Rohloff have ceased production of their eight- and nine-speed chains and will only produce singlespeed versions from now on. The German company are best known for their hub gears these days, but they made their name with the S-L-T-99 chain, which helped propel the likes of Greg Lemond to victory in the early 1990s.
With the move to 10- and 11-speed road cassettes, Rohloff say they aren't able to provide a compatible chain that retains their trademark strength and durability. The company's technical support manager, Stewart Stabik, told BikeRadar: "It's the end of an era for Rohloff AG, who initially started with the S-L-T-99 chains and very much owe our success/reputation to these 'first day' components."
The decision to cease production of the eight- and nine-speed chains coincided with an overhaul of the company's 25-year-old chain production machine. Stabik said: "The machine isn't an off-the-peg product and all components in need of replacement must therefore be individually machined especially for the job. This will obviously take a while to complete. Market changes have also led us to review our situation.
"Road racing bicycles now use either 10- or 11-speed derailleur systems and high-end mountain bike groupsets are also heading in the direction of 10-speed systems. We don't wish to produce 10- or 11-speed chains as (in our opinion) these incorporate many problems with regards to securely joining the chain ends together – and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The pins of these new super-narrow chains are flush with the outer plate. There's therefore no excess material which can be used to correctly rivet the join in the traditional sense.
"These facts have led us to the decision to cease production of the S-L-T-99 chains. Instead, we'll concentrate on a singlespeed/IGH specific (ie. only for non-varying chainlines) chain for the high-end area of the market. This should be ready for sale around fall 2011 once the machine is rebuilt. Our new chain will offer cyclists the durability of a singlespeed chain with our patented SLT technology for a long lasting lifespan/high mileage. The chain will be built around the eight-speed S-L-T-99 derailleur chain, but will lose a great deal of sideways flexibility in favour of stronger riveting."
Rohloff's chain production machine needs a general overhaul after 25 years of service