Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Surly Pugsley, a Rohloff hub, and some observations

I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about my experience with mounting a Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 CC OEM2 to a Surly Pugsley. While doing research for this project I found precious little information, so I hope that my experience might be of benefit to anyone else who might be considering this as an option. Nearly all the information I did find came from the incredibly generous Neil Flock at Cycle Monkey. Neil's never-ending patience with my relentless questions bordered on the angelic, and he always had an answer for me, sometimes late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. I honestly don't know when he sleeps! And the Monkeybone that he sells to integrate the hub and the disc-brake mount is a wonderful piece of engineering and works perfectly. 

Neil Flock from Cycle Monkey. I imagine him saying "No more questions, Rusty!"

As a bikepacker, and by that I mean someone who goes out for the weekend bikepacking (not someone who goes on adventures, I tried that once and it turned out badly), I have always been enamored of the Rohloff hub. The biggest problem with them has been that they are virtually cost prohibitive, unless you happen to find a deal on a used one, or live in a house with at least five bathrooms, or your last name is "Rohloff." After listening to me vacillate for several years back and forth on whether I was going to buy one my co-workers were getting just plain tired of hearing about it. It was a stroke of remarkable good fortune when one of them through an acquaintance found a used hub in mint condition at the reasonable price of $750. I snatched it up and started the research into how to install this monster into my Pugsley. This was when the emails to Neil started...sorry Neil. I did order all the accessories from him that I needed to hook the hub up, I hope that made it worth it!

When the hub finally arrived it was with despair that I realized it was the QR, or "quick release" version, a rare beast among already rare hubs. Unfortunately, the Pugsley has rear-facing horizontal dropouts (I know, thanks Surly...) which are usually considered a no-go for QR axles on off-road bikes. The amount of torque generated, particularly by my massive legs (that's a joke folks), is enough to make the wheel "walk" in the dropouts, either from pedaling uphill in super-low gears, or by hard braking when going down steep terrain. There are a variety of gadgets and doohickies designed to control the wheel's tendency to walk, but they significantly increase the jank factor or "jankiness," which I absolutely hate. I like things to be clean and engineered to work together, and I despise it when a bunch of extra crap is needed to make things do what they should just do on their own. 

The first thing I employed to try and control the wheel slipping was a Surly Tuggnut. This wasn't terrible, it being designed to integrate seamlessly with the Pugsley dropout, but it had a bit of jank to it. It certainly kept the wheel from sliding forward on the drive side, but it did nothing for the slipping on the non-drive side, and made taking the wheel out to work on it a royal PITA. It's already a PITA, so making it any worse was way out. F that!

The Pugsley rear wheel with the Rohloff and Tuggnut

The second thing I tried was filing all of the paint off of the dropouts and roughing them up, then I simply slid the wheel all the way forward. I was hoping that the extra clamping surface for the Shimano XT QR skewer I was using would be enough to hold the wheel in place. This option also required adding a chain tensioner...major jankage, but this method seemed to work OK. On a recent bikepacking trip I wasn't able to slide the wheel under hard pedaling, but under a panic stop the wheel still shifted a little. I think that this option would work for most people though, at least under the conditions where you would normally be riding a Pugsley. 

The Pugsley with the Rohloff in bikepacking mode

Unfortunately for me, my anal-retentive/anti-jank nature simply wouldn't accept the potential wheel movement. That combined with the fairly considerable weight penalty that comes with the Rohloff, and  in the end I decided to pull it off the Pugsley and install it on my Novara Safari. The Safari is a very capable 29'er touring bike, so capable in fact that my friend Erden Eruc rode one around the world! The Safari has (like most normal bikes made in the last 30 years, thanks Surly) vertical dropouts which integrate perfectly with the QR version of the Rohloff. Since I am commuting on the Safari every day in all weather I get the benefit of the hub's sealed mechanism and longevity. And with 29'er off-road tires, I will now be able to use the Safari in bikepacking mode. So far it's a win all around. I shed a bunch of weight off an already heavy Pugsley, and I upgraded the Safari to boot!

The Rohloff installed in the Safari

The Safari in commuting mode 

I'm still back and forth thinking about getting one of the bolt-on axle versions of the Rohloff for my Pugsley though. I just need to check in with my co-workers again and see if they think it's a good idea...

No comments:

Post a Comment