Nicolai Launch Gearbox Equipped Saturn 14 GPI Trail Bike

Nov 3, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  

Nicolai's Saturn 14 was released in April 2019 as a 130-138mm trail bike that combined the progressive geometry of its G13 Geolution chassis with the attitude of its shorter travel platforms like the Saturn 11. Nicolai describes it as its "egg-laying, wool making, and milking sow" bike, which might be a bit lost in translation but we think means it's a do-it-all, up-hill-and-down-dale bike as opposed to some of its more specialist offerings.

18 months on, Nicolai has returned to the platform and released this new GPI version. GPI stands for Gates Pinion as it combines a Pinion 1.12 gearbox with a Gates belt drive on a new version of the Saturn 14 frame.
Details

Frame: Aluminium
Intended Use: Trail/ Bike Park (ST version)
Travel: 130/138mm (adjustable)
Wheel size: 27.5" / 29" / Mullet
Drivetrain: Pinion 1.12 with Gates Belt drive
Weight: 7.36 kg (Large frame, gearbox, cranks, carbon drive)
More info:nicolai-bicycles.com


Two versions of the Saturn 14 GPI will be available, a regular version that uses standard tubing and an ST version. This uses a thicker-walled down tube, seat tube, and top tube as well as gussets at the head tube and is mainly aimed at riders who wish to add some bike park seasoning to their normal riding diet. Nicolai has noticed that the "riding error frequency" is generally higher at a bike park so they have created this more robust version of the bike to ensure all the tubes are able to stand up to the added stress. There is a weight penalty of around 300 grams depending on frame size for this version.
The ST version uses thicker tubes and added gussets at the head tube.


Both versions of the bike can be run with whichever modern wheel size configuration one's heart desires - 27.5" front and rear, 29" front and rear, or as a mullet. The bike can be switched between the configurations thanks to Nicolai's Mutator Chips, located on the seat stay and 13mm deep lower headset cups to change the stack height. The 27.5" version of the bike can be run with a 210x55mm or 210x50mm shock, which gives 138mm or 130mm of rear-wheel travel. The 29“ frame version should only be used with a 210x50mm shock and 130mm travel. According to Nicolai, the longer shock would fit but it would reduce the rear wheel clearance beyond what they recommend.

Pinion transmission means grip shift is your only option for changing gears.

A Gate Cabon Drive replaces the chain on the Saturn 14 GPI

The geometry for both bikes is based on Nicolai's Geolution concept. The brand has been working with Chris Porter, and advocate of long, low, and slack bikes for nearly a decade. ThisGeolution bike is still long in the reach and wheelbase, slack in the head angle, and steep in the seat tube but not quite as extreme as the Geometron bikes. The geometry varies slightly between the different models and can also be customized through Nicolai's Tailormade program.
A sample geometry of the standard 29er version. More detailed geometry info can be found on the Nicolai website.

Cable routing is external but who cares when it's as neat as this?

The bike is available in five sizes from S to XXL. A frame with the Pinion, cranks, and the carbon belt drive and sprockets weighs 7,360 grams in size large and costs €4,249. Complete bikes are available from €6,499. More info can be found here.




115 Comments

  • 66 0
 I want to believe that this bike is as hassle and maintenance free as I imagine it is.
  • 19 33
flag rickybobby18 (Nov 3, 2020 at 10:05) (Below Threshold)
 Don't forget that belt drives need to be cleaned/lubed if you ride in dirty areas. Which, for MTB as opposed to road, is pretty much all areas. The people I know with belt drives lube them as much or more than a chain.

See their notes on silicone lube: www.cyclingabout.com/carbon-belt-drive-everything-you-ever-need-to-know
  • 42 2
 @rickybobby18: I've had a belt drive hardtail for 11 years. Broke one belt early on in the process due to tensioning issues. Once the gen 2 version came out with the centertrack, I never had a problem since. As for lube, never. If it acts up and starts to get noisy, a little squirt of H2O takes care of it.
  • 5 0
 @bsedola: Does gritty mud and/or small stones cause issues? It just doesn't look like it'd clear mud as well as a chain.
  • 7 4
 @rickybobby18: on offroad motorcycle, most of time there is a chain...
It is not a coincidence
Belt must be great and (almost) maintenance free, but for city bikes
  • 2 1
 @bsedola: do you ride when very muddy ?
  • 5 0
 @rickybobby18: Great link! (everything you ever wanted to know about bike belt drives)
  • 1 0
 @rickybobby18: Really? That's pretty interesting.
  • 6 0
 @rickybobby18: Have belt SS martial for few years, never ever lube it or so, all works like charm
  • 2 0
 @rickybobby18: I never realised that you need a "belt splitter" frame, obvious when you think about it.
  • 4 0
 @Timenator: This is mostly an issue specific for traditional hardtails. Bikes with a horst linkage can be opened, a single pivot full suspension like one from Orange (except for the ST4) or a hardtail with a high rear triangle like an Olsen bike won't need to be split at all.
  • 2 0
 @Timenator: There is a belt drive that you can split to fit a standard frame though I can't remember who makes it.
  • 2 3
 @rickybobby18: no I'd much rather destroy a derailleur and hanger every year.
  • 1 0
 @landscapeben: I know that Veer Cycle makes split belts.
  • 1 0
 @kcy4130: @kcy4130: After years of service on wet trails of the Pacific Northwest, it has lived the last 3 years in Costa Rica seeing mostly dry conditions. Lots of beach sand and grit. Never a problem. You get the odd PING, but it certainly hasn't been a problem. It's setup for single speed and sees a lot of torque. I'm quite surprised of its durability.
  • 2 0
 @Grononosse: Well that lends more to the fact that belts don't play nicely with a lengthening of the drivetrain, hence the tensioner you see here. For a dirtbike, you'd need the front sprocket concentric with the point of rotation for the rear axle, which adds much more design complexity.

You'll see many more belts with the shift to electric.
  • 50 10
 grip shift reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
  • 34 0
 Those welds are beautiful.
  • 25 2
 Honestly, I bet a silent and more robust drivetrain would be a good tradeoff for a grip shift. I'm sure you'd get used it pretty quick.
  • 13 0
 Speaking from experience, you do get used to it quickly. Then when you go back to trigger shifters you realize how much more inefficient they actually are in terms of thumb/hand movement.
  • 2 0
 @camcoz69 gripshift works awesome with Pinion. Even better than trigger shift with derraileur IMO.
  • 12 0
 Real question: what exactly is the difficulty of designing/building a trigger shifter for a gearbox?
  • 14 1
 Gearbox systems like the Pinion require two cables to actuate the shifting mechanism. With a twist shifter, you can pull in both directions with a dual cable setup. Trigger shifters use one cable and rely on the spring tension inside the derailleur to pull the cable back.
  • 8 0
 There is one that exists aftermarket for Pinions. That being said, not sure why you would want one considering grip shift lets you mash the entire range insanely quick.
  • 2 0
 @seraph: so why can't you introduce a spring to tension one of the cables? I think that's what effigear does
  • 1 0
 Acs?
  • 3 0
 AXS*?
  • 10 0
 @Dogl0rd: Wireless e-gearbox sounds cool....
  • 2 0
 @mattg95: This is what I don't understand either. Spring pulling to the other direction and cable to the other. But I'm sure someone will step in and explain it to us soon enough.
  • 6 0
 @phops: well for one, there are plenty of times I'm on the brakes and banging downshifts at the same time to be ready to pedal out of a corner. That is much more tedious with a grip shifter. And then there's the whole jumping/landing thing and unintentional shifts..... not to mention I hate when my 2 grips aren't exactly the same, and being limited in grip type/diameter.
  • 3 0
 @phops: Yes, though I think the problem with the after market thumb shifter is that it isn't a thumb shifter, it's shifters plural, you have to have one either side so you shift up on the right and down on the left I think. What would be ideal is if they did a wireless thumb shifter like Rohloff are working on for their internaly geared hubs.
  • 1 1
 @krka73: Rohloff also works with grip shift but I thought they also introduced electronic shifting, though it was exclusive for e-bikes initially. Not sure whether they expanded it later on. That said, I'm not sure whether this would be a direction for Pinion to head into. After all their gearbox already occupies the spot where the motor would otherwise go. So whereas Rohloff just adds more functionality to an already electric bikes, for Pinion it would be them introducing electronics into an otherwise "mechanical" bike. Which may not jive with their vision that this is a product for the "fit and forget" audience. But I'm with you that as a traditional trigger shifter for mountainbike gearing also is kind of a spool that reels in the cable with a ratchet mechanism, it should be possible to control the motion of the two Pinion cables with levers too.

That said, I think that outside of our mtb bubble, the demand for super heavy duty durable gearing but with the level of control that we're calling for is slim. Being able to operate the grip shift with mittens just jives perfectly well with the conditions the internal gearbox is able to deal with. As discussed quite often, for the conditions most of us ride with (and the kind of money we're will in to spend in a single go, and the demands we have on chainstay lengths), conventional gearing is still pretty hard to beat.
  • 1 0
 Effigear is working on a gearbox to do exactly that, while also using the pinion mounting bracket!
  • 1 0
 @phops: agreed. i own a zerode.
a trigger shifter wouldnt work, if you dropped a gear with too much pedal pressure it would just sit between gears..
grip shift on a pinion is better than on a mech as it doesnt build pressure as it goes towards 1st gear.
gearbox bikes smash vintage (mech and cassette) bikes to pieces.
  • 1 3
 @vinay: I've always wondered about mounting a derailleur upside down so that it sits above the rear axle. Wouldn't work for all bikes necessarily but it makes sense on terms of the resulting shape of the mechanism and the protection it would be afforded away from rocks etc. It could even be designed to work with the seat stays for added structure to stiffen it and increase precision. Don't really know why nobody's explored this?!
  • 2 0
 @landscapeben: I wondered this too. I think you would need to peddle "backwards" if it was on the top. You need the chain to "pull" on the cassette not the derailleur. So you would need to peddle in the other direction or add some kind of rotation reversal system to reverse the chain direction.
  • 1 1
 @outlaw502: No, I think what @landscapeben implies is a rear mech designed differently so that the cage is pointing up instead of down. Main issue I see there is that it will soon enough hit the upper (tensioned) part of the chain. There is little room there. Pointing it forwards solves that issue but the cage will shake even more because of bumps etc, making it even more likely to lose a chain. This always was my main reason to go for the shortest cage possible. The longer it is, the more it will move fore-aft on rough terrain so the more it will mess with your chain tension.

My idea actually was to have a rear mech with a guide (upper) pulley only. The chain is tensioned by a lower chain guide like the Roox (Cat or Dog, don't recall which). The bb shakes much much less than the rear axle so it will be easier to keep the chain steady. But it is an idea I've had ever since I saw the Roox Cat and Dog so if I had patented the idea back then, it would already have expired Wink . Not sure how much of a stupid idea it is in the first place. If the rear mech doesn't have a lower guide, there will be little chain wrap over the upper guide. Not sure whether it would be too little to function properly, but at least it is little. If you need more wrap, you're still going to need a second (lower) pulley at the rear mech even though the cage won't be able to rotate. And once you introduce this many pulleys, people are probably going to complain about the complexity. But yeah, my initial idea was a single guide pulley at the rear mech and then a spring loaded lower chain guide pulley. If that works, I think it could be better than conventional rear mechs.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: Im not sure you want to base anything of those old roox chainguides. All I can remember about them was that it made my bike sound like a Ducati with a dry clutch.
  • 9 1
 This is beautiful but the problem I have with belt drive is common availability. I once volunteered at an aid station for the BC bike race and a rider came through with a belt drive. His belt had torn and nobody had a spare to lend him (not even the Shimano service guys). He had to borrow a bike to finish the day. Nice idea but it needs to be more common place.
  • 31 0
 The real issue here is WTF was that guy thinking not bringing a spare belt in his kit kept at his tent for the freaking BCBR!!. That was just mindless idiocy if you ask me.
  • 5 0
 that problem can be dealt with quite easily though - just buy one or two spares straight away and have your peace of mind.
  • 4 0
 @wowbagger: but unless you carry a spare on your ride there is no trailside repair, unlike a chain.
  • 4 1
 @iamamodel: Seems like the only spare thing he would need though....
  • 2 1
 @iamamodel: i don't follow, this is just as easy to take on a ride as a chain, maybe it's even lighter.
  • 2 0
 @iamamodel: nevermind what i just posted, of course you'd only need a link for a chain. In any case, if I was in the market I don't think this would be enough to turn me away from getting this..
  • 1 0
 That's pretty much always the case with any kind of new stuff. It needs to spread for spares to become more available, but if no one buys it because they're scared of spare part availability, it will never spread. Smile
  • 1 1
 @islandforlife: wtf, no manufacture supply spare belt with biles out of the box, which is kinda ridiculous
  • 1 1
 Belts are pretty common in my neck of the woods. You would be able to find one at many lbs near me.
  • 8 0
 Still rockin that super tough bronze anodised finish I see I had that on my Helius cc 15 years back,
  • 4 0
 NM, it's a tension bar according to Nicolai's website:

Wondering what that black thing is hidden behind the shock and seat-tube ? Every iteration of the Saturn since 2004 has featured a tension bar. This is an extra connection between the lower shock bolt and the rocker link pivot, why? When the suspension bottoms out at full compression, forces continue to try and move these pivot points away from each other (you can see many frames break around this area).

The tension bar resists this and keeps the maximum forces in check, meaning that lighter tubing and machined parts can be used in this area to reduce overall weight.
  • 5 0
 If seen on a trail here in Washington state people would confuse it for an eBike and demand Evergreen deploy the black helicopters.
  • 7 5
 I'm really excited for gearboxes to get good someday. Whoever cracks that nut will own the market within 2 years. Whoever it is had better have a damned trigger shift option because I'll simply not get one if I have to go grip-shift.
  • 1 0
 I think I could easily get used to the gripshift, if all the fabled advantages turn true, that'll be the least to worry about! Heck, if I had spare cash to burn I'd get one right now, out of curiosity if nothing else. Wish them all the luck, would love for this to be the future.
  • 1 0
 Isn't Shimano (rumour mill) supposedly working on one in "secret"??

Edit - www.cyclingabout.com/13-speed-shimano-gearbox
  • 2 0
 have a ride on one if you get the chance, no tention on a gearbox shift. grip shift is actually better
  • 1 1
 @andymoore13: I have massive doubts on that claim....especially since if grip shift was better we'd see more of it in the MTB world. I can certainly see it being better for certain things, but I can see it being much worse when the going gets rough.

The only place I ever see grip shift anymore is on low-end bikes and gearbox bikes.
  • 1 0
 @Explodo: didn’t sram get their start with grip shifter’s? They still sell them for Eagle if you want one.
  • 1 0
 @DHhack: Yeah...and how many people opt for that? There are all sorts of things that CAN be gotten, but aren't gotten because they're inferior or people don't like them.
  • 1 0
 @andymoore13: agree, I rode a Rohloff Speedhub for years and it was so good. The gripshift was different from trigger but I thought it was better. Sadly that bike was stolen and I am back with the old derailleur. I would definitely go back to a Speedhub - pretty much silent, no chain slapping around, shifting a huge range in one go, and zero maintenance...
  • 3 1
 What the heck is with smaller seat tube diameters on larger sizes? Thicker tubing for strength? Only so they can pass on the flex to the dropper?

Ready for 34.9 internal to just be everywhere, and more droppers to have full size stanchions to match.
  • 1 0
 "What the heck is with smaller seat tube diameters on larger sizes? Thicker tubing for strength?"
Yes
  • 3 3
 Good thing that your (lack of understanding) opinion doesn't drive the industry
  • 2 0
 I have had two Zerode's , currenlty riding a 2nd generation Taniwha, with a chain set up.After the short learning curve of using the grip shift I would find it hard to go back to a cassette- not only can you dump as many gears up or down, I am not replacing a drive train every three months or destroying rear derraileurs anymore. Doing the first oil change in close to 10 months.Gear box takes a few hundred km to break in but the weight is in the miiddle of the bike and the positives far out weigh the marginal weight differences of a standard set up....
  • 5 0
 I thought Nicolai was releasing its own proprietary gearbox design?
  • 2 0
 I want a durable lightweight 2-speed gearbox that would work Hammerschmidt-like with a cheap-to-replace 8 or 9 spd derailleur system. Who wants to keep spending $300 for a cassette? This is nuts.
  • 3 0
 Can a fatty belt hold up in muddy pine needles though? Wonder if the belt lugs can get packed up like a greasy tire?
  • 4 0
 I want it. I think I'd prefer chain drive though.
  • 4 0
 what's that thing between the shock and seat tube?
  • 9 0
 Structural support/rigidity in a weight-efficient manner!
  • 7 0
 It's a tension bar to increase fatigue strength, details on their website
  • 1 8
flag pinkbike-engineer (Nov 3, 2020 at 12:56) (Below Threshold)
 A marketing gimmick.
  • 2 0
 @pinkbike-engineer: username checks out
  • 1 0
 @MacRamsay: look at the type of mechanical contact on the teeth. The tooth /belt connection is equivalent to a line that rubs on the teeth. The chain on the pinion teeth is a point that rubs on a roller.
  • 1 0
 Looks like ehrm... a Project XII Vertigo. Makes me wonder, Nicolai does produces aluminum parts for other frame manufacturers. Does Nicolai actually produce the rocker for said Vertigo? It looks pretty similar.
  • 1 0
 @landscapeben: look at the type of mechanical contact on the teeth. The tooth /belt connection is equivalent to a line that rubs on the teeth. The chain on the pinion teeth is a point that rubs on a roller.
  • 1 1
 I think think this is one sweet ride and the cable routing is off the hook. IEver since I destroyed 2 sets of housing decade a go I stopped buying bikes with under carriage routing. Hit a rock or hard tree branch and bye bye rear mech. Two dead rides ended my GT reign ..... hello Santa Cruz. This is the 1st gear box ride I have wanted to try out. Well done with the head tube angle as well.
  • 3 0
 I love it, I just can't afford it!
  • 2 0
 I had no idea that I needed a new bike, but now I'm convinced that I need a new bike. Dammit. LOL
  • 2 0
 What's the little black arm from the lower shock bolt to the main link pivot?
  • 1 0
 I was wondering as well... you'd think they would address it in the article... from the website:

"Wondering what that black thing is hidden behind the shock and seat-tube ? Every iteration of the Saturn since 2004 has featured a tension bar. This is an extra connection between the lower shock bolt and the rocker link pivot, why? When the suspension bottoms out at full compression, forces continue to try and move these pivot points away from each other (you can see many frames break around this area).

The tension bar resists this and keeps the maximum forces in check, meaning that lighter tubing and machined parts can be used in this area to reduce overall weight."
  • 2 0
 Does everyone realize that you can buy a chairing and cog so you can still run a chain....
  • 1 2
 I don't really understand the pricing here - you can get the Taniwha Trail with full carbon frame and better components for less than cheapest Nicolai option, and that's INCLUDING TAX AND DUTIES ON IMPORT FROM NEW ZEALAND TO EU. It just doesn't make sense.
  • 1 2
 YeAh BuT LoOk At ThE WeLdZ mAeNz!
  • 1 0
 Perfect opportunity to have a perfect drivetrain. IDLER PULLEY. SCRRRREEEEEEEEEEÈEEEEEEÈECCCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHHHING HAULT.
  • 2 0
 Every ones like yes yes yes gearbox bike.. And then thay see the belt....
  • 3 2
 Holy hell that's beautiful but probably weighs the same as an ebike
  • 13 0
 It definitely weighs more, but it's not as much as it seems. The entire drivetrain is included in the Nicolai's weight.

For reference, the published weights of a Shimano XT M8100 drivetrain is a hair under 2kg. So when you do a ballpark comparison to a traditional aluminum frame (we'll use a Banshee Prime - 29er, 135mm travel), you have to take the weight of the frame (3.7kg for the Prime) plus the drivetrain weight of 2kg for a total of 5.7kg.

Also, the weight distribution is important to remember: the bulk of that additional weight is low and center, not at the rear axle. Every Pinkbike e-engineer will tell you that's better.
  • 6 0
 @hamncheez - Per their website, the complete mullet trail configuration seen in this article weighs just 30.2 pounds, which is actually pretty decent for a trail bike these days.

en.nicolai-bicycles.com/bike/saturn-14-gpi
  • 7 0
 @opetruzel: wait a minute the industry experts said aluminum is too heavy to make into a trail bike!
  • 1 1
 I mean, the real question is: where does the water bottle go?
  • 4 0
 On the water bottle mounts in the front triangle. See the pictures of cable routing - its on the clamps.
  • 2 0
 The double cable clamps look like they are the right spacing for a bottle cage
  • 1 0
 Sick!
  • 1 0
 I definitely want it
  • 1 1
 +1 on the grip shift fail.
  • 3 4
 Don't forget that chain have a better efficiency than belts.
  • 6 1
 Says who?
  • 2 2
 Yeah don't think that's true bud, unless you can back it up, everything I've seen says the opposite.
  • 1 0
 @landscapeben @MacRamsay: www.cyclingabout.com/belt-drivetrain-efficiency-lab-testing

Apparently "Belts Are Less Efficient Than Chains At Low Power Outputs
Belts have been tested to be less efficient than a chain drivetrain at low power outputs. That said, belts are likely to have an advantage when the conditions get nasty as all those chain links tend to accrue mud and grit (while a belt sheds it)."
  • 1 0
 @Milko3D: interesting read thanks! Beer
  • 1 0
 @Milko3D: is 50 rpms considered high power output? I usually run a 24 in the front, 52 in the rear on 2% grade...
  • 1 0
 @unrooted: I have no clue, just forwarded the article. I've never measured my output or cadence.
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