New hoops: Rohloff and Son dream team.

More than one Rohloff hub?! 

Yep. That’s pretty much what I’d have thought, if ever I heard of anyone owning more than one of these distinctly pricey (albeit wonderfully crafted) internally geared hubs. Yet, that’s the situation I find myself in right now… Readers of this blog may know that I’m a devout Rohloff fan. But why the need for another?

To be honest, it’s not strictly necessary. My current hub has travelled with me from frame to frame, over the 9 years I’ve owned it. It’s done me proud, and I expect it to do so for years to come. But, as a Rohloff makes up a complete drivetrain, it rules out the possibility of swapping out different kinds of wheelsets between bikes – which can be limiting.

Investing in a second Rohloff allows me to have two very different, but largely interchangeable wheelsets – one primed for mountain biking, the other for general dirt touring. I love my Krampus, the wide gear range a Rohloff affords with 3in tyres, and the way it rides with ultra-wide Rabbit Hole rims – and I’m loathe to pull that wheel apart and start afresh again. But I do prefer a more versatile rim for my travels. In choosing SunRingle’s MTX33, I have a setup that will handle anything from a light and fast rolling 2in Schwalbe Dureme, to a butch and heavyweight Surly Knard (at a push) – with a 2.4in tyre, like a Maxxis Ardent, as the sweet spot.

As a downhill rim, the modestly-priced MTX33, which weighs in at 760g, certainly isn’t the lightest – but if the track record of my Rhyno Lites is anything to go by, they should stand the test of the Andes. No doubt I’d have chosen a lighter rim if I was exploring closer to home (I’d considered the Velocity Blunt 35, with its wider inside bead diameter). But given that I’m running a 29er wheelset, I’m inclined to err more on the side of caution, knowing how much harder it would be to source a replacement in Latin America. Yes, 29ers are becoming ever more in capital cities. But they definitely still have some catching up to do, compared to their 26″ brethren.

Lastly, I’ve long hankered after the nutted, solid axle version of the hub – it allows for a more secure positioning when used in frames with sliding dropouts (like the Ogre), it’s a deterrent against the opportunist thief, and it makes for easier cog-flipping on the road.

Investing in a second Rohloff is a testament to how much I like these hubs, and how much trust I put in them. The first still has endowed me with faultless service around the world, including 5 years in the Indian Himalaya running a guiding service. It’s bounced between 6 frames, and it won’t be going out to pasture for a long while. Most likely, it will end up on Nancy’s bike at some point.

Certainly, there’s plenty of reason to like a Rohloff, particularly if you ride your bike hard. Of particular interest to the touring fraternity, it makes gear changing from a standstill easy. Bereft of delicate derailleurs, off-the-bike travel – the roof of a Bolivian bus, for example – is less fretful. It excels in the very worst riding conditions, requiring just an oil change every 5000km, and the occasional flip of the cog and chainring. I’m not going to say it’s without a few foibles – shifting under load, for instance – but I can live with them. The real leap of faith is putting your trust in those Rohloff boffins… and your cash down.

A Final Note – I’m not unaware that the price of a Rohloff (upwards of $1500, depending on the model) will finance a complete expedition-worthy bike, and just as importantly, leave you with plenty of spare cash to get your trip started… And I’d never say it was a prerequisite to any long distance tour; derailleurs are tried and tested, and do the job just fine. But… this doesn’t stop me highly recommending one if you can afford it, especially if you’re expecting to give your bike (a good) and hard life.

_MG_3256

Herr Rohloff’s most wonderful invention. 14 evenly spaced gears, come rain or shine.

Full wheel weight is a hefty 2866g. But if it doesn't kill you, it will just make you stronger, right?

Full wheel weight is a hefty 2866g. But if it doesn’t kill you, it will just make you stronger, right?

My hub came via Rohloff-specialists Cycle Monkey, distributors of all the various Rohloffs options and accessories. Owner Neil is well versed with the intricacies of building them up, pre-bending spokes to reduce the change of breakage, given the high flange of the hub. It was purchased through a pro-deal, which saved me some dollars. But it was still a very expensive week…

_MG_3226

The most elegant Son 28. Designed with LED headlights and large diameter wheels in mind.

And while I was at it, I figured what the hell: I’ll burn another hole in my pocket and pair it with a Son 28. At $280, Sons are perhaps the Rohloffs of the dynamo world – they’re amongst the most efficient on the market, and claimed to be good for a very respectable 50,000kms or so.

_MG_3214

The front wheel weighs 1416g, of which just 460g is the dynamo hub. That’s not bad, considering a Shimano XT front hub is 300g.

Built as a stout wheelset - but ones I can enjoy when riding unladen too.

Ogre and new wheels. I’ll be gearing my Rohloff with a 36T/16T chainring and cog, which is 2 teeth above the lowest allowed ratio.

_MG_3292

The addition of a Surly Tugg Nut chain tensioner makes adjusting the wheel more straightforward.

_MG_3299

Seen here with WTB Weirwolfs. They’re not nearly a wide as their 2.5in labelling suggests – but they’re a very nice, reliable all round tyre.

Rather than illuminating my way, my Son 28 will be used to charged USB-powered electronic devices, via a Bright-Bike Light Revolution. I’ll write more about this as soon as I’ve had time to put it through its paces -it’s been a last minute decision, so pre-trip testing has been limited. Initial impressions are looking good though. The unit claims to kick in at just 5.5km/h, and reach a full charge at 14.4km/h. Certainly, it started to charge my iPhone 5, without the need for a buffer battery, at incredibly low speeds – just riding round a car park. A lap around the block and it was already a couple of per cent charged.

_MG_3304

The Son 28 wired in to the Revolution. I’ve just taped the cable on for now – I expect I’ll tidy it up later.

_MG_3283

A framebag is a great place to store it and the phone, running the cable through the hydration port.

_MG_3287

The Revolution is a tiny and very light, at just 37g – and claimed to be waterproof too. It’s far lighter and more efficient than carrying a solar panel, though less versatile off the bike.

I’ll do a full post on how well the Revolution works at some point down the road. In the meantime, Cycling About covers dynamo and charging options very thoroughly here and here.

What to do with an empty wheelbox…

 

42 thoughts on “New hoops: Rohloff and Son dream team.

  1. Andi

    Oh you .. 😉
    Ever thought of trying to get a sponsorship by Rohloff? Guess they won’t be too averse to that ..
    Skip this if you already know but .. the new Rohloff shifter is not compatible with really sweaty hands. If you can, mount the old one or cut some grooves in it or put a zip tie around.

    Nice one!

    Reply
    1. aeon

      @Andi, it seems like the Tout Terrain offspring named “Cinq5” is going to deliver a dual shifter. Especially people with different handlebar geometries (e.g., drop bars) might be interested – and, also, people with sweaty hands. I’m really looking forward to see tests of this stuff! If you search the web for “tout terrain rohloff thumb shifter” or “Cinq5 rohloff thumb shifter”, you can already find some images. But before I decide to buy this, I want to see some reviews…

      Reply
  2. Cass Gilbert Post author

    I know… It’s still dawning that I’m a double Rohloff owner (and, it hadn’t escaped my thoughts, that one could be used for a future fatbike project…). The Son 28, incidentally, feels silky smooth. I’m really happy with it too.

    Cycle Monkey had some of the old shifters in stock – so I went for one of them, for exactly for the reason you mention.

    Reply
  3. Lars Henning

    Hey Cass, I am drooling over your new wheels. I was considering those MTX33s when I was building my wheels in January. I went with the Rigida Sputniks instead, so I am curious to hear how these turn out for you. All the best for your trip!

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Lars, I ran the Sputniks on my old bike (Inbred, as it happens) teamed with Vs as they were laced to non disc hubs. Awesome rims, I can’t imagine you’d ever have an issue with them.

      I went for the MXT33s as they’re a bit wider (so will hopefully seat a Knard). Weirdly, no one uses Sputniks in the US – I’m not there’s a Rigida dealer (or whatever the new name of the company is) here. I’m a big Rigida fan – the Andra 30s and Grizzlies are great rims too.

      Reply
      1. Chris Goodman

        Hey Cass,

        I’m about to have a Troll built for long distance, back/off road travel using a bikepacking setup (frame bag, bar harness and Revelate seat pack) probably with the addition of a couple of small panniers on a light rack. I’d be using it for a long trip, perhaps RtW. I’m about 85 kgs (but hopefully that can only reduce on a trip like this :-)).

        On the subject of wheels, I’m after a Rohloff and SON 28, and a (respected) wheel builder I’ve spoken to has strongly recommended using the Rohloff-specific version of the Rigida Andra 30 rims. I understand they are drilled for a Rohloff which can only be a good thing, but they seem damn heavy and I wonder if they are overkill. He also suggested that whilst they will take wide tyres, they might not be designed with 2.4s in mind (I was thinking 2.4 Ardents to start with as this will be a rigid 26er, so I want as much cushioning as I can get, though I could see myself ending up with narrower Marathon Mondials or Extremes for longevity). I’ll be running discs so pad wear on the rims isn’t an issue. I was really focused on going lightweight as far as possible, and this seems like a step in the wrong direction. However, I do want to take some rough roads and can appreciate the value that bombproof wheels would bring, particularly as I’ve never trued a wheel in my life!

        Any thoughts on which way I should go, whether the benefits of the Andra’s outweigh the weight, or any other advice (apart from that I should probably get some wheel building lessons…:-/).

        Cheers, Chris

        Reply
        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          Chris, a little in haste as I am on a dubious computer in a forgotten mining town in the Peruvian Andes…
          I can’t recommend the Andras enough, despite their heft. I was delighted with mine, it would seem to last forever. I think a 2.4 will be ok, though I expect most of the time you’ll be running a 2.25 or so, which will fit perfectly.
          Lighter, and still very strong: Sun Rhyno Lite XL. There’s two versions, the ‘XL’ is a little wider and more expensive, I believe. Also, its pinned and sleeved. I’ve been delighted with mine, especially given the weight.

          Reply
          1. Chris Goodman

            Thanks for such a quick reply Cass. I spent the afternoon talking to Charlie (the Bikemonger) about a build and he has somehow reopened the 26er vs 29er debate… His words ‘get a solid set of wheels and what can go wrong?!’… Which puts the Ogre (and, dare I say it, ECR?) back in contention… Arggghhhh… On that note, and off this pages’ topic, is there much difference between Ogre and ECR apart from the ability to take larger tyres? IE is there any benefit to running an ECR as a normal 29er, over just running an Ogre?

            Decisions, decisions….

  4. Rob Thomson

    Hey Cass, thanks for the write-up. I don’t suppose you know of anyone with extensive touring experience on a Shimano Alfine 8 or 11 speed hub? I have used an 8-speed for the last two years – mainly daily commuting, including 4 months of the year in snow – including some touring, and it seems to be holding up well. Apart from the uneven gear spacing, it has been impressive, especially considering the price. It would be interesting to see how it went on a long tough tour though…

    Cheers,
    Rob

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hey Rob,

      I know of plenty of people who use their Alfine for mucky, muddy UK mountain biking, as well as bikepacking – all with thumbs up reviews. No one on long trips though. For me, the issue is really the gear range, which is it’s significantly greater on the Rohloff – 526%, compared to 300 odd. As it happens, I prefer the feel of the shifting on the Shimanos.

      The Rohloff is a massive investment, but having had mine for as long as I have, I no longer think of it as bad value for money. It’s just a lot of cash to stump up at once. That’s not to say that there’s not completely viable, cheaper ways of doing things (and I certainly would never say you ‘need’ one). But once you have one, it’s hard not to feel pretty pleased…

      Reply
        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          Thanks for the link Rob, looks like a great charger. Wish I had the skills to make one myself!

          Reply
          1. aeon

            Hrmmm, FYI: I klicked on the link, and my antivirus software just kicked in and said there’s malware on that page. Did not check in depth, will not open it.

  5. Christian

    Hey Cass, nice post, as always. I’ll wait to ear about your experiences with the son dynohub and the usb charger, and lights if you finally decide to use some.

    Your blog is very inspiring, thanks a lot for sharing. Your gear reviews with real live heavy use contain very useful information. I hope that this time I might give you an interesting input.

    Did you thought on the chariot coupling on the threaded spindle of your new Rohloff? If I remember well the external box of the rohloff was the problem, it is just bellow the solid axel, at the same place the chariot hitch wants to be. My solution was the following. First I found that rohloff sells the “TS OEM2 axle plate long 8228L”, which gives you a longer axel for trailers. But this alone was not enough as you still have to move the chariot hitch to the left, to clear the rohloff external box. I used the SRAM version of the “Internal hub hitch adaptor” from chariot (http://www.chariotcarriers.com/en/us/products/accessories/for-your-second-bike/hitch-hub-adapter-_-20100757) which is kind of a nut with an extra spindle to attach the chariot hitch. The SRAM version has the same thread as the rohloff axel.

    If you already have (or you find) a better solution, please let me know.

    I am excited to follow your new adventures.

    Cheers,

    Christian.

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Christian,

      Thanks for your comments and advice.

      I realised I’d need an adaptor for the solid axle Rohloff to work with the Chariot, but not that I’d also require a longer axle plate. The plan is for Nancy and Sage to join me a few months down the line, so they’ll be bringing out the Chariot. So thanks for that – it would have been disastrous without it!

      Cass

      Reply
  6. Christian

    Well, just check it upfront. I first discovered the longer axel and tried with some washers, but ended up liking more the chariot hitch adapter. Probably you do not need the longer axel if you have the chariot hitch adapter, but I am not sure (almost sure :-) ). If you are in time, check it with the normal one.

    Christian.

    Reply
  7. Kristopher Rhodes

    I have a very similar setup to this (see website link for photo) – Ogre, RD Frame bag, Son28 + Rohloff, BBB XL cage on the downtube… I have a Pedalpower+ though, plus a Supernova E3 Triple light, and I run fenders so I had to flip my BBB cage upside down otherwise any bottle I put in there would hit the fender under heavy braking. I’ve been running it for 6 months now and honestly, I don’t think you could go wrong with that setup other than it’s a bit heavy.

    I used mine on 2 consecutive 200+ mi bikecamping “weekends” (starting July 4) to keep everything up and running, and at the end of each weekend, both the Edge 810 and the battery were 100% charged despite charging my Edge 810 the entire day while using it for navigation.

    I hope you have at least half as much fun with your setup as I did with mine – if you do, you’re in for a damn good time :).

    Reply
  8. SAM

    Hi Cass
    I’ve finally saved enough for a rohloff build and just wondering what gearing you run. As far as I can tell 38-16 is the lowest Rohloff warranty down to? Mine build will be similar to yours a 29er karate Monkey with SP dynamo front hub and exposure revo light. I was using a nexus disc 3 speed hub was was nice and light but just didn’t have the range i was after. I’m also looking at the mtx-33 rims but really what’d a rim brake surface for best of mind, but they’re hard to find in a 36hole 28mm plus rim any thoughts? also did you go with the sleeved or welded join on your rim. Thanks in advance for your feed back.
    Kind regards
    Sam
    New Zealand

    Reply
  9. sigma7

    Cass, nice post, as usual. I’ve replaced the derailleur gears on all my bikes, except the road racer. I never had an issue with my 4 speedhubs and 2 SONs over more then 40.000 kilometers.

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      4 Speedhubs and 2 Sons! That’s quite a collection. I’m glad to hear they are all doing you proud.

      Reply
      1. sigma7

        Campbell’s comment brought this post back to my head. I’ve recently added a Rohloff XL to my fleet. I’m now 8 years on Rohloff, 5 speedhubs with about 60.000 kilometers.

        Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks for the link, Dylan. Great looking setup, deer head and all! My MTX33s are holding up well, though I’d probably go for something a little lighter if I wasn’t touring in Latin America.

      Reply
  10. Joe Hyatt

    How’s the Bright Bike Revolution working out? I’m trying to decide whether to give it a go, or to stick with something from B&M. Looking to charge a battery pack whilst riding, and then top the Garmin up using that at night.

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Joe,

      The Revolution has been great. It works at low speeds, it’s robust and it’s very light. No quibbles at all. Using a buffer battery of some kind to charge your garmin should work well, as far as I can see. From what I can tell, everyone who’s tried one seems to rate it really highly for its efficiency.

      Reply
  11. jerome bossert

    Hey Cass,

    Could you provide us with a feedback about your dynamo hub used in the real traveller life ? Is it worth it, how efficient is it, didn’t it killed your iphone yet :), is it really robust and reliable ?

    Thanks again for making us dream :)

    J

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Jerome,

      The hub has been ace, and well worth the investment; it’s not skipped a beat. Neither has the Sinewave Cycles Revolution, which charges my headtorch, Steripen, iPhone and whatever other USB driver device I throw at it. It lives in my framebag, and has been soaked/frozen/covered in dust. I can’t give you any hard and fast numbers re efficiency, but today for instance, 40km on pavement gave me an extra 45 per cent or so on the iPhone.

      Reply
      1. jerome bossert

        Awesome, thx for the feedback !

        To you feel any friction in the hub, slowing down your bike a little bit compared to a normal hub ?

        Thanks again.

        Jerome

        Reply
        1. Dylan

          Jerome: FWIW, I finally built what I referred to in earlier comments, and am using another SON28 dynamo hub. If I dismount and gently turn the front wheel, I can feel the slightest resistance, but that same resistance is imperceptible while pedaling. Again, for what it’s worth.

          Reply
          1. jerome bossert

            Isn’t a dynamo draggy? Well, Please excuse the maths, but if you rode at 20mph for an hour the light would pull about 6W from your legs during this time, this is equivalent to approximately 5.2kcal. There are approximately 72kcal in a McVites Digestive biscuit, enough to power your light for just under 14hrs and that’s assuming you pedal down the hills and around every corner! So yes, it does draw a tiny bit of power, but I certainly can’t tell the difference and it’s a damn good excuse to eat an extra biscuit every few rides 😉

            I found it hilarious :)

            http://robdeanhove.blogspot.mx/2012/07/racing-on-dynamo-charging-my-gps-bright.html

  12. Murray

    Gday.

    I’m keen on building a Surely Troll possibly buying the new model 2015 which your able to split the frame in half. Also using a SON charger.

    My question’s are:

    1. Is the frame tougher enough for mtn biking mainly cross country riding?

    2. Is the SON tough enough for mtn biking, id possibly put a front suspension on it.

    cheers
    Muz

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hey Murray.

      My 2 cents worth:

      1. Without doubt. It’s just a 1×1 frame with gears and rack mounts. Same burly tubing.
      2. Definitely! Mine has withstood as much abuse as I can throw at it. Touring, mountain biking, bikepacking, whatever.

      Reply
  13. ashley

    Ran the Rholoff / Gates and Son on Enve XC rims with Maxxis Icon and Crossmark tires for the 2014 Great Divide Tour: Finished; No mechanicals, no flats:
    the Son charged an iPhone5 or lights and GPS: I would take this combo anywhere and plan to.

    Reply
  14. Charles Sample

    Hi! I was wondering if the MTX 33’s worked out with Knards. I would like to use a set of them for my ECR wheels but I am concerned that they might not be wide enough for the 29+ tires. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Charles,

      The MTXs were great, but I only ever used them with Ardent 2.4s. I’d go for something a touch wider with 29+ tyres. At the time, nothing was available, bar Rabbit Holes, which I hadn’t had a chance to fully test. In hindesight, I think they’re a pretty reliable option, depending on weight/load carried. But I think there’s some other good options around now – Alex, Velocity, Stans and WTB, I think.

      Reply
  15. Clay

    Hey Cass,
    Im building up a dream-set for my ogre based largely on your experiences and advice. Any particular reason you went with an SON in ISO over centerlock? Thanks for all the reading material.

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hey Clay, I’m running a Rohloff, so I’d have to carry an extra tool if I was to go the centrelock route. Standard torx bolts are easy to remove wherever you are – for a flight, for instance. Not sure if you’re going with the Rohloff, but if you are, go solid axle for the Ogre!

      Reply
  16. Campbell

    Hi Cass,
    First of all, thanks for your fantastic blog and photography! You’re partly responsible for inspiring me to be where I am now – heading south through Peru on my way to Patagonia on an Ogre!
    I realise that this is an old thread but I had a question about tyres. What are your thoughts on the Maxxis Ardent for 29er dirt-road touring?
    This is all fairly hypothetical, as I’ll probably stick with my 2″ Marathon Mondials (on sturdy Velocity Cliffhanger rims) but their mixed performance on the dirt roads has got me lusting after something a little wider and with a slightly better tread! However, nothing much seems to have changed in the last five years or so in the 2-2.5″ 29er tyre realm. After some searching, the Ardents seem to be just about the only wider option that potentially fit the bill. I’d love to hear your take on it if you have a mo…
    Cheers
    Campbell

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks for the message Campbell, and good luck with your trip! I’ve used Ardents for dirt road touring in Patagonia and really liked – they actually roll surprisingly well. Have you seen Surly’s ET tyres? They’re 2.5in in diameter – depending on the rim, there can be some chain rub in the lowest gear. But they roll nicely, and have a lot of volume.

      Reply
      1. Campbell

        Hmm, something to ponder on the Ardents! As for the ETs, they look absolutely perfect but are they going to do them in 29″ as well? I can only see 26″ at the mo?
        I’m running a Rohloff, so I’m guessing chain rub wouldn’t be an issue…

        Reply

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