The gearbox. The white whale of mountain bike drivetrains. On paper they make a lot of sense, centralising weight, eliminating the chain influence from the suspension and removing the fragile derailleur from its exposed position. The problem has always been the execution. There have been multiple attempts to get one right over the years, but out in the real world they have always been too heavy, create too much drag or are simply too complicated. The fact is that the modern derailleur is a finely-tuned precision implement and to convince the masses to step away from them needs a gearbox that is better than they are.
Back in 2011 a German journalist showed up on my doorstep with a bike equipped with a gearbox crafted by ex-automotive engineers
. That was the Pinion P1.18. It looked wild and in the car park it felt like it might just work. A year later I flew to Northern Germany to try riding one
. It was pretty good, but still had some quirks and a lot of weight. In the intervening years they may not have set the mountain bike world alight, but for serious bike-trekking enthusiasts, Pinion are the market leaders - if what you need is ultimate reliability, they are the name to turn to.
Last year they launched their re-worked C1.12 gearbox to the world, which is lighter, a little less bulky, but still as bombproof. Pinion themselves would admit that they are not quite at the point where their drivetrains are going to takeover the mountain bike market, but while their progress is slow and steady, they certainly show all the promise of being the people who will finally crack the gearbox problem...
We visited their headquarters, just down the road from Mercedes Benz and Porsche, near Stuttgart, Germany to take a look behind their doors.