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  1. #1
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
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    Surly Ogre: My "new owner's" Rohloff ordering, building and first riding experiences

    Even with the helpful people on this forum, I had a fair bit of trouble collating and collecting the information in to one place. Because one day it may be helpful to someone else, I'd like to put it all down here just in case...

    TL;DR VERDICT:: I have been waiting for 3 years to buy a Rohloff, and I finally made the drop recently. Despite having some trouble mounting it and the initial cost being so high, I consider every penny spent worth it, and am very happy with a system that is far more enjoyable to ride than my previous 24/32/44 36-11 gearing system.

    Disclaimer: This is not a Alfine vs. Rohloff pissing match. These are just observations that I've had from owning one so far, and stuff that's in the manual.
    Disclaimer: I have the disk brake edition with the external gear mechanism, so my comments are going to be largely based around the disk brake version with the external gear mechanism. Thus this is somewhat incomplete, as there may be some gotchas associated with the internal gear mechanism, so on and so forth.

    BEFORE BUYING ANYTHING:
    The really obvious stuff (including what you'll need to order): Quick read
    Running the tire, chainring and cog combination you want to use through Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator isn't a bad idea either. If you know what cadence you usually pedal at, that will help you figure out what gear you'll likely cruise in. Gear 10 and 12 are slightly less efficient than gears 8,9,13 and 14, and gear 11 is the most efficient, so I'd recommend shooting for gear 11.

    Things that I wanted to know before I started or have since learned that could one day be useful:
    * The QBP North America wholesale price on a CC DB Rohloff is $975. They have limited color schemes from which to choose from. I had a selection of just one color.
    * The desired chainline is 54mm.
    * There are several different models - disk brake, external gear mech, quick release vs. solid axle.
    * The cogs are reversible, and have a fairly square tooth profile.
    * The Rohloff will not shift well while under power (at least initially), especially when shifting down to gear 7; it will momentarily shift to gear 14 until pressure off the pedals is lifted. This can also happen if the shift cables are too tight.
    * Rohloff hubs use a special 4 bolt rotor rather than the standard 6 bolt or centerlock disk rotor. They're attached to the hub by chainring bolts.
    * A minimum of 2.35 is the "required" ratio between the chainring and the cog to reduce the input torque on the hub. This corresponds to a 38T or larger chainring with the standard 16T cog that ships with the unit. If you have a particular chainring manufacturer in mind, it's a good idea to check the minimum BCD required for that chainring (e.g. Surly doesn't make a 4 bolt 104mm BCD 38T chainring; the largest they offer is a 36T).
    * If you are heavier than 220 lbs or 100 kg, they single you out in the manual as having girth too torquey for the input of this hub. Thus you're restricted even further to a ratio of 2.50, or a 40T chainring for the stock 16T cog.
    * Just like warning signs on the side of the road for recommended speed to take a corner at, these recommendations are more of a guide than anything, but they put them there for a reason.
    * The shifter is designed for bars of 22.0 - 22.3 mm diameter. Drop handlebars are typically 23.2mm diameter.
    * You can order replacement axle plates, however this doesn't mean you can convert the hub from QR to solid axle once you've bought it.
    * For some unknown reason, be it superstition or magic, you cannot order a 14T Rohloff cog. You can get a 13 and a 15... but not a 14.
    * The hub arrives empty of oil. There's a nice warning label saying it's empty of oil. You should probably add oil before riding it. It's also a lot quieter once oil is in there.
    * The oil is rated from 5F to ~100F if I remember correctly. That being said, there's a warning in the manual that things may not work as well if operating below 32F/0C; some parts will start to freeze and may not move freely. The cleaning oil can be used to thin the mix to allow operating in lower temperatures too as per Rohloff's own instructions; unofficially kerosene can do the same and depress the operating temperature even further.
    * They use a proprietary cog that requires a special tool is required to remove the cog.
    * Unlike regular shifter cables, the Rohloff shifter cables are spiral wound on the inside (like standard brake cables on most bikes). This is unverified as to whether it works or not, but I was told that in a pinch you can use Campagnolo brake cables and housing instead of Rohloff cables and housing.
    * When transporting the wheel, it should be kept as vertical as possible. If it's subjected to low pressure for whatever reason (e.g. in an aircraft), there are warnings that the oil will seep out of the hub, and I've been warned not to lie the wheel down with the oil plug facing downwards when putting the wheel in the car. This doesn't cause it any damage to the hub, but it might to the car... and obviously you wouldn't want it leaking too much oil over an extended period of time without being topped up.
    * The warranty on the hub has no limit on miles but does have a limit of 2 years from date of purchase. This appears to be standard across all countries.

    MAINTENANCE:
    * External gear mech's should be removed, cleaned and regreased every 500 km.
    * Oil changes are recommended before or at 5000 km for continued smooth operation.
    * Adjusting the cables using screw adjusters as necessary
    * Replacing housing, etc. as necessary.
    * I imagine it will not blow up if you do not perform this maintenance, however the unit ships with a dealer card and a maintenance card that indicates what mileage the oil changes were performed at; failing to do oil changes on a regular basis will void the warranty. It appears to be based on the honor system.

    WHAT I ORDERED:
    *Rohloff CC DB OEM2 (came with the chain tensioner, long torque arm, cables & housing, shifter, and oil in the box)
    *External Gear Mech.
    *Cog removal tool
    *Spokes, rim, nipples, rim tape

    BUILDING THE WHEEL & MOUNTING THE WHEEL TO THE BIKE
    Building the wheel is like building any other wheel. I have a Surly Ogre with fork ends, disk brakes and the OEM2 plate. I ordered the hub + relevant parts best matching the following codes: CC, DB, EX, OEM2

    I highly recommend determining if your chain line will be fine before doing anything else (if starting anything on a bike with an existing drivetrain that works correctly like I was), as you can choose there and then whether you want to potentially make your bike quasi-unridable (or at least less than awesome to ride until spare parts come in). Of course, if building from scratch this point is moot and you should carry on.

    I recommend cutting the cables slightly longer (~1-2mm longer) than the manual specifies, and expanding the adjustment guides on the gear mechanism slightly to compensate. You can always cut it shorter later if you don't like it, but because the indexing happens in the hub if you don't like the way the numbers line up on the shifter, it will give you some way to adjust this. Some play in the cables is needed, approx 2mm of rotation, which is indicated in the manual.

    MOUNTING EXPERIENCE:
    I'm currently using Shimano FCM552 cranks, a 104mm BCD 4 bolt crank that came with the bike. With no spacers installed on a Shimano SM-BB70 bottom bracket on the drive side, I get approximately the 54mm chainline desired mounting the chainring in the position designated for the biggest chainring on a triple crankset. Aka everything is freakin' sweet and quiet. Remember earlier how I said Surly doesn't make a 38T BCD 104 mm chainring? Wahmp wahmp if you want to use Surly chainrings with this (Shimano makes a ramped one, E.Thirteen makes a DH ring that will be just fine). A Surly Mr. Whirly with the 68mm spindle, Mr. Whirly crank, Mr. Whirly 110 mm 5 bolt spider and 38T 5 bolt 110 mm BCD chainring will also work great, but will set you back another $300 or so, and each of those parts has to be ordered separately. I'm sure there are others out there, but those are two combinations I know will work.

    Biggest problem once the wheel was built: The axle would slide forward on the horizontal fork ends because the skewer wasn't holding it in place. Solutions?
    1) Order the solid axle version
    2) XT/XTR skewers with internal cam (apparently is stronger) - 173mm length preferred, leave the chain longer than necessary while testing
    3) Surly Monkey Nut (drive side only[1][2]) + Chain tensioner
    4) Surly Tuggnut on drive side only (does nothing on non-drive side[1])

    I recommend trying them in that order, because 1) you will probably buy fewer parts that way, and 2) you can always cut a chain shorter, but you can't cut it longer.

    #4 adds 5-7mm to the total width of the part that needs to be clamped, so you will need the as long a skewer as you can source. I didn't have a longer skewer, so I went with #3, and it ended up working just fine. For what it's worth, the OEM2 mounting plate will perform the same purpose as the Monkey Nut or Tuggnut on the non-drive side on a Surly Ogre.[3]

    RIDING EXPERIENCE
    Damn nice. Gears 1-7 are noisier than Gears 8-14 as they engage one additional planetary gear set. Gear 7 is definitely the noisiest of them all. In the manual it indicates the noise will decrease after the first 1000 km, which is consistent with my experiences so far.

    We had a cold snap here in Seattle for a while where the temperature dropped below freezing. One disadvantage to those who run the chain tensioner becomes apparent here: The freewheeling mechanism doesn't move as freely in temperatures below freezing, so you're more likely to throw the chain if you backpedal (and it will have more slack than normal). At temperatures above 40F this has not been an issue so far.

    It does take a little more effort to pedal than before, however I noticed that I quickly became used to the slight increase in effort and clock the same times on my home bound commute as I did on a conventional gearing system for approximately the same effort. This has been measured using temperature, Strava's suffer score and time as the metrics. One of the things that really annoyed me with my previous gearing that I struggled with a bit were the presence of "gearing gaps" - I try to avoid cross chaining, and there was often a large gap between gears whenever I shifted chain rings, even if I compensated with the right shifter. This is not something specific to the Rohloff; other brands will do it as well, but I do rather enjoy that I no longer have to do the gear-juggle.

    The standard internal gear stuff applies too; some lady saw me pedaling, then lean up against a wall to let her pass safely. She apologized that I would have to start off on an uphill; I shifted while completely stationary and pedaled away easily, much to her amazement.

    OTHER NOTES:
    [1] Monkey nuts and Chain Tensioners on the disk braking side will rarely perform a useful function. For any disk brake mounted above the axle, it will force the axle backwards when the disk brake is applied. On the drive side, when pushing the pedals, this will pull that side forward, which is why it's useful on the drive side ONLY.
    [2] The Monkey Nut gets in the way of the OEM mounting hardware, pushing the frame and thus rear disk brake 0.5mm to the left, resulting in disk brakes rubbing and no amount of adjusting will fix it.
    [3] For the math kid's out there, because the angle that most brakes fitted to a Surly Ogre will engage the rotor at is approximately 45 from the vertical, ~70% of the braking force vector will be directly back if considering the braking force as two vectors, one vertical, one horizontal. This is specific to the location of the rear brake caliper inside the rear triangle. The force from the pedals however will be 100% of the force the axle has to counter, thus if we consider traction to be the limiting aspect of torque applied due to braking or acceleration, we should expect to see issues from pedaling rather than braking assuming traction equal in both cases. In real world scenarios, braking typically shifts weight off the rear wheel and reduces traction, whereas pedaling/accelerating typically increases the traction of the rear wheel, thus you'd expect to be able to exert more force on the rear wheel while pedaling. Consequently, if you want to see if you're going to encounter problems with your setup, pedal up a hill and push hard.
    Last edited by hunter006; 01-06-2013 at 01:43 AM.

  2. #2
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    Ogre build

    Quote Originally Posted by hunter006 View Post
    * A minimum of 2.35 is the "required" ratio between the chainring and the cog to reduce the input torque on the hub. This corresponds to a 38T or larger chainring with the standard 16T cog that ships with the unit. If you have a particular chainring manufacturer in mind, it's a good idea to check the minimum BCD required for that chainring (e.g. Surly doesn't make a 4 bolt 104mm BCD 38T chainring; the largest they offer is a 36T).
    *.
    Hi hunter006

    Rohloff have revised their ratio figures.
    rohloff.de/en/news/news_rss/news_in_detail/archive/2012/11/december/article/SPEEDHUB_UEbersetzungsfaktor_von_mind_235_auf_ak/index.html
    11.12.2012

    The permitted sprocket ratios for the SPEEDHUB 500/14 were set to ensure the hub would not be damaged due to a high input torque. These limits were set identical to the lower limits of derailleur systems of the day (2.35) but these obviously also contained a small buffer.

    Current derailleur systems offer lower gear ratios now which are particularly favored by 29er cyclists for hard off-road climbs. Due to the increased interest in these bicycles the Rohloff AG has reviewed our permitted ratios and reduced the transmission factor further to just 2.1 for solo cyclists under 100kg. The 'buffer' that the SPEEDHUB previously had available is not longer present and this new factor must not be reduced further.

    SPEEDHUB equipped bicycles may now achieve 1.36m per crank revolution in their lowest gear without risk of losing warranty cover.

    Calculating the Transmission factor:

    36 tooth front chainring with a 17 tooth rear sprocket = 36:17= factor 2.11 (updated Table can be found in the Owners Manual, page 20).


    The Transmission factor of 2.5 still applies for Tandem use and cyclists weighing over 100kg!
    Last edited by rifraf; 01-06-2013 at 09:38 PM.

  3. #3
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    Great to see you posting about this build as it appears to closely reflect one I have in mind to do myself.
    So far I have my Rohloff which is similar to yours except mine is OEM 1.
    I have to buy the OEM2 plate and disk to bolt on.
    I have bought some cranks and Brooks B17 special saddle as well.
    My cranks are 110bcd so I'll be using their smallest 34T chainring.
    Just awaiting catching up on some xmas bills before grabbing a frame probably from JensonUSA.com which appear to be the best prices including shipping that I've found.

    Wheres the pics?
    Last edited by rifraf; 01-09-2013 at 12:56 AM.

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    Very nice review, good info. Only thing, posting wholesale prices is typically frowned upon

  5. #5
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    what is a "The Monkey Nut "

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by RipRoar View Post
    what is a "The Monkey Nut "
    Monkey Nuts | Parts | Surly Bikes

  7. #7
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
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    Quote Originally Posted by rifraf View Post
    Hi hunter006

    Rohloff have revised their ratio figures.
    rohloff.de/en/news/news_rss/news_in_detail/archive/2012/11/december/article/SPEEDHUB_UEbersetzungsfaktor_von_mind_235_auf_ak/index.html
    11.12.2012

    The permitted sprocket ratios for the SPEEDHUB 500/14 were set to ensure the hub would not be damaged due to a high input torque. These limits were set identical to the lower limits of derailleur systems of the day (2.35) but these obviously also contained a small buffer.

    -- Snip --

    SPEEDHUB equipped bicycles may now achieve 1.36m per crank revolution in their lowest gear without risk of losing warranty cover.

    Calculating the Transmission factor:

    36 tooth front chainring with a 17 tooth rear sprocket = 36:17= factor 2.11 (updated Table can be found in the Owners Manual, page 20).


    The Transmission factor of 2.5 still applies for Tandem use and cyclists weighing over 100kg!
    Good to know! I actually ran it with 36x16 (2.25) on the weekend on a MTB ride and found it to be a good ratio, albeit a little low for my general running around. However, I am switching it out to the 2.35 ratio using a 38x16T to be more suited to my general applications, after acquiring a new crankset (Mr. Whirly crankset; if you're interested in a writeup of this, I can put one in the Surly forum).

    I'm not 100 kg, but I'm getting there and anticipate that a heavy backpack would send me over this 100 kg limit), so this is probably erring on the side of safety too.

    Quote Originally Posted by rifraf View Post
    Great to see you posting about this build as it appears to closely reflect one I have in mind to do myself.
    So far I have my Rohloff which is similar to yours except mine is OEM 1.
    I have to buy the OEM2 plate and disk to bolt on.
    I have bought some cranks and Brooks B17 special saddle as well.
    My cranks are 110bcd so I'll be using their smallest 34T chainring.
    Just awaiting catching up on some xmas bills before grabbing a frame probably from JensonUSA.com which appear to be the best prices including shipping that I've found.

    Wheres the pics?
    All sounds pretty awesome. I have a Brooks Team Pro sitting in the storage box from my previous bike. Tempted to put it on there. I'm sitting on this bike a little differently to the one I previously had the Team Pro on so I'm not sure it will work out perfectly. But I think it will work out really well. It's winter here, and Brooks saddles don't like getting wet, so I'm tempted to wait a bit until things dry out.

    I found with 36x16 I was spinning out too much, and spending a lot of time in gear 12. I didn't use the low end gears all too often, so I changed mine out to a 38T; probably should have gone a shade higher, but past wisdom says to gear lower than you intend, because one day you'll hit a killer headwind...

    This was more of a writeup on the hub, not the build, but you can find the description of the build over here. If you have any other questions, please feel free to private message me. I'm not the quickest to reply, but I'll do what I can.

    Quote Originally Posted by mravery View Post
    Very nice review, good info. Only thing, posting wholesale prices is typically frowned upon
    I thought hard about whether to include that information, and unless someone specifically messages me to remove it (or admins edit it out themselves) I'll leave it as is. It's subject to change AND specific to country, and what people choose to do with this information is up to them. It should be considered A GUIDE ONLY. In the future, prices may come down as other manufacturers catch up to Rohloff technology. This thread will not be updated to reflect that.

    There's no sugarcoating it - Rohloff's are expensive. Their wholesale price is high, and the price you buy it for is not too dissimilar to what you'd expect to see in mark up for a complete bike of the equivalent price. At the end of the day, I know I paid for my mechanic's shop rent for the month with that single purchase, and I feel pretty damn good knowing that I've just kept their doors open one month longer.

    What I will say for sure is that even if I paid MSRP + 10% sales tax, it would have been worth it. I went almost hub-deep in some serious mud on the weekend riding the Stinky Spoke up in Woodinville, WA after being forced off my line by rider in front of me; went in to a deep puddle with my buddy and came up with mud on the 160mm disks. As I entered I shifted down to 1 so I wouldn't have to worry about falling in the mud, as did my buddy Alex, and while we both powered through, only one of us was able to shift smoothly for the rest of the 18 mi ride. I'll give you a hint: It wasn't Alex.

    I weighed the wheel using low precision (0.1 lb precision) scales earlier, and the wheels with DT Swiss XM490, Q Tube 1.9-2.3" tubes, Continental Mountain King 29x2.2" tires on there came in at 8.0 lbs. So heed my words when I say that this was either the best or second best (along with my Son28 dynohub wheel) thing I've ever purchased for myself, and it's worth its weight in gold.

    I'm a fan.

  8. #8
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    Thank you hunter for documenting your build in such fantastic detail! I was thinking of building a single speed Surly Ogre when I came across this thread, and since I live in a fairly hilly area the Rohloff sounds like an interesting option (I was also considering a 2x1 HammerSchmidt, but I have little to no experience or knowledge of HS).

    Did you build your bike from scratch or add the Rohloff hub to an existing setup? I'm starting from scratch and trying to decide between the QR and solid axle versions (leaning toward TS, but any input is appreciated).

  9. #9
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
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    Hi tallogrello,

    I had a complete bike before, however that wouldn't influence my choices much. I bought the bike complete to figure out if I liked it enough or not to stick the rohloff on it & got a good price. Knowing what I do now, I'd probably have done the same thing even with a custom build, just would have been a bit more ancy about it.

    So, thoughts on the QR vs. solid axle... You have to use a really, really good quality QR skewer. I'm running monkey nut & tensioner on mine because I'm lazy but I think I could get away with just the QR skewer, however I do remember it sliding forward using lesser skewers when I first got the bike.

    Ultimately, I'd say for horizontal forkends like the Ogre - and especially so for someone who really pounds the pedals hard - the solid axle is a great choice. If you ultimately see yourself going to something with vertical dropouts, using the QR will probably be best. If you do go with the QR and you're someone who pounds the pedals hard, make sure the QR skewer you buy will be able to take the tensioner as well on the chain side only.

    One other thing with this build, a little unrelated to your question... I had two of the Surly Mr. Whirly spiders fail on me, taking the chainring with it. That's a $100 fix, min. It's deserving of its own post when I have some time to write it up, but I think the final reason for it failing is related to the inner BCD nuts not being adequately torqued. My mechanic eventually torqued it down well above spec (I used a torque wrench when first installing it) and it seems to be fine now, but if I had to go through the whole thing again, I'd probably use a different crank. Other than the crank issue, I now have ~4500 mi on the build since the start of the year under varying conditions and still adore it as much as when I first got it (perhaps more, because the gears now shift more easily).

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    Thanks, I appreciate your reply. I need a "do-it-all" touring/campsite/all-day trail bike to complement my proud but impractical collection, and I'm pretty stoked on a 24" Ogre.

    Now that I have had time to think about it, this project might end up happening in a couple of stages much like yours did: complete bike or minimalist single speed Ogre build, followed by Rohloff once I know I like the bike and I have the conversion process straight in my head. We'll see. At least with the information from this thread I can start putting together a parts list.

    Thanks again for your input, I will probably be back with more questions!

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