Rohloff or not? - CycleBlaze

Bicycle Travel Forum

Rohloff or not?

Mike Ayling

Before we ordered our Thorn tandem in 2012 I spent a lot of time in the forums on CrazyGuy researching the matter and found a few tandem teams who were very happy with their Rohloffs and I placed the order despite ever having seen a Thorn tandem or a Rohloff. It worked well for us and with the EX box shifter I find rear wheel removal and replacement easier than on a derailleur bike.

When I retired from the workforce I also retired my trusty LHT and treated myself to a Thorn Mercury with Rohloff.

What I find very useful is the ability to go down three gears with a twist of the wrist  if the road ahead suddenly steepens.

In a lot of journals that I read now Rohloff reigns so lets hear from you as to why Rohloff and others can say why not.


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3 years ago
Vince McCarthyTo Mike Ayling

Hi Mike,

You weren't clear whether you have a belt or a chain with your rohloff?

I've done about 10,000kms (over several years) touring with a chain and cassette, and more recently about 2,000kms with a rohloff and belt.

I snapped a chain on tour once. It was easily replaced with a spare link.

I used to carry chain lube all the time and always applied it after heavy rain.

I had many bad gear changes at unplanned times due to the road surface or topography.

I worried when on dirt and sandy tracks of what damage was being done to the chain and cassette.

Plus there's the hassle of removing the cassette if you need to replace a spoke.

The biggest positive thing I get from the rohloff and the belt is the peace of mind that it's not going to break.  Sure it will break eventually but with appropriate maintenance, it should be near unbreakable.

Soon, I'm about to ride around Australia.  I won't have to carry any chain lube, chain breaker, or links. 

I will carry spear gear cables. (They're lightweight and small.)

I won't carry a spare belt or Rohloff oil change equipment. (My wife will bring/send these to me if required.)

I think a major consideration is which country you plan to tour in and if parts can be easily obtained.

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3 years ago
Mike AylingTo Vince McCarthy

G'day Vince

I have chains on both bikes and screw on sprockets, purchased before the easy fit spline version was released.


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3 years ago
Jean-Marc StrydomTo Mike Ayling

We converted to Thorn Ravens mit Rohloff just over four years ago.  Easily the best bicycle purchase decision we could have made.  Simple, minimal maintenance and peace of mind.

Being able to shift while stationary or make massive shifts in a single movement is great for touring situations and one gets used to the rotary shifter very quickly. 

Chains, sprockets and cogs last so much longer than on a derailleur bike in my limited experience.  Our bikes have about 32,000 kilometers on the clock and so far we have replaced the sprockets/cogs once and the chains three times.  The one set of chains were cheapies we bought in Chile that I replaced as soon as possible but I would expect to only change chains when flipping the sprocket and cog.  By flipping the sprocket and cog you can wear them from both sides, something that I did two thirds of the way through the first sets' lives.  The current sprocket/cog sets have yet to be flipped and the chains are still OK (checked last week).  The only Rohloff spares I carry are cables and (occasionally) oil change kits (for "warranty purposes" an oil change is required every 5,000 Km).  I replaced the shifter cables once which was after about 25,000 Km and then had to replace another when one got damaged during the frantic transit back from South America when all COVID-19 hell broke loose last year.  

Although the upfront cost is high, I suspect that the lifelong cost could be lower when compared to a derailleur bike.

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3 years ago
Lyle McLeodTo Mike Ayling

Oh no Mike, you’ve opened the Rohloff can-of-worms! 😎

Agree completely with Mike and Jean-Marc, fantastic for touring for all the reasons they outline. Also agree with JM on the belt drive. We have chains on our tandem Rohloff  and belt drives on our single’s. Belts are definitely the way to go.  All of our hubs were originally the ‘threaded’ version but we’ve since updated our belt drive’s to the splined carrier with the threaded lock ring. Quite easy to make this change and it’s what Rohloff currently recommends / builds for belt drive applications.

We do carry a spare belt each (~100 g and they tuck away in the inside pocket of our rear panniers and are forgotten about .... until..). And yes, we have broken a belt. Had a good back and forth on how this happened with Mike  in the comments section of our 2017 EV6 ride (Get It While It Lasts). Check it out if you want more detail. We were back pedalling in about 15 minutes. Priceless!

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3 years ago
Leo WoodlandTo Mike Ayling


  I have used both a derailleur and a Rohloff while touring. I have a Rohloff and The Lovely Mrs Woodland has a derailleur.

  My advice has always been to stay with a derailleur if you are happy with it. It will save a lot of trouble and expense. I am nevertheless delighted with my Rohloff, so I should explain the contradiction...

  I had a habit of breaking spokes. The frame was too tight for wider tyres with mudguards. And one alarming day in Canada we found the only 700 tyres in town were lightweights fit only for racing.

  So, a rethink... a frame with more clearance, wheels that would take the more available 26-inch tyres, and some way of stopping the spokes snapping.

  The big gain with a Rohloff was that it made the rim central on the hub. Derailleur rims are offset to make room for the sprockets and the spokes on one side are therefore shorter and less angled than on the other. That's why spokes break most often on the gear side.

  The Rohloff also gave me lower gears than I had with a Campagnolo derailleur. I could have moved to Shimano but that too would have meant replacing almost everything. So I went for a Rohloff and I'm delighted with it, other than the whirring in lower gears (although that lessens with time).

  Had I not had the other problems, I'd have stayed with a derailleur. It worked perfectly well and, in the unlikely event of a problem, I could see it and sort it out. Rohloffs are exemplary but in the end you are dependent on the factory.

  Steph has stayed with her derailleur because she didn't have the problems that I had and therefore didn't need an expensive solution.

  So, if you need to, or just want to, join me with a Rohloff. I doubt you'll regret it. But, the conversion isn't cheap, remember.


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3 years ago
Mike AylingTo Leo Woodland

Leo wrote

"So, if you need to, or just want to, join me with a Rohloff. I doubt you'll regret it. But, the conversion isn't cheap, remember."

Yes, by the time you have done your conversion you you would have made a substantial deposit towards that new bike with factory/builder fitted Rohloff.


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3 years ago
Michael HendrichTo Mike Ayling

We have been touring on a tandem for many years. We decided to get a new tandem that would break apart w/Rohloff. A Rohloff was a big decision because I could/have repair/replaced every part on our old tandem (hub innards included). However, once you bite on the black box of the Rohloff, many other things simplify. I love being able to pick a gear based on my intuition of the upcoming terrain. I don’t even look at the numbers any longer, my hand knows approximately where to rotate the twist-grip based on what my eyes see. It is truly wonderful on a tandem.

Having said this, there were glitches. In the States, Rohloff’s are not common and bike makers are still learning. We had much spoke breakage initially, being stranded in the middle of nowhere with 5 broken spokes is no fun. After much work with the maker and still having spoke problems, I decided to build my own wheels. I did much reading, bought Andra/Saprim, and built my first wheels (the choice of nipples is important). Glad I did. They are now at 6000 km and still perfectly true after some bad roads loaded. Plus, we have stories and I can brag about our wheels;)

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3 years ago
Jean-Marc StrydomTo Michael Hendrich

A well-built wheel on a Rohloff hub seems to be one of its big advantages but I suspect the wheel builder must know its requirements, especially with respect to the angle of the drilling of the holes, what lacing to use and the use of the correct nipples.  This is all above my level of knowledge but, based on my experiences so far, simply accept it as true.  Rohloff have published details on how to build wheels for their hubs and I would want to make sure that any wheel builder I might use would adhere to them. We have Ryde Andra 30 rims with holes drilled for Rohloff built by Thorn, who were one of the early Rohloff adopters and their wheel builder seems to know what is required.  We have only 32 spokes per wheel but have not had a single broken spoke yet and the rims are still true (as far as my untutored eye can tell).  The Thorn forum has a lot of advice on wheel building with Rohloff hubs for those who build their own wheels (see here).

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3 years ago
Lyle McLeodTo Michael Hendrich

Hi Michael,

Completely agree that a Rolloff and tandem is a wonderful combo for all the reasons you outline. Looks like your bike has the drive train all on the RHS. Our's does too. Makes for a simpler and cleaner bike! What make is it? The geometry and the s&s coupler placements look very similar to our Bilenky.

We had the same spoke breaking issues and it sounds like for the same reason. We had 4 spokes break (one a day almost) on our 2013 Rhine source-to-sea trip. I was carrying spares and with no cassette it's relatively easy to replace them, but it is a big pain in the butt and a little nerve-racking when you're down to one spare spoke!  All breaks were at the rim (unusual for most breaks but not so unusual with a Rohloff!) and it looked like the spoke angle leaving the rim was the issue. The bike was built with a Velocity Aeroheat rim (great rim in it's own right) and Wheel Smith db spokes (great spokes too).

We found an excellent touring focused bike shop  (also a Rohloff specialist), die Radgeber in Mainz at the half way point of the trip (and one spare spoke left!) and had the wheel rebuilt with a Rigida Andra rim. As the shop explained, this is the rim recommended by Rohloff as the spoke holes are angled to allow a straight run to the large diameter hub flanges on a Rohloff. Once we had this done the wheel has been perfect with many thousands of heavily loaded km's on it.

 Your comments about NA bike builders lacking or needing to gain experience with Rohloff's is true. Our tandem was built in 2008 and was near the thin edge of the wedge for NA built Rohloff Tandems. All part of the learning curve.

Sounds like you built your own wheel. That's beyond me. Respect!

Build it right, build it once!

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3 years ago