Posted by Gregory Maassen on February 4, 2022 - Latest revision February 4, 2022  Reading time: minutes remaining

Review: An Impressive Internal Hub with Electronic Shifting. Meet the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 for E-bikes

Rohloff started production of the SPEEDHUB 500/14 in 1996 for long-distance road touring bikes. In 2017, the company introduced the SPEEDHUB 500/14 for e-bikes with the Rohloff E-14 shifting system. 

The SPEEDHUB 500/14 is installed on premium e-bikes and easily costs over $1,000 extra compared to other drive trains. Consumers cannot buy the hub separately as it is only sold to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) e-bike manufacturers. The product is designed for reliability and endurance.

A Long-Distance Workhorse for Electric Bicycles

We have selected the SPEEDHUB 500/14 with the electronic shifter for our long-distance e-biking tours. In 2019, the first SPEEDHUB reached the distance from the earth to the moon with a distance of 238,855 miles (384,400 km). This is an enormous accomplishment and speaks highly of the precise engineering of the gearbox.

The 300,000th SPEEDHUB 500/14 was produced in 2020. This represents an estimated retail value of over $300 million since production of the hub commenced!

The Registration of Rohloff Hubs

Rohloff hubs have a registration number engraved directly into the shell (after serial number 75000). Older models have a sticker with the serial number.

The hub needs to be registered with Rohloff to be serviced. The company also flags a serial number if a Rohloff is reported stolen. The company manages to return approximately 50% of all stolen hubs to their rightful owners.

To register your Rohloff Hub, visit https://www.rohloff.de/en/service/my-speedhub/registration

Maintenance of the Rohloff Hub

The hub only requires an oil change once a year or every 3,106 miles (5,000 km), whatever comes first. An oil change is easy. See the instruction video below.

We recommend that you purchase the oil changing set from Rohloff’s service provider in the US: https://www.cyclemonkey.com. As unexpected things happen on the trail during long distance rides, we carry a spare oil change kit. 

An oil change kit is approximately $50, including postage. The oil is rapidly biodegradable. The internal gears only need 7 ml. of oil to operate, and the rest of the oil reduces the noise of the gearbox. Due to altitude and temperate differences, pressure changes may cause minor oil “sweating” of the hub. This is perfectly normal.

Transport an e-bike with a Rohloff hub straight up, not flat, to avoid oil leakages. Also never submerge the hub as water may enter the gearbox. If this happens, you need to change the oil immediately to flush water from the hub.

E-bike Range with the Rohloff Hub

The SPEEDHUB 500/14 has 14 gears and a 526% range of gears. In other words, gear #14 is 5.26 times greater than gear #1. Each gear provides a range increase of 13.6%. Combined with a Bosch motor’s four driving modes (Eco, Tour, Sport/EMTB, and Turbo), you have 64 different biking modes.

This is sufficient for the most demanding riders and especially useful if you tow a trolley or carry heavy panniers on inclines.

The range-to-weight ratio of this reliable hub is truly phenomenal and the reason why we selected the SPEEDHUB 500/14 for our most demanding tours, including the 2022 cross-country e-bike tour. As an extra bonus, once the sensors note the e-bike has come to a stop, the E-14 system will automatically shift down to a pre-programmed gear. 

The Weight of the SPEEDHUB 500/14

Although hubs are heavier than a derailleur, e-bikers can be more forgiving when it comes to the weight of components. The Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 weighs 120 grams per gear, and it is the lightest gear hub on the market. We are not concerned about the weight of the SPEEDHUB 500/14 on our e-bikes.

Noise of the SPEEDHUB 500/14

Not all gears of the SPEEDHUB 500/14 generate the same noise. We noticed that gear # 7 is more noisy. This is normal according to the manufacturer. The “break-in period” of the gearbox is 621 miles (1,000 km). After this, the gears should be making less noise. You do not need to change the oil after the first 621 miles as it only needs to be replaced after 3,106 miles (5,000 km) or one year, whatever comes first.

Efficiency of the Rohloff Hub

The SPEEDHUB 500/14 is very efficient in all gears, and in many ways, it is as efficient as a chain with a derailleur. The figure below compares the hub with with a derailleur and 7-8 speed hubs.

The efficiency of the hub is essential for long-distance e-bikers as every watt lost in friction over thousands of miles affects an e-bike’s range.

Pros
  • RELIABLE - Combined with a belt, the hub drive is extremely durable and reliable.
  • COST-EFFECTIVE - Although more expensive initially, servicing costs are limited to $50 annually and possibly is more cost-effective than maintaining a derailleur with a chain. 
  • EFFICIENCY - The hub is almost as efficient as a chain with a derailleur.
  • INCREDIBLE RANGE - The SPEEDHUB 500/14 has 14 gears and a 526% range of gears.
  • AUTOMATIC DOWN SHIFTING - The E-14 system automatically shifts down to a pre-programmed gear when the e-bike is not moving.
  • EASY TO USE - No special skills are needed to operate the hub. The electronic shifter is operated by a controller on the handlebar.
  • WEATHER INDEPENDENT - Works in all weather conditions.
  • COMPATIBLE - The systems works perfectly with Bosch motors.
  • RECOVERY - The manufacturer maintains a registry of hubs. When stolen, the hub may be recovered.
Cons
  • HEAVIER - Although the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 weighs 120 grams per gear or 1,680 grams in total, it is not a big issue for e-bikers.
  • EXPENSIVE - This is the most expensive hub on the market.
  • LIMITED SERVICE - The hub cannot be serviced by a bike shop. It needs to be shipped to the only service center in the US. Any owner can ship the hub to the service center.
  • OIL SWEATING - The hub can "sweat" a small amount of oil. We have not experienced this so far.
  • SMALL CONTROL BUTTONS - The buttons on the handlebar controller to engage the electronic shifter could be larger.
  • NOISE - The hub makes some noise, but so does a derailleur with a chain. Noise levels reduce over time after the gears set in.

Conclusion

The SPEEDHUB 500/14 by Rohloff is an incredibly robust and well-engineered German gearbox. You cannot buy a Rohloff. It comes with an e-bike. They easily add over $1,000 to the costs of a new e-bike, but are worth the extra money if you value reliability, quality and efficiency during long-distance e-biking.

We have selected the SPEEDHUB 500/14 with electronic shifting for E-bike Lovers' most demanding tours, including the 2022 Cross-Country E-bike Ride.

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