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Cycle Monkey

Internal Gearing Specialists, Bicycle Distribution & Service Center

Jones Plus 29+ Bikepacking Trail Bike w/ Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 and Gates Carbon Drive

This original-model Jones Bikes Plus (now called Plus LWB) is a great example of the possibility to convert an existing bike with derailleur(s) and chain to Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub with Gates Carbon Drive belt. The customer—a local from Sonoma County—had been enjoying the original build for several years, riding off-road trails in Northern California in addition to taking on the occasional longer bikepacking trip. With all those off-road miles and associated shifting adjustments, the rider eventually grew tired of maintaining the 2x derailleur drivetrain and decided it was time to find a more reliable option.

He was also interested in installing wider tires, and the 2x, double-chainring setup originally installed on the bike didn't provide sufficient chain-tire clearance. 12-speed, 1x single-chainring drivetrains have become popular among mountain bikers and gravel riders in recent years, and the customer initially assumed these options were his best bet to maintain a wide gear range and gain the additional tire clearance he was looking for.

After he discovered Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB 500/14 14-speed internal gear hub, however, he started to consider the benefits of an internal drivetrain. Further research into the SPEEDHUB 500/14 led him to explore the additional benefits of the Gates Carbon Drive belt drive system, and soon enough he reached out to us at Cycle Monkey to discuss options for installing both systems onto his Jones Plus.

The trifecta: Gates Carbon Drive belt, Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14, and some really, really voluminous tires!

The conversion started with removing all the components and bringing the frame to our local fabricator, where we had a tube splitter installed in the drive side chainstay. Most production derailleur-equipped bikes require such a modification to allow installation of a belt into the rear triangle (chains can be opened/closed with the link pins; belts are a closed loop). Because the Jones Plus frame includes an eccentric bottom bracket, which could be used to tension the belt, no additional frame modifications were necessary to accommodate the new drivetrain. The rear brake cable guides were also in a good position to piggyback the Rohloff shifter cables onto without needing to zip tie them to the frame or potentially adding additional braze-ons.

Look closely, and you'll see the frame split about midway through the chainstay. 

Steel has long been a favorite frame material of long-distance riders and bicycle tourers, thanks to a solid strength-to-weight ratio, approachable price point, comfortable ride, ease of repair (and modification) and classic appeal. This frame in particular is meant to be super comfortable and stable with long chainstays that put the rider in between the wheels, which is an excellent complement to the monster truck capabilities of the big 29+ wheels and high-volume tires. The bike also features a Jones Steel Truss Fork, which both reduces the bike’s overall weight, provides responsive, flex-free steering, and gives the front-end a unique look. Because the loads are triangulated, smaller and thinner tubes can be used on the fork without compromising strength while at the same time reducing flex during braking.

This truss fork almost gives the bike a chopper-esque look

Frame modifications complete, we were ready to install the new drivetrain. Internal drivetrains are beneficial to all types of riders, but they have some distinct advantages for the adventure-oriented off road crowd. There’s nothing worse than encountering a mechanical issue when you’re hours from the nearest town on day three of a bikepacking extravaganza. Because shifting components and most moving parts are enclosed within the hub shell away from the elements, internal gear hubs offer superior reliability in all conditions, which is an extra advantage for backcountry riders encountering mud, muck, and a swath of inclement weather conditions. Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB 500/14 has a reputation as the most reliable internal gear hub available, and we’ve seen countless riders put tens of thousands of miles on their unit with no maintenance other than an annual oil change. This reliability means peace of mind on the trail, and fewer spare parts to lug around on your longest adventures.

Tube splitter installed in drive side chainstay for belt drive compatibility

Perhaps the most important benefit of all internal drivetrains, at least for mountain bikers, is that lack of external hardware hanging off the rear of the bike. Whether you opt for an internal gear hub like this one or a gearbox contained at the bottom bracket, they'll be no dangling derailleurs ready to be ripped off from an inconveniently-placed rock

Belt systems like this one from Gates Carbon Drive have gained a lot of popularity on urban commuter bikes, but they’re also well-suited to mountain biking and off-road use. They require no cleaning or lubrication, making them a favorite of long-range tourers, even after a particularly dusty or muddy ride. With a carbon drive belt system, the only dirt and grease on your hands will come from the trail, not from fussing with a messy chain.

The combination of a belt system with an internal gear hub also largely eliminates the potential for snapped or dropped chains, thanks to the additional durability of the belt itself and the fact that a straight drive line is constantly maintained (as on a singlespeed). 

Note the straight drive line—that belt's not coming off on bumpy trails

29+ wheels and tires offer extra traction and comfort for this otherwise rigid off-road machine, in addition to providing the incredible roll-over capabilities that only come with the biggest wheels. The build is finished off with a mix of durable components chosen by the manufacturer. We’re big fans of the Jones H-Bar seen on this build, which allows for a much wider range of hand positions that comes in handy when confronting hours or days-long rides on mixed surfaces.

Options, options, options...

We were thrilled to help this rider get even more durability and capability out of a beloved existing ride. In addition to ground-up custom bike and wheel builds, Cycle Monkey specializes in guiding riders through the retrofit process so that they can enjoy the benefits of internal shifting and belt drives on their favorite bike. If you’ve got a project in mind, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

Build Details: 

Frame: Jones Plus Steel
Fork: Jones Steel Truss Fork
Headset: Jones
Stem: Thomson X4
Bar: Jones Loop Bar
Shifter: Rohloff Twist Shifter
Brakes: Avid BB7
Brake Levers: Avid Speed Dial 7
Bar Tape: Cork
Seatpost: Thomson Elit
Saddle: WTB
Front Hub: Jones
Rear Hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
Skewers: Shimano XT
Spokes: Sapim Race
Nipples: Sapim Brass
Rims: WTB Scraper
Tires: Vee Speedster
Cranks: Race Face Aeffect
Pedals: Shimano XT Touring
Bottom Bracket: Surly
Sprockets: Gates Carbon Drive
Belt: Gates Carbon Drive