Many of the bikes we sell (whether equipped with a chain or a belt) come with an internally geared hub (IGH) in place of the more common external derailleur that is seen on many bicycles. The main difference between an external derailleur and an internally geared hub is apparent in their names. With an external derailleur, the gear changes are easy to identify for anyone by looking at the rear wheel of the bike. With an internally geared hub, the gear changes are all on the inside and not visible while the bike is in use. Similarly, an external derailleur is exposed to the elements and may get knocked around during use, while an internally geared hub doesn’t have this component sticking out of the rear wheel to worry about.
There are pros and cons to each, the main factors being performance vs. wear, although the Rohloff hub does a good job of combining performance and wear. In general terms, an external derailleur is lighter, snappier, sportier, and both easier and harder to operate in that it is intended for shifting while pedaling but not intended for shifting under load at slow speeds (ie., you must take care to take off from the easy gears and work your way up from there). Last, it is important that the chain is lubricated consistently both for an IGH system or a derailleur but it is especially important for a derailleur or it will not work correctly. The internally geared hubs on the other hand, don’t care if you are shifting under load at slow speed, as long as you are not pedaling while shifting. The internally geared hubs, to varying degrees, can only shift while the cranks are stationary or with light pressure on the pedal rotation. For the Enviolo hub, pedaling while shifting can cause the cables to bind in some cases. In the case of the Rohloff, you may cause the oil to wear down a little quicker–which is recommended to be replaced every 3250 miles, approximately–but otherwise, there isn’t much danger, apart from wearing out your belt or chain a little bit faster. In the case of the Shimano hub, you run the same risks more or less. It won’t totally bind up, but there will be a slight delay before the hub shifts into gear. Once you take the pressure off the pedals, then the hub shifts.
For each brand of internally geared hubs, whether it is an Enviolo, Shimano, or Rohloff, we suggest you refer to the manufacturers’ guidelines for more information and maintenance tips. You can always call us as well!