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