Pinkbike Poll: Is The Gearbox Fantasy Dead?

May 3, 2013 at 6:30
May 3, 2013
by Mike Levy  
 
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Will the gearbox ever eclipse the traditional derailleur drivetrain?

The future always looks so promising. Flying cars, the Jetsons cartoon, and Marty McFly's hoverboard in Back to the Future II have done well to convince us that we'll be living a better, easier life in the near future. Gearbox bikes could also be added to that list of non-starters, with a general lack of acceptance by consumers that has been fuelled by an equal lack of commitment from both bike and component manufacturers. Sure, there have been some boutique brands making a go of it - Lahar (RIP), Pinion, Zerode with their Alfine equipped DH bikes, and the Germans at Nicolai have been pushing things for many years as well - but the average rider has never been able to pop into their local shop to choose from a number of new gearbox bikes. And, at the risk of sounding negative, we are willing to bet they they will be able to purchase that hoverboard before any major manufacturer steps up to offer a proper gearbox bike.

Cavelerie Falcon

The Cavelerie Falcon DH bike ticks all the boxes: nine speeds via its Effigear transmission, proper angles, 200mm of travel, and a claimed weight of under 40lb. So why aren't we all riding bikes like this? Blame the skyrocketing evolution of the derailleur drivetrain.



Why it won't happen:

The potential was certainly there. With no derailleur or flimsy hanger to smash to bits their insane reliability should make a Unimog look fragile, and a single chain ring and cog setup means that chain management is a cinch. Factor in the centralized, if a bit hefty, weight, along with less cables to deal with, and they should have unquestionably upstaged the rickety old derailleur systems that we've been using for decades. A funny thing happend over the last five years, though; derailleur drivetrains got really, really good. We're talking about the system as a whole, from lighter weight chain guides that don't rub or bend, smartly designed derailleur hangers that won't contort from a bit of contact, and even easy to service freehubs that seem to last for seasons of abuse before needing some love. Evolution is a wonderful thing but it also weeds out the weak, and gearboxes are the slowest antelope in the herd.

The setup w 11-36t cassette.

Shimano's Zee derailleur has proven to be very reliable, and its clutch system goes a long way to minimizing dropped chains.


Derailleurs are reliable... finally. There was a time, only a few short years ago, when it wasn't uncommon to go through four or five derailleurs in a big season of riding, especially if most of your time was spent on a downhill bike. Catch your low hanging derailleur on a rock or root and you could expect it to self destruct, spraying parts over the trail and leaving you stranded. Cages cracked and twisted, putting the chain into the spokes and starting a chain reaction that would only end one way. Pivot pins would work themselves loose, especially on low-end derailleurs, and slip out, allowing the parallelogram to quickly take a different shape. No matter what company you prefer, both SRAM and Shimano have improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years, and it is fair to say that even inexpensive offerings from both companies can stand up to some serious abuse these days. We put loads of winter miles on SRAM's 10 speed X5 model, and at a very reasonable $64.00 USD, it impressed us immensely. In fact, it is still running fine to this day. And the same can be said of Shimano's SLX derailleur, especially now that it comes equipped with their Shadow Plus clutch system.
bigquotesWhile high-end aftermarket parts can be expensive, competition has lowered the cost of OEM components to insanely low levels. Adding the cost of a relatively expensive gearbox at the factory level would translate into a large increase in the retail cost of the bike, a rise that would either not be accepted by the consumer, or that would have to compensated for by a down-spec on the rest of the bike's build. Deciding to purchase a mass produced gearbox bike would essentially be similar to buying an overpriced Toyota Prius, more of a declaration of higher awareness and an idealization of the future that still gets you back and forth to work on time. - Mike Levy

Chains don't fall off like they used to. Anyone who rode a downhill bike regularly eight to ten years ago will likely recall many frustrating moments spent trying to un-jam their chain from between any number of parts on their bike. Our weak bottom bracket spindles would bend, putting everything out of alignment, spindly crank spider tabs would do the same, and a lot of chain guides on the market at the time varied between dangerous and just plain shitty. Fast forward to today and it is pretty rare to experience any of those issues. Chain guides have also evolved into mega-light and rub-free designs, with offerings from MRP, e*13, Gamut, and others, that will keep your chain put unless you did your best to muck up the install. Clutch derailleurs have also been key, with many riders finding that they can actually get away with either using a minimalist guide or even no guide at all on their single ring setup, and SRAM's clever alternating tooth profiles - every second tooth uses a thicker and heavily stepped shape - on their X-Sync chain rings hold onto the chain like a fat kid holding onto his last Snickers bar.

SRAM XX1 at Whistler. Photo by Adrian Marcoux.

It is expensive, but SRAM's single ring, eleven speed XX1 drivetrain may be the nail in the gearbox coffin. This will be especially true if SRAM moves the technology down the line to more affordable price points, something we expect them to do in the future.


Less weight, more efficiency. It has been proven that a chain is by far the most efficient way to transfer power, so why sacrifice that by driving it through a bunch of internal cogs that erase that advantage? True, this may not be a big concern for most freeriders and even some downhillers out there, but to the average mountain biker who is riding both up and down the hill - that is, the very large majority of people who purchase bikes - this is a big deal. You may not be racing cross-country, but you also likely don't want to be working your ass off with the thought of some of your puny horsepower going to waste. And then there is the weight factor. You don't care, you say? You'll gladly take the hit for the perceived advantages of a gearbox? That's great, but the amount of downhillers who would actually pony up and purchase a gearbox bike is miniscule compared to the amount of riders who would scoff at the idea, which leads us to what is likely the knockout punch for gearboxes.

Companies sell what's winning. The fact of the matter is that many consumers want to purchase what they see being used by professional riders, be it racers on the World Cup circuit or freeriders in the latest movie. When was the last time you saw a gearbox bike take a major win in a race? To be fair, Cam Cole was on a carbon fiber, gearbox equipped Lahar when he won the Junior World Championships in Roturua, New Zealand in 2006, but that certainly isn't the norm. What about the old Honda team of Minnaar, Fairclough, and Matti Lehikoinen? Honda certainly made an impact, but they also exited the sport when they realized that their investment wasn't going to pay off. Would Aaron Gwin be as successful on a gearbox bike? There is a pretty good chance that he would be, but he is also looking for the lightest and most efficient tool for the job, and that happens to be a traditional (although highly specialized) drivetrain. The same goes for the rest of the field, and we'd be willing to bet that a gearbox bike won't win again anytime soon.



Why they might still make sense:

So, have gearbox advocates been wearing blinders then? Given all of the anti-gearbox chatter above, why bother with them? Because they do offer some advantages. Despite all the talk about derailleurs becoming much more reliable over the last few years, gearboxes will always have the upper hand on this point - the rock that just cleaved off your derailleur would have passed unnoticed if you didn't have a derailleur to start with. And then there is the weight. But they are heavier, often much heavier, than a traditional derailleur drivetrain, you say? That is true, but their weight is nearly all in one centralized unit that can be placed in the best possible location on the bike in order to hide it. More importantly, the heft of a cassette, freehub, and derailleur are moved off of the rear axle, allowing the suspension to work more
competently. Cost is often viewed as the biggest downside to a gearbox bike, with bespoke retailing for quite a bit more than a md-level derailleur setup. Shimano's Alfine internally geared hub is a great counterpoint to that, though, with the cost effective hub being used as a gearbox in Zerode's DH bike, among a few others. Are those strong enough points to propel the gearbox into the world of the everyday rider? We think that the answer is plain to see.


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353 Comments

  • + 210
 Funny article: "This is why gearbox are shit, and derailleurs are good, and again why gearbox are shit and even more reasons why gearbox are shit. Now, do you prefer a gearbox or derailleurs?"
  • + 22
 hahaha no need to read those shitty articles just look the titles in bold and youll get the idea..... also people get the head out of your ass. working a gearbox is thousand times simpler than a simple coil shock... oh and shipping is not a problem anymore.
  • + 211
 This article comes to you from your friends at Sram Corp Wink
  • - 7
 People at SRAM corp have instant access to the details of the most advanced internal gearing design in cycling, that is Rolhoff hub, so it's a matter of one meeting in product development department, and the order is off to the R&D.

The guys at Pinion need to sit a bit more with the design of the bike hosting the gearbox so it looks as sexy as the best bikes of the big companies, and things will look differently. Those German designs do have an established character, but adressing a very niche tastes. Not acceptable by the masses, and if you want to make a breakthrough, if you want to be listened to, you have to adress the masses visualy, not just structure engineers loving robustness Wink
  • - 63
 Sorry that reality rained on your gearbox parade... The beauty of a bicycle drivetrain is simplicity. Gearboxes ADD things that can break and breakage is less easily overcome with a gearbox. They don't make anything simpler, more efficient, or markedly more durable... why would the author make up fake benefits to include in an article when the reality is there just aren't any at this point.
  • + 18
 just waiting for the money to get my first bike equipped with a pinion gearbox!
  • + 8
 Watch this video and you'll see the gearbox opinion of someone who actually designs bikes: www.vitalmtb.com/videos/features/17-Questions-Dave-Weagle,20662/sspomer,2
Its pretty similar to this article.
  • + 5
 bikes are still in the dark age,gear box's are on every thing except bike's y money and weight,but y money once you get past the weight of money,the gear box make sense,no more looking to see if you got your chain on track and i mean on the track you just left it on and your ride is done,just think if i only had a gear box no rock's to brake it off.its time for change.
  • + 3
 Guigui, please tell me how a coil shock with no damper is more complicated than a gear box.... Facepalm anyways, i see the promise in gearboxes, but ill stick to my derailleur until most major brands (specialized, scott, giant) make gearboxes. If all you guys are so enthralled with gearbox bikes, why doesn't every single one of you go out and buy a Zerode?
  • + 15
 To be fair, this article never said gearboxes are shit. It actually didn't say anything bad about gearboxes at all. It was simply stating why the gearbox will probably never overtake the traditional drivetrain in popularity.
  • + 17
 Hoverboard is coming in 2015.
  • + 1
 The article never stated gearboxes suck. Point is the main reason to go that route was a push factor i.e. derailleurs sucking, which has been solved in the last few years meaning there's not much reason anymore to go for a gearbox bike.
  • + 14
 I'll rather ride a 26" gearbox equipped bike before a 29er with a ridiculously big 40 tooth cassette
  • + 3
 It's a 42 tooth cog. And it is quite nice on the up hill.
  • - 9
 What's nicer is the legs and lungs that can crank up 1:1 ratio on anything, thus 34tx34t9sp and 36tx36t/10sp. You have'em, you just need to make'em work! When you get close to your max heart rate, it's a cool feeling because suddenly it stops getting worse. You just hang in there. You don't have more than 4-7 minutes, but it's an awesome state. You won't experience that by looking for solutions that will make your riding "easier"
  • - 2
 but it's quite awful to my eyes.
  • + 27
 Those 42 tooth cogs look ridiculous and we will all look back and laugh at them in the future once the gearbox is dialed.

The big point Levy misses with this article is that derailleurs ARE NOT a completely reliable design, despite all the giimmicks they keep adding to derailleurs.

Mike Levy writes: "Derailleurs are reliable....finally" Oh really??? Then why did I recently see a broken XX1 11 speed derailleur smashed by rocks? Because derailleurs are not reliable, if anything I would argue the newer long cage derailleurs are even less reliable because there is more chance of hitting rocks with the longer exposed cage. Also, with the longer derailleurs and more tightly spaced gears, even the slightest bend in the hanger will cause shifting issues.
  • + 2
 Because it's made by SRAM. If you compare 'normal' derailleurs, how many snapped Zee's or Saints do you come across, compared to snapped XO or X9 shortcages?
  • + 19
 I just think the poll responses are lacking and a bit biased. The question asks if gearboxes will ever take off but the choices dont allow me to answer that question. Lets see, the choices are... Die Derailleur!... or Die Gearboxes! ... or I'd never buy a gearbox. hmm... Right now it just seems like derailleurs are the lesser of two evils and they are becoming better. I would give them gearboxes some time but as for now I'm sticking to derailleurs for sure! If gearboxes are the weird kid in the back of the class, Id have to say the derailleur is that self inflated popular kid in the front of the class who may or may not amount to something in real life. That weird kid sitting quietly in the back just may be the Bill Gates of drivetrains...
  • + 9
 a gearbox is only gears with screws and a shaft maybe a small spring clutch system, sealed in a box full of oil..... if something goes wrong it'll pobably be outside the box.... also that gearbox will probably won't be hanging 5 inch from the ground on the right side of my wheel
  • - 1
 And a simple coil shock is a coiled up piece of steel around a body that has a bit of oil in it...a shock without a damper is a lot simpler than a gearbox
  • + 0
 I honestly hope gear box bikes take off... and that every one of the people here proclaiming their awesomeness buys one just so I can hear those same folks complaining about the reliability, expense, and repair issues down the road. The same people bitching about blowing up a $200 derailleur are going to love blowing up a $450 alfine hub or a $1000 gearbox, either of which is exponentially more complicated and difficult to repair and at least equally difficult to replace. All the people who throw a fit about bleeding brakes are going to adore transmission service... And the reality in pure performance terms is, at this point, the only actual benefit you would actually get is reduced chain slap & noise.
  • + 16
 Hang on Mike; You forgot the most important frame design and gear changing factors in writing this wonderful add for SRAM and Shimano! Pivot placement, chainline placement and changing gear without pedalling are the key points left out. Yes I am lucky enough to have a Lahar (the McLaren of DH) but I also mainly race and ride a Carbon V10. I just wish the V10 had a slightly higher VPP point, because if it did it would feel just like the Lahar to ride. The V10 is so good at everything I believe it to be the closest (and lightest by far) race bike that captures the ride characteristics of the Lahar. High praise indeed for Santa Cruz.
Hi pivot just plain works for going fast and stable. The Lahar (and Zerode) are able to single and multiple gear change when the pedals are not moving. So important when racing! This is a game changer just in itself and should not be overlooked.
I invite Pinkbike to come to NZ, ride our Lahar and Zerode gearbox bikes and compare them to the best derallier bikes made today.
  • - 19
 ahaha, you're playing with fire dude, talking sport cars to Mike Big Grin . Basing on some posts here, I am starting to suspect that U guys have some complex on that small Island... Lahar, the Mclaren of DH bikes, interesting, front end stiffness must be awesome on that design. Looks weird and lacks style, even Zerode looks better. High pivot point, oh jeez... Bigus dickus, and his wife Malcontentia!
  • + 6
 Yes Waki I could have written that a bit better, I'm new to this posting to the world thing. Main point I guess is that NZ has some of the greatest "weird bikes" that actually do what the designers said they would. Heck Bruce McLaren RIP was even a New Zealander, If we talk sports cars for a moment.
I want to see a full side by side same track, same rider, times taken runs on gearbox DH bikes versus latest production race weapons.
Invite is there - even for you Waki.
  • + 3
 Lahar72 is right - you can use a higher pivot with a gearbox without pedal feedback interfering with the suspension. A big plus. You could also accomplish this with an idler pulley but then you're halfway to a gearbox anyway. A couple years back Orange did some testing and found that their pro riders were posting faster times chainless than with a chain. That led to a proto with an idler pulley on the main pivot but I never saw it after that.
  • - 2
 I have spent alot of time designing bikes and i can tell you that making a bike fast is not as simple as putting the pivot 160mm above the BB and using a GB, idler or moving BB to reduce chain growth. A rearward axle path has definite advantages when travelling over bumps with an edge oriented towards you. This is undisputable. What is often ignored is the way it affects cornering balance and geometry. It also affects pedalling and braking response in what is generally considered a positive way. But although chain tension plays no part in the antisquat generated by a high pivot with an idler or GB there is still sacrifice. The centripital force of the rotating rear wheel creates a force perpindicular to the swingarm whcih acts to extend the suspension. At all points while the wheel is rotating this force is acting. This means for a bump force to compress the suspension it must first overcome this force which affectively gives a detrimental affect to the bump sensitivity of the system. Pedal feedback is an almost unoticable force when the istant centre is less than 20 or so mm above the top of the chainring.That means on a dh bike with a 36 tth you can have a rearward axle path for roughly 90mm of travel(or the part of travel used in bump absorbtion). Idler sysytems have to be single pivots so unless you use a sytem like Split Pivot it is difficullt to tune braking response. A lot of companies actually don't have a method of graphing activity underbraking but i have developed one using the instant centres path and have found using it that high pivots are very difficult to tune active braking into. Sorry for the monster post i just wanted to point out that some of the apparent advantages of gearbox designs are exxagerated.
  • + 9
 ^^^^^ I'm sure you have a lot of experience designing bikes, geometries and testing them out AT AGE 15..... :/
  • + 2
 Blah blah, say whatever to make something sound how you like, just like the main article. Zerodes are ridiculously fast, the minor extra weight doesn't bother most, and makes the bike feel more stable and helps the rear turn around it. High single pivot bikes smash through rough stiff better than anything else, no matter how you phrase it, or what you theorize yourself into thinking. They squat a bit under brakes, don't like the advantages of that keeping the geometry more consistent and helping set up geometry for corners, then add an idler and dial in whatever braking character you want, from squat, to neutral, to jack like Kona had back in the day for a racer that wanted it.
and please explain how high pivots naturally help neutralize bobbing that so many other designs do with valving and or leverage curves, and or anti squat(compromising other things IMO).
  • + 4
 Physics says gearbox. Engineering and manufacturing is a bit more empirical. All in all gearbox is a very good idea they should develop it.
  • + 1
 Bad Boy, You and all the rest of the Gearbox Haters out there better Pray I don't win the Powerball. Because if I do it's on. The only thing that is really holding back Gearboxes is money. Put enough money out there and we would have a great gearbox in no time. Sorry but my XX Derailleur wasn't any more durable than the 9 speed XO on my old bike. Again sorry but my new clutch derailleur helps,but doesnt completely eliminate dropped chains There is also no denying they have some negative side affects to your shifting. I should also mention the clunking and creaking. So more maintence is required. Aka tearing it completely apart. But they don't want you to do it yourself.
  • + 1
 Dude, gotta get Shimano. Your XO is dropping chains and creaking?!
  • + 1
 DarkStar. The Shimano didn't creak but it didnt hold chains any better. The shifting seemed to be affected more with the Shimano as well. Even with the added maintenance i'll stick with the Sram mech simply because it shifts the second I hit the trigger no matter what. Don't get me wrong they both work pretty well and I defiantly recommend them but they aren't as perfect as this article implies.
  • + 4
 Honestly my XT shifts really well. Clutch works great, no dropping of chains. Perfect? Well nothing is perfect.
  • + 1
 Both of mine ran great all last summer. But both started giving me issues this spring. But as I said, once I tore them apart and cleaned them up they have both been running well again. Admittedly I have had very few shifting issues in the last 10 years. But most people are terrified to touch derailleurs even though they are really simple. I'm just one of those people that is never satisfied with what's available. I just got a new bike a few weeks ago and as good as it is I think it could be better. I look at the gearbox the same way. Pinion produced the First legitimate gearbox. It might not be the first gearbox on a bike but its the first one that holds real promise. If we don't give it and others a chance we will never know how good they can be. We are people after all, and we can build anything if we put our minds to it.
  • + 3
 @spongebomb real cool pull out the age card. I bet you didn't understand at all what i was talking about did you. The fact that my comment got negative propped clearly shows 2 other people didn't either. i would call 5 years alot of time designing bikes. Maybe not compared to some people in the industry but they haven't chosen gearboxes either. Only in the last couple of years have i really begun to understand suspension kinematics properly and i still don't know alot of the physics involved but considering my comment was niether biased nor rude, was there any reason for it to get negative votes? Stop being immature just because you like gearboxes and i pointed out some things about suspension designs that use them.@NoSkidMarks i'm not sure what you mean by "naturally help neutralize bobbing". If your trying to say that other designs make sacrifice to prevent bob and squat then yes thats true and in my opinion high pivots make the least sacrifice.
  • + 0
 i should also point out my comment about high pivots being difficult to tune active braking into was not entirely true. It actually depens if it is a layout like a zerode or a layout like the old ghosts with the idler. Or ofcourse something completely different.
  • + 9
 The poll needs a "I'd still be down to try a gearbox bike despite advances in derailleur systems" option
  • + 5
 Lol good ol pinkbike. Gimme an x9 and a weekend at whistler and ill smash it to bits. I think Zerode are on the right track.
  • + 1
 i agree DH parkour guy, needs to be a fouth option in there
  • + 1
 maybe if the gear box can't be in the bike thing,at one point change local of derail,so as not to hit rock or tree i over looked on my perfect world ride.
  • + 1
 one more thing try things out before you type bs you think you no,ride it,test it,but don't type it if you have not rode it,try it all you might never no just because your bud thinks its a huffy.one more on race day that was the first thing i change was the derailleur all new just to make it down knowing it would work,after smashing on average 2-3 each race,thats when we had 3 days of 4hr practice,pro class.
  • + 2
 Not totally sure what you're trying to say.
[Reply]
  • + 63
 You overlooked one thing Mike. The technological booms are pretty much over in MTB and companies will be desperately looking for "the nex big thing" to make people sell their bikes and buy new ones. It is already moving 1mm at the time. Why is it over? Carbon fibre landed on frames and rims of DH bikes; light weight material under abuse, officialy accepted by the masses - yet cheap carbon fibre will never ever happen, there is not a single industry in which composites pushed out alloys because of being more cost effective. 3d printing for metals? In highest segments, maybe, but for normal bikes? - Forget it. We have three wheel sizes, the front derailleur will be officialy dead as soon as Shimano joins XXL cassette club and we get those in SLX and X7. Then Enduro 29 has hit the nail on its head for the geometry, and smashed this utterly idiotic argument on problems with fitting front derailleur on long travel 29er. I'm sure all engineers are drawing their new 29ers with short chainstays as I write this. Air sprung suspension just got super dialed with BOS, RS Pike, Fox 40, Vivid Air, CCDB Air. Maybe XC, Trail and AM 26ers will reinvent themselves in geometry, as radically fun-oriented bikes not caring for ticking clock. Maybe drivetrains will get simplified especially in DH - it is inevitable, we will see 5-6 speed DH drivetrains, too many pros run their 10sp setups this way already. Enduro World Series is the last chance to spawn some new breed of racing machines, but I'm not sure that will happen as those AM bikes are damn dialed already. Maybe Mavic will finaly make wide rims Big Grin

Whatever will come, this progress is inevitably slowing down. So the Next Big thing is electronics, sure, but in mechanical world, the only castle to conquer, the only significant, new selling point is the gearbox. It will always be heavier and less effective, but once developed, it will be a feasible alternative to standard derailleur systems.
  • + 16
 I hope one day the MTB technique will be something we don't really care, like in snowboarding, we will just grab a bike and ride it and it will works perfectly.
  • - 5
 Steel hardtail with open-bath, coil fork. Then single ring setup with NOS XT or XTR from 2000-2002, eventualy 2012 XTRshifter/Saint rear mech with clutch. All stuff containing bearings from CK or Hope. If you just keep on changing Shimano brakes every year, reliability of "decelaration device" will be solved as well. If you do want a Full Susser get a single pivot with coil shock. No dropper.
  • + 2
 Why is nobody talking about friction loss? I don't care how well you get a gearbox to work. It will never be better than a derail setup for that reason alone. And like the article states, the shifter and deraillieur system is working flawlessly lately. Quiet, crisp, efficient, lightweight, durable. And honestly, it's been years since Ive actually ruined a rear mech on a rock (thank you Shimano Shadow Tech). My chains are lasting longer too...I see no reason whatsoever to persue gearboxes.
  • + 10
 What friction loss? The only real good reasons for gearboxes is to centralize mass and reduce rear wheel weight to improve suspension quality. The centralized mass will make the bike more manueverable. Think of two 35lbs bikes, one with the weight on the wheels and the other with majority of the weight in the center. The heavier wheeled one will be more stable at high speeds and want to stay more upright, while the other will be much easier to manipulate where and what you want it to do. Obviously this is an exaggerated example.
  • + 1
 What is friction loss? There is a loss of efficiancy through a gearbox that does not exist in the current derailleur system.They are very low friction. Like Levy says, on a DH bike this may not be an issue for most, but for a top level DH racer, where 0.001 seconds count, it's a big deal. As far as centralizing mass, with the weight of a derailleur these days, it's a non issue. Im not an enginner, but I dare anybody to build a gearbox that is AS reliable as current systems that weighs less. Somebody mentioned ceramic gears? How much would that cost and how reliable will that be? Besides what if your gearbox explodes on the trail. Then what? At least with a derailleur system you can fit a new mech in a few min, nevermind a myriad of ghetto fixes if you don't have one on hand.
  • + 10
 Gearbox won't take off until Shimano or SRAM get behind it and release one that works, is light, and works with their shifters. They have a vested interest in selling fragile, expensive parts. Are they ever going to go hard out trying to produce something that doesn't break, wear out or need any form of maintenance for several years? Of course not.

For me, the current system is the same as the 4 stroke engine. It's not better than the alternatives, but the industry is so heavily invested in it that it will take a miracle for them to change tack. Legislation might eventually force it in the automotive industry, but it never will in the bicycle industry.

I'm all for gearbox, but I fear it will never happen. Not for the reasons stated in the article though.
  • + 17
 As for the point about mechs working really well... not when they're covered in mud they don't. Do a ten run shuttle day in the pissing rain and tell me they work perfectly. A gearbox would still work exactly the same, rain, shine, snow mud, whatever. And it would continue to do so after ten years.
  • + 2
 Im honestly not being a jerk here, so please do not take offense. I have, and it does. Shimano Saint.
  • + 8
 I know what friction loss is. You guys just don't have much to say where and how much more there is compared to the derailleur system. Gearboxes are if anything stronger and last longer but they haven't been in development that long compared to the derailleur. The only maintnance they need is replacing the oil every couple thousand miles. If you don't see a point in centralizing mass then you should just stop debating because that's just sad. Every bike rider wants to improve the performance of their bike, saying "it's not worth it" is just being hopeless.

I feel like the only thing holding them back is the derailleur still being such a money maker. If you think about it just ten years ago derraileurs were shit, every couple years they made small changes and improved them. Apply that same logic to gearboxes. Companies create something new, everybody talks it down and says they suck or that it just won't work, then the companies get everything in order and everybody is kissing their ass! I say get over the f*cking derailleurs and lets get innovative. If only several companies would come together and work on it for biking as a whole but then again it comes back to making money so it will probably just start slow as hell and in 10 years everybody will have them.
  • + 0
 I don't want to argue it, to build a gear box with 8 or 10 gears, will have several gears meshing at any one time, then you have cogs and or a jackshaft, drive chain, depending on the design and I am sure some are better than others. Where as with the derailleur, at any one time, you have just the two cogs, then your two pulleys. That's it. It's very direct.

So what I am saying is, although centralizing mass is important, and unsprung weight is too... how much does a mech weigh? and a cassette? High end, not a lot. If the gear box weighs more, and I really do think it will, is it worth the extra weight and friction loss just to take 300-400 grams off the rear wheel? I mean, these new DH bikes are absolute screamer's it's not like you finsish a DH on a carbon Demo and think to yourself "gee I wish I didnt have this lead weight on my rear axle"...
  • + 4
 There is no doubt a gearbox will weigh more than a derailleur, I'm not aurgueing that. The whole point is that a significant amount of weight is removed from the rear wheel, which can make beneficial improvements to suspension performance and quality. The additional weight that is added to the frame is negligable because it is in your central mass, almost like part of your body. Comparable to someone putting a heavier shock on your frame. It's a balance of where the weight goes and in my opinion the weight of a derailleur is much better suited at the center of the frame.
  • - 1
 No doubt, so the question is... how light can we get the gear box, and how much can we reduce the friction, so that it's worth it. You make all very good points, im just not yet convinced it's feasible.
  • + 9
 money...money..money

accountants running the 2 big transmission companies starting with "S" know exactly how much money they make selling derailleur based transmission systems which suffer increasing "wear and tear" you more you ride or push your bike

no desire to move to ultra-durable gearbox transmissions and affect the profit and loss spreadsheets Wink


actually? thinking deeper about it, as a professional workshop manager (bike shop) I could be out of a job if gear boxes became widespread, as 70% of our repair work is removing toasted derailleur transmission systems and fitting new parts
  • + 3
 Reducing unsprung weight is good for suspension action. Centralizing weight is also good provided it's kept low.Makes for a more "flickable" ride. The concept of losing the complicated bundle of cables, gears and derailleurs hanging off of my bike can only be a good thing.
  • + 2
 Weight is not the issue. Darkstar is right about friction loss. It feels like pedaling an extra wheel around. The only hope for gear boxes is for them to take off with DH and then get refined down for enduro.
There is another benefit they haven't mentioned with the gear box: clearance. You could run tiny cogs with different chains, allowing for lower bb's. That could really make a DH rig better.

SRAM has made a gearbox that retrofits to any modern frame. I like the hammerschmidt gear box. Honestly two more gears there and it would be everything I need. A hardest for really cranking it down the hill, a medium for high speed flats, an easier for those climbs, and a granny for the really hard climbs. All they need to do is work out how it could get 2 more in there and allow customization in their ratios.
Even without 4 gear changes on the front I might get a hammerschmit and go single on the back. Who needs all those changes really?
  • + 3
 The reason hammerschmidt has so much drag is because it has to multiply the speed of the cranks. So for every one rotation of cranks, the chainring spins 1.6 times or however much it is. A gearbox doesn't do that. A gearbox is exactly the same as a derailleurr drivetrain, every spin of the cranks spins the gears once and the multipication comes by the size difference in gears. The only additional drag would be from the mesh of the gears in the gearbox. The friction is determined by how well it is built and how many gears your pedaling force has to travel through. Not to mention the actual size of the gears affects the friction greatly, so forcing a bunch of mechanical stuff into the small space of the chainring creates a lot of drag. Can't really compare a gearbox to a hammerschmidt.
  • + 3
 I stand corrected.
  • + 2
 I dunno I could be wrong on the drag issue. Need someone with experience on a GB bike to let us know, I just know the overdrive on the hammerschmidt has noticeable drag.
  • + 3
 The Hammerschmidt actually does exactly the same thing as a gearbox, it alters the ratio of crank rotation to wheel rotation by changing the gearing ratio. The only difference is that Hammerschmidt only has two ratios to choose from instead of 7/8/14.

Gearboxes have two advantages over derailleurs, mass centralisation and reliability (let's face it, you can still rip any derailleur off pretty easily). Mass centralisation is a little dubious as an advantage especially if it comes at the cost of substantially increased weight overall. However, what you also lose with a constant chainline is the varying anti-squat that comes with different gears. You need more anti-squat when climbing than when riding on flat, and more anti-squat is produced in lower gear combinations, which just happens to work out quite well. That is a distinct advantage to derailleur-based systems, and unlike weight or reliability, there is no fix for that one when using a gearbox. For that reason, they'll always be relegated to the DH world (if anything), where there isn't enough money to really develop that kind of thing to the cost and weight criteria it would need to meet in order to be properly competitive with derailleurs... so I think Levy is on the money.
  • + 6
 I would discount friction as an issue as both derailleurs and IGHs all lose a few per cent in friction. Even the Gates belt drive runs at a loss because the belt has to be so tight to stop it from falling off. There are many papers on the subject written by rocket scientists. Just Google for them. The difference in friction between IGH and derailleurs is less than you expect. I can't find the best article at the moment. I do agree with the unsprung weight issue - the Rohloff is very 'bangy' in the rough. Though when it comes to longevity it has paid for itself before it is even worn in when compared to a few seasons of having to replace chains and sprockets. A Rohloff hub has done 100000 miles and it is still going strong. Something like the Pinion would be my ideal - central, good enough spread, housed, low relief, simple. One day the engineers at Rohloff will be let lose to do something other than what Mr and Mrs Rohloff restrict them to. A few months later the derailler will be dead. Many times on Pinkbike the argument is 'moto have been doing this for years' and so if we run that argument for MTB then, ultimately, the derailler will go the way of the dodo - i.e. it will be exterminated by a bunch of Europeans.
  • + 5
 IGH's are only 2% less efficient than derailleur setups.
http://www.ihpva.org/HParchive/PDF/hp52-2001.pdf
  • + 8
 "Besides what if your gearbox explodes on the trail". If you blow up your gearbox, the odds are that you also desintegrated your frame in the process. I also remember reading on this site that some gearboxes run trouble-free for like 40,000km with extremely minor maintenance.

And yeah, maybe the added friction could be a negative point for racing but it could be compensated for by better performing suspension designs.

I once crossed a guy riding a zerode and asked him how he liked it. His answer was "The fact that it's hassle free and the quality of the ride makes you totally forget that it's a little heavier than conventional setups."

The way the article is written (lack comments about friction, suspension efficiency, maintenance, durability) makes me believe that mike never rode one, which makes this article entirely useless.
  • + 1
 WAKIdesigns for president. I love how he actually thinks before posting. His comment was much much better and more interesting to read than this whole article.
  • + 1
 Socket, there's no reason a shock couldn't have it's damping change by elctronics or mechanically when the shifter changed into a lower gear. I don't get why you only ever use your brain and knowledge to dissect stuff rather than designing something yourself. I have more than enough faith you could design a gearbox and suspension design to parallel any current designs performance.
  • + 1
 The point of the article is to appear short sighted enough to stimulate debate and have us all visit this page multiple times. I haven't tried a Zerode but I'd love to. I bet if they got a big money backer and one or two of Gwin, Greg, Gee, Steve Smith, Danny Hart or Peaty on the team they'd shift 1000 bikes in a year and the public would be converted... even if the design is still a little crude, too wide between the knees and too heavy. I reckon the G5 or G6 is going to be the shiznit
  • + 1
 @Darkstar63
Don't you thing that adding a taco-style or dangler style anti-D will add no friction to your how-friction-free derailleur transmission????
  • + 1
 Clutched derailleur's don't need a full guide. And nobody said friction free. But I would be very shocked if a 9 speed tranny had less.
  • + 2
 People still spit chains with Clutch derailleurs. They're great, but take of the rose coloured glasses. DH bikes still have chain guides for good reason.
  • + 0
 I actually do run a full guide on both my dh bike and Remedy. Although I did ride the remedy without ad never dropped a chain I just plan on racing that bike and would be very disappointed to spit a chain mid run. I have only a top guide on my fuel and beat the crap out of it on rocky loose trail. No clutch old slx and very very rarely drop a chain. I'm not saying I hate gear boxes. They are cool. I just don't think they will ever take off. Just my opinion.
  • + 2
 I have to concede that derailleurs got much better with the clutch. Had a chain guide and regular derailleur on my dixon and still dropped the chain sometimes. Took the guide off and switched the derailleur for a x9 type 2 and the chain stayed in place perfectly after about 10 runs in some of the most rugged terrain I ever rode with that bike. Looking good so far and I'm really happy I got rid of the extra resistance added by the rollers. Then someone crashed into my derailleur and the chain did some funky nasty gymnastics and got stuck in a weird position. I'd still like to order a gearbox for take out please!
  • + 1
 NSM, why go for a more complex solution to something that already has a simple one? Increasing damping to the extent that pedalling performance is substantially better also decreases bump performance; having anti-squat that varies according to gradient is a simpler and better performing way to do things. I'm more than busy enough with what I'm currently doing to want to bother designing frames right now.
  • + 3
 I think I and others have expressed why quite enough without redoing it. And I really don't think it's more complex than a suspension design dictated to by a chainline and current fad in sprocket sizes. Deraileurs are not a simple solution either, they're a barstadization of logic, that only work because it's so refined, and even still, they're far from perfect. I'm pretty sure the average life span of a new derailleur won't differ much from an XT mech of ten years ago. Those clutch forces are going somewhere.
Having the shifting mechanism bending a chain under load from side to side and forcing that chain to ram into another gear is not logical, no matter what amazing advancements are made. Have a look at a chain in granny gear on the back from the back of the bike. Look at it's angle to the front chain ring, do you really feel this is the most logical way to lock out suspension from working as efficiently? A bent chain as a lockout mechanism, wearing out itself and the sprockets every time you hit a bump or bounce.
I've not given it much thought, but off the top of my head, Have an electric sensor to activate firmer damping only when pedaling if you want to replicate the lower gear anti squat you talk of. You could have the increased damping not effect bump performance any more than chain torque does. Or have a mechanical system like the Kona magic link. I'm sure people wouldn't care for it. I really don't think it's a big enough issue to worry about myself. For XC racers, keep a mech if you really think it's better for their suspension design. For the rest of us, let us have our way more durable, less money sucking, reliable, slightly less efficient(yet to really be proven until the big companies got on board), simpler to use and live with gearbox bikes that we can shift anytime anywhere without half the worry of failure. Ram that sucker into a bike with a slightly higher pivot point so it bobs less.
  • + 3
 NoSkidMarks makes it pretty obvious how weird a derailleur system really is. Bending chains and wearing teeth out early. . . yeah, the derailleur is a long series of bandaids on the sucking wound that is the bicycle transmission.
Let me frame it in a way I like: Lose 2% efficiency to pedalling with a gear box (a trade we make for longer travel anyway), gain better axle paths, get better weight centralization, lower bottom brackets, the option of using clean long lasting belts (look at some of the current bike belt designs they are pretty nifty) and get bikes that don't wear out their parts as quickly.
In the end many of the things we say in defense of the 26er against the 29er are also defenses of the gear box: it is more flickable, who cares if it doesn't pedal as fast. I'm out to have fun, not obsess about my gear (you will never have to think about it cuz it never breaks!). I contend that if you like 26ers you ought to be pushing for a gear box standard.
Conversely, a 29er with a gear box would be more flickable too and you could drop the bb even more.
The only people using derailluers should be xc riders and roadies. The rest of us belong on gear box.
  • + 1
 CVT. That is the future. Up the efficiency and you're always in the right gear. What's not to like?
  • + 2
 I don't drive automatic cars for fun. Your bike can drive like a mini van, but I'll keep mine riding like an old school rally car. Give me a clutch pedal any day.
  • + 2
 taletotell I'm feeling you. I'm a gear shifting fetishist. Sync! sync! I actualy brake with engine a lot when driving in town... because I can, and I do it darn well! What else can you do?! Listen to stupid radio or gay music that only you can like? Maybe gas like a wanker?
  • + 1
 Unfortunately as a recent college grad with a family, my car does drive rather like a mini van. One more reason for my bike not to though.
  • + 1
 "That steep gnarly line was soooo boring, I didn't even have to change speed once due to being on the brakes all the way down!" said NO ONE EVER.

The car comparison doesn't make sense as you have so many other things to worry about while riding a bike, as opposed to driving a manual car, where in most scenarios shifting is the only thing that makes driving a little bit less boring.
  • + 1
 I pick the pace of pedalling when climbing according to the terrain. I may need the granny gear, not for the whole thing, but for the set of roots and screen in the middle, so I pick my granny and attack. If it picked for me it would have to shift when I hit that rough stuff and I would never make the climb. Hitting the shore style stuff would be harder since I want a certain level of resistance on the log and during the approach. Control over the bike requires that I can control when it shifts. If all I did was down hill or flat than maybe an automatic could work.
  • + 1
 Changing gear in a car or on a motorbike is part and parcel of the driving experience and necessary to get the best performance and most fun from it. I hate my crappy Mazda 3 automatic gearbox but my wife can't drive a manual so I'm stuck with it.

Having said that, I think CVT on a pushbike would be awesome. You'd never have to worry about being in the right gear because you always would be. I don't enjoy changing gear on a mountain bike half as much as I do on my motorbike. In fact, on a downhill run on my local course I only use three or four gears and pretty much never change gear unless I'm in a race. It would free up brain I/O time to concentrate on other important parts of the ride. I don't think it would drastically increase your times like it would in a car or on a motorbike. In fact, I think it would have the opposite effect.

Plus there would be the added benefits of getting rid of another cable and give you more bar space and a cleaner look at both ends of the bike, which I'm all for. Basically all the benefits of singlespeed and gears!
  • + 1
 taletotell: careful! my friends Grand dad was into SS as well... then he was forced to move to Argentina...
  • + 2
 @jaame

NuVinci have had their CVT design on the market for some seasons, Ellsworth (Ca, USA) did their "Ride" chopper bike with the NuVinci and it just felt...weird

having gears changing automatically is very very odd, perhaps good for a novice? but an experienced rider will want to shift UP/DOWN when they feel the need, rather than a CVT system making that decision for them?
  • + 1
 hah hah! waki I has the thought briefly when I wrote that that maybe it would get interpreted wrong, but I thought nah, not amoung bike folk. go fight.
  • + 1
 I don't know how it would feel. I ride to work every day either on my motorbike or my wife's CVT scooter. It never changes gear, just the ratio smoothly adjusts itself according to road speed and engine speed. It is always in the right ratio to put the power down in the most efficient way. I'd love to try it on a pushbike.
  • + 1
 NSM, I'm not saying gearboxes are an outright bad idea, they definitely have their positives just as derailleurs definitely have their negatives, but the reverse is also true. Having a $500+ gearbox (iirc those Rohloffs were going for about $1400au a few years back, I'm sure that's dropped with the exchange rate, but still!) + $?? worth of electronics is, for the foreseeable future, going to weigh AND cost substantially more than a derailleur setup, as well as being more complex (not necessarily a problem if it's reliable, which the gearbox side has proven to be) and pedalling worse if you're both climbing and descending on the one bike. The big problem I see with it ever really taking off in the future is that because its only real plausible market at the moment is the DH market, there isn't sufficient money available to throw at R&D for something as complicated as a gearbox in order to make it lighter, more streamlined and cheap enough for it to become applicable for other types of riding. You may or may not be aware of the immense costs involved in performing thorough R&D on complex components for mass production - it's not as simple as "ok everyone start doing gearboxes because derailleurs are dumb". Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see it, but I still think Mr Levy is more or less correct - derailleur systems have become so highly engineered and refined that a lot of their problems have been cut down to a level that is acceptable to the average consumer. Same could be said for telescopic forks (both moto and bicycle), that are some of the most highly engineered components on the planet just in order to circumvent their inherent issues with binding and diving, but due to decades of intense research, are now much better than any linkage forks ever were.
[Reply]
  • + 51
 Find me a gearbox standard that all manufacturers will adhere to and then I'll buy a gearbox frame.
  • - 15
 as if there was a standard in the derailleur market.
  • - 2
 Bikes will get less standardized, just accept it... standards are an obstacle for the designers, there is more and more cooperation between components manufacturers and bike/frame designers, they don't have to give a damn about bike forums. They rule the game, we can just bla bla bla at them, and play according to their rules. It's not a freaking democracy ;D And as I wrote above, they need to keep our apetites high, to sell and buy new things, so it's good for them to make stuff that does not accomodate old products so you need to buy new. It's all few clicks away in On-Line store. Then companies like Hope will always provide "standard-bridging" products, so it won't be that bad.
  • + 6
 please elaborate, guigui...... I haven't counted, but there are LOADS of mechs I can mount on my bikes. I believe a "standard" for gearbox fitting across frame and component manufacturers will entice consumers, especially if it's akin to choosing a cassette spread. Just my first thought as I ponder what would get me into a box setup.
  • + 1
 I feel you finnrambo but I think that everyone's trying something new, because nothing is really catching on right now. Once it does though, that'll be the first standard we hear of.
  • + 1
 Yip "finnrambo".... that pretty much sums it up!
  • + 8
 Try fitting an 11 speed mech then. Oh wait you need a new cassette, chain, rings and hub. Hope you didn't have UST wheels and tyres as they don't make UST for XX1 do they? So converting your old bike to XX1 isn't as cheap as buying an Alfine or a used Rohloff (used is better for efficiency). There is a gearbox standard and has been for years. Shimano and Sram have long standing relationships with bike companies. They like big oil and car companies will milk the current technology for the last drop before letting us have the new stuff. That Dave Weagle vid where he says we'll have derailleurs for another ten years is just depressing. The other advantage not listed in the above article is shifting from high to low without pedalling
  • + 1
 Waki is right. Standards limit progress. It's why there are minimal standards in the automotive and motorcycle world. It's not as big a deal as people make it out to be. Buy a frame or a complete bike and then buy parts that work with it. If you are running older frames ( i am too, I own nothing newer than 2010) there are plenty of great parts available in your "standard" ... so what's the big f'in deal.
  • + 0
 Make no mistake, I'm not into destandarization, I hate it to be honest, things get tailored for fractions of gains, and these are mainly trade-off infested weight-drop focused designs. To this day I haven't felt any difference between straight and tapered fork steerer. Maybe the carbon steerer/crown monocoque might use the advantage but for alu, it's pointless. Tapered head tube - be my fkn guest, larger weld area, ability to run anglesets, bing-bong mata-ta. I do feel decreased stiffness thanks to tools free 15mm axles, comparing to bolt clamped 20mm - it's f*cked up, I dare to say it's nearly as flexy as 9mm. All for the sake of 50 grams - designed with an unfit moron and a racer-wannabe weight-weenie wanker in mind - Stupid pish! 35mm handlebars, why to go there, shall we have 33 for ENDURO as the next bit because leg shavers finaly took fingers out of their asses and run 31.8?

But I kind of imagined the future and decided to better deal with it...
  • + 3
 Standards limit progress only so long as they're accepted as being the best possible outcome without question, and if no one is willing to deviate from them for fear of pumping capital into a dead end market. A diversity of manufacturer-unique styles, from a consumer point of view, is just as limiting. You're paying a premium price because you can only purchase it from a single source, as opposed to a 'race to the bottom' to see who can produce the best gear for the cheapest price.
I'm not saying a manufacturer should conform to a standard if they think that they can provide a superior product by not doing so, but saying "standards are an obstacle" is a pretty blanket statement. You only have to look at 15mm axles; every company is going to try and convince you that they've found the perfect balance between weight and strength with their fantabulous non-standard measurement, when all they've done is piss a lot of people off.
  • + 2
 Im not "into" it either, but I just don't think it's the end of the world. Big headtubes have made progress in frame design possible. That much has been proven, no marketing shinanigans there. Tapered steerer's? Is it needed, maybe, maybe not but if you ahve a tapered frame why not a taper fork? It at least looks nice sitting flush with the headtube. You can of course run a straight steere (i do on my Remedy) with the appropriate headset. 15mm is an intended replacement for QR, not 20mm. I don't know why we are seeing 15mm specc'd on long travel bikes, that is messed up, I agree on that. I have QR on my XC bike and it's fine. But why limit frame design? If we did not create some of these "standards" would we be on 8 inch travel DH bikes with QR front and rear 135mm spacing and 68mm bb's??
  • + 3
 People really are not understanding 15mm. It's a replacement for QR and a good one. Nobody is trying to tell you to put a 15mm axle on your DH bike. "Standards limit progress" IS a blanket statement, it was not really meant as an end all declaration. It's just sometimes very true. And of course it is a balance that must be achieved. But sometimes you need to engineer outside of the standards to obtain your goal.
  • - 2
 I might be, really really trolling, but I just got this Sektor fork with 15mm and that thing is damn flexy. I also tried Fox 32 on my wife's bike, and can't tell it to be much stiffer. Quite honestly this is way closer to 9mm than it is to 20mm. So I really don't know why bother... but as I said, f*ck it: ff there will be 17,5mm for "Enduro" then be my guest. A company that will deliver me a 120-140 coil fork for trail riding, with bolt clamped 20mm axle with a modern open bath DH-damper, gets my money directly. I wish this weapons race will spawn something for "conneseurs" as well
  • + 2
 Your Sektor for is not flexy because of the hub. It's SUPPOSED to be close to 9mm, it's a replacemnt for it. That way you have a nice clean looking through axle instead of an archaic skewer, and it does offer stiffness over that design. Personally I think stiffness is more a function of the stanchion diameter and the legs/arch than the axle. I know people were knocking the new PIKE for running the 15mm, I was a little miffed too. But perhaps it's pretty stiff. If they come up with an Enduro 17.5 axle I will laugh. I like 20mm too. I love my Lyrik fork. I also like 160 for trail riding. I don't know what kind of market there really is for a 120 fork with a 20mm axle.
  • - 3
 Just before I changed to Sektor I had a Reba with 20mm axle that was stiff as hell. And I feel Sektor beeing flexy in 120 setting already. But well Nico or Voreis shred on 32mm forks so Im just a sissie arguing over irrelevant stuff. Whatever, I've spent enough time bitching on 15mm... Iet'em have it
  • + 1
 Lol, your a funny dude Waki, wish you weren't across the pond we could shred sometime!
  • + 3
 As the weight of the 32mm forks came down, and the travel went up, flex increased. There isn't enough material in the crown to stabilize the fork. My old Nixons at 145mm in 32mm stanchions was way stiffer than my 150mm revelation, which has 20mm axle. My 130mm DT Swiss which is carbon and superlight with a 15mm axle feels about the same as the revelation. I have an old stance DC with 32mm legs and QR. Its stiffer than any of the 32mm forks with thru axles I have (much more support at the crown, and the stiff reverse brake arch.) I have a 34mm tube Travis SC, and it is really rigid. Its heavy because of the crown. It is strong enough to support 203mm travel, which is ridiculous for a SC fork.

The largest contribution to steering precision is the crown. All variables are important, but the stability at the crown was shown in the late 80s and early 90s in moto to be the biggest area of gain. The next is the brace (brake arch) then the axle. The axle is more important on inverted designs as there is no brake arch.
  • + 1
 Yes, I remember Nixon to be damn stiff, it had a huge crown but also proper big clamp for the axle, fastened with bolts. The first Maxle had expanding cones on both sides, now to drop weight and simplify undoing the whole thing there is none, and there will always be a minor movement between threads. Yea, yea, crying over spoiled milk...
  • + 2
 @Willie1

agreed with your information about crown

a heavier crown provides a huge support to the fork stanchions and overall fork rigidity, but at the expense of weight

if you look at Fox's single crown forks, they are very light, and use a heavily engineered crown to reduce much of this weight

I have had discussions with technical people at Fox (I work as a workshop manager in bike shops) and they said customers want a very light fork, and Fox have engineered a minimal crown which has a critical tolerance for safety when manufactured

they said their machine press fits the stanchions in the crown, using a light coat of special grease. a good number of fitments fail this process as the stanchion / crown tolerance is critical, and during fitting the crown expands (swells), if beyond the tolerance then the fitment is rejected under QC

Over time, with washing and bad weather, this grease will leach from the stanchion / crown interface, which results in a strange creaking / clicking when pedalling or braking hard. Its not a safety issue, but simply an annoyance that can only be solved by replacing the entire CSU at cost (not cheap, unless within the 1 year warranty when its FOC)

They could eliminate this problem by manufacturing a heavier crown to allow their in-country techs to use a hydraulic press to remove, grease and re-install the stanchions (like old press-fitted Marzocchi forks) but this would add substantial weight to the fork Wink
  • + 1
 I wonder if it would be possible to make a one piece carbon fibre assembly: steerer-crown-upper legs. If you could have continous unidirectional fibers from top to the bottom, with few bracings, the thing would be damn strong and light as hell. The hard thing to fic would be the tolerances of the upper legs and what to do with their outer surface in general. But structuraly it sounds tempting to me.
  • + 1
 The newer Minute fork, which replaced the Nixon has a hollow crown, and is way lighter than the Nixon, but much less rigid. The Nixon also had that great hybrid spring system, where the initial travel/sag could be tuned with the small spring, and the main travel was the air spring. I had those forks on several bikes and even used them in Whistler. I have watched Ebay and the classifieds for one of the 160mm versions, but no luck.

A complete carbon upper assembly with impregnated slider material would be incredible, but imagine the PB comments: OMG, $2500.00 for plastic!!!!! Its gunna snap!!!!
  • + 1
 somehow went from gearbox to axle discussion... well then
  • - 1
 And you're to blame!
  • + 1
 who mentioned 15mm axles again? Big Grin
  • + 0
 man, as soon as you mention the word " in the post, things will get out of control - it's like mentioning wheel size in the title of the video. khehe!

RideOn mate Wink
[Reply]
  • + 33
 I think gearboxes can still evolve till the point of reaching a perfect weight-performance Balance.
Bigger companies does not like gearboxes, because are maintenance free, that means, "no buying again and again if some derraileur got broken or the cogs got worn"
Gearboxes can be much better, and big reason that make them not so popular is the blackout made by some press, sponsored by big economic interested holdings
  • + 9
 Totally agree. Just search youtube and you can see all sorts of crazy light efficient prototype cvt gearbox designs that could be on a bike one day. Its just a matter of how long you can hold your breath for.
[Reply]
  • + 35
 Imagine how good gearboxes could be if they got half the development money that the derailer system gets.
  • + 3
 Exactly dude , I think once a big company get on it and invests some development time and money into it they will come up with some thing much smaller and lighter than what has been produced so far.
  • + 1
 Invest time and money into something that they sell only once? They will soon become a small company like Rohloff. Or market it as a niche offering like Shimano already do. Stop buying new derailleur technology or buy a gearbox. Stop buying carbon Treks for $9000 and start buying Nicolais. Get gearbox companies to sponsor higher profile riders or get lucky with an up and coming rider.
  • + 1
 doesn't have to sell only once, make the casing carbon, don't put grease in and use titanium cogs, that'll sell more than a few times I'd bet, don't want a gearbox like that though
[Reply]
  • + 29
 With the popularisation of lighter weight materials (e.g. carbon) that can be used as casings for gearboxes and perhaps the use of ceramic gears or even CVT style technology there's no reason for gearboxes to be "shit"... seems to be a very opinionated article.
  • + 3
 That's the idea, especially with the "Levy makes his case against the gearbox." lead-in.
  • + 1
 don't you know everyone reads the bold subtitles
  • + 10
 should have titled it "Mike's Opinion - Gearboxes are dead"

Who cares about flying cars or a hoverboard? We drew a penis on another planet. i.imgur.com/eqOEDzw.jpg
  • + 1
 Or just called it an editorial so we know it's just the opinion of a raving madman! PB seems all too quick to call things dead in my opinion.
  • + 7
 Mike... This is the best article I've seen in a while. You know exactly how to piss off all the engineer forum warriors. Please make your next article "Why Norbs got exactly the score he deserved" to fire up the skinny jean crowd.
  • + 5
 After the Free Ride is dead article, pinkbike's articles have lost a lot of it's credibility to me... And now Mike's ridiculous opinion about gear boxes... If they are so bad why is it that every single mechanical system that needs speed/torque variation uses some kind of gear box? Be it a heavy and large CVT, an Hydraulic System, or the good old gears?
It is the same thing with the electronic operated bike parts, they are the future. Many and more people said that a machine would never be a match for a man, and now we have more and more machines taking over on factories and on automated systems! The ABS system was ridicularized by most pilots, they said it would never beat a man into braking... Or the automatic cars! These also were taken as an useless waste of money!
Some people are just way too close headed about innovations. They hang to their dérailleurs like a fat kid holds to his last Snickers bars, these will be the ones who will regret what they said about the "dead" gear boxes...

Don't want innovation? Get your 1920 bike and go out to ride with it! People like Mike Levy (Who I used to respect a lot because of his eloquent articles, and great reviews) should take more care when writing about something being introduced on the market, they are the ones who form a lot of people opinions. Pinkbike is a major bike media as I see it, and such a ridiculous article should be banned, not posted on their home page...

Hope people don't take this gearbox is dead bullshit seriously.

Caio Kallas

Salute
  • + 1
 The difference is that these are bicycles and not motorcycles. They are powered by legs not internal combustion engines. Levy makes many good points in this article. He ask's a question, it's an editorial, intended to make you think... that's all. I don't want electronics on my bike. Just like I want a clutch pedal in my car. Don't particularly care if an automatic can beat me.
  • - 5
 A gearbox will never ever be as efficient or as light as a dérailleur. /end of thread
  • + 5
 Wait derailleur and efficient in the same sentence........
  • + 1
 more so than a gearbox
  • + 2
 Darkstar. He doesn't just ask a question, he tells you his answer to the question, like some sort of bully trying to rev up a crowd to pick on the fat kid. Well he failed, and looks like a right self opinionated corporate arse kisser. State facts, ALL OF THEM, or don't write. and don't add your uneducated self serving biast opinion ever again thanks.

Jaydawg69. define efficient? Maybe statically with a clean mech on a bench, no. But in the real world of neglected drive trains, weak drivetrains failing, not being able to shift into a more efficient gear more easily, not having to think about when you can shift, then I think you may well find, in a lot of cases, like DH, a gearbox may well be more efficient.
  • + 4
 I don't think this article is winding people up to spark debate, just factually incorrect marketing.

"...Gearboxes are really inefficient, which is why all race motorbikes and energy eficient cars use a derailleur system." Yup
[Reply]
  • + 24
 Id happily buy a gearbox bike! Zerodes look super nice!
[Reply]
  • + 25
 Zerode!!!!
  • - 8
 Honestly I'm a bit disappointed on Zerode, since they use for a Full DH bike a Full Citiybike gearbox, that spins on ball loose bearings.
The other big disappointment is that Main Pivot is not concentric to the gearbox, that drags to a chaingrowth, and makes the bike to depend on a "derrailer style" Chain tensioner.
If Zerode would have a dedicated gearbox like Pinion, and concentric pivot, would get all my respect.
  • + 3
 Tim Eaton won the Australian overall on a Zerode the gearbox went almost 3 years never being touched. They went with it because it was way more durable than any other offering for about 1/3 the price. Also SHIMANO can service the hub in any major country....also the total chaingrowth it very small unlike other suspension designs.
  • - 6
 Still dissapointed, my expectation was bigger than the ressult
  • + 8
 Zerode is the only feasible gearbox bike out right now. Nicolai's are too expensive, too heavy. The Pinion's are too expensive, and hard to come by(ever seen one?). Another thing I don't particularly like about the latter two brands, is the gearbox is located where the bottom bracket is. A hard enough crash will destroy it, although I guess that would be catastrophic on a regular derailleur bike too. Zerode have managed to integrate an affordable gearbox into a DH frame, not break the bank, and not break the scale either. What more would you want? Never dropping a chain, being able to shift under full load, centrally located mass, all good things. Zerode is on to something for sure. I would really love to see some affordable gearbox bikes, the Pinion's look great. Although I would like to see the trans mounted a bit higher up than the bottom bracket.

Don't see gearbox bikes becoming common place any time soon, but i think one day(5/10/15 years from now, who knows) you will see atleast one at your local trails every time you go for a ride.
  • + 4
 only issue I can see with the Zerode is the gearbox is up high and I think they're heavy (never picked up an alfine hub before) and the fact that no shops sell them or know how to service them, either way I wish Zerode luck! I'm starting to really want a G-2
  • + 5
 I sell Zerodes here in Australia. I know of one person who has bothered to service his Alfine, and he rides DH every day. We have not sold any sprockets for the Alfine in nearly 3 years. You can easily strip and clean an Alfine in about half an hour, and at worst if you were fanatical, you'd do that once a year, or just buy a new one for a few hundred bucks. Otherwise the maintenance is a barrel adjust for the cable maybe every six months because your not pulling a mech into a gear under load that it doesn't want to be in. This takes all of a few seconds. Theres a handy port on the Zerodes Alfine to squirt some oil in when you can be bothered(it's sealed), otherwise you just lube the chain. Chains last forever also. I've never put a new chain on. Because they're running straight, not twisted and bent into the next gear under load, they last a ridiculously lot longer.
The Alfine sits between your calves, hardly high, and the weight stabilizes the bike really well. Gives it it's own center of gravity when unweighted.
[Reply]
  • + 18
 This article compares the deralieur system AFTER YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT, with the gearbox system AS IT IS NOW. Of course the gearbox is going to lose that competition.

What they should be looking at is the scope for evolution of the gearbox, and ask: "if the gearbox evolved and improved by the same margin as the deralieur has..... would it be a better system? I suspect the answer would be yes.

Or should we just stop trying to innovate?
  • + 1
 The problem with your argument is you are assuming the stagnation of the derailleur, if you allow gearbox systems 5 more years to get good then you have also allowed derailleurs 5 more years to get even better.
  • + 1
 gearbox's have developed for many many years.
  • + 1
 I think the derailleur just went through a growth spurt and now will change more slowly for a while until something else in the drive train changes. If I had to guess I'd expect to see more new chain lines, with routing to allow for chain growth. I also think the gear box will have it's moment in the sun. Mtb has already decided it is worth the loss of efficiency for suspension and traction.
  • + 3
 Derailleur improvements over 5 years would be far smaller than that of gearboxs if the same budget was given to them by either of the big Ss.
  • + 1
 Honda spent huge $'s and other industries use gearbox's.
  • + 1
 Honda were there for 1 year, and their true motives are unknown, and they did achieve a lot in that time. They didn't in 1 year have enough time to minimize weight as its not enough time to asses durability really. In that time they did go through severlal incarnations. All with great improvements. Imagine if they'd stayed for five years. Remember it was apparently just a few geeks at Hondas hobby too. I think it was to grab patent scalps.
[Reply]
  • + 17
 'It has been proven that a chain is by far the most efficient way to transfer power, so why sacrifice that by driving it through a bunch of internal cogs that erase that advantage?' Given that geared systems generally run at 98-99% efficiency, the change in efficiency is very much negligible, yet a large proportion of readers of this article may come away disregarding gearboxes as a viable option due to this rather conservative version of the truth.

I'd welcome anyone's feedback if I'm wrong, but I feel this quote is systemic of an article aimed more to cause division, and less concerned with a fair representation of the issue. With members of the press being this closed minded, let alone the punters, how can the mountain bike industry progress? Pinkbike, I expected better. I come here to read interesting and entertaining pieces about my sport, not opinionated daily-mail-esque tat based on dubious at best facts.
  • + 6
 The old 99% efficiency figure is I believe for clean, well lubricated and well set up chains running in a straight line between the cogs. I think your typical mtb drivetrain, coated with mud, rust, old lube and inevitably run in anything but a straight line between the sprockets is going to be considerably lower. The internals of a gearbox on the other hand will stay pristine no matter what filth is encountered on the outside.

Having said that, the loss of efficiency in bad conditions is due mostly to the chain and not the mech. With a gearbox system you still have an exposed chain, though at least the chainline is straight.

It's worth remembering that gearboxes are not that uncommon in the commuting world. I can't help but laugh when I see someone proudly boast about their 'maintenance free' hub gear, and then see their chain is a orange, flecking rusting hulk that sounds like a battle tank rolling by. Followed by the hub gear breaking and needing to get sent off at great expense to the one shop in the country that will actually service them.

So yeah, many of the advantages of a gearbox for say cross country use are nullified by the conventional chain drive needed, as they are on commuting bikes. Unless of course you run a fully enclosed chain case - this does, I'm told, genuinely run for years or even decades without anything needing serviced. Me, I'd go for a chaincase that can fit around a short cage mech....not sure why this hasn't been done yet.
  • + 5
 Chain effieciency. For anyone who wants to see some real data on efficiency from un-biased tests rather than marketing hype, I recommend "Human Power" magazines, numbers 50, 51 & 52 go into a fair bit of depth:
ihpva.org/hparchive.htm

The size of the sprockets used has quite a big impact on effeicency - small is bad, something which Shimano & SRAM probably don't want to advertise with current compact drivetrains. Yes I sit on the gearbox side of the fence and fully realise there are compromises.
For me the frustration and cost of replacing mechs and hangers with crazy inflated prices is enough reason alone to look for something different. Whats the efficiency of walking home cos your mech hanger broke again?
  • + 2
 We've already traded a couple percent of efficiency for knobby tires and suspension. You might even get a little back with new suspension designs.
[Reply]
  • + 14
 Levy is clearly speaking the truth when it comes to the evolution of derailleurs, they improved hips in the last few years. But I have to quote Henry Ford on this one: "If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse". So Zerdode and Pinion keep pushing, it's only a matter of time, or probably money... Ok Sram just show us what you've been working on!
  • + 4
 I think gearbox is the future, but the manufacturers will loose lots of money: no cassettes, no chains (belt drive), no derailleur, no chain guides, etc. Tons of money that they won't receive from us and the bike industry, so to compensate gearboxes will be ridiculously expensive. Plus I think XX1 must be buried beside the Hammershmidt and the Grip Shift.
  • + 2
 Couldn't agree more with the Henry Ford statement. I've got a Hammerschmidt though and love it. Will never ever own another front derailleur.
  • + 2
 The Hammershit is magical as it instantaneously switches from low to high and back again in the blink of an eye, reliably, and exactly when you need it to. And the stiffness and clearance are amazing.. you truly have to ride it to appreciate it. But I find myself having a personal argument the entire ride about whether the benefits outweigh the negatives. I don't like to think about my equipment when I'm riding. The drag in high gear and weight are definitely noticeable, but all the noise it makes is just downright annoying.. you truly have to ride it to appreciate it.
  • + 1
 It is magical, best word I've heard to describe it yet. Load or no load it just does what you tell it to.

I just know my bike isn't light...2.5 Maxxis, Fox 36 160, Transition 32 rims, KS dropper. Weight is the least of my concern. Smile It's all about the downhill!! Plus, a heavier bike gets my legs/lungs stronger, no complaints here. The noise of the schmidt kinda cracks me up, sounds like a pissed off bee coming down the hill.
  • + 1
 I had Hammerschmidt on my bike but quickly took it off. Much too heavy and you could feel the drag. No sale !
  • + 3
 If it had two more (15, 22, 32, 40) gears and you could drop the rear mech, cassette, and move to an ss hub it would be well worth it in weight since it would likely be equal to what you dropped, but in a better spot!
[Reply]
  • + 15
 Mike you need to ride a Zerode. You can't achieve suspension feel like that from a standard drive train. So soooo supple.
  • + 8
 I agree, the article misses the point that perhaps the main advantage of the gearbox in the Zerode is that it enables the super high pivot design and therefore, amazing suspension
  • - 4
 Think about it - there is a reason to it why most designs have low pivots, including MX motorcycles. Just take it by statistics... or realize that in order to effectively damp an obstacle the wheel has to go up, move out of the way of that obstacle. If it goes back too much, the travel gets less utilized in vertical directing, it surely absorbs the smaller and medium hits better, by moving rearward, but only to a point... design is about playing with compromises and there are always trade offs.
  • + 6
 Hey wacky. Do you by chance use some program to convert your comments into English? Because I think it may not be working properly.
  • - 7
 oh thanks, I'll check it out! At least I can speak something else than "crikey". Must be due to a broader gene pool or something
  • + 8
 Funny, because they're kiwi...not aussie.
  • + 3
 IQ has to be below 80 to make comments that are approved. Smile
  • + 2
 isn't the reason for low pivot to reduce chain growth, rather than better suspension performance? Take the chain growth constraint away and you can shift to an optimal suspension design.
  • - 2
 No, chain growth means slso chain stay dinension growth e relation between BB and rear wheel contact path = bikes wheel base increase = bike stabilizes under squat = good for drop landings = particularly for cs growth - bad for cornering under load.

You can't just focus on one factor and believe there are no trade offs, I undrstand national pride, but zoom out for a moment, take some perspective, look how broad the picture is - fkng hell... You guys are starting turning people against Zerode
  • + 2
 Bad for cornering is taking for granted the fact there's a very adaptable component to the package, the rider. It's not a race car, or other machine. It's a bike + rider, who can change their weight distribution. Zerodes corner fine, just slightly different braking and body positioning is adapted once you've done a few runs, your brain does it naturally. This applies to very bike to some extent. You can make the back of a Zerode squat by raking, changing the geometry for cornering to what you want.
Have you spoken to "people", NO, well don't express what they're thinking like the OP did. Stick to facts.
The importance of light weight is an over exaggerated marketing misconception. Sure it makes the bike feel more fun. Make you faster? Well, how much? Same with any possible extra friction from a gearbox. You really think it'll make more negative difference if it does exist than the pros of a gearbox always having perfect shifting, and being able to get in the right gear any time quickly? I think not.
Mountain bikes should be simple and reliable. Not some fragile piece of crap letting us down all the time. It's about riding not shopping remember.
  • - 1
 You do realize that you just go deeper into:
"Zerode iss ze best bike in ze vorld?"

I don't doubt it's great, I appreciate that they did something different and that they are pioneering the use of alternative drivetrain. I just mean that plenty of people here behave as if there were no trade offs. It's a proper DH bike optimized for use of "gearbox", but it isn't suddenly superior to other designs. It might be in drive train department, but there are many other "departments". Just stop rocking the boat so much with it.
  • + 1
 I don't think it is the best bike in the world, but the rearward wheel path does make sense for straight rocky sections. But for tight corners it will be a bit shit. Also the weight may hinder performance. But I still think its an awesome step forwards.
[Reply]
  • + 11
 the derailleur drivetrain doesn't disapear because of its planned obsolescence, this is a product that will last six months, or one year, maybe a little more, and the vast majority of DH/FR riders buy a derailleur every year. that's why sram or shimano don't stop derailleur manufacturing, there is too much money at stake in this business unfortunately.
a gearbox device is much more reliable than a derailleur drivetrain, it need a little more maintenance of course, but finally you never replace it and you don't have to pay one hundred $ or € every year.
who has never damned his derailleur because of a broken ? who has never seen his derailleur projected in the spokes?
maybe the gearbox will never replace the derailleur in XC or enduro, but in DH or FR it could be a better solution. for the moment it's just an alternative, but to my mind a very good alternative, effective and reliable, against the business of derailleurs.
  • + 3
 ^^^^ First paragraph!!!! ^^^^

fitjoani, you are on the money, literally! It is about money.
[Reply]
  • + 10
 "many consumers want to purchase what they see being used by professional riders" - the dumbest statement that exist, PRO riders wear/use what they are TOLD to, and paid by wearing/using it.

I always choose, by the type of the product, not company name, and also by the price, and opinions of people who use stuff, which means NO PRO riders opinions, because they always MUST say, how super duper that thing is.
  • + 3
 I think we all do this subconciously now, if you see a video with an interview with a pro and they name drop their sponsor's equipment, I always think 'eh, sponsored rider'.
  • + 2
 JejQ you are not in the majority on making your choice without looking at what is winning races/events. Pro riders wear what they get paid to wear but they do get to make a decision, it isn't like someone could just walk up to Arron Gwin and say: "here is a bunch of money, now ride this piece of crap." and he would have to obey.

Also pro riders often have an influence on design tweaks/ spec changes to bikes which I think is pretty cool.
  • + 1
 Yes the comment that Gwin doesn't want a gearbox bike but he wants a lighter bike is not a quote from Gwin, but fabricated bullshit. Get that man on a Zerode and we'll really see what's faster. If all the big brands are so sure of their shit. All of them buy a Zerode, and compare their lap times after they've spent a week on a Zerode, compared to their bikes. I would bet at least 90% would be faster and happier on the Zerodes. Specialized already own one apparently.
[Reply]
  • + 11
 there is a good reason that motorbikes dont use deraillers: coz they are a shit way to cause problems. gearboxes are by far better way to change gear than stupid deraillers
  • + 3
 ...and motorbikes produce MUCH more horsepower than any human, so efficiency and weight don't matter (as much). But you bring up a good point: If you want a reliable bike that doesn't depreciate ridiculously fast, buy a motorcycle.
[Reply]
  • + 9
 The biggest issue with gearbox is the lack of repeat purchase; no new mech hangers no new rear mechs great for riders not so great for the companies selling them, unless they sealed the gearboxes so users couldn't service them, which would be a pretty suicidal move as most riders love to tinker with their machines, and a trailside failure would be a nightmare, although i presume a failure in a gearbox would be delightfully unlikely if it was tucked in the bike and suitably sealed off from the outside world...

Would have been nice to see the benefits of gearbox being explored more instead of just praising how far mechs have come, it's impressive but i don't know how much more these firms can polish a turd..
[Reply]
  • + 12
 I have faith in the coming generations of gearboxes, not derraileurs.
[Reply]
  • + 8
 I have two friends of mine who actually own Zerode bikes. They work great. We ride in Mont Sainte-Anne in QC, where the trails are roots, ruts and rock infested. What is the most pleasant thing about those bikes is that they're sooooooooooo quiet. Really cool.
[Reply]
  • + 8
 The zerode exploding video is a bolt snapping at the rear dropout pivot, not a top tube filled with TNT or anything spectacular like that.
I am not certain how much better derailler drivetrains are now compared to 5 or 20 years ago. Bending of hangers still happens people have told me using clutches flogs derailler pivots very quickly, and cassette sprockets still buckle over (which they didn't do until 8spd was introduced).
I have been riding various gearbox bikes I've made for the last 8 years so am not up with the current derailler trends, but every time I ride one I notice the following things 1) I have to pedal to change gears 2) it takes a long time for the gear to change 3) the chain still slaps around, though xx1 is a bunch quieter.
I don't think the gearbox is perfect, and I don't think the derailler is dead, but as said elsewhere it is all about choosing your compromise. Something xtr or xx1 light, saint reliable that was as silent pedalling as xx1 and coasting like a zerode, but shifted like hammerschmit would be great please!
As for Dave weagel's saying that they don't have more range how often is that relevant? But the pinion has something like a 636% range which is more than anything else.
As for following what the wc dhers do they are not a good lead unless you also plan to chew through 3 or 4 back wheels a weekend.
Finally that was a terribly one sided artical, and totally polarised poll options. maybe rc will add something to it, he has tried a few things in his time, like elevated chainstays, and can see that we aren't at the end of the line yet.
[Reply]
  • + 8
 Derailleur are better then few years ago? yes. But they are far from great, i still regularly break derailleur, chain and chain guide, it is definitively not reliable and i don't even ride in a muddy, snowy place. This article doesn't sound really honest. It reminds me article about disc brakes being too heavy and hydraulics being more difficult to service when V-brakes where so much better than cantilever. i think the latest evolution we've seen in transmission is the last burst before it dies...gearbox electronically controlled is the future...no doubt. (BTW, we could totally build on hoverboard: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wtjxracdz3A)
[Reply]
  • + 10
 disagree with just about all of that apart from the bit about companies manufacturing parts that make them most money..
*goes to clean and tweak drivetrain* (...again)
  • + 1
 and here in is the reason we don't have gear box bikes. Not one other one. Anything else you hear is pure marketing.
[Reply]
  • + 10
 Gearbox bikes aren't a fantasy when you can go buy a zerode with relative ease?
[Reply]
  • + 7
 To be honest I could not imagine going back to a derailleur system. I am a Kiwi and it's easy to jump on the Zerode band wagon but in-spite of this I tried to be critical. The gearbox was not designed for downhill and the bike is not at the light or the cheap end of the market. After biting the bullet and purchasing one for myself I cant help feeling smug as after each run I finish, I have a big fat smile on my face. You don't realize how much noise your bike makes until you ride a Zerode, you don't realize how much time you spending fiddling with gears or having to preempt when you might need to change until you ride a Zerode. To summarize it puts the fun back into riding, it's a sturdy, silent, stylish speed machine. Not perfect but pretty dang close!
[Reply]
  • + 7
 I believe one reason gearboxes are not more popular is because of linkage patents. If you think about it they only benefit single pivot set ups or well thought out Horst link set ups. Maybe a Lawill set up would be perfect for gearbox application! However it is perfect for downhill with a high single pivot as the Zerode demonstrates. The amount I money invested into VPP, DW, FSR, Maestro and iDrive are what's stopping more consideration for manufactures to develope gearbox designs in my opinion.
  • + 5
 Good point, yet another point Levy missed in his poorly thought out article. It's probably the main thing holding the gearbox back.
[Reply]
  • + 7
 No research, wrong context, faulty conclusion.


Light and clever gearbox, fits most frames:

www.schlumpf.ch

Just needs 2 more gears and I am buying one for my dh rigg.

This one actually feels really good. And the gearchangebutton is perfect.
  • + 1
 I trust someone will get it right, and the Swiss are likely candidates.
  • + 1
 The schlumph is not the right choice. It gives a horrible mushy feel to the drivetrain which sucks on a touring bike but might cause a crash on a mountain bike where you need to put the power down immediately.
[Reply]
  • + 6
 Mike Levy? Are you a complete brain dead monkey f*cktard, or do you have Shimano's dick in your mouth & SRAMS up your ass? You answered all your questions yourself. Why does no one win with gearboxes, why does no one use gearboxes? Hmmmm, maybe because Shimano & SRAM are the two major monopolistic money mongering companies in this industry, sponsoring all the best riders, so that the average idiot consumer will want what Cedric has an unlimited free supply of. You even admitted that Gwin would perform as well on a gearbox. Someone with a clue would know he'd be faster on average with a box. I haven't paid any attention to the technology in this industry for years because it's so stagnant, even regressive. It is by far the most gimmicky industry I know of. WTF is a "clutch" on a derailleur? WTF is that supposed to do? Gimmicky f*ckin' junk. You plainly state that rickety obsolete derailleur drivetrain technology is offered at a huge range of price points but boxes aren't, then wonder why no one uses them? It's not the consumer, idiot, it's the conglomerates. They don't make their fortunes by selling the best they could do, because the best they could do doesn't need replacement. It's the same reason for the automotive industry's resistance to electrics, the potential failure modes & maintenance required are almost non-existent. Electrics can only be resisted for so long before there's no choice. It's the superior technology & it's in its infancy, resisted by greed. Same with gearboxes. You can put as much perfume on a loaf of kife as you like, it's still gonna be a loaf of kife. Once all of the profitability of the derailleur has been exhausted (or a rich philanthropist who would be so inclined to speed the process) it will die.
  • + 1
 Clutch is actually pretty nice. Pretty useful improvement.

"Replacement" argument is bogus. 99% of derailleurs sold die with the bike and are never replaced. It is just the pink-bike regulars running into boulders, rest of the bike riders just ride around.

That said, I was pretty close to ordering Nicolai with Pinion, it is the way of the future, but the price was not right.. I wish they had a lighter, cheaper box with less gears.
[Reply]
  • + 7
 Contrary to what Mr Levy seems to think, there is one reason alone why gearboxes are the future of downhill bikes: The ability to change gear, whilst bombing a rough section or entering a corner, without having to pedal.
[Reply]
  • + 6
 I have designed a frame and am currently at the point of tooling up for the prototype. I hope the proto will be ready for Summer testing, and a final version ready to showcase at the Bristol Handbuilt bike show next year. When putting my ideas down, a gearbox bike really was the only way forward for primarily the reason you failed to mention in the article - chainline. Traditional deralieur drivetrains are prohibited by squat characteristics - you can never have a fully free rear end because of growth in the rear-centre (with jack-shaft bikes being the exception). Zerode showed what can be done with an Alfine and it's a path I intend to follow. One problem I found whilst researching, is that Pinion won't supply to small / custom manufacturers. This is a real shame as going down the Alfine route has made part of the design difficult to resolve. Gearboxes will have their day yet; when they find their way into larger segments of the MTB community, and increasing market percentages encourage more manufacturers to invest time and money in them.
  • + 1
 Hi Bluechair84,

Can you give a brief outline of the bike you are designing, frame sizes, travel, geometry etc?? I have been looking for a suitable gearbox bike for a while, for your info Nicolai have just dropped the Pinion gearbox from their freeride/mini DH bikes because, they had a couple of failures!!

All the best, Gary.
  • + 1
 This is what bugged me about the suntour 'box as well, I've been long considering a home build as a project, but why are manufacturers of gearboxes limiting their supply? Bespoke bikes like yours are surely an excellent opportunity to get some gearboxes out there and expand awareness of them? It's not like they've got big, risk-averse manufacturers queueing up at this point to make bikes with their gearboxes is it?!
  • + 3
 I'm at work at the mo so can only think of some of the geo off the top of my head - but 67deg head (might change to a 66.5), 69deg seat. Suspension is designed around an air shock - it has a rising leverage ratio to counteract the air spring's rising rate and make the whole thing a bit more linear. At the moment it's a 150/175 adjustable frame, the 150mm setting will lower the BB height and steepen the head (when fitted with a 150mm fork) to something around 68.
Oh and the final thing, the horozontal dropout is quite lengthy so you can adjust the rear centre to change the handling from 'pop and kick' to 'long and planted' using a few extra links in the chain.
It's meant to be one frame that, with a few component changes, can go from AM to UK DH. Basically, the bike I want is something I can take to the Alps with a pair of Revs, Lyriks, Flows and Crests, then swap around in under 20min to be a trail bike, or DH bike. Frame material will be carbon.
I'm currently in the process of making the moulds for the prototype but a full time job kinda makes this a slow process.
  • + 1
 Hi Bluechair84, sound strangely familiar story...
I'm from the UK and have been slowly designing a gearbox DH/AM bike for many years now, but have just stepped things up in the last few months - done tonnes of CAD work, many spreadsheets, tonnes of research into hubs etc and have just ordered steel butted tubing (yes I know everyone is going to shout out that steel is heavy and not cool enough for DH bikes but I care little for the opinions of the average MTB numpty)... totally agree with your point on chainline - frees up options for tuning the anti-squat characteristics with a gearbox above the bottom bracket, without suffering horrible amounts of pedal feedback.
Intend to be building the first proto this summer - I'm also working in mech engineering job but leaving in 5 weeks and will finally have some time free to build! :-)
Anyway if you want to keep in touch email me. Mark
  • + 1
 I build with steel. The weight difference is really minimal between steel and aluminum, and so much easier to work with. It is stronger, and has a longer fatigue life. I would only work with steel or carbon, even though steel is not as fashionable as aluminum (but that is changing.)
  • + 1
 Unfortunately, building in steel doesn't really give you a final product that you could sell on. Great for one offs, protos or build-to-order, but there's just no market for a steel FS. I only know of Cotic who make a steel FS frame... Mark, I'll get in touch sometime to see what your project is like!
  • + 1
 1) A lack of steel FS bikes doensn't prove there's no market, just that manufacturers don't percieve there's a market...
2) For a structural engineered product, function should come first, not fashion!
3) Sounds good - would be good to see what yr up to!
4) agreed Willie - Carbon, Steel & Ti Rule supreme!
  • + 1
 Well, when I say 'no market', I mean comparatively. I'm sure someone somewhere will buy a steel FS... The advantage to that model is there's very little competition. As for fashion vs function, people seem to think that steel is more malleable and gives a better ride quality. That and the famous Tange / Reynolds tubing has given it a cult status. But you can build compliance into alu frames (not me personallly though!), it depends on how it's engineered. You could choose which ever material is most fashionable, and have it do what you want of it, it just has to be designed right.
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  • + 6
 I don't agree with this article and see no point of it. Why should we accept all the derailleurs, hanger, chainguide stuff, while we can easily replace this with a gearbox? If we can get the same weight and price for the gearbox, no one will ever choose to go to derailleurs thing. I here is the big question. Can we get same price and weight? Why not? At the moment there are very few gearboxes on the market and this is relatively new technology for bikes, so we will have to wait, but why you decided that gearboxes will not evolve and only derailleurs will? And what do you mean by chain is most efficient, so derailleurs rules? Gearboxes also use chains and cogs. We don't sacrifice anything when we can get same gear ratios. Very, very tendentious article imo.
  • + 4
 The gears make them two to three percent less efficient due to extra friction. Their efficiency increases with age as they wear in.
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  • + 5
 Mike Levy only proves one thing.....that he's a hack Internet blog journalist at best (most likely not feeding himself or anyone else well off this, if he is god help pinkbike for pissing away money) and why real engineers tinkering away make $60k-80k easily figuring out these kinds of problems.

This sophomoric level of writing reminds me why the big boys hire people who can actually ride AND know how to engineer stuff through using 10-30 legt test monkeys vs some guy who was given a login to write an article...and if wa saucy made $500 doing so.

Peeps. Go to our local library. Read the issues between '89-'93. Look at the dumb ass comments wanna be journalist wrote back then. Then re-read this. Then to ride and laugh.
  • + 3
 Well said. I agree 100%, and have been challenging the "journalism" quality for some time now. The kids keep neg propping it, probably because they are used to the American Idol model of entertainment, where insulting and berating people is fun. Being an arrogant rude ass is "cool." American Idol, Hell's Kitchen, The Apprentice, etc.
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  • + 5
 My main ride is a Nicolai helius pinion am - really, the overall weight is indeed heavier although it doesn't feel that way because it's weight is centralized I'm the middle. I love the ride but i completely agree that until the costs go down, it will never catch on. The opportunity cost does not justify it for 99% of the riders out there....its just too damn expensive and DH/FR usage doesn't really require or fit the use of a gearbox....AM and enduro might be better fits...
  • + 1
 I'm going to have to disagree with you on your last statement. DH/FR type riding is the most rough on frames and components.
  • + 1
 Have pinion made any moves on the lighter, smaller range dh/fr gearbox they were talking about? Big bikes don't need the triple-ring-style gear range, and I'd imagine some weight and maybe price could be shed with a simpler 6-speed-cassette range system.
  • + 1
 I believe that their DH/FR gearbox is still under refinement...still, I just dont see that crowd jumping on that wagon, the weight penalty for a serious racer would undoubtedly deem the gearbox a non starter. A I can't see how a free rider would really benefit from a gearbox....I could be wrong as I am merely an aficionado of single track.

One benefit that is often overlooked is the fact that a gearbox is a closed system and requires little to non maintenance aside from a regular oil change-so in cases where riding takes place and really mucks up drivetrains, it makes sense.

Personally, I got a Pinion bike because i hate derailleurs and I always wanted a Nic..
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  • + 5
 So mech drivetrains are reliable now are they?
.
Funny, those SRAM clutches failing, Shimano pivots wearing too fast and bendy chain rings were all false alarms then?
You forgot to mention industry inertia and nepotism. Shimano, SRAM (and Campag) have a huge financial stake in things staying the way they are, even supposed revolutions like XX1 are just what went before plus/minus a couple of details.
.
OEM, new sales, damage part replacement, it's a huge gravy train that any kind of all new system could derail. Neither of the big two are going to risk their bottom line on something they don't already know will sell, so gear boxes are going to stay as a niche for the specialist, who'll have a huge grin as he cruises past your broken bike.
  • + 2
 Yeah, anybody who says derailleurs are reliable is someone whom I suspects spends more time on his computer than he does on the trail. And those SRAM mech's with the clutch feel horrible to shift, feels like the shifting system needs a new cable and housing even when its brand new.
  • + 2
 Derailuer systems are only as reliable as the person setting them up and maintaining them. If the limit screws, b-tension, and cable tension are properly set-up, and the chain replaced/lubed in a timely fashion with interval tweaks, a deraileur can last quite a long time. Its all about the time off the trail, in the bike stand. I am not trying to bad mouth the gearbox, and say derailuers are king. I like the idea of a gearbox, but the cost is too much, and simply maintaining you bike from ride to ride can make the existing system of the derailuer last quite a long time.
  • + 3
 To adjust an alfine. you put it in forth gear, and get two yellow tabs to line up by twisting the barrel adjuster. I do this about once or twice a year. You can check it in two seconds. Just sayin.
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  • + 5
 I'm leaving pink bike..... Good by everyone!

Everything I read on hear is just complete bollocks these days. The articles are one sided and the videos are just slomo, out of context, pretentious bollocks obviously filmed by a hipster (AKA Dick head).

I'm out of hear........ Hello vital MTB and single track mag.
  • + 1
 It's actually spelt "good bye".






Just kidding man :-)
  • + 4
 This is the first time I've logged into the site for about 5 years for the very same reasons. I see this haven't changed.....I swear the site is designed just to enrage people who sit at home cos they can't ride cos honestly the articles on here are rubbish. Why has the gearbox not taken of?. Well cos Shitmano and SRAM make too much money out of their current designs and don't want to change, simple really.
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  • + 5
 To talk about Darwinian evolution in the decision making processes of exponentially more highly evolved species makes me wonder what species Mike Levy actually belongs to. When it comes to the strong & the weak, Mike, if Darwinian evolution applied directly to our decision making processes, then people who can not walk would not live to die of old age. People kill many of their strong & take care of many of their weak. Shimano & SRAM go to great lengths to prop up the weak, like a profiteering drug company will try to sell the sick another new pill. Do you store your head in your ass after Shimano & SRAM are done with them? Where do you get the idea that gearboxes are heavier? Alfine is not built for our purposes, it's a piece of shit for light duty use. Shimano builds internal gearing systems for the bikes that won't see any abuse & won't need replacement parts anyway. SRAM does the same to get their piece of that pie. Makes lots of sense right? On the bikes that will never see mud, sticks, roots, rocks or crashes, put the reliable, internal system & on mountain/freeride bikes put the clunky chaos bait on the back end. Compare the cost of an XTR drivetrain to a Rohloff hub, Not much difference. Efficiency? A constant oil bath lubrication system in a gear box will yield more efficiency than a dirty bent chain running over dirty gears & through a dirty cage. There's no way you can argue it & win. If you lose the religious level of fundamentalist bias & compare the two without any desired outcome but the right one, you can't argue that internal transmissions are weaker than the junk we have now. If it were true, every high performance vehicle on the planet would use these dumb cogsets & derailleurs. Cars don't. Motorcycles don't. Efficiency matters just as much in a machine that requires fuel continuously sucking money out of people.
  • + 1
 glad there are people restoring my faith in mtb community - now if only everyone thought like you we'd already have gearboxes and suspension you can ride all year and service only once a year (more often only if a seal leaks or you actually manage to break some internals). dh bike maintenance would consist of washing and an odd regrease and retensioning loose spokes/bolts. you'd spend more time a year changing the rubber and brake pads ffs
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  • + 10
 Zerode ftw!
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  • + 4
 Sorry Mike, but your argument is almost as weak as an argument for a religion & it is at least as weak as these junky devices that you're either stupid enough, or likely paid highly enough, to claim have any validity in this sport. Derailleurs are not only obsolete & inadequate, they are completely unacceptable to me & I haven't used one in probably 10 years. I run a single & will continue to do so until the industry goes where it belongs. I've boycotted all Shimano & SRAM parts & I'll never touch 'em ever again, even when they are both producing gearboxes like they produce derailleurs now, & yes, they will be someday. Otherwise they'll be in the spot that GM & Chrysler were in a few years ago, but I doubt the government will bail them out. Oh & also, that Falcon is one of the cleanest, leanest & meanest pieces of elegance I've ever seen with pedals on it. That's how you build a bike, right there.
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  • + 4
 Levy needs to lay off the SRAM koolaid. Just because Pinon doesn't wine and dine the guy doesn't mean they're not viable.

If anything, the "evolution" of the derailleur is reducing reliability and life of parts; when we've gone from 8 to 9 speed the chain failure went up dramatically, when we've gone up to 10sp, we ticked up failure even more. Now we're on 11sp and we've regained some of the 10sp fragility by modifying the front ring and eliminating the ability to shift into other front rings.

Furthermore, these dinner plate sized cogs are pushing weight to the rear axle, pushing the weight bias further to the rear. The cost of these systems is astronomical, wear items add up to over $500 (between just the chain and cassette, without calculating front chainring).

Progress? I'd call is stunting. The derailleur is stunted.
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  • + 4
 I'm for gearboxes. IMO experience has brought me to that conclusion. I ran derailleurs for 20 + years then bought my Rohloff back in 2003. I've used it on everything from FS Orange 5's, 26" HT's to my current 29er steel HT. I'll never go back to a traditional derailleur set up. Yes, it does put the extra weight on the back of the bike, however in reality, I'd wager that very few riders would really 'feel' such a difference that it would bugger the ride for them.

My current rig, which is a steel 29er HT frame, RS Rebas, KS Lev dropper, HEAVY brooks leather saddle & time pedals comes in at 28.4 lbs. I could make it lighter by going back to the derailleur but for what reason? I'm obviously biased but why spend money on making something lighter when I could just loose a little weight of my arse and belly for free!

I'd totally agree that it was 'very' expensive to buy at the outset but to date my only 'replacement' costs for the last 9 years has been a new chain, rear cog & a oil lub every year. That's circa £50 per year compared to...?

As for ongoing maintenance, Scotland isn't the driest, dustiest place on earth (!!) but every 100ish miles it gets a quick hose, rub & a squirt of oil on the chain. That's circa 10mins per 100ish miles compared to...?

Gearboxes are far from perfect but at the end of the day, despite the massive improvements made, derailleurs still get broken or twisted and in the long term IMO they still cost more to run....never mind the faffing about.
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  • + 4
 I sure hope it's not a "dead fantasy". My brand new x9 snapped last year while pedaling modestly on flat ground. The cage snapped and went straight into the spokes, bending a couple while it was in there. Sram decided not to warranty it. (they believe it's normal for a few week old high end derailleur to do this?) I don't really think the derailleur has come very far. The ONLY major point against a gearbox is price and the fact that you wouldn't have to fix it all of the time would cause it to pay for itself. The feel of this article really just gives the impression that you were paid off to express somebody else's interests.
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  • + 6
 Terribly disappointing article from PB.

Was this an opinion piece or a thinly veiled advertorial? It certainly wasn't a quality discussion piece.
  • + 5
 It's Levy's opinion. He's probably still buzzing from the SRAM experience in Sedona.
  • + 4
 It's still poor and uninsightful journalism. Almost lazy. I'm glad to see a lot of the community here see through it at least.
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  • + 4
 The problem is: mtb culture and magazines are industry driven, not consumer driven. Mike, companies don`t sell whats winning, they sell what they make money from. There`s more money to be made from constantly "evolving" drivetrain (most of this is marketing-mumbo-jumbo) than from a 20 year lifespan gearbox. Gearboxes with competitive weights will show in a couple of years, the question you as a consumer have to ask yourself is how many hours you want to spend wrenching and drooling over new parts with X-s all over them, or do you simply just want to ride your bike?
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  • + 3
 would a gearbox be able to freewheel? so the rear hub could be fixed? would make for an incredibly stiff rear end if the hub was nothing but a tube with disc tabs, spoke flanges and splines for a single sprocket. alongside not needing finely made casettes, you could run single speed chains which are dirt cheap. there is so much to like if this is done right...
  • + 2
 Yes the ALFINE will spin so it should be able to use a fixed gear rear hub I have not done this yet but have a team rider looking into it...
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  • + 6
 We have now polished the turd that is the derailleur so much that it shines. But it's still a turd. Bring on the gearbox.
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  • + 3
 I've always been a big proponent of gearboxes. In my opinion, their disadvantages are vastly outweighed by their reported benefits (going off everything I've read about them. I haven't had a chance to ride a GB bike yet). As I see it, there are only two main reasons why gearboxes haven't taken off. The sheer amount of time, money and research that have been invested in the traditional drive train (imagine where we'd be if a similar level of resources had been thrown at GBs), and the MTB community's ingrained mistrust of anything new or different (in my experience, going off the comments I read on such matters).
Cost is often cited as a hindrance to GB frames, but the Zerode G2 frame works out to around £2500, which is in the same bracket as other high-end frames, and it includes a big chunk of your drive train in that price (Nicolai's Nucleon E2 and Pinion-equipped Ion 20 are still lottery-win-list items, unfortunately). If I had two and a half grand to spend on a new frame, it'd be the Zerode, without question (the Cavalerie DH bike featured a while ago also looks very promising).
With all that said, I don't think we'll see the extinction of the derailleur-based drive train, nor the complete dominance of the gearbox. What I hope is that they become equally matched, and then we would be free to choose the system that best meets our needs or preferences.

At the risk of standing atop my soapbox screaming "CONSPIRACY!", apart from the final paragraph, the whole article smacks of being "encouraged" by the marketing departments of certain, large invested parties. Of course, there was probably no ulterior motive or maliciousness intended on Mike's part and may simply have been a poorly-presented piece design to spark some discussion on an interesting topic.
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  • + 3
 I ride a commuter bike with Sturmey hub, and it is great.

The problem with gearboxes, like Pinion, is that they try to mimic roadies need for a gazillion gears, so that their shaved legs always spin at some precise "cadense", or whatever that is.

On my mountain bike, I need like 6 gears, over wide range though. Make it simple like that, and it will be light and cheap enough.
  • + 2
 Yeah, 400% and 18 gears, what a total stuff up. Shoot yourself in the foot. Just like GT did with their ten year old designed gearbox bike, with ten year old geo, gee, no wonder that didn't sell.
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  • + 2
 "There was a time, only a few short years ago, when it wasn't uncommon to go through four or five derailleurs in a big season of riding, especially if most of your time was spent on a downhill bike" - no, this is every year that you live in Whistler.

I had an X9 last all of 5 days last season, without even tagging it on a rock. That's the kind of reliability I've come to expect from SRAM products though.
  • + 3
 a mate rode whistler 6-7 hours a day for three months on his Zerode without any drivetrain issues. That was on a one year old Zerode that had done a few DH runs every day of that year.
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  • + 2
 My only thoughts are:

1. Until I ride a gearbox bike personally, I have no way to know how good they are. I would like to try one.

2. My current SRAM X9 and better 2x10 transmissions have been flawless.

3. My saint and XT drivetrains have been flawless.

4. My single speed drivetrains have been flawless.
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  • + 2
 It's got nothing to do with the evolution of the mech. It's all about the unfortunate situation that gear box frames are currently massively expensive, or for some one like myself they are. If I could find a 2nd hand gearbox frame for around a thousand quid, Id have it.
  • + 2
 Making 100 or so at a time greatly raises production costs...also saving the end consumer 500-600 dollars providing the gearbox just adds to the overall assembly cost of a frame. Once more are made and more gearboxes the prices should come down...
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  • + 3
 gearbox is awesome. i tried one on Nicolai bikes, and is impressive ONLY 1 thing stop the proliferation. Price ! the weight and the frame make for it, i dont think so, especially in gravity
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  • + 2
 Needing a front mech to run an acceptable number of gears for XC/AM means you need a pivot point within the chain line. This means you have very limited reaward wheel travel and possibly a lot of forwards wheel travel. A gearbox (or deralieure in a box like the Honda DH bike) allows a much higher pivot and suspension that works much better with rearward wheelpath. For me that's the main drawback of the derailleur system and rearward wheelpath is what Zerode say their design is mostly about. Balfa, Brooklyn, Empire, Honda and Canfield are all examples high pivots and are all highly rated for downhill but so far nobody seems to have a good high-pivot AM solution.
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  • + 2
 The cost of a der., casette, shifter are now insane at full retail Saint or XO is gonna run $500. No way I am throwing a $250-300 der. on my DH bike to get ripped off. That's getting close to the cost of an entire ALFINE unit!
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  • + 6
 Mike... All I know is my Zerode is the shit
  • + 4
 and yes it is heavy but it rides great and the weight is only noticeable on a scale, NOT on the trail!
Mike have you ever riden a Zerode?? Show me a derailleur that you can shift while NOT moving/pedaling to any gear you want. That's right because you can't. On a Zerode you can.
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  • + 5
 I'd love to buy a bike with a lightweight, reliable gearbox. Revolution, not evolution!
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  • + 2
 What no one seems to be mentioning here is instant shifting that you get on a gearbox which you don't on a mech. I've got an alfine on my roady, and being able to drop three gears on a corner when you're coasting and have it instantly in gear as soon as you start pedalling is a HUGE difference. Do the same thing on a standard mech and it'll clunk all per the place till it gets in gear. This alone could easily save seconds in a race. I've got a short cage saint on my transition and it does work pretty much flawlessly most of the time, but you really need to use a hub system just to be able to appreciate the difference, and how much better this would be for off road use. I'd love to look into getting one hooked up on my transition IF I ever have the money, but not sure how that would work with the bb as on my roadie it's an oval jobby.
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  • + 4
 This is what I would call a trolling story. What ever works. Bring on the dialogue on Gear Boxes because they are here to stay.
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  • + 4
 i cant believe the cons to gearbox was just 'meh, dont like em' pinkbike, that was an absolute joke of an article, who do i see about getting that 10 minutes of my life back?
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  • + 1
 I was hoping Honda would release their continuous transmission that they designed for Minaar's DH bike (1st gen version, not the 2nd gen RN-01). Seemed like the best solution for a transmission at the time, at least according to the description in the MB-Action Mag write-up. This was the direction I wanted 'gearboxes' to go in. If they are just moving the derailleur and cassette into a gearbox, then I'm not interested. Time to move beyond that...
  • + 2
 Deraileur in a box would still be okay. Hayes and Honda own the patents to that I believe. Honda got a lot of patents. Might actually be a big hurdle for gearbox diversity. But I don;t know enough about the patents.
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  • + 1
 Ok 2 things. Can someone hypothetically suggest where derailleurs will be in the next few years? I don't know what else they can do with them really. And secondly would it that gearbox bikes were commonplace/cheaper, would you buy one or consider one? I know i definitely would.
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  • + 2
 I personally think BB's will evolve to be be bigger , like 80-100mm diameter , that way there will be enough room to fit every thing inside the frame and it will also be universal
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  • + 1
 "It has been proven that a chain is by far the most efficient way to transfer power" - you really need to specify "on a bike" here. Chain is absolutely not the most efficient way to transfer power between two rotating components, in engineering terms it's actually quite an inefficent method.
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  • + 1
 This guy says big advances in bikes are dead. Mike is awesome, but he has missed something important: timing is key for tech. Gearboxes will have their day. First the gap between xc and dh has to be so wide we stop thinking about pedal efficiency in dh bikes. Then 3d printing titanium has to get cheap enough to make it worth while to make light strong gearbox bits possible.
We will be there in a few more years.
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  • + 1
 My vote went to the "death of the rear derailleurs" (in fact I f...in hate them), I can't believe that in 2013 we're still tryin' to evolve with a parallelogram thing actuated by a steel cable and a spring...
Anyway when it came for me to swap my bike I've still purchased a conventional 1x9 rear derailleur equipped Knolly Podium (used), the point for me is not only the high (ridicolously high) price tag of a gearbox bike and the lack of used GB bikes around, but also the fact that I don't like very much any of those weird frames incorporating a "pineapple-like" gear-hub or a huge box (like those Alutech fanes). If only they made a smaller gearbox (with less gears) that doesn't affect much the frame shape...
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  • + 1
 I remember racing in the 90's. I remember some gearbox bikes then. My friend raced a brodie with a gearbox, shimano I think. Then does anyone remember the Sachs (now sram) 3x7 rear hub. If gear box bikes are so good then the smaller builders like Intense and Santa Cruz would be making them. The real majors just follow trends....I bought a hammerschmidt a few years ago and it has enough drag to make it garbage. How much drag does a proper gearbox have?
If a gearbox is so good then sign me up. All of us would sell our children for a faster ride.
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  • + 5
 Gearbox Rulez! I've a Zerode and I love SHE!
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  • + 1
 flag mnorris122 (2 days ago) said:
And a simple coil shock is a coiled up piece of steel around a body that has a bit of oil in it...a shock without a damper is a lot simpler than a gearbox"

Dear mnorris; if it has oil in it, it also has damping. the spring only sets the sag and returns the bike to the desired ride height after the damping has controlled the speed of travel. A shock without damping is a disaster waiting to happen
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  • + 4
 I agree with bigburd, an evolution around the idea of a large BB shell could be the future standardised solution.
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  • + 1
 Those current state I don't think they will over take the standard cage. Why?
Well mainly because deraileurs don't break that often, ok they are hanging out but rarely actually will a racer be subjected to a break during a race run. I doubt racers will sacrifice overall consistent weight and less transfer for the off chance they might save a race run what less than 1% of the time. It's just not worth it.

I can't see it happening right now.

If they can manage to deliver a gearbox that matches the weight than they could have more plausibility, we would have to see the efficiancy be up there too, if they can match these then of course we could have it overtake. Essentially we are moving the weight central and low, while removing the deraileur breakage potential. But the question is can and will they be able to achieve these. Weight no doubt but efficiency, unsure. In a world of eh where we can win by 0.1 that little 3% less pedal efficiancy or power transfer may matter at the top.

For the average dh rider who doesn't care about 0.1 than they seem like a viable option even now.
  • + 4
 I can change gear in the air, in a rock garden, anywhere on my Zerode. I think more time is made up in a Dh run by being in the right gear(more "EFFICIENT"!), not having to pedal it through(more "EFFICIENT"!), and not having to think about having the space and time to pedal through a change(more "EFFICIENT"!).
Handling of a gearbox bike, especially DH feels much more balanced.
The Big Ss will still get massive sales, as they can market the latest and greatest improvements on a more expensive product, and they can add perishability to gearboxs in the guise of efficiency and light weight. They're just milking the current cash cow til it dies.
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  • + 1
 It's a bit of a Catch 22, really. For most people, the relatively high cost and lack of available frames will stop them from buying a gearbox-equipped bike, even if they would like one. But the cost can't really come down properly unless production volumes go up considerably, and that isn't going to happen until one of the major manufacturers produces a gearbox-equipped bike for the mass market. And that, in turn, isn't going to happen until either SRAM or Shimano start building one. As good as the Pinion system is, the interdependency between the major bike and component manufacturers is just too strong for them to break into that market.

It's frustrating that genuine evolution is being stifled because of this. What I'd love to see happen is for either SRAM or Shimano to buy Pinion, spend another 12-18 months tweaking the design with their considerable R&D resources, then work with either Specialized, Trek or Giant - or, even better, all three - to produce a gearbox-equipped bike for the mass market.

If that happened today, I genuinely believe that within maybe five or ten years, the majority of high-end bikes would be sold with gearboxes.
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  • + 1
 Unfortunatley it's a vicious circle until a major company goes out on a limb and backs the gearbox they will never come down in weight or become less expensive . The fact that most of the companies have there r and d and money invested in derailleur systems means they won't branch out to a new system and risk making all there derailleur systems that they have money invested in become dated. What it needs is a small company with a fast rider to take a well built gearbox bike to a world cup and get some good results and maybe then the large compains may take notice. If zeroed could put a rider capable of world cup wins on the new g2 there's every chance they could shake up the current way the major manufacturers think .
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  • + 1
 Fact is that riding gearbox bike is very addictive, its impossible to go back to clunking noise and fact that you need to actually think about shifting.

I ride this www.pinkbike.com/photo/8865103 'singlespeed' hammershmidt and will never go back despite all pain on uphill =) If Zerode was more playful bike would buy one tomorrow!
  • + 1
 G2 is more playful.
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  • + 1
 I want a gearbox bike for the sole reason of running a belt drive instead of chain drive without giving up gears. It would be so awesome to never have to lube a chain again. I would also be pretty rad to be able to shift with out pedaling. Some day I hope...
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  • + 1
 why's everyone bitching about sram shimano??? we need a large frame manufacturer (trek, spesh, giant, blah) to build a frame you can mount a gearbox on. sram and shimano can watch.
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  • + 0
 #1. People who ride downhill bikes do very little pedaling.
#2. Why would a sram 11 speed help them? They only need at the most three gears for they do very little pedaling.
#3. Most guys push their downhill bikes up hills and coast down them for they do very little pedaling.
#4. I see guys riding from the parking lot to the lift lines why do they need gears for that? they do very little pedaling.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Keep your dirve train clean and well lubed. That for now is the most cost effective and efficient means of powering your bike. There is a place for the gear box. Just not in the main stream, yet.
  • + 2
 Zerode is available now. It is a well proven design. So is its Alfine gearbox.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Forgive me if this sounds like abit of a noob question but - would it be possible to have your derailleur above the chain stay thereby eliminating the issue with smashing it on stuff?
  • + 1
 No because underneath it's not under load. Well you could somehow, but it wouldn't be as "efficient".
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  • + 4
 mike's crazy and does not speak the truth
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  • + 4
 SINGLE SPEED BABY!!!! You know it makes sense... ; D
  • + 2
 I think for DH, a Zerode would probably be more durable than single speed. Chain and sprockets wouldn't be under as much load. and Alfines are as tough as nails as a gearbox.
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  • + 3
 PInkbike, jumping the shark dangerously close to Mountain Bike Action status...
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  • + 1
 Now, only if frame companies can get the hint that conical bearings are better for the loads are are putting on the suspension instead of ball bearings. That will be the day! No more frame creaking.
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  • + 4
 most bias thing I have ever read with a lot of misinformation. rad
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  • + 2
 I'm 100% totally sold on gearboxes. Other than the massively altering my frame so that it could become obsolete at any moment and massively adding weight side-effects.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 I attempted to develop a gearbox after I lost my job this past winter. As a mechanical engineer with a background in power transmission, it had always been one of my dreams to develop a proper gearbox for a dh bike. As I got into the project, the reality of it all hit me: there is just no simple way to make a gearbox work. For a gearbox to do everything it is going to need to do to replace RD's, it has to be light, have enough gearing combinations, be reliable, and be able to be built into a standard mounting configuration that frames will be able to accept.

You can create a gearbox that might do one or two of those things, but it would be next to impossible to do all of those things. The only way to make it as light or lighter than a typical drive train is to make the gearbox a single axis drive train and have an ultra lightweight fixed rear hub. To do that, you sacrifice the number of gears and reliability because you need synchros and mechanisms to make the input and output shafts counter rotate. If you ignore the weight issue, you can get more gearing combos but decrease the reliability due to the complexity of extra moving parts. Either way you go you sacrifice some aspect of what you are trying to improve on a conventional RD setup.

I think the bottom line is that Mike is right on the money here. A while back rear mechs were troublesome enough to make us want gearboxes. But RD's have come so far now that the drawbacks we once had are making the development of a gearbox totally unneeded. A high end drive train is going to way much less, be easier to work on, have less drag, and more gearing combinations than a gearbox ever will. To me, gearboxes are really not practical now that we have made such improvements to the conventional setups.
  • + 3
 Your looking at it from a derailleur users perspective. Let me turn it around for you. A derailleur will never let you shift any time without pedaling. Will never be as reliable. Will never need as little maintenance. Will never get as much weight of the rear wheel. Will never get the ground clearance. Will never have the consistency of a gearboxes efficiency. Will never be as durable and tough. Will never allow you to get into a more efficient gear as quickly or efficiently. Will never last as long. Will never evolve as fast given the same budget. Hmmm.
  • + 2
 Yes all those things are true, and yes I look at it from a "derailleur user" perspective because that's what most everyone uses. If you are designing something with the intent of getting people to switch from one excepted norm to another, you need to make your design do everything the typical design does and do it better.
  • + 3
 I would rather all the benefits of a gearbox, so I ride a Zerode. It's always ready to go, like a loyal dog. Not like asking a girlfriend to share her girlfriend with you.
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  • + 2
 All gear (no belt) CVT. Promising design?

www.bitraptor.com/en_edyson_CVT.html
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  • + 3
 Gearbox's for the win... it's a no brainer
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  • + 1
 Gear box bikes are heavier and less efficient until that changes derailleur will be on most bikes
www.pinkbike.com/video/218538
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  • + 3
 I didn't know gearboxes were a thriving option.
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  • + 3
 Gearbox. Thank you. That is all.
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  • + 1
 How many times has it happened to you?

Break your derailleur, ride no chain the rest of the day? All of a sudden, it seems so quiet............
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  • + 2
 It will happen and when it becomes aforbable I will buy one no use staying stuck in the past
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  • + 3
 Cant believe derailleur till exist in 2013, Gearbox ftw!
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  • + 3
 I am waiting for Zerode's 21 speed gearbox AM.... Big Grin
  • + 1
 Hopefully it arrives in carbon.
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  • - 1
 it's as simple as this; gearboxes aren't common enough to warrant the complete overhaul of the derailluer/derailer system. myself, like everyone else, use a derailluer, it works well, shifts my gears so i can pedal more effectively and most of all; it works well. i see no point in spending the big dollars for a system that will do the same thing as my components do now, just in a different way. if you've got a good bike that shifts gears correctly and efficiently, you don't 'need' a new system - you probably have higher priorities.
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  • + 1
 My SRAM Hammerschmidt is amazing and that's essentially a gear box, changes so quick under pressure and gives loads of clearance. All bikes should have 'em.
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  • + 2
 I'd like to try a gearbox bike out and then decide whether they're suitable for me.
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  • + 3
 i really dont like the term "dead".
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  • + 2
 Most shops would carry Alfine hubs or be able to get them within days. and they're way more reliable than a mech.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 call me old, but they seem to work on cars.

maybe we havent woked it out on bikes yet?
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  • + 2
 Derailleurs! just go and die like all the other ones.
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  • + 2
 What is this? Bike industry conspiracy theories?
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  • + 2
 What a shame to use the word "fantasy".
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  • + 1
 I have a Hammershmid and love it. It would be perfect if they could have cut down a bit more drag.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Zerode G2 is boss.. final. death to the derailuer
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  • + 1
 Gearboxes are enticing. Still impressed by my shadow+ setups. Adopt a standard and riders will follow, GB manu's.
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  • + 1
 What I'm wondering is if they can make a Dirt-Jump worthy gearbox hub that doesn't rip a hole in my wallet.
  • + 2
 Light, strong, cheap. Pick any two.
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  • + 1
 I guess Gearbox is not Dead then?... Same as punk.
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  • + 2
 Death to all but metal
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  • + 1
 I'll buy one if I can get a skull head suicide shifter.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 never had a problem with derailleurs what do I need a gearbox for? for my cars that what.
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  • + 5
 So he broke a pivot bolt on a jump close to 60ft long, big deal. Also it's not like the gearbox broke so it's irrelevant.
  • + 1
 Nice course- flat out balls out, oh yeah he broke the pivot bolt too. Of course it was the gearbox's fault you can see that clearly from the video. It all makes evil sense now why der's are preferred because they keep pivot bolts from snapping. Never realized.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Di2....Di2......Di2
  • + 2
 Di2 Alfine is out.
  • + 1
 Frame needs more room? Well maybe that and some BB area machining to have the shock upright down the road!Smile
  • + 1
 Have you tried it? Save me buying one. Although I think I'd keep the Zerode/Sram shifter anyway. The Zerodes durability and reliability are some great attributes I'd not want to swap for something that doesn't really need fixing.
  • + 5
 Di2 ... doesn't address how piss poor an idea hanging something as important as the Der. off the end of the rear triangle is... The Gearboxx is a 100% better design then the modern derailuer, but it's not supported by the big guys so it'll stay a "boutique" item despite it's superior design.

Have Der's gotten a LOT better in the last 5 years??? yes, but it's still polishing a turd. We've already taken a LOT of things from the MX world, yet we're still shifting with a contraption that adds useless unsprung weight to the rear suspension and hangs down in harms way 24/7.

Sadly, the idiot who yells the loudest gets the most attention and SRAM and Shimano have been doing everything they can to have people paying the most attention to their lateral progress in the drive-train world.
  • + 1
 No Rob has one now he was supposed to try fitting it on the bike. I will email to see what happened.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Cue in the zerode exploding video !
  • + 1
 Got a link ?
  • + 2
 I think he's referring to a video from a race a few weeks ago where a rider hit a massive step down on a Zerode and it snapped at the rear pivot. The guy in the video had commented on it stating that the frame was completely fine and that the bolt holding the pivot together is what actually snapped. I tried to find the video but failed. Sorry Frown
  • + 3
 THE TI BOLT WAS MAY HAVE BEEN TORQUED THE NEW ONES NOW ARE THICKER AND ARE ONLY THREADED 1/2 WAY MAKING THE CONTACT AREA BIGGER AND THICKER.
  • + 2
 WHY ARE WE YELLING?
  • + 2
 To be fair if he rides like that all the time ( flat out huck speed ) it's not a surprise he snapped a bolt Razz

That is a serious landing man
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Single speed for the win!
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  • - 2
 who gives a shit I aint going to waist my money on that crap I may as well buy 29er too if i did lol
  • + 1
 Your always going to waste money if you don't spend it on the most logical way to save money. Simple economic. buy the product that will devalue less, and need less financial upkeep or skilled(payed)servicing.
  • - 2
 so by buying this gearbox i'd save money? that no offence is just rubbish. I do all my maintenance myself I know nothing about these gearboxes except they cost a lot of money to buy and to service. so how would that save me money?
plus if my derailleur gets hit off or br breaks I can just come on here and buy another one for about £40-£60 for a good one. so how does this box save me money?
  • + 1
 G1s when they first came out cost $3800au. In two years the three I know of that had been sold had no money spent on them(apart from chain lube) in two years. and next to no time spent on them. They all sold for over $2500 aesthetically beaten but fine two +years later. I don't think any other two year old ridden hard bike would sell for that sort of money and still need nothing spent on it. None of the three bikes have had anything spent on them another tear later with new owners as far as I know. New chain maybe with a new build, but original rear and Alfine sprockets. So that means they cost $650au to own for the first two years. Discounting devaluation, they cost nothing to run in three years. None have had the Alfines serviced as far as I know. This isn't amazing or anything, or saving much money. But it shows they don't cost you anything in the long run, and save you a lot of stress, and riding time.
I have explained above how easy the gears are to tune, takes all of a few seconds at best, to a few minutes if gyou need to change more cable then the barrel adjuster permits. and tensioning the chain takes maybe ten minutes. Bith are done every few months at the most extreme of cases. Nobody bothers servicing the Alfines, but if you did, it's take about three beers tops, or you could buy a new one for the cost of a new fancy mech and cassette and chain. This would be after what would be years of riding for most. It's really a no brainer as far as maintenance and running costs go. No chain guide shenanigans either.
  • + 0
 sorry but your kind of contradicting yourself here, first you say "In two years the three I know of that had been sold had no money spent on them(apart from chain lube) in two years."
but then you say "So that means they cost $650au to own for the first two years."
now no offence but as the old saying goes don't change anything that's not broke.
thanks but you have more chance of me blowing a chimp but thanks for taking the time to try and convert me Smile
  • + 2
 Andy you're a retard. the reason he's saying they cost 650 a year is because they purchased them for 3800 then sold them for 2500 which if you can do sums is 1300, then divide by 2 that's 650. So really the bikes depreciated very little in that time. Wait a few years and when that happens the video of you blowing a chimp will go viral.
  • + 0
 haha here again another big keyboard warrior, when your mother stops whipping your ass for come back little boy
  • + 2
 Andy................... Nothing needs to be said. Your doing it all yourself. Have fun with that chimp.
[Reply]
  • - 3
 Great editorial Mike. Some really great points.
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