Zerode Shares the Details Behind Developing their New Katipo Gearbox 29er

Oct 29, 2019
by Zerode Bikes  
A very tidy Katipo build at Zerode HQ

Words: Zerode

At Zerode we're not afraid to do things a little differently, but only for good reason. 'Everything we do, we do because we believe in a better riding experience' is the first thing you read when you go on to our website and is the design ethos behind all of our bikes. Designed to give the rider the best possible riding experience.

With the success of the Taniwha, our 27.5” gearbox equipped bike, we wanted to expand our range and offer bikes to a bigger audience with the larger sized rider in mind.

The Taniwha

The Katipo was designed not to replace the Taniwha but to provide our gearbox platform to more people, catering to riders that preferred bigger wheels and bigger frames.

The Katipo would be offered in two travel options, in the same way the Taniwha is available in 140mm and 160mm. The two travel options share the same carbon elements but feature different aluminum links and shock lengths to alter geometry, travel and overall bike build. Utilizing a single mold for two travel options allows us to have a faster turn around and allows our factory to focus all of their time and effort into perfecting the layup and design of a single frame instead of being distracted by multiple. With attention to build you can create two different bikes that perform exceptionally in the desired category whether it's trail or enduro.

Zerode Katipo Details
Intended use: Trail / Enduro
Travel: 140mm (trail), 160mm (enduro)
Fork travel: 140mm - 170mm
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: Carbon
Head angle: 64°- 65°
Reach: 475mm (L), 505mm (XL)

More info:
Katipo Trail, Katipo

A 29er addition to the Zerode line up had been talked about numerous times but actual development began in early 2018.

Some drawings from early in the Katipo development
Some drawings from early in the Katipo development

The process began by carefully selecting the geometry that would help define the riding characteristics of the bike. It was aimed towards the aggressive end of the riding spectrum.

Big wheels were matched with some big reach values. Providing confidence and stability was at the top of the list so the enduro variant came in with a 64° head angle and the trail a 65°. 444mm chainstays were a nice match, giving a long and stable wheelbase. The geometry was chosen to be modern and contemporary (long, slack) while not being excessive.

With the geometry finalized, work began on the suspension kinematics. The Taniwha has gained recognition worldwide for it’s remarkable suspension performance with Pinkbike's own Mike Levy quoting “the Taniwha's 160mm of rear wheel travel feels deep and controlled, with a level of bump devouring ability that I can't recall any other 160mm bike displaying.” The Katipo took this and adapted it for the 29 inch wheels.

Fin checking suspension kinematics leverage ratio and anti squat before the data was translated into 3D form
Fin checking suspension kinematics, leverage ratio and anti-squat before the data was translated into 3D form

bigquotesFundamentally the suspension performs better with less unsprung weight. Utilizing a gearbox allows us to move weight from the back wheel (unsprung mass) to the front triangle (sprung mass) which significantly improves suspension performance. We are very happy with the praise Taniwha owners have given the bike's performance and wanted to replicate this for our larger wheeled platform.Rob Metz, Zerode Founder & Engineer

The gearbox provides a constant chain line through all gears making it easy to provide a sharp and responsive pedaling platform. The anti-squat on the Katipo was tuned slightly for taller riders. The same slightly rising suspension rate found on the Taniwha was implemented on the Katipo, one that had received nothing but admirable reviews from Zerode customers.

With the geometry and suspension dialed in these numbers were taken across into a 3D modelling program where work began on the form. Computer drawing was matched with sketching to develop the frame. The form language remained the same, keeping a similar silhouette to its smaller wheeled brother but with some subtle tweaks to accommodate the large wheels and frame proportions.

bigquotesWe often see brands going overboard on the design of their bikes, adding unnecessary kinks and elements that detract from the bikes aesthetics and also make it harder to manufacture. With the Katipo we wanted to keep the clean and simple aesthetic the Taniwha has. One thing I love about gearboxes is their simplicity the add to a bike both functionally and visually. It's looks so much better having a single rear chain ring instead of a cluster of dinner plates. Combining a clean simple frame, with the clean simple drive-train of a gearbox results in a great looking bike, one that you’re proud of every time you pick it up.Fin Woods, Zerode Designer

Rob examining the nearly complete CAD model. Different colorways were trialed on screen before the final colors were chosen.
Rob examining the nearly complete CAD model. Different colorways were trialed on screen before the final colors were chosen.

Having a simple frame design makes it easier for manufacturers to optimize strength, minimize weight and build the frames to a very high standard and is exactly what we want to achieve with all of our bikes.

With the CAD model complete it was around May 2018 and it was time for Rob's 3D printer to get busy. Although only a small 300mm by 300mm bed, a whole Katipo frame was printed in sections and bonded together. Once filled and painted the 3D print was used to check clearances and forms. It was even built up into a complete bike but due to the fragile nature of printed plastic, was far from being ride-able. This is an important phase as it is hard to tweak molds after they are made. Some very minor adjustments were made to the CAD model after running the 3D print checks and this was sent to our factory.

Rob comparing the 3D printed Katipo frame to one of the Taniwha productions frames
Rob comparing the 3D printed Katipo frame to one of the Taniwha productions frames
The 3D print built up into a complete bike. Unfortunately a ride able bike was still many many months away at this point.
The 3D print built up into a complete bike. Unfortunately, a rideable bike was still many many months away at this point.

The 3D printer that was used to print the entire Katipo frame. Sitting on the bed is a freshly printed rose for Rob s watering can. Although you can t print a functional bike there are a number of functional things you can print with it.
The 3D printer that was used to print the entire Katipo frame. Sitting on the bed is a freshly printed rose for Rob's watering can. Although you can't print a functional bike there are a number of functional things you can print with it.
Graphics applied to the Katipo 3D print to check sizing and appearance
Graphics applied to the Katipo 3D print to check sizing and appearance

Due to the similarities of the Katipo and Taniwha it made the process of tooling design and layup design much more streamlined. Final frame target weights were set and machining began on the tooling. Tooling is the industry name for the molds used to create production frames. Fabricating the tooling took around 3-4 months to complete.

The name and graphics were next on the list for our new bike. As the new 29er was expected to pack a serious punch it was fitting to name the bike after New Zealand's most poisonous spider, the Katipo. Graphics were designed accordingly with the bike having a large different colored panel on its top tube much like a Katipo spider has a red strip along its back. There was a panel designed and placed at the bottom of the seat tube with a message aimed at inspiring riders every time they pick their bike up and is based off what inspires us to design our bikes.

Tooling was completed and the Katipo finally came to life with the factory making six samples. Two of these remained at the factory and went through comprehensive fatigue and impact testing. The comprehensive factory testing is designed to reflect real world testing in a magnified manner, representing years of riding in a short space of time. It is most likely the reason we have had no failures with any of our production bikes.
The ethos behind Zerode

One of the six samples was sent to our USA distributor Cycle Monkey, another to Jamie Garrod of New Zealand Mountain Biking, a mountain bike guides who's on his bike every day. The other two were sent to us at Zerode HQ. These bikes underwent real world testing in varied conditions and riding styles. We were pleased to know that all testing, both in the factory and out in the field went without issue.

Frame undergoing factory testing
Frame undergoing factory testing

Pre production Katipo in a gloss clear finish
Above: Pre production Katipo Trail in a gloss clear finish. Right: Jamie Garrod of New Zealand Mountain Biking with his pre-production Katipo
Jamie Garrod of New Zealand Mountain Biking with his pre-production Katipo

Testing took a couple of months, but after we were beyond pleased with our new bike the final design was signed off and we pressed go on production. Production took the factory around four months to complete and whilst this was happening we were busy with logistics for the new bikes. The Katipo was released a month before the bikes were ready to ship at the start of July 2019.

Katipo are now out in the wild and have been sent to customers around the globe. To find out more about the Katipo click here.


  • 32 2
 Props to Zerode for pushing boundaries without feeling the need to be Cannondale weird. They’ve got that segment covered.
  • 2 1
 Well Cannondale went from weird to totally boring with their newest models and thus lost their uniqueness. This zerode looks very interesting.
  • 19 0
 awesome! Love my G2- just need the pennies and i’ll treat myself to a Katipo.

One question though,
How much travel does the Rockfox version have?
  • 5 3
 What kind of pennies ya'll have in Scotland?
  • 5 0
 @daugherd: Real ones!
  • 8 0
 @daugherd: deep-fried ones
  • 9 1
 Is it possible to have a normal shifter instead of grip one on this pinion drivetrain?
  • 32 11
 Pinion has failed to make an ergonomic shifter for their drivetrains, and you have to ease off the pedals to get a shift. More than price, weight or lower efficiency, that's what keeps Pinion gearboxes on the margins of the bike world. If they ever develop an ergonomic shifter that'll bang out gearchanges under load, I'll start saving my pennies for a bike like this one.
  • 38 0
 @peleton7: there's a reason why motorized vehicles have clutches
  • 5 0
 @crashtor: Or no gears at all.
  • 1 0
 While it is possible it would have to be really bulky a d have a fairly heavy throw. The reason for this is that there's no spring in the gearbox to change back gears so they need to use a two cable setup where one pulls it into a harder hear and one will pull it back to easier gears. I agree that the grip shift sucks but as with anything there's trade-offs.
  • 1 0
 i've seen some time ago someone making trigger shifters for pinnion gearboxes.
  • 8 0
 @peleton7: Although you are right, easyng off the pedals is so second nature that you can't even complain. Unless you are already using XTR9100. They are way sturdier, maintnance is a oil change every year, you can use any chain you fancy, efficiency gets better over time, you don't loose efficiency over bad chainline or not optimal gears for the suspension. You have too much ups and downs on both systems, but the price is what drives the majority of the market and gearboxes are on the heavy side of this scale, besides it only use a especific mount, you can only have the gearbox on the right frame.
  • 3 0
 Already addressed... Cinq Innovations has made trigger shifters for the pinion gearbox.
  • 1 0
 @diggerandrider: Shame it costs as much as a groupset.
  • 8 0
 I've tested the Taniwha before, and to be fair the grip shift is actually pretty good, better then I was expecting. You do have to unload the drive train a little to change down gears but it's not an issue after 20 minutes of getting used to it. Overall all tho it changes gears faster then a conventional derailleur set up, and changes without pedaling. If I was to get a new bike it'd would likely be a Taniwha (money permitting), I don't ride clean/smooth/boring enough to keep my derailleur out of harms way.
  • 6 0
 I've spent three months on the Cinq shifters and I couldn't wait to get them off my bike. You're basically handicapping the gearbox's ability to change gears and many of them in a hurry. In the time it takes to change two gears with the Cinq, you can jump 4-6 with the twist shifter or even more. The only limit is how far you can twist your wrist.

Is it a nice product? Yes
Is it the answer for shifting on the Pinion? No
It was sort of nice in a bike park.
It would probably be great riding a commuter/flat bar road bike or trails without quick transitions from down-to-up
  • 2 0
 @brianhanley69: Totally agree, I never touch a Taniwha,not even seen one live, but in 5 minutes you are used to it. When first try it,I was thinking about all complains over the shifter and it work fine for me. It is easy to live with. I was by far more annoyed with electronic shifting bikes the first time I touch one,I don´t know why my mind is expecting normal things when touching the levers and barely get any feedback from it,it is something got me distracted over and over for some time.
  • 2 0
 @peleton7: they do actually have a trigger shifter, although i believe its third party, still only heard good things about it. Also the shifting isnt that notice able i trialed a Zerode and its the best bike ive ever ridden, maybe it gets abit annoying on the climbs but you get used to it, and you cant peddle at full force changing gear on a 'normal' bike. the downhills aren't noticeable because you arent peddling all the time
  • 1 0
 @peleton7: Effigear gearboxes out of France offer, to my knowledge, a gearbox with equivalent range AND a trigger shifter. Pretty sure you still need to let off the pedals to downshift, which i personally do anyways though. It's a super cool system. Checkout Cavelerie's new AM bike to see it in action. Unfortunately it is just as expensive as the new Zerode here, which is truly no surprise.
  • 1 0
 I own a Taniwha works perfectly fine, in fact I prefer it to trigger shifters. You just have to learn the technique for using the grip shifter, same as you had to learn the technique for using a trigger shifter.
  • 1 0
 @lacanuck24: those Cinq shifters look absolutely shit!

As you say, they would absolutely gimp the functionality of the gearbox.
  • 4 0
 These bikes are unreal. Love mine (Taniwha). Don’t see myself ever going back to a rear-mech TBH. Also can’t say enough about how good the rear suspension feels and having that strong dish-less wheel is a nice added benefit.

Keep up the amazing work @zerodebikes! ????????
  • 3 0
 This thing is gorgeous and what I want my next bike to be. Don't mind the weight hit - still waiting on the gearbox to have less drag. And nit pick: why don't they run a horst link. Braking is just so much better with the caliper on the 2nd bar (with decent kinematics).
  • 3 0
 I got mine a little over a month ago in Peppermint Rascal and the 505 reach... what an absolute weapon! So fast and does not feel overly large. I came off of a very modified 2016 RM Instinct, and the difference was night and day! The grip shift became quite natural after a ride or two, and has never been something that holds this bike back!
  • 10 6
 Wow, that is a great looking bike. Really excited for internal gearboxes to take off. Detailers are honestly just a well-engineered bad idea.
  • 10 7
 ... aside from the fact that they work pretty much flawlessly.
  • 7 2
 @Mooka: Sure, when they aren't broken, bent, or out of tune from being super exposed on the bike. Obviously, shifting gears on a bike is not a easy problem to solve, so I feel like derailleurs have sort of spawned out of that. Imagine an wireless/electric internal gear box!
  • 4 1
 @Mooka: except when they get smashed on a rock, or the cage gets bent, or the hanger gets bent, or the pivots develop play, or the jockey wheels seize, or the cable gets stretched, or the chain gets worn, or the chain snaps, or the cassettes worn, or you haven't indexed them in a while, or they end up in your spokes...
  • 1 0
 @Mooka: I just love the idea of using a cheap, strong, wide 8-speed chain and still getting all the gears.
  • 4 2
 Kudos to Zerode for developing these bikes. They look so nice. I'm getting the Katipo for sure. Tired of huge, heavy cassettes and parts I often have to change out basically throwing money away. I wear the cassettes and chains out quickly. matter how fresh my cables are and how new my chain is, it seems either my sram derailleur or shifter shits the bed at some point on both my mtb and road bike. Sram must mean "only works for a little while" in another language. Can't speak for AXS though as I heard that's pretty good. I'd rather go with a gearbox. I can deal with a bit of drag and not shifting under load. Can't shift under load usually anyway.......The grinding of the cassette is like nails on a chalkboard!
  • 3 0
 According to Allen Millyards insta, he's thinking of revamping his infamous gearbox bike with a 2020 version, could change gear while pedalling or coasting!
  • 1 0
 3D printing 300mm x 300mm sections and bonding then finishing seems like the wrong RP process.
I'm pretty sure our machining vendor in Guangdong could provide complete parts (split down the centerline) milled from ABS for no more than $2000.
  • 2 0
 Sounds good until they take your prototype design and resell it to another company in china. Also that entire print probably cost less than $150 in materials.
  • 1 0
 People who balk at the price tag should keep in mind that it is very common to see kashima coated bikes with external drivetrains close to 10,000. The price isn't completely out of line, especially for new technology like this.
  • 1 0
 Demoed the original Zerode a couple years back - rear suspension was better than any bike I've ridden, very active, hugged the ground like no other, gearbox felt like it was sapping power. You really had to back off to shift, but I've ridden a Rohloff and it was similar. The low gear was unbelievably low with 600% range.

I still kind of want one, but the gearbox drag and cost are too much for me. It's a cool bike I'm glad exists, perfect for somebody, not quite for me.
  • 2 0
 Killer looking bike that probably makes perfect sense in a muddy/ wet enviro.

I'd be all over it if it were efficient and shifted well under load.
  • 2 0
 massive fanboy. loving the coverage Zerode are driving at the moment, and proud to ride a bike from a local company pushing boundaries. such a cool story.
  • 4 0
 Pretty bummed about no medium...
  • 4 0
 Came here to say the same thing. I get that they are a tiny MFG but man, this thing ticked all the boxes for me until I got to the sizing. The statement "if you need a smaller size you should get a Taniwha" doesn't sit well. I don't want a Taniwha, I want a properly sized Katipo.
  • 1 0
 A bike that is truly dream-worthy of owning since the 1st Zerode with a Pinion box came out. Now with 29er wheels tall guys can get in the queue buy one too.
  • 2 0
 $9,900 !?!?!? Whew, that's some steep numbers.
  • 1 1
 When you look at what you get it's not really... Priced something like an s-works endooro lately? 15k..
  • 1 1
 @theky1e: Bullshit, show me where you can buy an S-works Enduro for over 10K. Top of the line model on their website is $9,750.
  • 1 0
 $9900 in new zealand bucks is like 5k real dollars right?
  • 1 1
 Regular shifter and a DH/Freeride version of and I'm in...great looking ride!
  • 1 0
 @here Can this gearbox shift under load?
  • 1 2
 1. New Zealand has a critter that's poisonous???
2. Why would you name a bike after a nasty spider? That's disgusting.
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