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Long Term Pinion Gearbox Review

Dec 9, 2015
113
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Wanted to post up a long term review of this Pinion gearbox. I have been on it for 2 years now of consistent riding with a little summer resort time. One friend and customer has slayed his with like 10 resort days last summer and some this summer.

To give a background of my set up and expectations will help. At this stage in life I am still gravity oriented in my riding which also gives reason to the preference for the high pivot frame. I RIDE UP TO GO DOWN. So my setup is geared for DH abuse. I prefer durability over light weight because I ride 2-3 days each week on average. I was putting 3 days a week in for the first half for testing. Some of the usual trails include jumps from 4.5m to 12m, drop step downs from 1.5m to 3.6m vertical meters. Sections can include some rocky chunk. Highest speed can get up to 64km/h. And things don't always go to perfect in those circumstances. I climb my DH set up 2.4km to 4km up unless I am at a resort. It keeps me in shape and the gearbox is perfect for such a set up because of the range.

Not too long ago the Zerode Taniwha was reviewed by Pinkbike's Mike Levy. It wasn't too positive toward it overall. It seemed to me the rider reviewing the bike really should have set the parts spec up to his preference rather than repeatedly talk about weight issues. The bike was set up more for descending, thus heavier overall.

I am amazed at the whole weight thing in the industry today. People want these super light setups and they expect them to either last long under regular heavy hard use and be cheap. Often times they think they will get both. But that is just not the reality from my experience. Most people would die if they knew how heavy my day to day DH wheelset weighs. Spank Spoons, DH tubes, 2ply DH tires with wire bead (killer blowout deal $12 USD! Oh and they are 26") On the other hand, I have trued the rims once in 3 years of pretty heavy use. Never burped a tire and ruined a ride like friends have with tubeless. Have never pinch flatted and have gone down to the rim plenty of times. Have resort days logged on them. I run 21/23psi, and have gone lower at times with no issues. I have done the lighter wheel thing and it feels good but I always have problems and need to replace rims fairly quick when I do that.

So be discerning when reading other peoples reviews. Their expectations and preferences may not be yours. The way they ride and what they want out of a setup may be different than yours.

I will start off by mentioning the only 2 negatives I feel the box has: The weight and POE of the free hub in it. It adds 2-2.5lbs or 1 kilo to a set up. It does place this in the most optimal place on the bike, low and centered at your feet. So is it worth the additional weight? Also the free hub has a very low POE. I don't notice it 95% of the time, just here and there at certain times and usually not on a descent. Overall, for me it is a fairly minor qualm. These two issues for me and others on them become a moot point once you start to realize the benefits opened up to you.

For me, the answer to go Pinion gearbox is absolutely YES because the number of other benefits gained, far out weigh the weight penalty for the kind of riding I do and the performance I want from a bike setup.

1. Shifting -- the shifts are clearly indexed and crisp. I have yet had to adjust the cable tension at all and probably won't have to for another 2 years at this rate.
It does use a grip shifter of which I was a little skeptical at first, but wouldn't want to go back to a trigger. You can easily dump 2-3-4 gears in half a second. I know there are nay-sayers about this but it is a total nonissue for me and those I know on them. One customer/friend was concerned he would hate it, but once on it doesn't complain about it and has said the ability to switch through a number of gears so quickly comes in handy. This isn't a Walmart special grip shifter. And I have not had a miss shift from pulling up on the bars. I set up my grip so my hand is barely on the grip shift.

Now there have been some confusing statements made by people who have never ridden a Pinion, or have barely spent any time on one. When shifting to a lower gear (easier), you have to let tension off of the cranks in order to shift. After getting used to the technique, it takes a split second to do. So this notion that has gone around like you have to stop and wait to shift is not the case at all. For guys that like to hack shift with their derailleurs (which is terrible and wears out your drive train quickly), I guess you can cry about it. When I was on a derailleur, I eased off tension when upshifting anyways, so it is almost the same technique.

Shifting to a higher gear (harder) you can shift while pedaling except at the 4/5 and 8/9. So on a descent, you can be on the cranks and shift down as you are gaining speed. The two intervals listed have not been an issue for me. Most of the descents you will do your going to be in 9, 10, 11 where you will want to be hard on the gas. If you blow a corner or section and need to gain speed you are usually around 6, 7, 8. Almost all of my shifting now on a descent is done without pedaling anyways except for a few sections on trails where your gassing it.

2. Shifiting without pedaling -- This is one of the best things you can ever have for gravity oriented riding and can't be emphasized enough. 99% of my shifting on a descent is done without pedaling. You can simply set yourself up for each section of the trail without worrying about getting the pedal strokes in. You can also dump gears easily, like if you make a mistake and need to grab 2-3 gears up. Really, really nice when learning new a trail or learning the trails at resorts.

3. Chain security -- I am using 30t narrow wide chain rings. I simply don't drop or skip the chain (unless weeds or a branch gets inbetween the chain and sprocket).
For me this is huge because I would often skip gears on a cassette on certain parts of my normal trails where you needed to shift but it was rough ground. This would in turn screw me up for not being able to hit gap jumps where pedaling into the jump out of corners was necessary. Not anymore, hasn't happened since I converted. I have no need for a guide or chain retention system.

4. VERY LOW maintenance -- I wipe down the chain each ride or two. Lube my chain each ride or two and that is about it. And when you could want to, our frame design it allows you to quickly take the chain off, degrease it and wipe the sprockets down clean. Throw the chain back on and lube it up and it feels like new. Takes around 10 minutes. I have never been able to do that so quickly and easily.
The sprockets and chain are always inline so they are probably going to last me another year at this rate. And 30t sprockets are like $15 USD on Ebay. So when you do have to replace them maybe in 2-3 years (depending on how much climbing you do) it is a minimal cost. Loving it!!
This is literally a set and forget set up. Pinion recomends changing the oil in the box once a year. I haven't even done that yet. SSSHHHH.

5. Range -- With the 600% in the 12 speed box you have enough to climb a DH bike setup, 1st gear is very low. You still have enough top end gearing for any DH run you will do. I have yet to use the 12th gear on a DH run yet. Usually in 9, 10, 11. No 1 x set up can compete with this especially when you consider the ridiculous dinner size plate gearing and huge derailleur necessary and the crazy chain slap on a descent.

6. The gearing ratio or steps between gears feels perfect. The box is very smooth feeling. Silky smooth would be a good adjective. I suppose being Porche engineers they kind of knew what they were doing.

7. Better ground clearance. 30t ring versus a 34t or 36t with a bash guard. You can get even better using Pinion's 24t sprockets.

One other potential negative aspect people may have concerns about is drag -- This was a concern before taking the plunge and I consulted Rob from Zerode and a number of others who had one. They all said the same thing I will: Can't say I feel any noticable drag over a standard setup. Yes, there is probably slightly more, but my legs can't feel it. So it is a nonissue.
(Besides, the gearing range makes up for any drag. 1st gear is so low most people wouldn't even use it normally.)

So one must really analyze for themselves their type of riding they do and have access to and really what they want in a bike set up. Granted I will say that these gearbox really suite gravity oriented riders more then someone who wants to climb a ton, is concerned overly concerned about weight, and isn't too concerned with descending performance. Although if I was a XC guy, I still would want one just because they are such a simple clean setup that doesn't need attention.

To gearbox or not to gearbox? I say GEARBOX!

As for the high pivot frame, they can be set up at 150mm, 165mm, 175mm or 195mm travel. More companies are switching over to them because they simply are nicer to ride in terms of bump absorption and high speed stability. I wouldn't care to get back on a lower pivot design.

peregrineindustry.com
 

rpet

Turbo Monkey
Jun 9, 2003
2,950
284
El Lay
Thanks for posting.

Shifting without pedalling is underrated, and was a cool feature on the rohloff too.
 

ianjenn

Turbo Monkey
Sep 12, 2006
2,515
295
SLO
The Zerode did ride very well. I am no longer handeling US distribution so feel more comfortable now talking about it. The suspension, and traction it made where better than any other trail bike I have owned. Wreckoning, Following, Megatrail, Smash, Django, WFO, Insurgent, all top tier bikes. I am one of the hacks that banks up gears so that took a bit for me to get accustomed with.

I think the bikes are just too expensive overall. Keep in mind I had custom builds at $7500 with i9, Fox, Hope, SDG, 9.8 so much better builds than big brands. Getting the frame and Pinion down to say $3999 would be much better overall coming from a sales point of view. Another issue is the bikes are on the small side. The XL should be the LG and the LG the MD. I think this will change in near future. Also they should have had a flip chip on the rear axle to jump between 27.5" and 29" tires. Would have appealed to a bigger audiance.

BTW I have a brand new MD frame for sale if anyone is keen......
 

Wuffles

Monkey
Feb 24, 2016
101
17
Weight... so sick of sales BS about weight.

So keeping in mind that the other 50% of his work is lunacy, PvD does nail this one

http://www.peterverdone.com/the-mcnamara-fallacy-and-bikes/

Weight is an easy number for anyone to understand, hence it's easy to sell. Unless someone rides regularly, they won't understand the tradeoff between weight and durability. So light and weak will continue to be a big seller.
 

ChrisRobin

Turbo Monkey
Jan 30, 2002
3,021
60
Vancouver
I don't think I'd be too worried about weight if the benefits were there. You could drop weight on some plastic parts including wheels. I still have flashbacks of my Rohloff in my 03 Nucleon ST. That had some sloppy engagement and I think drag. A lot of the the engagement slop came from that little box that bolted to the side of the hub (little gear turning another gear that turns the hub's shifting mechanism; too many low tolerance pieces. The shifting without pedaling is really cool though. When you're climbing with a conventional drivetrain, I find I need to ease up anyway if I go to an easier gear.

Either way, i can't remember the last time I broke a derailleur or had one perform so badly to make me look for a gearbox bike, but I'd totally be open to it if I had to buy a new frame.

As for weight...the market asked for it and got some good stuff and some really bad stuff (I'm looking at you FOX suspension!!).
 
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xy9ine

Turbo Monkey
Mar 22, 2004
2,780
191
vancouver eastside
the pinion requires another level of "easing up" however. under almost any load at all it won't shift down, which can be a pain climbing steep / tech. you do learn to adapt, of course, but it's not optimal. as well as the aforementioned points of engagement, which is significantly lower than any regular hub. and the high price, weight penalty, and having to send it off for service. that said, it's a solid thing, that eliminates the delicate & expensive dangly derailleur. if i were smashing mechs on the regular, i'd be fully down with a pinion. as it sits, my modern derailleur drivetrains have been holding up pretty damn well, and i'm cheap, so the negatives kinda outweigh the positives. so yeah. those who like them, like them a lot, but it's not for everyone.
 

Udi

RM Chief Ornithologist: “I Brake for Birds”
Mar 14, 2005
4,748
860
RE: derailleurs, a useful factor many aren't aware of: higher-end derailleurs generally use better materials and will last longer / shrug off more abuse. For years you've heard of people "buying cheap derailleurs because they're disposable". In reality, you should of course (still) buy the best shifter you can afford because it defines the quality of the entire operation (my personal favorite is the 11s X01 shifter, tied with the 9s X0 for fast, crisp shifts); the benefits of spending more on the derailleur have little to do with shift performance but a lot to do with durability. Yes they're slightly lighter, but mostly they just use better alloys, more forged parts, better quality pivots / bushings, and other fringe benefits (like superior quality hardware, ball bearings, etc).

As for gearboxes, like others I've had very few problems with derailleur drivetrains. I love the feeling of a good dual-thumb trigger shifter, enjoy fast engagement, and fast + defined shifts under load. Gripshift still feels awful, and the weight on gearbox bikes is still lagging, for the benefit of... well nothing in my case. Having tried most iterations including the pinion, various nicolais, rohloffs, zerodes, the thing they've all had in common is... crappy feeling shifters and questionable shifting under load. It's like going back to your very first geared bike. If you like them then great, but to be competitive at mainstream level they should at least offer a good dual trigger shifter (without changing the orientation/action/quantity of triggers, a common theme with "alternate drivetrain options").
 

rpet

Turbo Monkey
Jun 9, 2003
2,950
284
El Lay
Both the Rohloff and Pinion use 2 cables to actuate the transmission, rather than the single cable we are familiar with from derailleurs.

These manufacturers are not actually "designing" the grip shift... they are simply adapting the very common motorcycle 2-cable push/pull throttle.

I'm sure someone could engineer paddle shifters, though I'm not sure if it could be as compact as the "gripshift" throttle.

I can't deal with grip shift. Is there some design reason they can't run a regular shiftier on these bad boys?
 

toodles

Turbo Monkey
Aug 24, 2004
2,727
933
Australia
I'm sure someone could engineer paddle shifters, though I'm not sure if it could be as compact as the "gripshift" throttle.
I reckon electronic shifting for gearboxes will sort that issue shortly. That brand that lets you mate any shifter with any mech would be prime for making a gearbox work with a paddle shifter.

Having said that, I've started hearing a few reports now of Pinion gearboxes failing, which is hardly a good thing considering how rare they are, how hard they would be to fix remotely/trail-side, and how much weight and expense you go to, all for the sake of more reliability.
 
Dec 9, 2015
113
114
All legitimate pro's and cons brought up. Price wise, as a whole the industry has gone crazy I think. These are mountain bikes we are slaying down mountain sides. You can potentially destroy your frame the first ride if you are hitting gnarly stuff and have a moment. We try to keep the price reasonable at $3400 for frameset, shock and Pinion setup. Pretty reasonable considering what it takes to build one frame. Most people can transfer parts from a previous build. We have package deals that are the best you can find for getting setup with high end stuff. DVO suspension, Hope Brakes, and Spank components.

I rode high end derailleurs, while better than lower end, I just wouldn't go back. And I wasn't one to be breaking it much. They just suck in my opinion compared to what I have gained with the Pinion. But that is me and some others who have spent enough time on them.

I am hoping Pinion will tighten up the engagement on their free hub in the box.
They may be coming out with a paddle shifter. Either way I can deal with the gripshift. Most people are willing to try it, then realize it isn't as bad as they thought. Electronic is cool but will cost a bit and add weight. Need a damn charged battery for that.

I have crashed a number of times and all has been good. Cranks didn't bend or anything like that. One crash sent the bike in the air down the trail a good 15 feet. All was good except for my face. Luckily i didn't knock my teeth out but it was a bloody mess.

Steel is real and so far these gearboxes are holding up after 2 years of heavy use for a few of us. I have a couple guys who say they get an occasional skip from the box when climbing. Pinion says that is normal if it is only occasional. Mine has skipped a few times but it is rare.
 

'size

Turbo Monkey
May 30, 2007
1,917
249
AZ
wait, i can't shift 2-3 gears at a time or shift while coasting? i wish someone would have told me this decades ago.
 
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DaveW

Space Monkey
Jul 2, 2001
8,667
592
Karori, Poneke Te Ika-a-Maui
Both the Rohloff and Pinion use 2 cables to actuate the transmission, rather than the single cable we are familiar with from derailleurs.
These manufacturers are not actually "designing" the grip shift... they are simply adapting the very common motorcycle 2-cable push/pull throttle.
I'm sure someone could engineer paddle shifters, though I'm not sure if it could be as compact as the "gripshift" throttle.

Yep that pretty much sum's it up.
I really really wish Pinion would go to a wireless Di2 style set up for changing gears, would be an amazing improvement in usability.
 

SkullCrack

Monkey
Sep 3, 2004
653
53
PNW
From the perspective of that pic, that paddle looks pretty damn clean.
Yeah, but you need one on each side of the bar. From the link above

EasyShift: The simplified shifting logic with separate levers for low and high gears makes it easy to get used to
 

ianjenn

Turbo Monkey
Sep 12, 2006
2,515
295
SLO
I would be more worried about shifting under load than the way you achieve those shifts just saying.......Shimano have they done anything relevant on the drive side of thing in the past 15 years?
 

slimshady

¡Mira, una ardilla!
Dec 20, 2007
2,696
761
La Plata, Argentina
I would be more worried about shifting under load than the way you achieve those shifts just saying.......Shimano have they done anything relevant on the drive side of thing in the past 15 years?
According to BR, the shifting would be electronically driven. A Ball Screw would move one of the two 6-speed cassettes transversally to allow for a total of 13 gears.
 

slimshady

¡Mira, una ardilla!
Dec 20, 2007
2,696
761
La Plata, Argentina
have you ever even tried Di2?
I have, it's not mind blowing. And even if it was, a friend had to finish one of the toughest enduro races down here with a borked rear derailleur. He snapped one of the e-tubes in a crash and lost control of the RD completely.

I mean, I'm not racing myself but I'm pretty used to have long (2+ days) bike trips in pretty unaccessible places. Not willing to risk havig to pedal over 60 miles on a single cog, at 13,000+ ft simply because that thing got borked.
 

slimshady

¡Mira, una ardilla!
Dec 20, 2007
2,696
761
La Plata, Argentina
Obsolescence? that's a new one. reliability is no worse than non-electric drivetrains.
Do you carry e-tube spares and a laptop on your rides? I do carry a spare shifter cable when I know I'll be away from civilization for a while. All I need to change it is a couple Allen keys. That doesn't apply to e-tubes.
 

maxyedor

<b>TOOL PRO</b>
Oct 20, 2005
3,245
385
In the bathroom, fighting a battle
Road Di2 has been out for a good while now and it's still not obsolete, or at least no more so than those poverty spec 11spd drivetrains we used to use way back in 2018.

For backcountry (ah fuck, I'm getting sued) reliability AXS seems like maybe the best way to go. If you're really worried about borking it all you'd have to carry is a spare deraileur, no cables to get fubar or gummed up, maybe throw a spare battery in your fanny pack and you'd be pretty much good to go for weeks.
 

slimshady

¡Mira, una ardilla!
Dec 20, 2007
2,696
761
La Plata, Argentina
I got mixed feelings about the XX1 AXS stuff. I tested the gruppo on a friend's Ibis Ripley and while the multi-cog shifts were equally fast -if not faster- than its cabled counterpart, individual shifts felt a lot slower.

Anyway, this is AXS' first year. As with previous debuting products, it might be worth waiting for a couple of iterations in the name of refinements.