I’ve always been intrigued by the Rohloff hub. It’s a pretty ridiculous piece of equipment that seems to get people worked up for one reason or another and I like that about it. Some people say it’s the end all be all of durability in everlasting bicycle drive train technology; others say the only thing greater than it’s stupidity is its opulence. Everyone I’ve talked to about Rohloff hubs will invariably finish up whatever diatribe the mention of that name evokes by saying something along the lines of “I mean, I’ve never even touched one because they’re so goddamn expensive but….” Gee, thanks for your opinion, guy! I decided I was going to put this whole issue to rest and just build one into a bike and write a spew about it so there wouldn’t be any mystery to it anymore. Also, stop asking.
I remember the first time I ever got to see one was at B.Rose’s shop when this dude from Spain came in needing an oil change. B.Rose didn’t get that 'oh shit' look that most bike mechanics I’ve seen get at the mere mention of the name, but he sure as shit didn’t have any oil laying around either so the guy had to leave his bike and come back. I got to talking with the guy about his trip and where he’d been and how he liked the hub and this guy really changed my mind about the merits of the hub. First of all, when you’re riding your bike around the earth self-supported you can’t really be a dick to people. Second of all, this guy was the real deal. He wasn’t out there to raise awareness for anything whatsoever, he didn’t bother to call us and ask us for a free LHT frame, he was just a dude who sold all of his shit except for his bike and camping stuff and left it all behind because he likes riding his bike and he likes seeing new places. Pretty rad....
If you ask the Rohloff website if the hub will fit in our frames, it’ll tell you no, it doesn’t work with rear-facing horizontal dropouts like the ones we use. This is not true. Thanks a f*ckin' bunch, Rohloff website. The Rohloff hub will fit and work in our frames, but they will need some coaxing. There is more than one way to make it work but for the purposes of this spew, I’m going to be explaining the one and only, Surly Approved way of making this happen. If you decide to try some other way, God speed, Killer; you’re on your own and I don’t care what happens to you.
Frankly, I don’t think the problem is that these things are actually that complicated. The problem is that for one hub you can get something like, and I’m just guessing here, 58 different combinations of axle-plate/speedbone/axle-type/gear-mech/whatever-the-hell-else-bolts-to-the-outside-of-this-thing, and that just confuses people. Well, I’m here to tell you all you need is the OEM2 axle plate and a speedbone. It’s that simple. Hell, if you get an Ogre or Troll, which is what you should be getting if you want to run one of these things, you can even save some bank because you don’t need the Speedbone. We make the Ogre and the Troll such that the axle plate will bolt right to the frame. Don’t say we never did anything for you.
Down to business. What was that I told you to get? Oh yeah, the OEM2 Axle Plate, and the Rohloff Speedbone:
If you're unfamiliar with the way these two things interface, the basic idea with any internal hub is that the axle is part of the gear unit and thus carries load and will want to rotate if not fixed somehow to the frame and this is what the various axle plates (or no turn washers on other hubs) and their corresponding fixing methods accomplish. They provide the fixing point for the axle and forward movement. The next photo shows how these two pieces interface. The Speedbone provides an anchor point and the axle plate is merely an extension for the axle to interface with the anchor on the frame. It's a pretty simple concept, see!
Now to put the shit together.... I happened upon a hub that had the standard OEM axle plate that is used for frames equipped with the Rohloff specific dropouts so I had to change the axle plate. Not a particularly big deal, just a handful of torx bolts that need to be loosened, swap the plate, reinstall the bolts and you're ready for action. If you are going to put this setup on your Moonlander like I did, it might behoove you to note the angle of the Axle Plate and the External Gear Mech Arm. The angle at which you install the Axle Plate will decide how your shift cables are routed and in order to make it look as pretty as you, the reader, you'll want to have the Gear Mech Arm following the line of the seatstay so the cables can follow the seatstay and enter the Gear Mech. from the top. This won't hold true for every frame we make, but I think this is a good setup for the Moonlander.
After I got the axle plate situation taken care of I moved on to the Speedbone. The thing comes with extra long bolts that will replace your caliper adapter mounting bolts and it all just slaps right together. If you can install a rear brake caliper, you can install a rear brake caliper and a speedbone. If you are so inclined, now would be a good time to go make yourself a meatball sub. You've earned it.
Once you have both of these parts installed it's really just a matter of putting the wheel in the bike and getting your chain tensioned, which is made siginificantly easier by a Surly Tuggnut. After that it's just a matter of tightening down your brake caliper and battening all the hatches. Once it's all together, this is how it looks. Not much room in there for anything other than the concept of German Engineering....
And the head on shot of the whole shootin' match:
My theory on why Rohloff says their hub won't work in our frames is because the way the Speedbone and OEM2 plate interface isn't particularly easy to manage on rear facing dropouts like ours and if you get a flat tire getting the wheel off is a bit of a trick but in my mind nowhere close to a deal breaker. You have to loosen the caliper adapter fixing bolts because the Speedbone sort of traps the wheel in the dropout, but if you set the OEM2 Axle Plate up the way I did, it will keep things out of the way enough that it's really not that difficult of an operation to get the wheel off. You simply loosen the caliper fixing bolts, push the wheel forward in the dropout and rotate the axle plate down so it clears the horizontal anchor point on the Speedbone. If you're looking for instructions on Rohloff setup and installation, you've come to the wrong place. Rohloff has already written those and I'm an impatient and punitive teacher, so head elsewhere if you have questions about that, but this is how you put one of these contraptions in our frames. Wasn't that easy? Now get out there and try to break the damn thing!