I'm concerned.  It does not really bother me to use a derailleur but I'm often aware too much while riding one.  The need to think about which front ring I'm on, to have to trim it and to have to look at a hill and be aware that I may be better off switching the front so that I will be better prepared to go low on the back in order to do the hill best, and then having to peddle ridiculously fast for a few stokes - is no real problem. I've done it all my life. But to NOT have to think one bit, once on the Rohloff, is actually worth the money spent right then and there. The rest of about fifteen other details is simply gravy, and there is lot of metaphoric gravy to be had in the Rohloff. :)

It is a bit like live being short. Why drink bad beer (miller light) when really one deserves some of what the Brit's, the Irish, the Germans and the Czechs brew, and brew with their heart and soul. To be cheap in ways that make such a difference feels like disregarding one's self and forgetting how good live COULD be. :)

For those who bring up "Rohloff is expensive" I'd like to suggest that they say it to their detriment.  Either say "Rohloff is expensive and I don't deserve nice things - never mind the very best." to see what you are doing to yourself in life more clearly - or - "Rohloff is expensive - but I'm damn worth it!'.  That's the way to roll, though this short trip.

Oh and get some good beer ... always. ;)