Rohloff Internally Geared Hubs run in an oil bath. The only regular maintenance that needs to be done is to change the hub oil every 3,000 miles or once a year. If you ride in harsh and/or wet conditions you should stick to that schedule, or you can change it more frequently. Since our winters last almost 7 months, I make a point to change the oil in the Spring time regardless of the number of miles since the last change.
The first step is to remove the oil drain screw and add cleaning oil to the hub with a syringe.
Then you need to circulate the cleaning oil in the hub to loosen old oil. You can do this by turning the cranks with the bike in a bike stand for 5 minutes. Or you can simply take it for a ride. Given we were having one of the most glorious Spring days of the year so far, it was a no brainer. I took it for a ride.
After circulating the cleaning oil, you need to drain all of the old SPEEDHUB oil and cleaning oil you added. You achieve this by threading in the oil change tube and letting it drain overnight.
The oil is black in color. This means it was definitely time to change the hub oil. Grey colored oil is good. Black is not so good. The hub is so tightly sealed it is quite difficult to get the oil to drain since air needs to displace the draining oil. Air needs to get in through the oil change tube. I think it would be good to have two drain holes. One to drain the oil and the other one on the opposite side of the hub to let air in. Then you wouldn’t have to let it drain all night. It would come out all at once.
Tomorrow I’ll add new SPEEDHUB oil with the syringe and oil change tube, replace the oil drain screw and the job will be done. This is so much easier than doing maintenance on Shimano Nexus or Alfine hubs. I’ve done both. It requires totally dismantling the hub and pulling all the “guts” out of the hub shell. It’s not bad once you’ve done it a few times. But simply changing the hub oil on a Rohloff is incredibly easy in comparison. You don’t even need to remove the wheel from the bike. I don’t miss the Shimano IGH days.
One week ago today I was riding my Pugsley in the snow. Today there was little sign of winter and temperatures were 30 degrees above normal. It was 62degF at my house today. This was the unusual March view of Lake Superior and the Duluth Shipping Canal:
Here’s a more typical view of the Shipping Canal and Lake Superior (from the hillside) in March. This is from March 16, 2007:
There should be ice. The ice will stay as late as Memorial Day some years. It’s a weird year for weather. Although I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my ride in the sun today. But I do feel like I’m being cheated out of a month’s worth of fatbiking.
Another unusual sight is my winter commuting bike in mid-March with no studded tires on it. I took them off this morning. The earliest I’ve taken off my studded tires since moving to Duluth in 2001.
My route today: //ridewithgps.com/trips/8126290/embed I rode out onto the sand spit. The temperature was only 49degF out there. A thirteen degree temperature change on a 20 mile ride. It required adding and removing layers as I went.
When I got back from my ride today I noticed my neighbor working on his bike in his garage across the street. He was a three season commuter when I moved into the neighborhood. Thanks to my bad influence he’s pushed into four season’s riding his bike to work. He rides a nice Surly Long Haul Trucker. I didn’t know this until today, but he bought a second set of wheels so he could easily move back and forth between studded tires and summer tires. He just swaps out wheels. Not a bad idea in the shoulder season like we’re having now. He had switched the wheels sets out yesterday and was having shifting problems. I suggested to him it was his chain and the cassette on the swapped out wheel not cooperating. He doesn’t clean his drivetrain often enough. I helped him swap out the cassettes so he would be using the same one on the swapped out wheelset. I think it’s still easier to move the cassettes then have one wheelset and change the tires every time the weather changes.
The harbor should be completely frozen over this time of year.
Forty degrees above normal. That’s how warm it was yesterday. My thermometer was reading 46degF/8degC when I left for a ride. The next week is statistically the coldest of the year for us. Yesterday’s weather was more akin to mid-April.
Our weather is typically arctic in nature this time of year. What snow we have stays on the ground until a warm-up that usually happens from the middle of March until the middle of April. Snowfall can start as early in the winter as the last week of October. For every snow event the road crews spread sand on the city streets for traction. Depending on temperature it can be mixed with salt.
Conditions we have right now are very reminiscent of the Spring thaw. These are freeze-thaw cycles we don’t usually see this time of year. What I’m getting at is these current conditions are what this bike was designed for. This is my A-train Cycles Ultimate Commuter. Maybe not “ultimate” for what you ride, but a design maximized for the conditions we have in Duluth. Maximized to handle the high volume of grit and crud on the streets, the rough road conditions, and provides dependable braking on the hilly terrain the city of Duluth occupies.
The problems I experienced with other bikes led to this design. I experimented with many drivetrains over a decade to reach this design. A chain with some type of lube applied in these conditions creates a high maintenance system. As the snow melts over a period of a month or more, we have wet roads daily. The wet roads compound the nastiness of a winters worth of sandy crud on the streets. The crud gathers at the edges of the roads. The lube on the chain then attracts this crud to it. To keep a chain working in these conditions requires daily cleanings of the drivetrain. Sure you can just ride it and deal with a barely functioning derailleur system. But that is maddening when it spans several months of these conditions. Specially if you live in a hilly area like I do where you shift frequently. Sure, I tried single-speed and fixed gear set-ups. But they were less than ideal for our hilly terrain. I won’t get into those reasons in this post.
My solution is an internally geared hub with a Gates Belt Drive. I use a 14-speed Rohloff Speedhub. All gears are sealed inside the hub. Gear range is from 19 gear inches up to 101 gear inches. The same as an older 27 speed mountain bike. The belt drive runs dry so it doesn’t attract any dirt. It repels the crud. This drivetrain, even in these conditions is maintenance free. It always shifts and never corrodes. I don’t need to clean or lube it. I might get 1,000 miles on a chain in these conditions. The belt lasts 10,000 miles and never stretches like a chain will.
Rim brakes are another issue. In this daily slop and crud, the rims needs a daily cleaning to keep brakes working. The sandy grit wears down the rims like sandpaper. Riding everyday, I have rarely gotten more than 2 years out of a set of rims. That’s with frequent cleanings. There is a stop sign or stop light at the bottom of every hill. After about a week of build up of nasty stuff on your rim braking surface, the brakes barely work. I can’t count how many times I’ve done a Fred Flintstone (both feet on the ground) to come to a stop at the bottom of a hill when the brakes weren’t working sufficiently. This bike uses disc brakes. The stopping power can be counted on in any conditions. And no more worn out rims.
Wide tires. This bike is designed to accommodate wide tires. In the summer I use a 26 x 2.0 sized tire. In the winter I use a 26 x 1.75 sized studded tire which is about the same width as the summer 2.0 tire. Our roads are crumbling, not unlike the roads in many other cities. The late winter/spring freeze-thaw cycle compounds the severity of our roads. The wider tires give a plusher ride over all those road imperfections. And I honestly think they help keep my attention on other road users rather than on dodging holes and tire grabbing cracks. The wider tires are more forgiving than thin tires.
The stainless steel tubing used on this frame is unpainted and corrosion resistant. It is American made KVA MS3 tubing. The tag-line for MS3 is: “Stronger than steel, stiffer than titanium, and a better feel than both“. It is lighter than traditional steel and nearly as light as titanium. It provides a ride better than any steel frame I’ve ever owned. It’s capable of the snappy acceleration of a stiff performance bike combined with the comfort of a touring bike.
Here’s another look from my Cycliq Fly6. It’s from yesterday’s ride. This segment is mostly downhill after the first four minutes. At 5:00 minutes I hit some rougher streets. It illustrates the sloppy, cruddy conditions I described and the roughness of the streets.
I’m not a person who practices the same traditions year after year. I tend not to celebrate National Holidays. If I do I’m standing out along the periphery looking in rather than actively participating. In the same way I’m not one who can do the same events year after year after year. Nothing wrong with it. It’s just not me.
Now having said that. I do have one tradition I’ve been doing for the past 12 years. A local bicycle club I belong to has an Annual New Years Day Ride. In this climate it can be rather cold on January 1st. Typically in the negative range of the thermometer. Cold riding is my thing! Attendance numbers are low, 5-20 people depending on the weather. This years attendance was on the upper end due to temps in the mid-twenties Fahrenheit.
I enjoy starting the year with a bicycle ride. It’s usually my only group ride of the year. I ride solo most of the time. I didn’t work too hard at capturing pictures. Here’s the few I did take:
I’m happy with my choice to put studded tires on. The confidence they provide on icy roads is worth every cent. Before leaving this morning I managed to get one more maintenance task done.
I applied some Boeshield T-9 to my stainless steel framed bike. The tubes are unpainted. Unlike most steel, stainless steel resists corrosion. But it’s not completely immune to it. The T-9 adds a bit of protection. It’s only the third time I’ve applied it in a little over a year I’ve had this frame. It has been corrosion free. This tubing is made by KVA and is named MS3. From what I’ve heard MS2, an earlier version, exhibited surface corrosion when used in winter conditions with salt. My frame maintained it luster through an entire winter.