How to Build a Strong Rohloff Wheel

Rohloff hubs require a very specific wheel build. You need to make sure the mechanic you use is up to the job.

Having had our wheels built many times now (and many times incorrectly), I have learned the what’s what of building a Rohloff wheel.

I have used spokes and nipples which are inappropriate for Rohloff wheels; this has resulted in a lot of frustration. I have used rims which are not up to the task of loaded touring (*cough* Mavic *cough*). I have visited mechanics who think they know everything about wheel building, but really, they don’t know the important information I’m about to spew out.

I hope this guide to building a strong Rohloff wheel saves you much frustration and provides you will infinite kilometres without any problems.

1. Find the Best Wheel Builder within 500km

– You’ll want someone who has a reputation for building great wheels. Ask around. If they’ve built a Rohloff before, they might know how to do it just as well as explained here. However, it could be worth printing off this page and handing it to your builder anyway – just in case.

– A good wheel builder will be able to build a wheel with even tension on every spoke. The more even the tension, the stronger your wheel will be and the longer it will last. Super awesome builders will measure spoke tension precisely and can even analyse the tension data.

This is Tim, my favourite wheel builder in Melbourne. Get in contact with me to find out where he works.

2. Sapim Race or DT Swiss Competition Spokes (2.0-1.8-2.0mm)

– It is essential to use spokes no larger than 2.0mm in diameter. Anything larger (eg. 2.3mm) can damage the hub body of the Rohloff. Using this larger spoke size voids a Rohloff warranty, so don’t do it.

– Double-butted spokes are great because they have a higher tensile strength per mm2 compared to basic spokes. Sapim Race spokes are said to be a bit stronger than DT Competition.

– Silver and black spokes are the same strength. The black on spokes is an oxide coating (not anodising), so it is purely costmetic and not structural.

3. 12mm Brass Nipples

– Brass nipples are simply strong and durable. Their nickel plating provides great corrosion resistance against wet and salty conditions. Brass nipples also have a lower friction to the spoke compared with other nipples.

– The rule with nipples is to make them short as possible, but long as necessary. With most touring rims, there is no need for anything longer than 12mm.

– Make sure you use name brand nipples such as Sapim or DT. I have had some terrible wheel builds in Central Asia using cheap nipples.

– Skip alloy nipples. They can build a strong wheel, and they are 1/3 the weight of brass, but they are much easier to round-out after a few tune ups.

4. Use a Super Tough Rim

– The toughest rim you’ll find is the Rigida/Ryde Andra 30. It weighs 735-810g, but the weight just doesn’t matter on a loaded touring bike – reliability is king. I have a review available on the Andra 30.

4a. If You’re Using 26″ Wheels…

– Make sure you use Ryde rims! The Andra series rims have spoke holes which are drilled on an angle for Rohloff hubs, providing a much more direct spoke angle to the hub.

– The spoke length you most likely require is 238mm for a 32h Rohloff.

5. Get the Lacing Right

There are a few rules to follow…

– 2x lacing pattern only for 26-28″ wheels – do not listen to a builder who insists on lacing it 3x because it’s stronger.

– 1x lacing pattern only for wheels 24″ and smaller.

– Leading spoke has an outward head.

– Trailing spoke has an inward head.

– It’s best not to cross over the hubcap screws although it is permitted (it isn’t permitted for wheels 24″ and smaller). If you’ve had your 26-28″ wheel laced over the hubcap screw, this shouldn’t be a problem in terms of durability. When getting it relaced in the future, it will actually be best to keep lacing it this way so that additional new stresses aren’t put on the hub flanges.

Note: the ‘trailing’ and ‘leading’ spokes have been incorrectly labelled in this diagram. The spoke with the outward head is actually the leading spoke, and the spoke with the inward head is the trailing spoke.
Note: the ‘trailing’ and ‘leading’ spokes have been incorrectly labelled in this diagram. The spoke with the outward head is actually the leading spoke, and the spoke with the inward head is the trailing spoke.

6. Get the Tension Right

– You’ll want the spoke tension even across all spokes if possible. The most ideal tension for this build is between 1000-1200nm (101-122kgf).

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