Cavalerie probably isn't a brand you are familiar with, nor was I until I spotted French Junior rider, Benoit Coulanges piloting his gearbox-equipped Nicolai to 15th place at the Fort William World Cup last year. Benoit was riding an Effigear gearbox-equipped bike, the brand that gave birth to Cavalerie Bikes parented by Guy Cavalerie and David Roumeas. Never planning on building bikes themselves, they concentrated on designing and perfecting their gearbox unit with the hope of selling them to existing frame manufacturers who would build bikes to house the system. A slow start with a lack of interest from other brands left the pair in a conundrum - what to do next? The answer was to start building their own bikes and Cavalerie was born.
The Cavalerie Anakin is a 160mm travel bike from the Lyon-based brand, which comes from a four bike range including downhill, freeride and fat bike chassis all using the same gearbox and Gates Carbon belt drive system. Custom builds are available, and €3985 gets you a frame with gearbox, belt, seat clamp, headset and a BOS Kirk shock.
Frame Details Anakin Details
• Intended use: all-mountain / enduro
• Rear wheel travel: 160mm
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Full alloy frame
• Effigear 9-speed gearbox
• Gates Carbon Belt Drive
• 66 degree head angle
• Frame weight: 5,744g (inc. shock, belt, and rear hub
• Bike weight: 14.5kg / 32 lb
• Frame MSRP: €3985 ($4465 USD)
• Bike pictured approx. 6200€ ($6946 USD)
The Anakin uses an industrial looking, full alloy tube set. The bike's high single pivot system uses the main drive axle of the Effigear as a pivot. Another pivot is placed close to the micro-adjustable horizontal dropouts, which drives the seat stay that is attached to a short link hanging underneath the top tube. The rear wheel uses a 135mm single speed hub with a fixed sprocket and a zero-dish wheel with symmetrically angled spokes for added wheel strength.
Other details include a tapered head tube, 180mm post mount for the rear brake, as well as internal and external cable routeing options. Disappointingly, there is no space or consideration for a bottle cage anywhere on the frame. Geometry
The Anakin features contemporary geometry for a bike that might see some enduro racing: I rode a large-sized frame with a generous reach of 472mm, a 66º head angle, and a steep 75.5º seat angle. The wheelbase sits around 1210mm but varies slightly as the chainstay slides between 421 - 431mm depending upon belt adjustment. An extra-large sized frame has also been added to the lineup and should be available mid-summer.The Effigear Explained
While it looks like there is a lot happening inside the Effigear box, it's actually quite easy to understand: the axle driven by the crank arms connects to the primary (lower) range of gears via a steel sprocket. Of this primary range of gears, only one is engaged at any one time. The gear selector is inside the axle that passes through this primary range, and the selector slides side to side and pushes out freehub-style pawls to engage the desired gear.
This version of the Effigear box uses a SRAM X0 trigger shifter to change gears. A long 'BIC Biro' type spring in the black tube on top of the down tube is preloaded when changing into lower gears, and this preloaded spring force pulls the selector back when changing into higher gears. A barrel-type changer is also an option which uses two cables to pull the selector in either direction and doesn't require the extra spring on the down tube.
The secondary (upper) range of gears are fixed along with the external sprocket to an axle, and this axle doubles as the bike's main pivot point. A Gates Carbon belt is used to connect the drive to the rear hub. When freewheeling, the belt and gears continue to rotate. Belts are known to be less efficient than a clean and lubricated chain, but the belt drive is said to require zero maintenance, its performance won't deteriorate with use and should outlive a chain by up to three times.
The sprockets are machined from steel, which means they're heavy but are said to last for years. The gearbox can also be downsized to seven gears for downhill use, which will also shave a few grams off. The suggested service interval is an oil change every twelve months if riding twice a week on average. To do this, simply remove the sump bolt, allow the old oil to drain and then refill with fresh oil. The sprockets are shaped to allow mud to be pushed through and away from the contact area by the belt. A small plastic guard has also been installed to stop baggy trousers getting caught in the belt.
My bike had the equivalent range of a 26 tooth chain ring with a 10 - 44 cassette, but different sized external sprockets can be used at the box or hub to give desired gear ratios
The complete Effigear system weighs 2,640 grams, which includes the box, crank arms, shifters, belt and lubrication oil. Cavalerie suggests this weight is on par with an average double chain ring system
, using an 11 - 34 cassette.
This diagram shows how the Effigear box can be built in three different shapes, changing the position of the three main components: the crank axle, the primary gears and secondary range/main pivot to choose the desired pivot and bottom bracket locations different types of bike.
Compared to a derailleur system, the Effigear offers some notable pros and cons. The glaring con is that you can't change into an easier gear with pressure on the pedals, which is tough at first. When tackling climbs, a very short release of tension on the pedals is needed to allow the gear to change. For me, the pros seemed to outweigh the cons, though: being able to select between any number of gears when freewheeling or at a stand still, and solid down shifts when putting maximum power through the cranks.
When I became used to the system, I found myself pre-selecting gears when a climb came into view but still descending. Hopping onto a coffin-sized rock on a Swiss single, I needing to wheelie off, but I was in too hard a gear; I held a track stand, flicked up a couple of gears and popped off the death box. I also found this useful when I bobbled on a couple of stream crossings and lost all momentum - I just clicked up a few gears a pedalled out. A similar situation with a derailleur system might have meant getting off to spin the cranks and get into the right gear, or crunching the chain to move up to the other end of the cassette over a couple of crank rotations.
Being able to shift so freely quickly became a habit, and going back to a derailleur system was tough to re-adapt to. With the exception of powering up climbs which were easier than with the gearbox and something that a rider is going to have to keep in mind when considering the Anakin. Climbing
The 75.5º seat angle is a great start for heading up steep climbs, but due to the lack of anti-squat in the system, the Anakin did wallow a little, similar to the Pole Rinne Yla
I reviewed last year. It's great for pedalling through rough stuff as the wheel is free from chain tension to move over obstacles but it struggled with wallowing when going through large dips and putting the power down, especially when seated. Power transfer certainly isn't as direct as a traditional drivetrain because the forces from your legs have to make it through multiple cogs and the belt. I wouldn't like to comment on real efficiency numbers as some more scientific testing would be needed, but it certainly didn't feel as efficient as a chain. David admits that the system won't be as efficient as a clean and well-oiled derailleur system, but can possibly offer an advantage when things get muddy. Descending and Handling
I instantly felt comfortable on the Anakin heading straight into some downhill tracks in Morzine to get a feel for the bike. The 66º head angle and roomy top tube for a large frame, combined with the low and centralised weight, kept things stable and offered a great front/rear balance.
The high pivot point, light rear wheel, and lack of feedback from chain stretch meant the suspension action was incredible, and ploughing into Le Pleneys favourite braking bumps was no issue. Notably, riding this bike with flat pedals was a cinch, my feet just stuck to the pedals while I could feel the back wheel going wild behind me with only a reassuring thud of rubber against dirt - the Anakin is nearly silent.
The linkage and BOS Kirk gave a progressive feel and the Anakin loved to charge the descents, with a rewarding generation of speed when pumping and pushing through holes, compressions, and ruts. A few times I winced as I got way too close to some derailleur dinging rocks but floated through without concern. The bottom bracket clearance is huge as I found when mistiming a fallen tree hop and braced for the inevitable chain ring collision with the object in question. But nothing happened and I just sailed straight over. Even if you did contact the box with the ground, the frame looks burly enough to take more abuse than any bash guard ever could. Downsides
Rolling speed seems affected by the continually rotating mass of the box and belt when freewheeling. A freewheel could be used at the rear hub but it's not recommended by Effigear as it requires an extra ten degrees of retro pedalling to change into an easier gear. A zero degree engagement hub would be a great solution but doesn't exist in the correct sizing for the Anakin. This is particularly clear when jumping as the slowing wheel gently pushed your weight forwards in the air, similar to pulling the back brake or letting off the throttle on a motorbike - a slight change of balance is required.
I ride left foot forwards and with my knees pretty close to the frame in corners, and I sometimes take swingarm hits to the inside of the leg and knee on some bikes. What happens when there is a carbon belt drive constantly whirring around in this area? Leg burns. Nothing major, but I did singe the inside of my calf muscle a few times when hitting left-hand corners. This is a real issue, and Cavalerie will have to install some sort of guard to fix the problem. The friction in the system is also less than ideal, as is having to not apply pressure to the pedals if you want to shift into an easier gear. Pinkbike's Take:
|The Anakin is not inexpensive or the most efficient when pedalling, but does have a lot to offer in the contrary. Great handling, low maintenance, huge clearance, silence and centralised weight are massive positives. The lack of efficiency will prove to be a no-no for people who like to go for long rides, but for more extreme disciplines where carrying speed takes precedence over pedalling, I didn't feel this is an issue. If you live somewhere warm, dry with fairly smooth terrain lacking in derailleur biting rocks, a gearbox maybe isn't something on your wishlist. It's not the gearbox bike that so many people dream will make derailleurs obsolete, but it's close. The Anakin is a great option for riders who tackle muddy conditions and gnarly terrain that's littered with roots and rocks. - Paul Aston|
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About the ReviewerStats: Age: 29 • Height: 6'1” • Ape Index: +4" • Weight: 161lb • Industry affiliations / sponsors: Rockwell Watches Paul Aston is the latest addition to the Pinkbike Technical team and is a racer and dirt-jumper at heart. Previously competing in World Cup DH, now he's attacking Enduro and has been since before it was fashionable. Based in the UK, but often found residing between mainland Europe and New Zealand allows him to experience a huge variety of terrains and trails.