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Cycle Monkey

Internal Gearing Specialists, Bicycle Distribution & Service Center

Tech Talk: How to Shift the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14

Rohloff's SPEEDHUB 500/14 provides a multitude of advantages over traditional derailleur-based drivetrains, making it an excellent choice for riders looking to get more reliability and performance out of their bike. Here are just a few of the reasons Rohloff gets our vote as the gold standard of bicycle shifting systems:

  • Ability to shift at all times, including when not pedaling
  • Extremely fast shifting, especially through multiple gears
  • Ability to adjust cadence quickly and reliably to maintain rider’s biomechanically optimized cadence, especially on terrain with rapid/regular changes in pitch
  • Consistent shifting performance in all weather/trail conditions

In order to provide this superior riding experience, Rohloff’s shifting system functions differently than a derailleur system and can accordingly have a bit of a learning curve when riders first make the switch.

You got this...
This article outlines shifting techniques the new Rohloff user will find useful to speed up the adaptation period and quickly make the most of the hub’s reliable, smooth performance.

Most riders will notice that shifting the SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub is force dependent, meaning the amount of effort required to change gears - or how hard the rider must turn the twist shifter (or press the shift lever on aftermarket shifter options) - depends on the amount of torque going into the hub, which is in turn determined by how hard the pedals are being pushed. This differs from shifting a derailleur or other gear hubs, where the shifting force remains relatively constant regardless of pedal pressure. 
This is not a derailleur...

Shifting the unit efficiently is about timing. Once you master this element, you will cleanly shift through multiple gears at once without interrupting your natural pedal stroke.
  • Shift as the cranks go through vertical orientation (6 & 12 o’clock). As the cranks pass through vertical and the rider changes which leg is providing power, there is a brief moment within the natural pedal stroke when the power into the hub goes to zero. Take advantage of this to shift into a new gear with the least amount of resistance.
You'll want to shift at the top of your pedal stroke
Clutching your feet will often lead to a smoother shift.

  • Reduce pressure on the pedals just as you start to move the shifter to change gears. Doing so effectively extends the window of time you have shift in the low power zone. The system shifts very quickly, and you can immediately return to full power as soon as you feel and hear the click of the gears engage.

Allow time for your hands and wrists to learn the amount of effort required to shift relative to pedaling effort

  • It is possible to shift the Rohloff unit outside of the sweet spot that occurs at vertical orientation of the cranks. It simply requires more effort.
  • You will not break the Rohloff shifter unit by twisting too hard. While timing your shifts in the fashion outlined above will reduce the amount of effort required to turn the shifter, it is not a problem to crank on it as hard as possible when necessary.
  • Some gears require more effort to shift (or a greater reduction of power input at the pedals) than others when shifting under suboptimal conditions because more components must change position within the hub. All the more reason to get the timing right and shift when the cranks are vertical!
Quick movements of the shifter will provide smoother shifts and allow you to maintain a more natural pedal stroke

  • The faster you move the shifter, the less time you need to worry about maintaining the low power zone by clutching your feel.
  • Faster shifter movements also reduce the chances of the clutch binding and getting stuck in between gears. 
Don't be afraid to give your new friend a nice, firm handshake
Ultimately, getting acclimated to the SPEEDHUB is a function of mastering the timing and finding the proper balance between the relative amount you need let up on the pedals and increase input to the shifter. Once you have adapted to the SPEEDHUB, it becomes hard to imagine going back to a derailleur system, which seems antiquated by comparison.

The final word

We are the first to recognize that riders coming from a derailleur-based drivetrain will find shifting a Rohloff SPEEDHUB different, and potentially challenging, when they first make the switch. Following the tips and tricks outlined in the article will expedite the adjustment period, and it’s important to remember that many of the factors that make the Rohloff system different also provide tangible benefits while riding (such as quicker engagement when changing gears), and the clean aesthetic that comes without hardware dangling from the rear of your ride. 

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