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.
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…
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.
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.