Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Rohloff Speedhub Review Part 2

I’ve now owned a Speedhub for 6 years. That makes it time for some additional information. I feel like sharing this stuff as they’re expensive (and worthwhile) investments under the right circumstances, and it’s good to have informed consumers out there.

My initial review is here. The hub had always resided on a Moots YBB 29er, also an enduring piece of equipment.

The positive:
1. 5 years of predictable shifts with virtually zero maintenance. This is on my utilitarian commuter that I ride all winter in Calgary, Alberta. Snow, muck, etc. Drivetrain killing stuff. Sealed cables are fine. Shifts are all fine and perfect. If it’s super cold (less than -30C, the oil sludges, and shifts are slow. The standard oil is down to -15C or so practically. It’s quite light. I’ve used detergent free motorcycle synthetic oil half half with their oil to widen temperature range and increase service interval. The standard stuff would freeze and pool at the bottom, and would only get on the gears (so it felt) part way into my commute.
2. Maintenance: I’m on a second chain. I’ve tried to do oil changes yearly (partly I play with oil viscosity and type).
3. Shifting feel/performance: there’s a mild lag. Some people don’t like this. It doesn’t click like modern 10 speed drivetrains of any make. But the lag is like a quarter pedal stroke that I soften up in force, which likely isn’t even necessary. I don’t stop the rotation, I don’t coast… just soften up the force for a fraction. It has never has bothered me.
4. Shifting while stopped is convenient, albeit not necessary as most bikes in the world prove.
5. Wheel hasn’t needed work, and it’s a reasonably light rim (Stans’ Arch). Even spoke tension/geometry. I had worried that the level of unsprung weight vs. a standard hub would be challenging to the wheel overall.

The less than ideal:
1. Braking: maybe my paper seal is done, maybe it’s my oil experiments, maybe it’s otherwise, but I semi frequently need to burn my rotor to get oil residue off which takes braking to a zilch until I rectify it. This is the only real problem I’ve had of consequence.
2. Slider system: seems to loosen up a bit more than I expected. Not that bad though. And not Rohloff’s fault.
3. Yeah it’s heavy. Especially in the 2013 world of carbon frames, superlight DT hubs, etc. You feel the weight when the bike spins up, that’s mass that needs to be accelerated. I actually believe this thing could “easily” be a pound lighter, if not more. Just not commercially viable… it’d be a very niche item at the price to support that design, test and manufacture effort.

1. Simple weight saving – attach it with different method than giant nuts. Light DT RWS style thru axle makes a lot of sense.
2. Gearing mechanism – tough to opine on me finding weight savings here, but it’d be nice. Weight and cost are the only thing holding this back from mass appeal. That’s a lot of dead weight to have tensioned in the center of a rim.

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