17 May 2019

Tech Talk: Why Is the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 So Expensive?

Why is the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 so expensive? Is it really better than other internal gear hubs out there like Shimano’s Alfine 8 or 11 or the Nuvinci/Enviolo N360 or N380? Is there another gear hub on the market worth using?

With over twelve years selling these high-end, German-made hubs on the American market, we often hear from customers wondering whether the benefits justify the premium price tag. While we feel that a variety of internal gearing systems are superior to derailleurs, there is no other gear hub that can be substituted for the Rohloff SPEEDHUB in terms of durability and long-term performance. Accordingly, it is our only recommendation for those customers looking to push the limits of their drivetrain with heavy usage. 

This Tech Talk breaks down the differences between a few of the most popular internal gear hubs available, allowing you to decide whether or not the Rohloff is the only solution for the way you ride.

To keep things focused, we will limit the scope of this comparison to the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14, Shimano Alfine 8 & 11, and Nuvinci/Enviolo N360 & N380. These hubs represent high-end (Rohloff) and mid-range (Shimano and Enviolo) options within the internal gearing market. Lower-cost options currently available are rarely suitable for the types of bikes we work with.


Note that Kindernay is not included because we have not yet had the opportunity to try one. We are eager to test one, so keep your eyes out for a future review.

What advantages does the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 have over other internal gear hubs?
  • A wider gear range: Bikes with a wider gear range are easier to pedal comfortably both up and down hills, with a bigger difference between the “easiest” and “hardest” gears. The SPEEDHUB has 526% range, more than the 1x12 derailleur systems currently popular with mountain bikers, and comparable to 2 and 3x systems commonly used in the past. By comparison, the next closest option is Shimano’s Alfine 11 with 409%, followed by 380% on the Nuvinci/Enviolo N380, 360% on the Nuvinci/Enviolo N360, and 307% on the Shimano Alfine 8.

  • More gears to choose from: The SPEEDHUB offers 14 gears, compared to 8 or 11 in the Alfine hubs. Having more gears gives riders the additional flexibility to maintain a steady cadence and maximize their biomechanical efficiency across a wider variety of terrain. 

    Note that Nuvinci/Enviolo hubs have no gear steps, and instead offer a smooth transition from easiest to hardest gear ratio, whereas all other gear hubs noticeably shift through their gears one at a time.
Note the lack of distinct gears on the NuVinci shifter
  • Even gear steps: The SPEEDHUB offers 13.6% steps (with very minor variations) for a consistent feel that steadily increases required effort as you shift through the gears. By comparison, the steps between gears on Shimano's Alfine hubs vary widely, with some as low as 13.1% and others as high as 29.2%. Again, Nuvinci/Enviolo hubs do not have discreet gear steps.
  • Better efficiency: Designed as a high-performance alternative to traditional drivetrains, the SPEEDHUB operates at 95-98% efficiency, which is comparable to a new, well-adjusted derailleur system. Other gear hubs operate with lower efficiency, with power loss on the order of 3-12% depending on the hub and gear being used. Given that the human engine is very small, and the fact that people spend substantial money to achieve even minor improvements in performance, a disparity of multiple percentage points of efficiency is quite substantial. E-bike users should note that more efficient drivetrains increase the range of electric bikes.
SPEEDHUB efficiency varies by gear, but always exceeds that of other internal gear hubs
  • High torque capacity: The SPEEDHUB can handle an impressive 130Nm of torque, making it well-suited to the higher inputs seen in off-road use or loaded touring, and with cargo bikes, tandems, and e-bikes.
  • Lower gearing: With the right sprockets, the SPEEDHUB can officially be geared lower than any other gear hub that we know of. This makes it possible to climb steep climb hills off road and climb long and/or steep climbs with a fully loaded bike without damaging the hub.
  • Better load capacity: The SPEEDHUB can handle an immense amount of load, including loaded touring tandems and heavily laden cargo bikes. Nuvinci offers a heavy duty version of their hub for cargo bike use, but the Alfine hubs were developed for urban commuters, and are not recommended for heavy duty use. For off road applications, this load capacity also makes the Rohloff unit suitable for aggressive trail use, including jumps, drops, and other high-speed impacts.
  • Longest lifespan: The SPEEDHUB will go forever under normal operating conditions - or at least a full human lifespan. Over the past 20+ years, some riders have logged over a quarter of a million miles on their hubs with no signs of deterioration. During this time period, no hubs have “worn out”. While we do not have specific data on Shimano or Nuvinci/Enviolo hubs, the our experience suggests these hubs were not designed to handle this much use.
All things considered, the SPEEDHUB stands out as the gold standard compared to all other gear hubs currently available. Sure, the hefty price tag is due in large part to the hubs being manufactured in Germany’s expensive labor market. However, the use of higher quality materials, more stringent manufacturing methods, and very tight tolerance requirements also account for a significant part of the premium you pay, and these factors are what make the Rohloff a superior product. 

The gold standard, indeed

So, are these advantages worth the extra cost? Will another internal gear hub work for you?

Maybe. The answer depends on where you ride, the type of riding you do, how low your gearing needs to go, how strong you (or your motor!) are, and whether you care about how much of your power (or battery charge!) is being lost through the drivetrain. Of course, cost is a practical consideration that very few of us have the luxury to ignore.

Feel free to contact us for options if you are building a more casual-use bike and want to get away from derailleurs, but realize that there is no substitute for a Rohloff hub for high performance riding!

09 May 2019

Jones Plus 29+ Trail Bike w/ Rohloff SPEEDHUB

This Jones Plus is a sure-footed, classic trail bike built for a customer in Montgomery Center, Vermont, who was looking for an ultra-reliable, low-maintenance build to explore the wide network of trails that snake through the woods surrounding this small town at the northern tip of one of America’s northernmost states.

As a longtime user of Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub, the customer was already familiar with the unparalleled reliability of the 14-speed German-made hub. He set out to find a simple, classically-styled steel frame that could easily accommodate the hub from his existing bike and comfortably tackle a range of smoother singletrack and dirt roads. The customer found a match with the Jones Bikes Plus platform, and reached out to Cycle Monkey to complete a custom build around his Rohloff hub.

Jeff Jones has designed steel and titanium framesets in Southern Oregon for years, with a niche for producing high-quality, adventure-oriented frames that are perfect building blocks for custom projects. Jones Bikes are well-suited to a wide range of riders, from dedicated bikepackers to those looking for a stylish, classically-inspired rigid bike they can both ride to work and use to explore the local singletrack.

This particular bike is built around the Plus LWB Diamond frame, one of three options for those looking for a Jones that allows them to enjoy the benefits of wider rubber and 29” wheels. LWB stands for “long wheel base”, and the frame features geometry that’s confidence-inspiring on rougher terrain, but remains comfortable and efficient on longer expeditions or marathon days on local singletrack. It accepts 29” tires from 2.3 - 3.25” wide, letting you easily change the bike’s character from responsive and efficient XC machine to ground-hugging and confidence-inspiring backcountry adventure mobile . 

Designed as an exclusively-rigid option, the frame is not suspension-corrected, which makes for a larger, stronger front triangle and shorter fork that combine to offer an incredible amount of frame pack and water bottle carrying capacity. The frame is covered in mounts galore, allowing for easy installation and removal of bottle cages, racks, and fenders to quickly modify your setup to match the adventure at hand.

Jones is also well-known for the Truss fork seen on this bike. The unique, vintage look is always a head-turner, but the design offers tangible functional benefits as well, including an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, precise steering control, and the elimination fore-aft flex under hard braking forces. Because the loads are triangulated, smaller and thinner tubes can be used on the fork without compromising strength while at the same time reducing flex during braking.

The fork is offered with all Jones frames in steel, with an even lighter titanium version available for the most discerning riders.
Note the eccentric bottom bracket
The Jones frame also includes an eccentric bottom bracket, which tensions the chain and allows riders to run the bike singlespeed or, as in this case, with an internally geared rear hub. Eccentric bottom brackets tension the chain or belt by changing the relative distance between the crank arms and rear dropouts, and offer an alternative tensioning method to the sliding dropouts commonly found on singlespeed/internally geared frames.

Internal gearing like that offered by Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB offers numerous benefits for off-road riders. Because shifting components and most moving parts are enclosed within the hub shell away from the elements, internal gear hubs offer superior reliability in all conditions, making them an excellent option for those who don’t always have the luxury of riding on sunny days. We’ve seen countless riders put tens of thousands of miles on their Rohloff hubs with no maintenance beyond an annual oil change, confirming their reputation as the most reliable internal gear hub on the market. 

East Coast trails are well known for their rugged rockiness and rootiness, which make an unwelcoming environment for derailleurs dangling precariously from the bike’s rear end. Internal hubs and gearboxes eliminate anxiety over ripping off a derailleur or bending a hanger on an inconveniently-placed rock, allowing mountain bikers to confidently take tighter lines through technical sections of trail.

This build complements the low-maintenance nature of the drivetrain with a straightforward parts kit that’s all about finding flow on singletrack. The 29” Plus wheels provide excellent rollover capabilities and a bit of extra cushion for this rigid frame, especially when paired with the Maxxis Chronicle--a tread pattern optimized for the mid-fat tire size,

The chrome components found at the cockpit, wheels, and seatpost give the bike a classic appeal that’s too often lacking from off-road machines, and the parts pop beautifully against the teal frame color. Paul Components offers a range of components “lovingly handmade” in Chico, Calfornia, and while their “inadvertent aesthetic” turns heads on street corners, these parts are built to be put through the ringer. They are designed to offer practicality and serviceability far beyond cell phone range, made from high-grade American aluminum that looks awfully good in polished chrome. They made a natural choice for the chainring, cranks, stem, brakes, and skewers on this build. 

Even the brake calipers are stylish...

Comfort matters most at the touchpoints, where the rider comes into contact with the bike, and too many riders overlook seemingly small component choices such as handlebars and saddles. Jones is also the creator of the H-Bar or Loop Bar, which offers a much wider range of potential hand positions than the flat bars typically found on mountain bikes or commuters. It’s a favorite of long-range tourers because it helps prevent numb hands when holding the same position on the bars for hours on end.

Selle Anatomica manufacturers premium saddles here in the US, with ergonomic cutouts that strike an ideal balance between flexibility for sensitive areas and support while pedaling. Their classic leather aesthetic is right at home on a vintage-looking steel frame like this Jones, but we’ve also found them comfortable on long road rides and for more aggressive trail riding. 

It was a pleasure to help this longtime Rohloff user make the most of his beloved SPEEDHUB with a new trail machine properly suited for hours spent exploring the picturesque singletrack surrounding his small New England hometown. Cycle Monkey approaches all of our custom build projects by starting with the rider’s goals and future riding aspirations, and selecting a frame, drivetrain, and components that fit this vision. Drop us a line to discuss your ideas for a custom build, or to get suggestions on a setup that will help you ride the way you want to, however that might be.

If you want to keep up with our latest creations here in the Monkey Lab, give us a follow on Instagram or Facebook, and consider signing up for our newsletter for the latest content on all things internal gearing.

Frame: Jones LWB Plus Fork: Jones Steel Truss Headset: Cane Creek 40 Stem: Thomson X4 Bar: Jones H-Bar Grips: Ergon GC-1 Shifter: Rohloff Twist Shifter Brakes: Paul Components Klamper Brake Levers: Paul Components Love Levers Seatpost: Thomson Elite Saddle: Selle Anatomica Front Hub: Paul Components Rear Hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 Skewers: Paul Components Spokes: Sapim Race Nipples: Sapim Brass Rims: Velocity Dually Tires: Maxxis Chronicle Cranks: Paul Components Bottom Bracket: SKS Square Taper Chainring: Paul Components

18 April 2019

Tech Talk: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 making noise? Check these things first...

As the North American service center for Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub, we periodically field questions from customers concerned about noises coming from their SPEEDHUB. These noises are described in a variety of forms—squeaks, creaks, clicking, ticking, popping, clunking, thunking—and customers are often convinced the hub is the source of their noise woes.

After over a decade servicing every Rohloff unit in the US and many in Canada, we can confidently say that Rohloff hubs virtually never make noise, besides the familiar whir of the gears spinning inside. Any other perceived noise can almost always be traced to something else on the bike.

With encased moving parts that rest in a bath of oil, the SPEEDHUB has virtually no potential for unwanted noise.
Here is a list of common culprits you’ll want to check if you are experiencing unusual noise:

Bottom bracket: Noise at the BB often comes from the interface between the bottom bracket and the frame, or between the bottom bracket and the crankset. These noises are most often described as creaks that arise in a rhythmic pattern and are noticeable only when pedaling, typically once per crank revolution. Best practice to address a creaky bottom bracket is to remove and clean all parts, apply a film of grease, and re-install to the manufacturer-provided torque spec.

A thin film of grease at the BB can go a long ways...
Cranks: In addition to the noise that occasionally occurs at the interface between the cranks and bottom bracket, mounting bolts sometimes come loose and cause noise or a sensation of movement between the left/right sides. Noises are typically the same or very similar to bottom bracket noises. First off, check over the cranks & check bolts for proper torque. If that doesn’t help, try removing the cranks from the bike and cleaning and greasing the interface between the crank arm(s) and bottom bracket spindle and bottom bracket spindle and bottom bracket itself where applicable.

In rare instances, we have seen issues with carbon cranks where the aluminum inserts for pedal threads or the bottom bracket spindle interface have come loose from the carbon arms, causing noise and/or movement. This can usually be felt by pushing/pulling each crank arm towards and away from the center of the bike or by leaning over the bike and pushing/pulling the crank arms in unison towards/away from the ground to see if there is any movement. In these cases, it is best to contact the crank manufacturer to discuss your options to resolve the issue.

Front sprocket: We have occasionally diagnosed noises coming from unwanted movement of the front sprockets, usually due to loose mounting bolts or lock rings. If you suspect noise from this area, use you hands to check for any play of the front sprocket. Check chainring bolts or the direct mount lockring for proper torque. It’s also wise to inspect the system for signs of wear and evaluating its impact on movement. Clean and apply a thin film of grease between surfaces that show wear.

Frame: Frames can cause noise through loose bolts or, in rare cases, cracks in the frame material itself. We often hear frame noise described as creaks, squeaks, clicking, or ticking. Check for loose bolts and inspect for cracks or other damage. If your bike has a derailleur hanger, this could also be the source of the noise--clean the hanger and other drivetrain parts, apply a thin film of grease, and reinstall.

Derailleur hangers are often the source of frame noise
Removable & adjustable dropouts: When dropouts bolt to the frame rather than being fully integrated, there is potential for noise at the interface between the removable piece(s) and the rest of the frame, often heard as creaks, clicking, or ticking. Check mounting bolts for proper torque and look for wear (shiny spots or missing anodization) signifying movement between parts. Consider removing removable pieces, cleaning, and applying a thin film of grease before reinstalling to the manufacturer’s torque spec.

Eccentric bottom brackets: Eccentric bottom brackets provide a range of adjustment that allows them to tension chains or belts, but also presents the potential for noise in the form of creaks, clicking, or ticking. Check mounting/pinch bolts for proper torque. If this fails to solve the problem, consider disassembling, cleaning, and applying a thin film of grease before reassembling to the correct torque rating.

A bicycle-specific torque wrench is a great tool to ensure components are properly tightened
Rear skewer: The rear skewer on quick release hubs can sometimes cause creaking noises. This most often occurs when the skewer is not tight enough, which is easily remedied with increasing clamping pressure. With external cam skewers, it often becomes difficult to get enough clamping pressure out of the skewer when the cam surfaces are dirty. In these cases, clean & grease the cam pieces or switch to an internal cam skewer to avoid the issue entirely.

Have you installed a new chain on existing sprockets or installed new sprockets without replacing your chain?: This is the most common culprit when a customer presents us a with pesky noise that’s “definitely coming from the SPEEDHUB.” If you combine a used chain or sprocket with a new chain or sprocket, there will be running noise in virtually all instances. Even when no change in the shape of the sprocket teeth is visible, there is typically enough micro wear that a new chain will no mesh properly. This causes steady clicking noises during light pedaling and/or loud popping noises under heavy pedal pressure. The fix here is straightforward: replace chains and sprockets at the same time. Note that all Rohloff chain sprockets, with the exception of the original, thread-on 13T size, are reversible and can be flipped over to double their effective lifespan.

Have you installed splined belt sprockets with Rohloff’s Snap Ring Carrier?: Using the Rohloff splined sprocket system with snap ring sprocket retainer with a Gates Carbon Drive belt sprocket presents a possibility for noise from micro movement between the sprocket and the carrier. This will result in a rhythmic clicking/ticking noise every time the sprocket rovolves. In these cases, applying a heavy film of grease between the sprocket and carrier will offer temporary noise relief. The ultimate solution is to switch to Rohloff’s Lockring Carrier, which was designed specifically for use with Gates belt sprockets. Learn more about the difference between these carriers here.

Rohloff's Lockring Carrier system is recommended for use with belt drive sprockets
Noisy bikes are annoying to ride, and unusual noises are often an indication that something is wrong with your bike. In our years of working with Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB, we can confidently say that this part is extremely unlikely to be the source of unwanted noise while riding. The steps outlined in this post provide a comprehensive checklist that is likely to turn up the source of that pesky noise on your bike.

Still can’t find it after running through these steps? Drop us a line and we would be happy to help you get to the bottom of it.

If you would like to see further technical tips and tricks from Cycle Monkey, be sure to give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our latest Tech Talks and other blog posts.

04 April 2019

Ventana Wolfram 29+ Bikepacking Rig w/ Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 & Gates Carbon Drive

This Ventana Wolfram was built for a local customer from San Mateo, California, who was looking for a versatile bikepacking rig that would allow him to venture far into the backcountry with no worries about the bike’s capabilities or reliability.

The rider was already familiar with the unparalleled durability of Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub, which he’s enjoyed riding on his daily commuter for a number of years. He knew the German-made hub would provide the perfect basis for the drivetrain of his new adventure machine, and was excited to further take advantage of the hub’s benefits by pairing it with a Gates Carbon Drive belt system.

With this drivetrain as a starting point, he began searching for frames and eventually discovered a 29+ option in Ventana’s Wolfram. The platform is compatible with both Rohloff and belt drive systems with no modification necessary, and it’s one of few options available in this monster wheel size, which has become increasingly popular with bikepackers thanks to its excellent rollover capabilities and the more compliant ride that comes with higher-volume tires.

From there, he worked with Cycle Monkey to round out the build with components that would increase the bike’s comfort and utility on the longest adventures, such as a dynamo hub and lighting system cleanly integrated into the new CoLab Components Plus fork.

The build begins here at the Monkey Lab

Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub has long been a favorite of bikepackers and other long-distance touring riders for both its wide gear range and consistent performance in variable conditions. The SPEEDHUB includes 14 speeds completely encased within the hub shell, making it virtually impervious to the elements and immune to dust, dirt, muck, mud, and all things nasty. Its 526% gear range is greater than that of a 1x system with a 10-52t cassette.

The SPEEDHUB is particularly beneficial for off-road riders because it removes the derailleur assembly entirely, offering additional ground clearance and eliminating the potential to snag drivetrain components on rocks or other debris. The hubs have a longstanding reputation for durability, and we’ve seen many riders put tens of thousands of miles on theirs with no maintenance beyond an annual oil change.

Gates Carbon Drive & Rohloff offer the ultimate low maintenance drivetrain

Internal drivetrain systems also allow for the use of a belt drive system such as this one from Gates Carbon Drive, which are not compatible with traditional drivetrains that do not maintain a constant drive line. Carbon Drive belts require no lubrication or upkeep and last 2 - 10x as long as a chain, depending on use. They are also far more durable than chains, making them a favorite for ventures far into the sticks, where a snapped chain could result in a long walk back to camp.

Because they do not split like a chain, belt drive systems require a break somewhere in bike’s the rear triangle for installation, along with a belt tensioning mechanism such as sliding dropouts or an eccentric bottom bracket. With a mind towards building low maintenance, high fun-factor off-road machines, Ventana’s Wolfram comes belt-ready with rocking dropouts that maintain belt tension an an integrated split that makes installation of this fuss-free drivetrain an absolute breeze.

The Wolfram comes standard with sliding 3-bolt dropouts for easy belt tensioning

Ventana USA is located in Rancho Cordova, California, just up the road from Cycle Monkey’s Bay Area headquarters. After years of collaboration on custom builds, we feel lucky to know the team there well, and they are often our first recommendation when customers come looking for a new mountain bike. All of their bikes are designed, machined, cut, welded, treated, and powder coated in the same facility, producing a clean finish that’s too often lacking with mass-produced frames.

The Wolfram model seen here is the brand’s mid-fat, plus-size tire hardtail platform, which is available with 27.5+ or 29+ wheels. More a trail bike than a cross country race machine, the bike features a balanced modern geometry that inspires confidence on rougher descents and offers stability when loaded down with camping gear and other supplies. While this customer opted for the additional versatility of a bikepacking-focused carbon fork, the Wolfram does accept suspension forks with 120mm of travel.

The wider 3.0” plus-size tires seen on mid-fat bikes offer additional comfort and dampening on rough roads and allows riders to maintain a lower tire pressure even when their bikes are loaded down, thanks to their high volume. They also provide additional traction and stability compared to traditional mountain bike tires, making them an excellent option for newer riders as well. The Maxxis Chronicles seen on this bike were specifically designed for the 3.0” width, with a versatile tread pattern that’s fast-rolling but offers consistent grip at any angle.

While the Wolfram is a chameleon-like platform that can be set up for a wide variety of applications, the spec on this build is fully optimized for convenience and comfort on long bikepacking trips.

Dynamo hubs are an excellent solution for those venturing far beyond the availability of wall outlets, and for those who simply don’t want to worry about charging their lights. The Schmidt SON 28 seen here contains a small electric generator that self-powers lights and other accessories with no charger necessary.

The Sinewave Cycles Beacon headlight seen on this bike is distinct from other dynamo-compatible headlights thanks to an integrated USB charging port that allows you to charge a cycling computer, cell phone, or other electronic devices from the dynamo system without the need for additional hardware. The Beacon also features a dynamic power input that’s capable of accepting power from the dynamo hub alone, an external USB battery pack, or both simultaneously. The Beacon will automatically adjust its power source based on your speed, drawing from the battery pack to maintain full illumination at lower speeds, and switching to strictly dynamo-derived power as speed increase. With no external battery pack connected, the light functions like any other dynamo headlight.

Note the integrated USB charging port on the Beacon headlight

Further integration is achieved with the CoLab Components Plus fork, a carbon fork designed specifically for adventure riding and bikepacking. CoLab Components was started by Cycle Monkey founder Neil Flock, who saw a gap in the market for dynamo-ready carbon forks that could further integrate a bike’s electrical and mechanical systems.

CoLab forks are available in a Cross and Plus version and both feature integrated wire routing for headlight and USB charger cables, integrated mount points for a light and fenders, 3-pack holes on the fork legs to carry extra gear, and replaceable threaded components to extend the life of the fork in the case that external hardware were to be overtightened. Of course, the forks have been tested for use on loaded touring bikes, and even tandems.

The build was finished off with ergonomic touchpoints that would increase comfort over the long haul, such as a Brooks saddle and Jones H-Bar, which allows for a huge range of hand positions compared to either a traditional flat or drop bar setup. The E13 TRS+ dropper post allows on-the-fly saddle height adjustment, and is an absolute necessity for anyone riding hilly off-road terrain.

Comfy grips + comfy saddle + comfy bar = comfy ride

We were thrilled to build up this bikepacking dream rig with a local frame and components for a local customer. If you have a custom bike build in mid or have questions about internal gearing, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

Want to see more custom bike builds and the latest products for touring, bikepacking, commuting, and more? Give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Frame: Ventana Wolfram 29+
Fork: CoLab Components Plus
Headset: Cane Creek 40
Stem: Thomson X4
Bar: Jones H-Bar
Shifter: Rohloff Twist Shifter
Brakes: Paul Components Klamper
Brake Levers: Love Levers
Seatpost: E13 TRS+ Dropper
Saddle: Brooks B17
Front Hub: Schmidt SON 28 Dynamo
Rear Hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
Skewers: Shimano XT
Spokes: Sapim Race
Nipples: Sapim Brass
Rims: WTB KOM Tough
Tires: Maxxis Chronicle
Cranks: Race Face Aeffect
Bottom Bracket: Press Fit 30
Sprockets: Gates Carbon Drive
Belt: Gates Carbon Drive

28 March 2019

Tech Talk: Addressing Noise Issues with Gates Carbon Drive

The Gates Carbon Drive belt system is a great addition to any bike with an internal shifting system such as the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14, Shimano Alfine, and Nuvinci/Envilio internal gear hubs or Pinion gearbox. Unlike the chains used in traditional drivetrains, the Carbon Drive belt provides thousands of trouble free off-road miles and tens of thousands of reliable on-road miles, all without need for extensive cleaning or lubrication.

While they generally run nearly silent, belts occasionally squeak as they interact with the metal sprockets at either end of the drivetrain, which many riders find annoying. This is most likely to occur when the belt system is subject to dust or other fine particulates.

This type of dust is usually the culprit when belts start squeaking

At Cycle Monkey, we have had good luck using Rohloff’s biodegradable chain lube to combat this squeaking noise. Applying just a few drops of this thick, wet weather lube typically provides months of quiet riding in our dry Northern California climate, where frequent 8-9 month periods without precipitation lead to a progression from dusty to extremely dusty the further we get from the last rainfall.

In our travels around the country, the Rohloff chain lube has worked equally as well in other climates and riding conditions. Other thick/wet weather chain lubes could also be effective, but we have not yet tested any of them because of the reliable results of the Rohloff lube. Gates has tested the Rohloff lube to ensure that it does not cause any deterioration of the Carbon Drive belt.

You can order the Rohloff chain lube here.

Gates officially recommends the use of silicone spray to address belt noise. In our experience, these sprays eliminate noise in the short term, but do not provide the same long-term performance we’ve seen with the Rohloff chain lube. Results vary based on environmental conditions, but we typically need to re-apply the silicone spray every few weeks as opposed to months of quiet riding with the Rohloff lube.

It’s worth noting that use of the Rohloff chain lube does make the belt a little “dirty” compared to unlubed belts, which are completely clean to the touch. Use of silicone spray maintains the cleanliness of the belt, making it the preferred choice of the crew at Gates.

Astute readers of the Carbon Drive owners manual will note that on page 3, under the heading “Care for your Carbon Drive”, bullet point #4 says “Do not lubricate.” No need to worry—this recommendation is for regular use where no squeaking is present.

Here is the official response from Gates on the topic:

Gates does not require the use of any sort of lubricant on our belt drive system. We only present the option for extremely dry and dusty conditions to mitigate noise. The system is designed to function without any sort of added product on the parts for its lifespan. You could run the drive without touching it for thousands of miles, you may just get some noise in particular scenarios so in that sense, it is bomb proof, it just has its quirks. We do recommend regular cleaning of the drive in order to maximize the longevity of the belt and sprockets.

For those dry and dusty conditions with a fine powder particulate on the roads and trails, we suggest the use of this product: 


This will generally last several hundred miles in those conditions or until it is washed off.

A little dirty might mean a little squeaky, but the belt will still function properly in these conditions

If you are experiencing a squeaky belt drive when riding in dusty conditions, remember that it’s not indicative of a major problem with your drivetrain, even if the squeaking drives you crazy. And with a small amount of effort, you can set up your belt for quiet performance in any conditions. If you’re looking for the longest-lasting solution, Rohloff’s chain lube is the best option we know of. If you want to maintain the absolute cleanliness of an unlubed belt, opt for a silicon spray like that suggested by Gates. In a pinch, a blast of water from a water bottle will provide short term noise relief to help get you to the end of your ride.

If you want to stay up-to-date on our latest technical tips and tricks, be sure to follow us on Instagram and give us a like on Facebook.