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Pioneering Bicycle Innovator Bernhard Rohloff Passes Away Age 73

Jun 5, 2023 at 10:39
by Christie Fitzpatrick  
Photo courtesy of rohloff.de

Bicycle Retailer has reported that bicycle technology innovator Bernhard Felix Rohloff, inventor of the Rohloff SPEEDHUB, died on May 19. Rohloff, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, was 73 years old.

Rohloff, originally from Kassel, Germany, embarked on a remarkable career that began with an apprenticeship as an office machine mechanic at Olympia. In 1986, together with his wife Barbara, he took a significant leap and established Rohloff GmbH. Serving as the technical director, Rohloff led the development of the Rohloff S-L-T 99 chain.

The Rohloff product line expanded to include a range of tools, but his largest contribution to the sport was the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 14-speed IGH. The Rohloff SPEEDHUB 14-speed IGH was introduced in 1996, an innovation that "set new standards to this very day," according to the Rohloff company obituary.

Interbike 2017
Rohloff's electronic hub shifting prototype at Eurobike 2017.

bigquotesBernie was much more than just a brilliant inventor. He was an inspiring character who could not only impress with his expertise, but also respected and had time for the ideas and concerns of his employees. It is this humanity which made him a role model people trusted and were happy to follow.Rohloff

Our condolences to the Rohloff team. Bernard leaves a legacy of innovation in cycling, and his ideas will be sorely missed. Read more on our sister site Bicycle Retailer.

Author Info:
christiefitz avatar

Member since May 21, 2017
109 articles

  • 101 0
 parkinsons truly sucks...my mom going from lively and about to slowly slowing down completely. God bless this dudes family.
  • 5 0
 Yeah, my mom is going through the same, and my aunt died of it in 2016. It is heartbreaking to see a photo of her from just four years ago.
  • 15 0
 @Insectoid: I’m sorry for your loss, can I just point out you don’t die of Parkinson’s, you pass on with it. It sounds slightly pedantic but for those of us living with pd it’s an important point. I was diagnosed 3 1/2 years ago aged 37. To fellow pd pedlars, keep rolling boys and girls, #f@ckpd
  • 4 0
 @unsteadyeddy: not trying trying to disrespectful and you can totally not answer this if you dont want to but what do you die from then, does it just weaken you to where anything can kill you?
  • 5 0
 @nowaybro: it’s ok. Having pd gives you a near normal life expectancy (though that depends on age of diagnosis) but your much more susceptible to things that can contribute to passing away. Things like falls which can lead to broken hips, head injuries etc , tight chest muscles lead to chest infections as does swallowing issues, gi problems, obstructed bowels, the list of pd symptoms is long (40 odd, a lot more than just tremor which 30% don’t even have).
  • 49 0
 Had the pleasure of meeting Bernhard Rohloff at a charity do once. He was surprisingly down to earth, and VERY funny.
  • 8 3
 RIP Benny Harvey. Miss ye big man. Gone, but not forgotten. Roholoff too
  • 1 0
 And for a German, that doubly funny.
  • 28 0
 Ride In Perpetuity
  • 17 0
 And here I was thinking that the Rolhoff hub was invented in the early 1900s, but nope it was 1998. Sturmey archer invented the 2 speed hub in 1898. So this legend took a 100 year old design and modernized it to today's standards and performance. It just goes to show you that this industry is full of dedicated and intelligent people, who impact our hobby on a daily basis.

"I was today years old" as the kids say
  • 7 3
 at least PB didn't exist in 1998, so no one could come in and carp about new standards, and 2 speeds are good enough!!!! RIP to a dude pushing cycling forward.
  • 4 0
 @Mtbdialed: Mudsluts.com was active in 1996 and people were talking hella smack about everything. "Disc brakes will never catch on...." etc.
  • 4 0
 @Mtbdialed: yes it did. I was reading it back then. I believe they were located in Calgary at that time.
  • 2 0
 @secretninjaguy: well f*ck.....TMYK.gif
  • 16 0
 Also had similar experiences with Bernie at a couple of bike shows over the years. Cool guy, definitely an innovator, very nice gentleman with a fun sense of humor.
  • 17 0
 Never met him, never seen a picture of him before even. But already in that top picture, you can indeed see a fun spark in his eye, proudly holding that hub. And he should be proud. He must have had some of the most demanding customers who expect his super complex hubs to perform flawlessly through the harshest conditions. Back when I was working in a bike shop, those customers who planned the most amazing trips through Africa or cross the Himalaya, this is the hub they ran. There was no real alternative at the time. And for a shop like ours which welded custom frames (but I don't think we could weld one with a Pinion mount) there still is no alternative.
  • 5 0
 @vinay: the hubs are unkillable. i've got one in a bike that's 15yrs old; though seldom gets used these days, still running flawlessly, and the only maintenance over the years has been a couple shifter cable & oil changes. impressive design.
  • 5 0
 @vinay: thoughtful comment. As a bike nerd and tinkerer, I see the spark and passion too . Nice legacy he leaves.
  • 7 0
 A true genius.

The Rohloff chain had pins that were pentagonal so that each inner link was loaded at three different places, whereas cylindrical pins only load one spot at a time.

Ever use the Rohloff chain breaker? Amazing.

A Rohloff hub was built so that it took about 5,000 miles to wear it in. If you kept it oiled properly it lasted for a hundred thousand miles. There are stories with over 250,000 miles and still not wearing out. Planned obsolescence is not in the Rohloff vocabulary.

When they were first released, they weighed the same as the XTR groupset of the times (so I'm told).

Perhaps one day the internals might be made out of lighter materials, so perhaps would last 10 k miles and then replace the gears inside.
  • 3 0
 Running terrible drivetrains in the late 90's/20's I always wanted a Rolhoff hub but could never really afford it. The guy was way ahead of his time. Like the kind comment above "this industry is full of dedicated and intelligent people who impact our hobby on a daily basis"
  • 4 0
 Can you imagine greatness and depth of one's personality when there is so clear spark of small curious boy in his eyes even in high state of illness? My humble condolences to his dearest.
10 years ago Speedhub was my go-to solution for gearbox bike based on Lahar DH bike concept. I knew all details from drawings and prepared custom hub shell cap. Now his work is still inspirational.
  • 4 0
 I remember buying a Rohloff chain for my Rocky Mountain back in 1991. I worked in the shop so got a discount. Still was crazy expensive but worth it.
  • 5 0
 Life is short, ride hard while your here.
  • 5 0
 yeah,the only time you really have is NOW
  • 4 0
 Dangerous Dan and the Flow Show used to all rock Rohloff’s, yay?
  • 4 0
 These are really sad news. My condolences to his family and Rohloff team
  • 1 0
 RIP legend

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