Rohloff Hub – Touring Bikes with Rohloff Speedhub Explained

I've been asked quite a few times why I decided to choose a Rohloff hub for bicycle touring. After all, they are pretty expensive and not easily repaired if something goes wrong. Here's why I made up my mind to buy one, and why I think it's worth the investment.

Rohloff Hub for Touring Bikes

Why did you buy a Rohloff-equipped touring bike, aren't they expensive?

I get this quite often. Sometimes, it is from other cyclists who are considering buying one themselves. 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.

Rohloff Hub

Using a Rohloff Hub

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 rear 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!

Thorn Nomad Rohloff Hub Bike

Deciding to buy a Rohloff Speedhub

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 expedition bike, and I decided that I would opt for one with a Rohloff hub.

Thorn Nomad touring bicycle

Rohloff Hub Bikes

After returning (completely broke!) from the Alaska Argentina bike tour, it took me a couple of years to be in a position where I felt comfortable buying such an expensive bike. Well, not comfortable exactly – but I did it anyway!

At the time, there were quite a limited number of Rohloff bikes for touring available, with the Thorn Nomad being the most well known. Nowadays, there's a lot more availability with Stanforth, Koga, and Surly offering Rohloff equipped bikes to name just three.

Buying my bike with some personal specs on the 24/09/2013 (I still have the receipt in 2022!) this cost me £2705. It was a lot of money then, but I suspect that Rohloff hub touring bikes are even more expensive now for the same spec. A quick look at the 2022 Stanforth Kibo Rohloff hub bike shows a £3600 price tag.

So, something to keep in mind when choosing which bicycle you want for long distance touring – They don't really get cheaper as the years go on, so if you buy a quality bike that will last, it's really an investment.

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 usable, and is changed by a single grip twist 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!

Thorn Rohloff Touring Bike

Reasons to Choose a Rohloff Hub for Bicycle Touring

No vulnerable outer parts – As all the moving components are in the sealed unit, the speedhub is more robust than a derailleur system. This makes it far more suitable for bikepacking and 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 steep hills, 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 using a speedhub 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.

Cons to using a Rohloff Speedhub

Very few things are perfect in this world, and of course deciding to buy a Rohloff bike does have its drawbacks.

Initial upfront cost – Whilst the overall running costs may be lower, buying either the Rohloff bike or Rohloff rear hub does involve a rather large initial upfront cost. When I bought the Thorn Nomad speedhub bike in 2014, the cost of the hub was around 700 pounds. Updating this in 2020, you'll be lucky to get one for under 1000 pounds.

Heavier rear wheel – The addition of the hub makes the wheel a lot heavier than normal. Overall, when taking into account the drivetrain and hubs, using a Rohloff adds about an extra half kilo in weight.

Not repairable yourself – It is a sealed unit, meaning that if you have a problem with the internal hub gears, you'd have to send it back to Rohloff for repairs. A bit inconvenient if you are in the middle of a bike tour!

Shifter – The handlebar gear shifter is a bit divisive among certain people. Personally I love it, but to others it may limit their choice of handlebars or feel too flimsy.

Rohloff Bike Carbon Belt or Chain?

When I bought my MK2 Thorn Nomad in 2013, carbon belt systems were really just being developed and were not widely available, hence I have a chain drive bicycle.

Updating this in 2022, belt systems are becoming more popular, but personally, I need some convincing that they are a good idea for long distance bike touring. If something goes wrong (and everything goes wrong at some point), replacing belts looks like a massive hassle. With a chain system, I can just replace the chain in 5 minutes.

The comments section at the end of this post is worth reading as other people have shared their experiences and thoughts. Please add yours there as well – always good for cyclists to consult the hive mind when planning bike tours!

Final Thoughts on the Rohloff Hub

Having used the Rohloff speedhub on my bike now for over nine years, 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.

Somewhat ironically, I never got to go on the multi-year bike tour, but I have cycled a few mini-tours with the Thorn Nomad Rohloff hub bike with zero issues. As long as you change out the oil when recommended, and swap the chain when needed, it all works great!

The gear ratio is just fine for cycling with a fully loaded touring bike, and you never knew you loved gear shifting when stationary so much until you've ridden one.

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 bike touring is all about.

Next thorough test of the bike: Bike touring Iceland in 2023. Stay tuned!

Related Bike Touring Posts

Rohloff Hubs FAQ

Here are some commonly asked questions about Rohloff Hubs.

How much is a Rohloff hub?

Rohloff hubs can be quite expensive, starting at $1300 in the US for just the hub. In the UK, you can expect to pay around £1000, whilst in the EU the price for a Rohloff Speedhub is 1100 Euros. Rohloff-equipped touring bikes can begin at the $3000 mark.

Are internal gear hubs any good?

An internal gear hub, such as the Rohloff, allows you to shift gears even when stationary. This is a big bonus when bike touring on inclines with heavy loads. while you're not pedaling. The Rohloff internal hub is very low maintenance, only requiring an oil change at set intervals.

How much does a Rohloff hub weigh?

When weighing the Rohloff Speedhub 500/14, you should take into account reduced rate of rings and chain length needed with derailleurs. The fitted Rohloff system with changers and cables weighs in at around 1800 g. This is approximately 300 g more than a comparable derailleur system.

How often should I swap Rohloff Oil?

It is recommended that you change the oil in a Rohloff hub every 5000kms, or at least once a year if you don't make that distance. Working on the assumption that riders clock up 10,000 kms per year on long distance round the world tours, a twice a year oil change is needed.


12 thoughts on “Rohloff Hub – Touring Bikes with Rohloff Speedhub Explained”

  1. This is an old thread, so not sure if you’re still thinking that Gates belts are a worse/less reliable option than a chain.

    I have two Rohloff equipped bikes, and three bikes with Gates belts, all with more than 10,000K. The only maintenance with the Rohloffs has been annual oil changes, and seal changes after ten years of use. The Gates belts are still in perfect condition—they are clearly much more durable/long lasting than even the best bike chains.

    Re changing a Gates belt, it’s easier than changing a chain and can be done at least as fast.

    Anyway, that has been my experience. Just an FYI.

    • Thanks for the update on the Gates belt!
      I think if i was to buy a new bike, I would strongly consider now the Gates belt as they are more proven over time. They were a bit too new to take a risk on when I first wrote this.
      I believe it wouldn’t be possible to convert my current setup up because the frame needs a cut out? But who knows, in a few years if I change my bike, I’ll probably be joining the belt club!

  2. Hi Dave, don’t know whether you have been following my blog, but after just 3 months and 3300 km’s into my world cycle, I’m back in the UK with a knackered KOGA.

    Gutted I am. Turns out to be issues with using a belt on the new splined carrier system as apposed to the threaded type, resulting in components connected to the main hub unit wearing out and me unable to ride.

    Throwing grease into the parts was the only solution offered to me by Rohloff to try to hide the noise of the grinding, which was just not good enough.

    KOGA offered no way of me returning the bike for repair, and instead left me to deal with Rohloff.

    Having cycled through France and through the middle of Spain through Madrid, and then up the coast to Southern France, I was left with little option but to rent a car in Marseille and bring my back and drop it off at the dealers.

    After phone calls and emails between Rohloff, Gates, and my dealer, the result is that my bike is being converted to chain instead of belt on the Rohloff.

    42 tooth front 17 rear sprockets, plus a spare of each, new bottom bracket, spare chain. Spare carrier, and tools.

    I’ve now missed my window to reach Southern Greece and Turkey before the worst of winter, so I’m hold up back here in the UK until March 1st, then I will continue from where I left off in Marseille.

    A 4 month old KOGA Worldtraveller, knackered, and couldn’t even get me out of Europe. £4100 too.

    If I were to choose a bike again, it would have derailleur gearing, guaranteed!

    • Hi mate,
      I’ve been following your trip on YouTube as and when you upload, and really feel for you about what has happened.
      To be honest, I know very little about the belt system, but would probably class it as a little too unproven to use myself on a long trip (unless someone wanted me to test one haha).
      The way you have explained it, it is the belt system that has in some way affected the Rohloff hub? In my eyes, this comes completely down to Koga, as presumably they sold the bike with this configuration, and should therefore have tested it. I seem to remember you had problems with what you thought was the bottom bracket from right at the beginning of the trip?
      Converting to the chain version of the Rohloff will hopefully make life simpler. It’s just a shame that it’s cost you what I guess is not a small amount of money along the way.
      The experience doesn’t sound like it has put you off touring though. Hopefully, you can hit the road again in March refreshed, more experienced, and better prepared than ever before, and continue your trip as hassle free as possible.
      When you get to Greece/Athens next year, let me know, and if I’m still here we can ride a few miles together!

      Here’s hoping for better things ahead..

  3. Great website.

    I love using the Rohloff They’re not likely to go wrong but they can occasionally.

    Using one in Europe in 2008 I suddenly lost all 7 lower gears to violent slipping. It’s then you realise that derailleur gears may be crude but they usually can be fixed by the side of the road. In the end I had to return the hub to Rohloff here in Australia

    To be fair since then it has behaved perfectly and I have toured with it since with no problem. But it made me realise that complex mechanical devices can occasionally go wrong even if they are advertised as being super reliable and when they do you’re stuffed!

    Cheers Tony

    • I think that was always my fear of buying such an expensive and sophisticated bit of gear – What happens if it goes wrong!I figured that on a long tour, things will go wrong at some point anyway. As they cover postage and repairs are free under warranty, if it eve does go wrong, I will just put my feet up somewhere for a week or two, and relax!

      Glad you found the website useful. Do you keep a blog of your own? I would love to drop by and read about your cycling adventures!

      • To be fair I haven’t heard of many others with the same problem and I very much doubt it would happen to you

        Rohloff told me afterwards that all they found when they disassembled the hub was a particle of what they thought was Loctite Once cleaned the hub worked fine
        Given I had only ever done a couple of oil changes I don’t know where this Loctite came from.

        I think you are right not to worry about the hub going wrong. It will almost certainly give you years of trouble free service. And bicycle tours are one of life’s great adventures…

  4. I’ve been trying to decide between a Thorn and a Koga bike for the last few months, and I’ve probably now decided on a Koga. But now I have the decision to make between Rholoff and XT. I had a test ride on a belt drive World Traveller the other day, and loved it. No noises, no messy oil. Totally maintenance free, apart from the occasional oil change. But the price, £3200, compared to the XT at £2200 is rather expensive. Only 14 gears too, as opposed to 30 gears on the dérailleur system. Decisions! Just can’t decide.

    • Hi Simon,

      I have to say that I am more than happy with the Thorn. The steel frame is amazing, and of course the hub. Personally, I would stay clear of the belt drive, because i have discovered the hard way that it is difficult enough to get even the most basic components when bicycle touring in remote places. Regular chains are easy to find everywhere. if you get a chance, download the ‘Living with a Rohloff’ brochure from Thorn – Its pretty in-depth, and explains why they dont go for belt drive.

  5. I have a Rohloff hub and wouldn’t consider anything else now. Derailleur gear changing just seems so agricultural after using one of these. There is an chaincase available for the Thorns to make the chain fully enclosed. Imagine how much that will reduce chain maintenance! May fit other bikes too.

    A Rohloff hub has to be an investment in the long run. Go on, you know you want one!


    • The Roholf clearly has a fantastic range but for that extra that was available with the ‘Granny’ ring doesn’t seem to be covered. How do you get round that? Can you fit a front changer effectively?

      • I am very happy with the gear ratio’s in terms of touring. It’s probably best to check either the Rohloff site, or with Thorn cycles if you have technical questions regarding it.


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