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  1. #1
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    Which Bike to buy?? Also to Rohloff, or not to Rohloff.

    Howdy folks,

    Newbie here looking to ask a few questions. I've looked through the forum and haven't really been able to find what I was looking for, I apologize in advance if I've missed something and am needlessly asking a question.
    Anyhow, I'm planning a fairly extensive Asian trip, starting along good European roads, I am planning on going through the near East, Turkey through Iran and into the 'stans. From there I'd go into China and down through to SE Asia. Anyhow, my question is, a trip like this, something that I'd like to do over the better part of a year, is going to really beat up a bike. I've read of other folks doing a trip like this and have seen a wide variety of bikes used. While I'd like to get away with a midrange bike like the Surly LHT, I've seen a fair few folk spending on the Thorn Raven tour or one of Bruce Gordon's Rock n Road Tour. What would you recommend. If I wanted to bike for a year or more straight would I be better of buying one of those 3 grand bikes?
    Second to that is the question of the Rohloff hub. In my limited experience Ive had trouble with the typical derailleur gear set up and having driven (not biked) along some of these rough central asian roads, Im hesitant. is it worth the extra grand?

    So I guess summed up my questions are, what should I look to spend on a bike which I plan to take on the roughest and toughest of roads? Also should I be looking at a rohloff or not?

    Hope someone can help me with these questions,
    Charles

  2. #2
    djb
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    there are many online journals of people who have done very long trips like you are thinking of. Many have used derailleurs and some have used Rohloffs. Have you been able to use one before (Rohloff)? What sort of problems have you had with derailleurs?

    I could see using a Rohloff for the maintenance free aspect of it (lower maintenace I guess I should say) so if you have the funds, heck why not. As for frames, you will get all kinds of opinions, and from someone who has never done a trip of that duration, all I can do is to suggest some journals or blogs to look at.

    -whileoutriding (Rohloff)
    -travelling two (reg derailleurs) they have done a similar route to what you are thinking.
    -Family on Bikes, nancy sv and her families trip from Alaska to the bottom of south america (deraill)
    -another BF poster, zeppinger and his Crazy Guy on a Bike journal , through China, Tibet etc (deraill)

    CGOAB will be your best resource for people describing long long trips and what gear they use.

    good luck with your decisions.

  3. #3
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    I like my Rohloff fairly well, but it's not perfect.

    On the plus side:

    Very wide gear range: I go from about 20 gear inches to about 110. This is enough for anything I encounter, including dirt roads straight up the sides of mountains.

    Easy access to all gears any time: Being able to shift while stopped for traffic, or when you come around the downhill hairpin to discover an immediate 30% uphill grade, is nice.

    Next to no maintenance: You change the oil once a year. The manual asks you to lube a little part on a regular basis. I think that's overkill, but even if you don't, it takes five minutes and no tools. And that's pretty much it.

    Reliability: Rohloff claims that it essentially doesn't wear out. I certainly haven't had any problems on that count, and I can be kind of rough with a bicycle.

    On the negative side:

    Weight: It's about a pound heavier than the stuff it replaces. Probably not worth worrying about on a loaded tourer.

    Noise: It's a lot louder than a good derailleur system. With aluminum fenders it's actually kind of embarrassing. Some gears are louder than others, to the degree that I try to avoid them.

    Uniqueness: Yeah, you're probably not going to need any spares while on tour, but if you do, you better have brought them with you. Few bike shops will be able to help.

    Available frames: There aren't very many, and (IMO) none that are ideal. The Thorn, for instance, is so overbuilt that they aren't any fun to ride - again IMO. Co-Motion makes a better one AFAIC, but I ended up building my own because I couldn't otherwise get what I wanted.

    Short version: If money's not an issue, I'd probably select a Rohloff to accompany me on a long tour - but I'd make sure to carry some spares with me!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    www.crazyguyonabike.com

    I'd echo go with the Rohloff. Should it fail, very unlikely, the company has a great rep for replacing it in exotic locales. It IS a luxury item though. Derailleurs will do the job just fine, and can likely be serviced locally.

    As for the bike, Fit is always First and can only be verified with some long test rides. Get as close as possible before purchase. Modify as needed for comfort. Consider adding aerobars for another hand position and for aerodynamics. Big comfort component.

    Steel frame for its potential for a field repair and 26" wheels for world wide availability. Pay particular attention to wheel quality.

    Bikes are frames with a bunch of replaceable components hung here and there. Any of the three you mentioned will handle your trip just fine. Thorn is the generally accepted standard for epic touring.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    I have been really, really happy with the Rivendell Hunqapillar I bought last year. It will take any beating you give it, on road or off,and it is really comfortable.

    I don't have experience with the Rohloff IGH, only Shimano and Nuvinci,but I would think twice about taking an IGH on a tour. Others do I know,but I would not want to be in SW Buttheadistan if the black box did break. Being able to service things on the road has proven to be too important over the years.

    Marc
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    "I can still do everything I used to, but now I'm mature enough to take a nap without being told." - Me

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    The only reason why I did not get the Rohloff for my arvon2 (a totally disassemblable mini-velo tourer) is that the double cable system was going to present problems with assembly and dis.

    The arvon2 has 20" wheels and comes to pieces and (just) fits into a foldable aluminum box (that I carry on the platform of the rear rack) that measures 20" x 20" x 12". Instead arvon2 has a SA 8 speed that has a single cable that is easy to route and remove/assemble as the bike pieces are also rem../assem...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    tmac100, can you give us a link to the Arvon2? Or pictures? I got nothing from Google. A folder with an aluminum box that can double as a gear box on the rack sounds intriguing.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    Very wide gear range: I go from about 20 gear inches to about 110. This is enough for anything I encounter, including dirt roads straight up the sides of mountains.
    Finally, someone who knows the Rohloff gear inch range. What chainring/cog setup are you using to get this range?
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    46x16. Rohloff permits the use of much smaller ratios, so I think I could go down to less than ten gear inches if needed. If I ever tour the Pyrenees with 70 pounds of gear, I know which bike I'll be using!

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    Thanks for all the tips and suggestions, I guess my issues with a derailleur have been pretty standard, maintenance related ones. I guess it accounts to laziness or inattentiveness on my part to be honest.
    So basically it sounds as if the pro to the rohloff is low low maintenance but the con being if you break down in the middle of nowhere, you're up **** creek? Where as its pretty easy to replace derailleur parts wherever you may be? Is that the long and short of it? Also how loud is loud?

    As for my other question regarding what bike to purchase, (thanks for the different links and web suggestions) it seems to come down to what you're willing to spend. It seems that broadly speaking, there are the people who will spend the world on a bike and then there are those who'll tour on something they bought for $20 (exaggeration I know). I'd like to know if anyone can tell me whether they've heard of someone who spent somewhere around a thousand to fifteen hundred (with racks) and spent a year or two touring. Would say the Bruce Gordan BLT or the Trek 520 or Surley LHT do the trick for someone in their mid 20s who weighs 65-70 kilos? Or is it better to fork out the extra couple thousand? While I know one could say its just a matter of preference, I would appreciate it if people could explain why they think what they think. ie if you think cheaper is fine explain why, if you think its important to spend more why?
    Thanks for your time, and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to answer.
    Charles

  11. #11
    sss
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    I recommend that you read Mark Beaumont's book, "The Man Who Cycled the World". The first half of his trip sounds simliar to your proposed route (although he crossed India rather than China). According to his wiki page his bike used a Rohloff hub.

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    Charles, my $.02 is that you're entirely in personal preference territory ONCE you've got the position dialed in. I've had a bike shop in the past and am a couple decades out of familiarity with what's new, discs and Rohloff IGH but my experience from touring is that sometimes sh*t happens. The wheel or bike gets trashed and if you have something that's unique and are attached to it,,like a $1500 hub, you may find yourself putting in a cheap $50 wheel. Personally I'd just get "good enough" and enjoy the trip. Once the bikes handling is what I like and the tires and tire pressure dialed in the bike disappears underneath you.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesA View Post
    While I know one could say its just a matter of preference, I would appreciate it if people could explain why they think what they think. ie if you think cheaper is fine explain why, if you think its important to spend more why?
    Thanks for your time, and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to answer.
    Charles
    Trek 520 and LHT have proven themselves to be reliable touring bikes under nearly every imaginable condition. They come equiped with mid grade, readily available components that can often be found in exotic locations. The LHT at least has 26" wheel option. Don't think the 520 does. Stick with 26" and have the spokes stress relieved and maybe upgraded. The wheel build is critical for an epic tour. At $1500, you've reached the point of diminishing return for the $$$.

    Consider a disc brake on the rear and a rim brake on the front. Two discs are unnecessary, adding complexity and weight. By mixing you get great stopping power in wet/muddy conditions, rim preservation, and the field repair simplicity of a rim brake. Nobody makes a bike this way so you'd have to modify whatever. I think the LHT may have, or soon will have, a disc option. Also, stick with friction shifters, again for reliability and simplicity. That's what you need to shoot for on a long tour in developing countries.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    Trek 520 and LHT have proven themselves to be reliable touring bikes under nearly every imaginable condition. They come equiped with mid grade, readily available components that can often be found in exotic locations. The LHT at least has 26" wheel option. Don't think the 520 does. Stick with 26" and have the spokes stress relieved and maybe upgraded. The wheel build is critical for an epic tour. At $1500, you've reached the point of diminishing return for the $$$.

    Consider a disc brake on the rear and a rim brake on the front. Two discs are unnecessary, adding complexity and weight. By mixing you get great stopping power in wet/muddy conditions, rim preservation, and the field repair simplicity of a rim brake. Nobody makes a bike this way so you'd have to modify whatever. I think the LHT may have, or soon will have, a disc option. Also, stick with friction shifters, again for reliability and simplicity. That's what you need to shoot for on a long tour in developing countries.
    Thanks to all for the comments! Definitely gives the inexperienced mind a lot to dwell upon. Im not going away on the big trip for about a year, but I'd like to buy the bike in the next few months and start fiddling around with parts and preferences.

    Will definitely take everything into consideration when heading down to my LBS. Good to know that I can get away with the cheaper bike and the advice on the rohloff is soundly presented on both sides of the argument.

    Thanks again! Will let you folks know what I decide when the time comes.
    Charles

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    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesA View Post
    Thanks for all the tips and suggestions, I guess my issues with a derailleur have been pretty standard, maintenance related ones. I guess it accounts to laziness or inattentiveness on my part to be honest.
    So basically it sounds as if the pro to the rohloff is low low maintenance but the con being if you break down in the middle of nowhere, you're up **** creek? Where as its pretty easy to replace derailleur parts wherever you may be? Is that the long and short of it? Also how loud is loud?
    I use derailleurs quite a bit and have no real complaint with them. The Rohloff is better in some ways and worse in others. I like that I can select any gear I want, any time I want, with a single control. It's easier and more friendly than manipulating double controls and figuring out which chainring and cog will give me the gear I want - but the derailleurs aren't exactly rocket science, either! And I like that I can more-or-less ignore the Rohloff too. It just doesn't need the attention that derailleurs do.

    I personally think the worries about the Rohloff breaking down in the middle of nowhere are overblown. It's pretty unlikely - much less likely than with derailleurs, IMO. And frankly, replacing a modern derailleur isn't exactly a piece of cake in lower whereamistan either. And whereas with a derailleur breakdown you may well be stuck in your smallest cog, a failure of a Rohloff cable or box still allows you to manually select an appropriate gear, and manually change that gear when you need to. Only a catastrophic failure of the hub itself would leave you stranded, and I've never actually heard of that happening.

    WRT noise, the Rohloff is almost silent in some gears, while others sound like a maladjusted derailleur. Imagine the sound of the chain grinding "in between" cogs: kind of annoying on its own, and almost intolerable if you have metal fenders acting as resonators.

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    djb
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    the other angle of course is that for the $1000 + extra spent on a really good IG like a Rohloff compared to a good derailleur, this would translate into a LOT of travelling expenses on the road for a long time , or a plane ticket or two....

    monsieur six jours, your comments on the Rohloffs have been very informing, and good to hear an knowledgeable (yet unbiased) take on their strengths and weaknesses. They really seem to be a fantastically engineered bit of kit.
    Last edited by djb; 12-10-11 at 11:21 PM.

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    Co Motion is another builder able to make a frameset to tension a rohloff chain. .
    I got a Koga miyata WTR, NL made bike with one , similar thru their signature program now
    Frame is a bit better, ESP rear dropout sliding chain tension fittings.
    38/16t drive.. 26" wheel
    I more recently bought a Bike Friday Pocket Llama, Rohloff , with a chain tensioner + disc brakes
    A Schmidt disc/dyno hub up front.

    It's packability into a common type suitcase , or their trailer suitcase to bring with,
    is well known for it's travel convenience, getting the thing in the cargo hold at lowest cost,
    skipping some , it's a Bike, in a box , surcharges.
    53/16t, 20" wheel ..

    Both, ends up being about the same gear range ..

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    tmac100, can you give us a link to the Arvon2? Or pictures? I got nothing from Google. A folder with an aluminum box that can double as a gear box on the rack sounds intriguing.
    The box folds "flat" into a "platform" 10" X 20" X 2" and sits on the rack. I use 2 panniers to carry gear and things. The tent, etc sits on the platform and ...

    Once I return from my sons' surfing vacation in Morocco I'll post some pics - probably on Flicker. Anyone have other suggestions regarding posting pics?

    The original thread about arvon2 is as follows:

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ox.?highlight=

  19. #19
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Thanks for the link. Custom built in Canada apparently. Sort of a banana seat folder. Odd but functional.

    Posting picture here is not intuitive. I have this thread bookmarked.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    Take this advice for what it's worth. I've never done a trip like you are suggesting, and my experience of the region is limited to a couple of weeks backpacking in India rather too many years ago.

    However I did want to make a similar journey a while back and spent some time planning.

    I came up with the idea of riding a 26" wheeled bike with drop bars. I was tempted by a Dawes Sardar, but I think a 26" LHT would be at least as good. I liked the idea of stronger wheels, Less bottom bracket drop, and bigger tyres for the unpredictable road conditions.

    When I was planning/dreaming the Rohloff was very new, and much less proven, but I did give it some serious consideration. In the end I decided I would rather have a dérailleur. A Rohloff might be less vulnerable and more durable, but if something goes wrong it will be a problem. However A derailleur is more likely to be mendable and parts, including whole wheels, are much easier to find.
    That might have been mitigated by the extra reliability, but what finally swung it for me was that for the weight and cost penalty of the Rohloff I could buy and carry several spare dérailleurs!

    I felt that if I was going to spend a year abusing myself and my bike in occasionally difficult conditions something was bound to break. I decided I wanted to give myself the best chance of mending the bike myself, and the money saved initially would give me a safety net if my body let me down.
    Last edited by Fat tabby; 12-11-11 at 09:57 AM.

  21. #21
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    I have been using the Rohloff hub on my main bike (a Thorn Raven Tour) for the last eight years and I can't really recommend it enough. If I was going on a world tour I would certainly use both the hub and the bike. I don't think you'll have any more trouble getting replacements for a Rohloff hub than any of the modern mountain bike groupsets if you are out in the back-of-beyond. People there will probably be using the cheapest components, if they aren't just using singlespeed.
    On a trip like that you probably want a bike that can handle all the luggage without a whimper, and my Thorn definitely did that last summer when I biked across the Icelandic highlands.

    Magnus Thor
    Iceland

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    tcs
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    About IGHs and long rides to out of the way places:

    Mark Beaumont rode around the world in 194 days using a Rohloff IGH, setting a new Guinness Record.
    Julian Sayarer rode around the world in 169 days using a Rohloff IGH, lowering the record.
    Then Vin Cox rode around the world in 163 days using a Shimano Alfine 8-speed IGH. He's the current world record holder.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

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    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Be sure to keep us updated if/when you make this trip.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


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    Regarding the Surley LHT, if you go that way, I recommend buying the frame and building up the bike exactly how you want it (doing the work yourself as much as possible). This has two advantages:

    1) The bike will be built exactly how you want it.
    2) The experience you gain building up the bike will serve you well on the road.

    Of course the disadvantage is added cost, both due to upgraded parts and the fact that retail customers pay a lot more for parts than bicycle companies. The latter disadvantage can be mitigated somewhat by buying parts over time and searching for deals.

    Paul

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    I was in your position a few years ago... I opted for a rohloff (thorn). I used it to cycle 25,000km through Africa... after 15,000km ish I got a wobble in the back wheel... worn hub bearings. I had thought time would be no issue if needed to send hub for repair but visas were an issue. So I kept riding. Although not ideal, it managed another 10,000km to get me back home. No problems getting it repaired once home. Took bike to Thorn and they replaced hub in 30mins while I waited.
    Still happily touring with the Rohloff. But knowing more now, I would probs get a derailleur as can get system fixed/replaced anywhere.
    LHT's can really go anywhere, even if you call them mid-range.
    My trips on Rohloff - www.helenstakeon.com
    Lars Bengtsson's trips on LHT - www.lostcyclist.com

    And you can use the saved money for longer touring! Or more beers... or whatever is your thing!

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