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What is a Rohloff Speedhub?

Very simply, a Rohloff Speedhub is a system of 14 gears completely sealed within the rear hub – doing away with the need for front and rear derailleurs, multiple chainrings and rear cassette.

The gear ratios are equally spaced to provide an optimal range of gears comparable to a derailleur setup (no gear overlap). Gear shifting and indexing takes place within the sealed hub, not the shifter.

For the majority of cyclists, a Rohloff equipped bike makes for a reliable, maintenance free bike, letting you spend more time riding and less time fettling.

Advantages of a Rohloff hub

  • Being sealed, the system is designed to be virtually maintenance free, only requiring an oil change every 5,000 miles.
  • Self-contained gears mean less moving parts exposed to the elements, providing more reliability.
  • Precision shifting (no derailleur or cable adjustment required).
  • Equal spoke tension (no dishing for rear cassette) resulting in an extremely strong rear wheel.
  • A perfect chainline meaning less chain wear and a quieter ride.
  • A Gates Carbon Belt Drive can be used in place of a chain, requiring no lubrication with typically a longer lifespan than a chain.
  • Easy gear shifting across multiple gears whilst on the move or stationary.
  • All shifting takes place in one shifter.

Rohloff shifter options

Shifting is done within the hub through a transfer box mounted roughly where a rear derailleur would be (on the opposite side of the frame). This is controlled through a twist shifter mounted on the handlebars, operating two cables under tension in order to change up or down.

In addition to the standard factory Rohloff twist shifter that works with flat bars, there are various third-party alternatives giving a range of options for different riding styles. Listed below are two of the most popular options we provide to work with drop bars.

Co-Motion shifters

As the Rohloff factory shifter can only be fitted to flat bars, we fit a twist shifter made by Co-Motion. This shifter is designed to be fitted round the sometimes tight curves of a drop handlebar, something the factory shifter is unable to do. This is the neatest and most professional way to mount a twist shifter on drop bars and is fitted to the majority of Shand drop bar Rohloff bikes.

Gebla Rohbox

The Gebla Rohbox is a shiftbox that replaces the standard Rohloff transfer box, providing compatibility with SRAM integrated shift/brake dropbar levers, or MTB trigger shifters. The system requires a small modification to the shifters (which we do) but once installed, one shifter changes gears down with the other changing back up again.

This conversion works extremely well and is a good solution if you don’t like a twist shifter or prefer current methods of derailleur shifting. One drawback is that the overall setup is slightly more expensive due to the purchase of the Gebla Rohbox and adaptation of the standard drop bar or MTB trigger derailleur shifters.

Gates Carbon Belt Drive

Another advantage of a Rohloff Speedhub is that a Gates Carbon Belt Drive can be fitted as there is no change in chain line as experienced with a derailleur. The belt system is made from one continuous piece of carbon composite so there are no links or moving parts, resulting in no maintenance and a longer lifespan compared to a chain.

The Carbon Belt Drive runs much quieter too and has a neat system called CentreTrack (a small notch) to keep the belt aligned on the sprockets and shed any debris such as mud and snow that might be picked up.

No moving parts means no lubrication and when combined with a sealed Rohloff hub makes for a maintenance free bike that’s also easier to keep clean when issued regularly (or over long distances) in variable terrain and weather.

As a Gates Carbon Belt Drive has no links it can’t be split apart so the frame is required to be split apart instead. All Shand Rohloff compatible bikes have a concealed splitter built into a specially designed rear dropout that makes changing a belt simple when it comes time to be replaced.

How does a Rohloff Speedhub work?

Very simply, the internal construction of the Rohloff gear hub consists of three planetary gear series with the first two providing seven ratios and the third a complete range reduction. This effectively doubles the number of gears to fourteen.

Shifting is provided by a twist shifter mounted on the handlebars with two cables operating the indexing mechanism in the hub, changing gears up or down. When gear seven is reached (changing up or down) the hub shifts from high to low ratio (or visa-versa), continuing across the seven gears.

Indexing is controlled through a transfer box mounted roughly in the same place as a rear derailleur (on the opposite side). This accepts cables from the shifter and transfers the rotation action in the box to the indexing mechanism inside the hub. The transfer box can be easily detached to remove the rear wheel by loosening the single thumbscrew.

Rohloff hub gearing and gear ratios

Although a Rohloff Speedhub has only 14 equally spaced gears, the lack of overlap experienced on a derailleur setup means a range of gears can be achieved similar to a typical 3x10 triple or 2 x 10 compact chainset – making it ideal for all types of riding and touring on or off-road.

Final ratios are determined by the size of the chainring (or sprocket) used at the crank and the size of the sprocket used at the hub. We build Rohloff bikes with different gearing setups depending on customer requirements (for no additional cost) and we will naturally assist with specifying the setup that is right for you.

The table below illustrates a gear range comparison between a Rohloff hub and a typical compact ‘double’ or ‘triple’ set up shown in ‘gear inches’ for the lowest and highest gears. The front and rear cog/sprocket are the most common cogs/sprockets combinations fitted to our Rohloff bikes.

Stoater Rohloff / derailleur gear ratio comparison

Front cog/sprocketRear cog/sprocketLowest gear inchHighest gear inch
Example from typical road/touring derailleur setups
50-34 (11 speed)11-2833123
50-34 (11 speed)11-3229123

Bahookie Rohloff MTB or Tumshie Fat Bike / derailleur gear ratio comparison

Front cog/sprocketRear cog/sprocketLowest gear inchHighest gear inch
Example from typical MTB derailleur setups
38-26 (10 speed)11-3621100
42-32-24 (10 speed)11-3619110

If you are unfamiliar about measuring gear ratios in gear inches, more information can be found on the Sheldon Brown website.

Rohloff hub maintenance and servicing

The Rohloff hub contains 25ml of oil which Rohloff recommend should be changed once a year or after every 5,000km. This is a simple process that involves removing a small grub screw in the hub to drain old oil and refill with new. We provide an oil filling tube with your hub for this purpose and a 50ml bottle of all season oil can be obtained from either Shand or online if not available from your local bike shop.

Rohloff Speedhubs generally require a break-in period to function optimally and Rohloff suggests this may require a minimum of 500 miles of riding. Until the hub is broken in, you may experience some slight noise or vibrations when running gears 1–7.

More information and technical documents (if you’re that way inclined) are available on the Rohloff website.

Gates Carbon Drive maintenance and replacement

In general, a Carbon Belt Drive has double the lifespan of a chain as unlike a chain it does not wear and stretch over time.

However, despite this longer lifespan it’s still good practice to check the belt at regular time intervals and typical things to check for are listed below:

  • Broken or missing teeth
  • Cracks at the base of the teeth or within the main belt
  • Fraying tensile chords
  • Misshapen or worn teeth

If any of the above are experienced the belt should be replaced, although from past experience we know the belt will operate for some time before completely failing. In addition, you should also periodically check the teeth on front and rear sprockets for bending or cracks.

To increase the lifespan of the belt if riding regularly in muddy conditions, you should clean the belt with water after each ride to reduce wear from grit and check for and remove any small stones caught in the teeth.

All new belts come with a blue coating on the teeth side of the belt and this coating will gradually wear to black as a normal part of the break-in process.

More information and technical documents are available on the Gates Carbon Belt Drive website.

Rohloff Bikes

At Shand, we’ve many years experience working with Rohloff Speedhub and have worked hard to develop a range of Rohloff bikes that work well for the type of on and off-road riding and touring we enjoy.

All our Rohloff bikes can be easily converted to singlespeed or conventional derailleur drivetrains – and combined with full rack, mudguard mounts and integrated dynamo power and lighting systems (depending on model), we think this makes for extremely versatile bikes.

Listed below are links to the Rohloff bikes that we produce at our workshop here in central Scotland.

Stoater Rohloff allroad touring bike

Shand Stoater Rohloff allroad touring bike

Bahookie Rohloff 29er MTB

Shand Bahookie Rohloff 29er MTB

Tumshie Rohloff fatbike

Shand Tumshie Rohloff fatbike