Rohloff Speed hubs on E-bikes (Mechanical and E-14) - Discussion

Ravi Kempaiah

Well-Known Member
I have been using Rohloff hubs for sometime and I have nothing but highest respect for the level of engineering they brought into the space.
Sure there are Shimano, Sturmey-archer hubs but Rohloff has gained it's reputation for longevity and quality. Have a look at this article that was compiled in 2012 and it provides a batter insight into the role of IGH in E-bikes.


Optibike implemented Rohloff in their Ebikes well before Bosch and these hubs held up well even under 2000w of power. There are very few hubs that can do that for thousands of miles without breaking.

I have had very positive experience so far. But, recently I have read reports of problems here by @Alaskan, @dblhelix , @David Berry, who have put in thousands of miles and are key contributors here on the forum. I am not sure if it is a complete failure or just electrical gremlins but it did concern me quite a bit.

Let's have an objective discussion here. Please share your experience (+ or -).
My sister worked for Bosch in Germany ( as an embedded systems engineer, she was involved in the ABS development division) and I have been discussing the E-14 implementation with her and also with Rohloff AG.

They have seen a huge increase in the sales number of E-14 but failure rate has not increased. In many cases, when they received the Rohloff hub, they found that it could have been easily resolved at the dealer level but it was improperly diagnosed.

Hope this discussion helps all Rohloff owners.
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
I have been using Rohloff hubs for sometime and I have nothing but highest respect for the level of engineering they brought into the space.
Sure there are Shimano, Sturmey-archer hubs but Rohloff has gained it's reputation for longevity and quality. Have a look at this article that was compiled in 2012 and it provides a batter insight into the role of IGH in E-bikes.


Optibike implemented Rohloff in their Ebikes well before Bosch and these hubs held up well even under 2000w of power. There are very few hubs that can do that for thousands of miles without breaking.

I have had very positive experience so far. But, recently I have read reports of problems here by @Alaskan, @dblhelix , @David Berry, who have put in thousands of miles and are key contributors here on the forum. I am not sure if it is a complete failure or just electrical gremlins but it did concern me quite a bit.

Let's have an objective discussion here. Please share your experience (+ or -).
My sister worked for Bosch in Germany ( as an embedded systems engineer, she was involved in the ABS development division) and I have been discussing the E-14 implementation with her and also with Rohloff AG.

They have seen a huge increase in the sales number of E-14 but failure rate has not increased. In many cases, when they received the Rohloff hub, they found that it could have been easily resolved at the dealer level but it was improperly diagnosed.

Hope this discussion helps all Rohloff owners.
If Rohloff has time to discuss the situation with you, why does it take so long for them to address our issues? Honestly, this is ridiculous.

I don’t think it’s fair to point the finger at dealers. Yes, I’m sure the dealer-level techs are not experts, but unless Rohloff supplies the training, why should they be? Instead, here in the US, it’s the “one-guy” model. Everyone depends on the “one-guy” whether Neil at the Rohloff US service level, or Stewart from Rohloff. So all the US, dealers have to funnel their questions or requests for assistance through this ridiculous rate-limiting step.

i have confidence in E14. It has not failed me or given me any trouble at all. What I have NO confidence in is the expectation of speedy service. Now, despite E14 being a decent product, there is a non-zero probability of failure, especially after seeing oil dripping all over the control unit for 6 months. So let me be clear: to anyone considering the Rohloff hub/E14 combo: in the event of a problem, support is non-existent. This is not about assigning a reliability rate to the E14 technology — it’s too early for that, in fact.

Rohloff also needs to understand that customers buying these expensive bikes will keep them indoors. Leaking is not acceptable.

You should also add @Dionigi to the list. He had a freewheeling issue and once fixed, the bike was returned leaking — not by the dealer but by the service center.

Last summer, I stopped in multiple bicycle shops across the country. Mention of Cycle Monkey elicited an eye roll and comments like “yeah, the Rohloff guy.” If the dealer support is poor, it‘s on Rohloff AG. I’m just tired of the one-dude model, and two dudes is unlikely to improve it. I strongly believe training should be at dealer level, and we’ve all seen that it’s doable with Zoom or similar.

My bike has been leaking for six months. Before taking it to the dealer, I read all the Rohloff FAQS carefully. I noted that perhaps the hub had been overfilled when serviced. I prayed that it was so. But the dealer performed repeated flushes and refills under the mentorship of CM. Seals were replaced. No joy. Six months later, I receive an email where Rohloff suggests that perhaps ... it was overfilled. This is going nowhere.

Like dissolves like. The constant oil on the E14 cable/unit prompted my propping the bike upright as Rohloff suggests to reduce leaking. It had to happen .... bike tipped over, broken front fender and mirror. Im just tired of this. The first year of my warranty is soon over.

While this year seems unlikely, I do a lot of long distance traveling. I have zero confidence that in the event of a problem that it isn’t a trip-ender. These ppl don’t have a problem with leaving you high and dry.

It’s only a (severe) leak but it has revealed a lot about what to expect in the event of failure. It’s a bad bargain for such an expensive bike. They only care about sales, zero about service. I do not believe that Rohloff is unaware that the service model is subpar.

”Improperly diagnosed by the dealer” is just passing the buck. Let’s say that techs at dealerships are dropping the ball on Rohloff diagnosis but competent in all other areas (my experience). Whose fault is that? This whole RTFM attitude is a turn-off and should be discussed between Rohloff and the dealerships. The rest of us just want our bikes fixed without the drama.
 
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Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
I'll just say that I have been one of the lucky ones and have zero problems with the Rohloff hub. I've had my LBS do the annual service and there have been zero problems there as well.

So count me as a happy customer.
 
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Deacon Blues

Well-Known Member
I'm a bit concerned, because I've just ordered an ebike from WattWagons that will come with a Rohloff hub. Where I live getting the Rohloff hub fixed could be a very lengthy process, so reliability is paramount.
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
I'm a bit concerned, because I've just ordered an ebike from WattWagons that will come with a Rohloff hub. Where I live getting the Rohloff hub fixed could be a very lengthy process, so reliability is paramount.
I would be far less concerned if it’s not an E14 bike. It is unlikely you will be stopped in your tracks.
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
This comes up when you google "rohloff leaking oil":


What's interesting to me is that there might be a problem with seals being blown by shipping the bike via air. That might explain a lot of what we are hearing.
The Rohloff FAQ states that the hub can be operated with as little as 7ml safely. The kit provides 25ml, so if the old oil hasn’t been completely drained, or if cleaning fluid remains, you automatically overfill if you use the kit amount. It‘s neither here or there for my situation, but this might be useful info for those doing their own oil changes.

You’ll get a lot of pages on Rohloff hubs leaking when you google, but these instances don’t involve dripping all over the E14 cable/unit or brake rotors.

And more to the point: the one-man bottleneck just isn’t working. Even if you accept Rohloff’s assigning blame to the dealers (via this post — I haven’t been told this), then what is the end user to do? There is no satisfaction from this finger-pointing.
 

Ravi Kempaiah

Well-Known Member
If Rohloff has time to discuss the situation with you, why does it take so long for them to address our issues? Honestly, this is ridiculous.

As an OEM, I will be placing a large order this summer, so of course they will discuss it with me.

If we order a mushroom dish at a restaurant and it turns out bad, we don't go to the mushroom farmer, we talk to the waiter or the restaurant manager. It is the responsibility of the bike manufacturer to equip their dealers with spare parts and guide them as to how to service them.

Until now the number of Rohloff sales in the US is still minuscule compared to EU, so it has not necessitated additional support personnel.

So let me be clear: to anyone considering the Rohloff hub/E14 combo: in the event of a problem, support is non-existent.

I understand your frustration. Perhaps you may want to talk to your bike manufacturer. Rohloff has a couple of distributors (Cycle Monkey, Peter White, QBP) but the number of people who can actually service the hub is still limited.


They only care about sales, zero about service. I do not believe that Rohloff is unaware that the service model is subpar.

They sold the parts as OE to your bike manufacturer, not to an end consumer. So, it is something to be discussed with your dealer and manufacturer.
A top-class manufacturer will say .." hey.. sorry for all the hassle. I will ship you a new hub, just send your current one". Case closed.
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
Ravi, I am open-minded to your position, but it strikes me as a tough sell that either the dealer or the manufacturer has responsibility but Rohloff has none.
 

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Ravi Kempaiah

Well-Known Member
it strikes me as a tough sell that either the dealer or the manufacturer has responsibility but Rohloff has none.

The 2nd picture doesn't look nice at all. That should not be happening.

I can understand your frustration. Once you send the hub back to the manufacturer, what do you think happens? Rohloff will replace the hub. It is Rohloff's responsibility to replace anything defective. But a customer should not be held hostage during that entire process.

A truly great manufacturer will say .."Sorry, I sold you the bike. Send me the defective part, I am shipping you a working hub (new or used). I will deal with Rohloff"

The manufacturer purchases 1000's of hubs every year and they can deduct the expense or have Rohloff replace their inventory. The payment and service works differently at that level. The manufacturer may combine 25 or 30 defective hubs at the end of each quarter and ship it back to Rohloff for repair.
So, ultimately, Rohloff will have to standby their product and it is their responsibility.

Who should help you or facilitate this repair during the entire process? Why should you lose your warranty period in this imbroglio? Who has to keep up the warranty on your bike?
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
The 2nd picture doesn't look nice at all. That should not be happening.

I can understand your frustration. Once you send the hub back to the manufacturer, what do you think happens? Rohloff will replace the hub. It is Rohloff's responsibility to replace anything defective. But a customer should not be held hostage during that entire process.

A truly great manufacturer will say .."Sorry, I sold you the bike. Send me the defective part, I am shipping you a working hub (new or used). I will deal with Rohloff"

The manufacturer purchases 1000's of hubs every year and they can deduct the expense or have Rohloff replace their inventory. The payment and service works differently at that level. The manufacturer may combine 25 or 30 defective hubs at the end of each quarter and ship it back to Rohloff for repair.
So, ultimately, Rohloff will have to standby their product and it is their responsibility.

Who should help you or facilitate this repair during the entire process? Why should you lose your warranty period in this imbroglio? Who has to keep up the warranty on your bike?
For the record, an offer to replace the hub was made by the dealer, but there hasn’t been much progress, partially due to COVID-19. I can’t say with certainty whether this will happen or not, or when.

You make good points, but presumably an offer to replace isn’t made routinely due to hub cost. My real issue is with the process that gets you to this point. You’ve conceded that support is limited due to Rohloff’s assessment of the US market as “minuscule.” With only “one dude” to advise on next steps, the process has felt interminable.

And for this reason, I shudder at the thought of the (routinely oil-drenched) E14 conking out in the middle of nowhere. Prior to this, I didn’t worry at all. I assumed I‘d have a week downtime. Ignorance was bliss.
 

Ravi Kempaiah

Well-Known Member
For the record, an offer to replace the hub was made by the dealer, but there hasn’t been much progress, partially due to COVID-19. I can’t say with certainty whether this will happen or not, or when.

You make good points, but presumably an offer to replace isn’t made routinely due to hub cost. My real issue is with the process that gets you to this point. You’ve conceded that support is limited due to Rohloff’s assessment of the US market as “minuscule.” With only “one dude” to advise on next steps, the process has felt interminable.

And for this reason, I shudder at the thought of the (routinely oil-drenched) E14 conking out in the middle of nowhere. Prior to this, I didn’t worry at all. I assumed I‘d have a week downtime. Ignorance was bliss.


I understand but you need to look at this "one guy's" perspective as well.

Before, bike shops in the US were purchasing Rohloff hubs from this "one guy" and when issues came up, he would fix it.
Now, few EU manufacturers come into the US market and sell bikes with Rohloff that was not purchased from this "one guy" (he did not get a cut out of that) and ask him to fix broken stuff. Meanwhile, your manufacturer, Rohloff and this guy has to work out a solution for reimbursement for his time and effort. Until that is in place, he may move slowly.

There are bike shops that don't work on bikes that was not sold by them. Some Trek bike shops work on every bike but there are shops that don't.
and that is their stance. Similarly, this "one guy" may have a stance of his own.
 

byunbee

Well-Known Member
For the record, an offer to replace the hub was made by the dealer, but there hasn’t been much progress, partially due to COVID-19. I can’t say with certainty whether this will happen or not, or when.

You make good points, but presumably an offer to replace isn’t made routinely due to hub cost. My real issue is with the process that gets you to this point. You’ve conceded that support is limited due to Rohloff’s assessment of the US market as “minuscule.” With only “one dude” to advise on next steps, the process has felt interminable.

And for this reason, I shudder at the thought of the (routinely oil-drenched) E14 conking out in the middle of nowhere. Prior to this, I didn’t worry at all. I assumed I‘d have a week downtime. Ignorance was bliss.
Well..on one hand, it would frustrate me to hell if I had your problems. On the other hand, discouraging people from buying Rohloff will keep the sales low and thus the support network low.
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
I understand but you need to look at this "one guy's" perspective as well.

Before, bike shops in the US were purchasing Rohloff hubs from this "one guy" and when issues came up, he would fix it.

Meanwhile, your manufacturer, Rohloff and this guy has to work out a solution for reimbursement for his time and effort. Until that is in place, he may move slowly.


that is their stance. Similarly, this "one guy" may have a stance of his own.
Yes, I will say that the people I‘ve met who purchased their hub for a trad bike from him have also spoken highly about the service they received.

Truthfully, if “one-guy” is getting short-changed on ebike warranty work, I’m in favor of a work stoppage-style resistance, but naturally hate being on the other side of it. While this specific discussion doesn’t help owners of Eurobikes, it is quite interesting in its own right.
 

pushkar

Well-Known Member
From an OE perspective, in our somewhat limited set of bikes sold, and done over 70k miles (across different customers, and hubs), we have had zero Rohloff related issues. We provide practical guidelines, keep customers aware of limits, and work on best practices around hub maintenance.

That being said,
1. We use the mechanical version of the Rohloff and that may not be the same issue as other vendors have.
2. I’m not quite sure where the “seals blowing off “ happened. Rohloff AG never ships hubs with oil in them and the seals are typically rated for air freight (-40to -50 C). I’d be curious to know more about that scenario.
3. We lace the hub, add the oil, and ship the bikes via ground shipping. May be that avoids issues? Not sure.

I understand there will be issues with any component, and nothing is foolproof. I would be curious to know if these issues occur with non E14 hubs ?
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
From an OE perspective, in our somewhat limited set of bikes sold, and done over 70k miles (across different customers, and hubs), we have had zero Rohloff related issues. We provide practical guidelines, keep customers aware of limits, and work on best practices around hub maintenance.

That being said,
1. We use the mechanical version of the Rohloff and that may not be the same issue as other vendors have.
2. I’m not quite sure where the “seals blowing off “ happened. Rohloff AG never ships hubs with oil in them and the seals are typically rated for air freight (-40to -50 C). I’d be curious to know more about that scenario.
3. We lace the hub, add the oil, and ship the bikes via ground shipping. May be that avoids issues? Not sure.

I understand there will be issues with any component, and nothing is foolproof. I would be curious to know if these issues occur with non E14 hubs ?

If you’re getting your hubs from CM directly, you’re in pretty good shape, regardless, no? After all, should you experience a hub issue, you are unlikely to work on it yourself?

I don’t believe the hub itself is the issue and E14 remains to be seen. The problem is that for some of us, there is only a single (and possibly disgruntled) source of guidance/repair when a problem inevitably comes up.
 

pushkar

Well-Known Member
The problem is that for some of us, there is only a single (and possibly disgruntled) source of guidance/repair when a problem inevitably comes up.

That is interesting, and TBH not surprising. I can confirm that the biggest challenge Watt Wagons had to deal with at the beginning was to educate bike shops (that our customers would go to), on how to service the Rohloff!! It wasnt the motor (Ultra), or the battery, or the belt, or the custom light harness etc... or any other component on the bike ... it was the Rohloff hub. Anecdotal observations are that 90% of the shops my customers go to have either no experience with the rohloff or actually have not even seen one!

What we do as an OE (and I am happy to share this for everyone's benefit) is that if / when a case comes in specific to the Rohloff, we ask the customer to call us first. I then talk to the bike shop where they have their bikes serviced. We quickly ascertain the part or whatever is needed to resolve the issue, (with rohloff it is fairly straightdforward, there are usual suspects if you know what I mean)... and then we ship that part in an expedited manner to the bike shop.

We literally just swap things out. There is almost no point in trying to get the bike shop to fix the Rohloff. Bike shops need a LOT of handholding if you want to do a remote troubleshooting exercise, and it is almost always easier for us to RMA with Rohloff than have the customer / bike shop deal with any of that headache.


Now, all that being said, this service model clearly does NOT scale for Rohloff as a manufacturer. One way you get the rohloff is if you bought a brand name bike. In that case IMO it is the vendor's responsibility to address this issue quickly and satisfactorily. This is a huge big gap for brands that are not US based.

That still leaves the set of users who actually procure the rohloff on their own, DO have failures, and have no where to go, or have very limited / slow support. That is the gap that is crucial for Rohloff. I have no idea what percentage of users go that route outside of a brand name bike... but I would agree with everyone here that that service model has got to get better for that segment. No question about that.

edit: cleaned up some verbiage for clarity.
 
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Alaskan

Well-Known Member
To me this is a classic case of manufacturers pointing at each other trying to avoid responsibility. Fortunately I have a retailer with integrity in my corner. My issue is clearly a flaw in the hub itself and has nothing to do with E14 or electronics. The thing started leaking oil.

In early January, the Rohloff on my 9 month old Riese & Muller Homage, with 3,500 miles on it, started leaking oil into the center passage where the spindle passes through the hub. The oil was seeping out all over the the E14 mech (which has never had a problem even when covered with oil). The oil was getting on the inner ring and lattice of the brake rotor but had not yet spun out to the outer braking ring surface. I am pretty meticulous in my maintenance so I caught it right away, before it started dripping on the floor.

My Riese & Muller dealer, LA Fly Rides, is 1,300 miles away, I called them asking for help. They authorized me to to take my bike into the local Trek shop, who will work on any bike, to have the wheel removed and shipped to Cycle Monkey in Richmond, California. Cycle Monkey was the only Rohloff authorized service facility. Fly Rides opened up a service request on my behalf and told me that Cycle Monkey estimated a 2 week turnaround for my repair. A month went by and I called Fly Rides who tried to contact Cycle Monkey but did not hear back from them. A pattern emerged of no communication, no answering of voice mail or email...nothing. I spend much of February on my bike in California, so I did not stay right on top of it. @Dionigi has an even worse tale to tell about Cycle Monkey and an oil leak on his Rohloff.

Supposedly Rohloff is training up another service center for the east coast. They need to get a supply of parts into North America. Right now all parts have to be ordered from Germany causing ridiculous delays.

After the passage of another month, I called Fly Rides to request that they contact Rohloff and Riese & Muller about the unacceptably poor service Rohloff provides in North America. I asked that Fly Rides get my wheel and hub back to their shop and put a new Rohloff on it and get my bike working again. Fly Rides contacted Rohloff and got them to agree to a fix. They put all new innards in my hub, new gears, seals, bearings, etc. The only original part remaining is the case which has the original serial # on it. They also replaced the E14 and brake rotor. The wheel was shipped back up to me with the new hub parts arriving this past Tuesday, April 13 almost exactly 3 months after it was sent in.

My take is that:
  • Rohloff has drunk too much of their own kool-aid, claiming their product is totally reliable and will never need anything except an oil change....clearly not true
  • Rohloff has a lousy service provider for North America - Cycle Monkey clearly has a culture of no communication, not with retail customers, not with dealers. They are the show and we have to accept it.
  • Claims that Rohloff with Gate belt offers a maintenance free drive train are hype. There is no such thing.
  • The above may have been true for bike powered by legs alone but clearly on ebikes there are problems showing up.
  • I suspect, but cannot prove, that the forces applied to the gear box by an e bike is revealing weaknesses in the Rohloff design.
  • Riese & Muller needs to reevaluate how they support their Rohloff equipped bikes. Rohlofff's problems with service and communication are reflecting poorly on Riese & Muller and hurting their brand.
  • Without the help of LA Fly Rides, a solid dealer who is committed to customer satisfaction, I would have been screwed.
  • Cleaning, oiling and replacing the chain on a derailleur system is not such a big pain after all....way better than not having your bike for three months.
  • Will I ever buy another bike with a Rohloff? Probably not. If it worked as advertised I would... but it doesn't.
 
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Alaskan

Well-Known Member
That is interesting, and TBH not surprising. I can confirm that the biggest challenge Watt Wagons had to deal with at the beginning was to educate bike shops (that our customers would go to), on how to service the Rohloff!! It wasnt the motor (Ultra), or the battery, or the belt, or the custom light harness etc... or any other component on the bike ... it was the Rohloff hub. Anecdotal observations are that 90% of the shops my customers go to have either no experience with the rohloff or actually have not even seen one!

What we do as an OE (and I am happy to share this for everyone's benefit) is that if / when a case comes in specific to the Rohloff, we ask the customer to call us first. I then talk to the bike shop where they have their bikes serviced. We quickly ascertain the part or whatever is needed to resolve the issue, (with rohloff it is fairly straightdforward, there are usual suspects if you know what I mean)... and then we ship that part in an expedited manner to the bike shop.

We literally just swap things out. There is almost no point in trying to get the bike shop to fix the Rohloff. Bike shops need a LOT of handholding if you want to do a remote troubleshooting exercise, and it is almost always easier for us to RMA with Rohloff than have the customer / bike shop deal with any of that headache.


Now, all that being said, this service model clearly does NOT scale for Rohloff as a manufacturer. One way you get the rohloff is if you bought a brand name bike. In that case IMO it is the vendor's responsibility to address this issue quickly and satisfactorily. This is a huge big gap for brands that are not US based.

That still leaves the set of users who actually procure the rohloff on their own, DO have failures, and have no where to go, or have very limited / slow support. That is the gap that is crucial for Rohloff. I have no idea what percentage of users go that route outside of a brand name bike... but I would agree with everyone here that that service model has got to get better for that segment. No question about that.

edit: cleaned up some verbiage for clarity.

Given that the Rolhoff is the most expensive component on the bike. Who is responsible for servicing it is crucial. Most of the time when you buy something the manufacturer is fully responsible for all the components. If I take my Mercedes in for service and the alternator has crapped out, I don't have to deal with Bosch about it. Mercedes service handles it.

I wonder if manufacturer's like Rise & Muller have an agreement with Rohoff that Rohloff takes care of servicing their product even when it is incorporated into R&M's bike. Regardless of the arrangement, Riese & Muller will suffer as a result of Rohloff's failure to adequately support their product. R&M should be taking affirmative action to protect their own reputation at this point.

From a consumer's point of view, this is an unacceptable breakdown in service and support for an expensive, high end product.