I've been asked quite a few times why I decided to choose a Rohloff hub for bicycle touring. Sometimes, it is from other bicycle tourers who are considering buying one themselves, and other times, it's from non-cyclists who can't quite believe that I spent that much on it! Believe me, it was not a snap decision. I spent a long while weighing up the pros and cons of choosing a Rohloff hub for my expedition bicycle before parting with my hard earned cash.
Before we go any further, I need to mention that I've not always used a Rohloff hub. My previous journeys such as cycling from England to South Africa and cycling from Alaska to Argentina were undertaken on bicycles with traditional derailleur systems. They did the job, but I started to appreciate the benefits that a Rohloff hub might offer. Of course, benefits are one thing. Being in a position to buy one is another matter entirely!
Returning to England from Argentina in 2011, I began to plan my next trip differently. Usually, I would work and save from between eight months and a year, and then travel for a year or so until the money ran out. This time though, I wanted my next adventure to be a complete cycling trip around the world. As it might take anywhere between four and six years to complete, I would have to work and save a lot longer than usual beforehand. During this time, I would also re-equip myself with all the gear I would need. This included a new bicycle, and I decided that I would opt for one with a Rohloff hub.
Why Choose a Rohloff Hub for Bicycle Touring
What is a Rohloff Hub?
The Rohloff internally geared hub has been on the market since 1998, and features 14 gears. Unlike derailleur gears, there is no overlapping. Each one is spaced out equally, is unique and useable, and is changed by a single grip shifter. The chain does not need to move in order to alter gears, which means that gear changing can be done whilst stationary.
There are also no exposed components which might be damaged on rough tracks. This means that the Rohloff hub is popular with mountain bikers as well as bicycle tourists, who appreciate its deceptive simplicity and build quality.
Rohloff are proud of the fact that they have not known the internals of a hub fail. Other general problems are few and far between. There is probably no better example of German engineering excellence for bicycles than the Rohloff hub!
Reasons to Choose a Rohloff Hub for Bicycle Touring
No vulnerable outer parts – As all the moving components are in the sealed unit, it is more robust than a derailleur system. This makes it far more suitable for bicycle touring, where the bicycle may be ridden over challenging terrain.
Low Maintenance – Apart from changing the oil every 5000 kms (or every year if the distance isn't met), no other maintenance is required.
Easy to change gear – One of the things that I find most appealing with the Rohloff hub, is being able to change gear whilst stationary. On a derailleur equipped bike, there is nothing more annoying than being brought to an abrupt halt in traffic or on a hill, and finding yourself in totally the wrong gear. To put it in the right one, involves either physical strain, or getting off the bike and pushing for a bit as the gears change. With the Rohloff, you just use the gripshift to literally fly through the gears.
Lower Running Costs – All of the above means that the overall running costs will be lower when averaged out over several years. This is something that is very appealing to anyone setting out on a multi year RTW cycle ride.
Final Thoughts on the Rohloff Hub
Having used the Rohloff hub on my bike now for over a year, I can honestly say that I am very happy with it. It's one of those bits of gear that has a higher upfront cost, but repays itself over the long run. More importantly, it gives piece of mind. When you are on the bike for 8 hours a day, day in and day out, having confidence that the bike you are riding will not let you down leaves you to enjoy the simple things, which is really what bicycle touring is all about.