The biggest reason the rohlhoff isn't big is 1) cost and the biggy 2) it's so damn
heavy. The g-boxx solves the issues so well, putting the weight in the middle
of the bike and low, it's essentially a derailleur in a box, just not bouncing around
with the tire exposed to all the rocks and mud out there.
edit: if they were smart they could even have the bottom cog bathing in some oil
so that the gears got lubed all the time.
I told myself that I wasn't going to do it but I can't help myself, so here are my two cents worth….
As some of you know, I am a big, big fan of Rohloff and have been using the 14 speed hub since 2002 now (first on a Bullit and now since 2005 on a Vp Free).
Regarding weight, you must absolutely take into account all things that go into the drivetrain on both the derailleur based system and the Rohloff when comparing weights….when you do this you will find that (depending on your set up) for a typical mid priced drivetrain that utilizes 2 chainrings and a front derailleur, the weight penalty is only about 250-300 grams. If you run high end stuff, the penalty will be greater and lesser compared to low end gear. For most big bikes, the center of mass tends to be slightly forward (often about mid-top tube area). Addition of 250-300 grams shifts this center of mass back slightly and beneficially (my vp free has its center of mass at the center point on the chassis which is about mid-shock body). The cost is not disputable but when you stack this up against the cost of a good, complete, high end derailleur setup you are going to have an argument on your hands. Also take into account that the Rohloff will not break, wear out or require any tinkering at all. Add the costs of broken/worn out derailleurs, repairs, etc to the equation and all of a sudden, the differences begin to shrink into insignificance. Like my grandpappy always said, buy quality and spend your money once. Regarding the old argument of having the hub moving with the suspension, it is like all other elements of riding where once your shock and suspension are appropriately setup, you will not notice any (and I mean any) cost to suspension performance. The hub is pretty burly and I have not damaged mine (though I have completely destroyed the wheel build around the hub…..case in point was the accident where I broke my back in 2005….wheel was a mess and the Rohloff was unblemished).
Regarding that old chestnut of an argument re: drag from planetary gears, I can say that you will perceive some minimal drag until the hub is broken in. This takes a long time (as much as 6 months of regular riding). After this, you will not perceive any drag. I ride my Vp Free uphill all of the time and as many can testify, even on Vedder Mountain's mega-punishing climbs, this is totally doable on a swine of a bike only because of the Rohloff.