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Several people have asked me about the drivetrain on our bikes, noting that they look like they are single speeds. While certain supermen do race and tour on single speeds, Rebecca and I both want and need a selection of gears for climbing the big hills. Enter the Rohloff Speedhub.

It’s all new to us!

Like almost all things bike related, until we started researching, we knew next to nothing about bike components, and we had definitely never heard of sealed-gear hubs. After coming across multiple references to the Rohloff, each of them asserting how robust they are, we were next to sold. The only hindrance to purchasing them was the big price tag, and of course selecting frames that were compatible (most are I think, but not all). As it turns out, the Rohloff is so well thought of that the frames we purchased, the Tumbleweed, were actually designed around them!

Rohloff Speedhubs offer 14 gears, which apparently offers the same gear range as a 27 speed bike. The important bits are all sealed in the rear hub, and aside from changing the oil every 2500 miles – easier than changing the oil in a diesel engine, I suspect – there’s not much more that you need to do to take care of them.

If the Rohloff does break, we’ll get to take a break!

It’s worth noting that there are a bunch of tiny bits inside the Rohloff, meaning that they’re not really user serviceable. In other words, if the hub breaks, it’s going to need to be sent back to the factory for repair. That’s apparently a very rare thing though, much more rare than running into trouble with the derailleurs on a traditionally-geared bike.

One other feature of the Rohloff that we’ve come to appreciate is that gears can be changed while the bike is stopped. This comes into play far more often than you’d think (imagine stopping at a street light at the bottom of a hill, and needing to shift in to a lower gear to get going again).

Will this purchase work out for us? As with everything we have done so far, we’ll see. Right now, we’re pretty happy with how the bikes are set up, and have faith that they’ll serve us well.


  1. That is a cool piece of kit but I definitely don’t like the price tag! I like the fact that it’s all sealed up and won’t be subject to chain wear. Also you won’t be breaking chains shifting gears, etc. It’ll be interesting to see how they hold up.

  2. Any reason you didn’t go with the Gates belt drive in combo with the Rohloff?

    • Only becuase the frame is not belt drive compatible. We would have had to have the frame cut, and I didn’t want to add to the complexity (and cost) of having the bikes built up. If we could have easily fit a belt drive, we definitely would have done it.

  3. For the type of riding you’re going to be doing, it’s truly an ideal bit of kit. Since you won’t have a derailleur bike to compare it with, you might have some difficulty justifying the price in your mind, but from my POV it’s def worth it — two examples.

    Getting ready to leave a location early in the morning and I noticed my wife’s rear derailleur cable was about to snap. Fortunately, we had spent the night in a B&B instead of our normal camping, so I had internet. Found a replacement cable at the nearest bike shop, but it was 58 miles in the wrong direction. Discussed our situation with the innkeeper and someone was watching out for us. He was heading out for supplies. Where was he going? To the same town where the bike shop was. We loaded the trike into the back of his pick-up and were able to get the repair made.

    Of course, we lost the whole day and ended up staying another night at the B&B, but it could have been so much worse. Overall, it was a silver lining moment, because the innkeeper gave us the second night for free, but still …

    My second example finds us climbing, climbing, climbing. My wife shifts onto the largest cog on her rear wheel cluster and the chain jumps off the ring, firmly lodging between the cluster and the spokes. Did I mention it was really hot and muggy, plus we were on a secondary road in the middle of nowhere? After quite some time getting my hands completely covered in grease, I was able to remove the rear wheel and ended up using the chain breaking function on my bike multi-tool.

    So was the zero problem Rohloff worth it?

  4. If you need to ask how much it costs– You can’t afford it..

    Play Safe Kids..

  5. This is new world to me too.

    My mind had a hard comprehending the mechanics, found a somewhat useful picture here:

    Seems very well engineered, ya the price is kinda of insane, are they the only product like that?

  6. I like this innovation especially the German engineering that is to the point! I am old school chain driven with the cogs long distance touring cyclist but this concept as the main transmission being in a sealed hub is an option to look into. The quick pro’s are no worry maintenance, smooth transmission without the possibility of a hoping chain and durability. Back country cycling, I can see the want for this type of transmission. Road cycling sure as well. Turning the cranks up switch backs on grade is a constant cadence change. A wet chain attracts too many opportunities in the conventional rear hub where grinding is really not a pleasant noise to hear. Or having the opportunity to throw a chain on either up or down grade. Seem’s you’all made a good call for that transmission.

    • Time will tell but I think we’ll be happy with the investment. It’s certainly not necessary – typical derailleurs have proven themselves over time – but I think (hope) that they’ll be more worry free.

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