Rohloff Speedhubs: yes or no?

Our bikes are Thorn Raven Sports Tour models fitted with Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 hub gears.  We debated for months whether we ought to get them or something conventionally geared – and much cheaper.  After 10 months of use, what do we think?

We would answer YES to the Rohloff for these reasons:

Firstly, the pleasure of riding with them.  We currently use one of three modes when out for a run.  We (i) use gear 11 on the flat and adjust our cadence to set and maintain a speed we are happy to tour with: or, (ii) we slide up and down the gears in sequence adjusting the effort we put into our pedalling to reduce the energy needed as smoothly as we can while keeping as constant a speed as we can; or, (iii) we use gears 14, 11 and 8 to maintain the maximum speed we can in different terrains.  Each of these methods help build up our stamina and ‘time on the bikes’ towards the 50-80 mile days we would like to be able to maintain with luggage onboard.

Secondly, the pleasure and simplicity of use in the gear selector/changer.  There is something very satisfying in the smoothness and efficiency of the mechanism as you slide from gear to gear effortlessly and with absolute certainty.

Thirdly, there is the confidence that comes from knowing you will never be caught out and that if you get things wrong you can simply, ‘dial in’ the gear you need – whether on the move or standing still.

Fourthly, there is the simplicity and ease with which a wheel can be slipped in and out for cleaning and tyre changing and the associated ease of cleaning a single sprocket and chain.

Fiftly, there is the ease of adjustment and the lack of worry about external mechanisms getting  damaged in transit or otherwise.

However, some aspects do take some getting used to in use:

Firstly, there is “Mr Whirry” or gear 7 as he is more correctly known.  Our hubs are not yet fully run in, but there is no doubt we both currently try to avoid gear 7 when we can, just to avoid the ‘whirr’ that otherwise gets into your head and convinces you that you are pushing the pedals against some resistance.

Secondly, there is the nagging doubt – what on earth can I do if the sealed unit fails when I am out on the road?  Now this is a remote possibility by all accounts, but the fact remains, you carry a seed of doubt around with you at least some of the time.

Thirdly, there is the worry that comes with the cost of the hubs and hence the bikes.  Suddenly, security becomes a big thing.  We now carry two U locks and a chain between us and always lock the bikes around a lamp post or similar – even when nipping into a supermarket to buy water and grub before hitting the road. 

On balance, we have no real doubt that we took the right decision to get the Thorns with the Rohloff hubs.  As my Dad so often said – if you are buying a tool, buy the best one you can afford.

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