Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 cleaning and inspection

After noticing a bit of sediment the last couple of times I have done oil changes on this hub, I decided to pull it apart for inspection and cleaning.

This is the rear hub from this vehicle. As you can see, it is being used on a tandem recumbent trike in conjunction with a Schlumpf speed-drive for a range of 12-120 gear inches.

It has been used to tow 3/4 tonne on this trailer and I had no issues with the hub itself. I've had problems with shifters and cables wearing out, but that's the result of some extreme weather and harsh abuse.

Some co-ordination is needed with the stoker to back off on the power when shifting, since shifting force is proportional to pedal force. I once sheared a shifter cable trying to shift under full power of the stoker.

That Rohloff-Schlumpf hub combination rocks on a recumbent trike because you can be winching up a ridiculous hill with piles of luggage or a trailer and if you find yourself in the wrong gear, you simply lock the disks and stall-shift both to the right gear and then keep pedalling. You don't fall over. :)

The chainline on this beast is about 5 standard chains linked together. I've finally had the spring in the chain tensionner break. I was able to re-form the spring by fabricating a jig to repair it. I've ordered a replacement.

Q: Did you use special tools to dismantle the hub?

A: As for special tools, the most important one is the cog remover (being used properly) in conjunction with a chainwhip. A torx screwdriver also helps. For internal disassembly and maintenance, a C-spring tool helped.

Rohloff recommends the hub paper gasket not be re-used, but I was careful not to damage it on disassembly and have been able to reuse it no problem. Same thing with the 9 shear pins, but I re-used them too. Part of the issue is finding parts here in Canada. The canadian distributor is not that helpful. Rohloff also recommends their own bearing seal removal/installation tool. Since reusing the worn seals isn't a good idea and they are readily available through local bearing dealers, I was simply careful in installing the new ones. I also got a tube of bearing seal goop locally as well. Removing the bearing seals and bearing cartriges was done carefully with a screwdriver and hammer. Re-installing both was done carefully with tools avoiding sharp edges and gently tapping stuff into place.

Q: What was the result of your inspection?

Q: Did you have to change some parts?

Q: Were there sediments inside?

A: As for parts that needed changing, I tore the hub apart to inspect it because i had had it for 6 years and over 20,000 km under some harsh conditions and had noticed some sediment settle out of oil that I had changed from the hub. I've changed the oil every 6 monts to a year, depending on the grade of oil I had in stock. There's a 47mm hub bearing on each side of the hub and a pair of ~20mm bearings on the cog side of the shaft. The 47mm and the outer ~20mm bearing at the cog were both contaminated and had started to rust. I presume this was because of salt that had gotten in. I figured I might as well replace both pairs of bearings since I had it apart. The 47mm originals were ~$35 retail single-sided seal bearings which I replaced with a higher quality French SKF around $45 each. Same story with the ~20mm bearings. I suspect the inner of the two stacked ~20mm bearings was somewhat protected by the oil bath in the hub. I found a fine coating of sediment on all the parts inside the hub. I was a bit reluctant to let it soak in a solvent for fear of damaging non-metal parts. I hand-cleaned all the parts with a mild biodegradable solvent and a toothbrush.

Re-assembling the hub proved to be a bit of a challenge. The careful disassembly in order on the table certainly helped re-assemble it, but there was one stage that wasn't obvious. The meshing of the planetary gear systems was it. There was an index tooth on each of the planetary gaers. I lined them up all pointing inwards. This worked fine for one mating race with a number of teeth divisible by 3 mating with the corresponding planetary gear divisible by 3, but the other race mating with the second set of teeth on the planetary gear divisible only by 2 didn't mesh. While describing the problem to a work colleague, I had an "ah-hah!" moment when I realized I needed to turn each index tooth by 2/3 of a tooth to get it to mesh. Ta-da, it meshed effortlessly.

I've got other internal hubs... My winter bike has a Sachs Super-7 internal 7-speed hub with a coaster brake. Awesome for winter because there isn't an exposed cluster of cogs or a derailleur to ice up. Also, the coaster brake just always works, not depending on a wheel rim or brake pads that can ice up or a cable that can freeze. The front hub is a Shimano dynamo with a cable-activated roller brake that similarly doesn't depend on a rim or brake pads that can ice up.

I've also got a Russian 24-inch wheel folding bike with a single-speed coaster brake. I have a spare hub for that just in case.

I also have a spare Sturmey Archer front dynamo hub from around 1950 that I want to build up and use...

I'm also tempted to replace the front single-sided hubs on my trike with the new 20" Son single-side hub dynamos to power my LED lights.

For my other bike stuff, see here.

Some more references...

(C) 2004 Richard Guy Briggs Email Web Page last updated by Richard Guy Briggs Mon May 12 20:55:04 EDT 2008