It’s all the rage in Europe, but here in the US of A seeing a bike using an internal gear hub is not very common. So what’s up America, are we lagging behind or do we know something those Europeans don’t?
Well as with many design decisions it’s all about balancing pros and cons and determining what is most important to the use case. So let’s look into those Pro’s and Con’s. As an eternal optimist we’ll get started with the up sides of using internal gear hubs.
If you have ever messed with adjusting a derailleur you know it can be a real headache and due to stretching cables along with other factors this can come up more often than we would like. With Internal gear hubs there is virtually no maintenance. Just a simple oil change done about once a year.
Another huge pro is the ability to change gears without pedaling. This means that if you come to a full stop without downshifting you can move into the correct gear to easily get moving again. Also picture yourself coasting down a hill, you can move up into a higher gear so that you can start pedaling easily at the bottom to keep your speed!
Other benefits include a stronger wheel due to the strength of the hub itself. Also, especially when riding off roads the rear derailleur is susceptible to getting bent or broken, this is not a problem with an internal gear hub as it does not utilize a rear derailleur.
But it is not all sunshine and daisies, and there is a reason most Americans are still using a typical derailleur system. The single biggest factor is likely the cost, a drive train using a rear derailleur will usually cost less.
Also many people in the states are using bikes for racing or working out and hence put a lot of emphasis on the weight of their bike. Cassette derailleur set ups typically weigh less than an internal gear hub. On the other hand, in areas where people are using bikes for commuting or casual riding this is not as important.
The other downsides of internal gear hubs are that they tend to be less efficient at power transfer through the drive train. Meaning that you are not getting out as much of what you put in with each pedal. Also they typically have a smaller gear range, so you won’t get the “high-high” gears and the “low-low” gears.
But at Bakcou we want to be able to have our cake and eat it too. And that is why we sourced the Rohloff Speed Hub (just sounds impressive, right?) The Rohloff hub is a German engineered internal gear hub that has all the benefits listed, while managing to also skirt many of the cons.
For example the Rohloff Hub has an efficiency tested to be around 96-98%. This is on par with just about any other type of high performance drivetrain. Also the hub has a whopping range of 526%. This means that you get the low lows and the high highs to easily climb hills but also have high top end speed.
The cost is still higher than the standard drive train and the hub does weigh a little bit more. But we are currently hard at work on anti-gravity technology and lobbying for legislation to subsidize German engineered internal gear hubs (just kidding.) Still it is worth considering an internal gear hub on your ebike, especially since the small bit of added weight is offset by the fact that the motor is helping to pull the load. Looks like maybe the Europeans are onto something with this one.