To Rohloff or not to Rohloff?
I've got a new bike on order - a Surly ECR 29 x 3+" bikepacking bike (should've arrived last week %#!#). One of the key questions I had to consider was whether I would get a rohloff hub for my gearing. Rohloff's are real expensive and they are heavy - heavier than the rings and cassette and derailleur and longer chain they do away with. So why would I even be considering this?
I've had my 14 speed rohloff now for 6-7 years, on my current go-to rough road touring bike, a Thorn Nomad. As noted above, they are expensive and heavy. On the con side, they're also a lot harder to service should something go wrong - you'll likely need to ship it off somewhere.
So, here's the pros:
* maintenance is easy & extremely low, with minimal ongoing parts replacement (saving $). Cables aside, the moving parts operate in the oil inside the sealed hub.
* I get the gear ratios I need - focused on low gears for loaded mountain tours
* in serious mud or (even more) snow, not having a rear derailleur drop to get bounced about, or a cassette to get gummed up and skip the chain, is a real sweet plus
* I like being able to change gears when not moving (e.g. at an intersection)
* proven to stand up to incredible riding abuse over long periods of time. I couldn't even count the remote rides I've done near home (see photo above), and I've taken this bike on a number of international rides, including a few into remote corners of the Himalayas
* particularly when riding internationally, one meets lots of rough road expedition tourists with rohloffs, and (almost always) similar positive experiences
Check the photo below. My rohloff even survived 5 high altitude days (up to ~4,800m) on the backs of these donkeys, trekking out from the remote Zanskar Valley.
The ECR is specifically designed to be able to accommodate a rohloff gearing set up. Surly gives a really good price if you buy a complete bike with components they specify. Eventually, partly due to costs, I decided to get this full bike. Over time, if I find I really like the ECR, I'll get a rohloff rear wheel. I may also add a new front wheel too, with a Schmidt dynohub.