If you’ve ever wondered, no we’re not above theft for you, our lovely readers. Especially when it comes to something as exciting as this new gearbox from Pinion. We spotted them at Eurobike
a few weeks ago and it’s fair to say we were pretty excited about them. So when Falco from Pinion showed up on our doorstep with his pre-production bike, we felt we owed it to you. As soon as he turned his back for five minutes we hammered (or if Falco's reading this, lovingly fitted) the nearest set of pedals into his bike and legged it. Can you blame us?
Why a gearbox?
Falco's Nicolai Helius with the pre-production Pinion gearbox. To say that this is a special bike would be an understatement.
Rear mechs are a flawed system, there’s a box of broken mechs sitting in the same garage we stole Falco’s bike from to prove that theory. These days they shift incredibly well, but they are always vulnerable to being ripped off, are open to the elements and put weight in awkward part of the bike. So over the years many people have tried to find a different system: Rohlhoff and Shimano make their incredibly intricate geared hubs, Honda put a mech in a box and Lahar mounted a geared hub in the middle of the frame. Not to mention a small legion of men in sheds with novel solutions.One of the major advantages to a gearbox is the lack of weight at the rear axle - no cassette or rear derailleur required. Less unsprung weight means that the suspension can theoretically react faster to the terrain.
None of these have really given enough of an improvement to really catch on though. Internal gear hubs tend to drag, Hondas had a complicated system of chains to drive the bike and the Lahar had both of these problems. And a common theme among all of them was the weight, they’re all relatively heavy.
This is why we’re so excited about the Pinion system. They have done something that now you see it seems obvious, but nobody has tried before – mounting the gears around the bottom bracket. Getting your head round the Pinion system is somewhat of a mindset change, gears have always been something you can bolt onto your bike, but with this they're part of the frame. It isn't overly complicated (on the outside, at least) and it seems competitive weight-wise.The Pinion gearbox is noticeably more compact than any other gearbox design that we've seen. It almost goes unnoticed when looking at the bike from the drive side.
What Pinion have behind them is engineering expertise – Christoph and Michael, the founders of Pinion, met while working at Porsche on projects like their double clutch gearbox. With that kind of background you can’t doubt they know a thing or two about gearboxes. They haven’t rushed either, this project has taken them more than five years to get to this stage and they’re still developing them. The version we tried was number 18, but there’s more tweaks coming before production.Pinion P1.18 details:
• 18 gears without an overlapping gear range
• Sequential shifting with 11.5% jumps
• 636% gear range
• Uses a twist shifter
• Total weight: 2.6kg (including shifter, front and rear sprockets
• MSRP: Helius AM frame w/ Pinion P1.18 gearbox - $3399 EURThe gearbox's cogs are housed within a sealed aluminum housing and fully protected from the elements, making for a reliable and and nearly maintenance free system. Photos courtesy of www.mtb-news.deRiding the Pinion:
So what did we manage to find out before Falco managed to catch us? Well, it works. It was a little strange using gripshift again, like some late-90s flashback, but the feel of the shifter was pretty nice - it’s very light and the indexing is crisp. We did notice that without a rear mech it was a touch unusual not to feel the feedback from chain moving on a cassette through your feet, but not in a bad way. There’s no noticeable drag anywhere in the system either, although that shouldn’t be surprising.The twist shifter uses two cables to run through the gears, but the required effort was surprisingly low
The eighteen gears were plenty, the range was fantastic and they felt nicely spaced out. Having all eighteen in one place made shifting over the range much simpler and this could be a big advantage over multiple chainrings. There’s no repetition of ratios and you can get to them in quick sequence.
Falco later explained (he did forgive us) that you need to learn a couple of things with the gearbox. You can’t always shift when you’ve got the power down, but he’s confident that’s just an adjustment to your riding style and after a few days on the bike it’s something you’d find natural. We did notice this pedalling, there seems to be a threshold to how much power you can put through the pedals and shift. If you’re just cruising along it’s not a problem, it's only when you put a bit of force into matters. When the pedals are in the vertical position there’s no pressure going through the gearbox, so if you’ve got good cornering technique you should be able to grab a handful of gears ready for the exit, which was always one of the advantages of gearbox designs.
Weight-wise the bike was on the money too. Falco’s bike is around the 33lb mark (15kg), which is about right for a 170mm trail bike with this kind of build, especially one made by Nicolai. The tubeset in this bike is the same one they use in their downhill frames...The Pinion gearbox is a tidy package that shows a lot of promise. We can't wait to spend more time on the production version to put it through a full length test.Pinkbike’s take:
On our quick spin we came away with the overall impression that the Pinion felt very normal. This may sound anticlimactic, but it’s actually very important, it feels like a system you could live with. There are lot of questions we have now that can only be answered by getting one of these out on the trails, but based on our first impressions we’re excited to answer them...What do you think of Pinion's gearbox? Is this the one that finally puts gearboxes into mainstream use?
Visit the Pinion website
for more info.