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Pinion gear box 12 speed

3991 Views 8 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  CrozCountry
I happened across a frame that can be ordered provisioned for a Pinion 12 speed gear box. This thing is pretty intriguing, and I'd love to get some feedback from riders who own or have ridden a pinion box for your impressions. The pros and cons break down pretty simply.

Pros -
600% gear range
Full gear dump without pedaling through it
Half-second gear changes
Rotating weight reduction by eliminating cassette
Super low maintenance
Impervious to weather, dirt, water, etc
No drivetrain gear to hang up and break in crashes, cases, etc
Weight is at lowest possible point
Guaranteed for 5 years

Cons -
The elephant in the room....5.18 lbs! About 2 lbs heavier than a full X01 groupset just in the gearbox
Only spec'd to work until 104 degrees F. I'd surpass that occasionally.
If anything does go wrong, good luck
Expensive (I suspect anyway and I bet I'm not wrong)
You'll never be able to sell it
You can't go back to a standard drivetrain
Your ride is beholden to a single company
Did I mention this thing is heavy AF?

What else do you know and what have your experiences been?
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I have no experience with the Pinion equipment, but have watched YouTube video of someone go all over the place with this set up. GDMBT, Colorado Trail, all of the big type rides. Only issue he had was when doing the Divide Trail ride in New Mexico and didn’t do a few things correctly when the belt came off. Which over the trip, caused it to break.

Ryan Van Duzer is the guy who posts his rides/adventures on YouTube, talks about the Pinion gear box During the first video of each ride. And Even has a video conversation with the Pinion company That came out earlier mid-summer. You may get some info from those at least.
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The reports of drag and shifting under a load are deal breakers for me. I had hamershmidt which was just a 2x gear box. There was noticeable drag just with 2 gears. While I can't speak from experience on pinion, I can imagine what the drag is like based on consistent reviews. That said, I've always been attracted to gearboxes. When one comes out that addresses drag and shifting under a load, the weight penalty is something I could probably live with. Add up drag, shifting, weight, and it's a hard pass for me. Gearboxes have been put on the back burner it seems. Mechs are much more durable than they used to be. Same with hangers. The two biggest issues gearboxes were going to address was bent hangers and mechs. Ask yourself how many hangers and mechs you are replacing these days? If the answer is one of each per year then you might want to deal with all the gearbox negatives. If it's less than once a year you'll probably enjoy a traditional drivetrain more.
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I happened across a frame that can be ordered provisioned for a Pinion 12 speed gear box. This thing is pretty intriguing, and I'd love to get some feedback from riders who own or have ridden a pinion box for your impressions. The pros and cons break down pretty simply.

Pros -
600% gear range
Full gear dump without pedaling through it
Half-second gear changes
Rotating weight reduction by eliminating cassette
Super low maintenance
Impervious to weather, dirt, water, etc
No drivetrain gear to hang up and break in crashes, cases, etc
Weight is at lowest possible point
Guaranteed for 5 years

Cons -
The elephant in the room....5.18 lbs! About 2 lbs heavier than a full X01 groupset just in the gearbox
Only spec'd to work until 104 degrees F. I'd surpass that occasionally.
If anything does go wrong, good luck
Expensive (I suspect anyway and I bet I'm not wrong)
You'll never be able to sell it
You can't go back to a standard drivetrain
Your ride is beholden to a single company
Did I mention this thing is heavy AF?

What else do you know and what have your experiences been?
I've had a Nicolai Helius AC Pinion for a few years now. I've also owned bikes with a Rohloff hub, XT Di2 and mechanical shifting, either 1X, 2X or 3X. Mine is the P1.18, not the 12 speed. Mine is chain drive, nmot belt drive.

The Pinion feels like it has less drag than the Rohloff. It doesn't feel like it has anymore drag than any of the derailleur set ups. It is very quiet. The issue of gripshift and shifting under load is greatly exhaggerated, mostly by those who have never used a Pinion gearbox or just tested it on a stand. When shifting under load, think of the rider as the clutch. You soft pedal or release the pressure for the split second it takes to shift. It took me about 3 rides to get used to, but I always soft pedal when upshifting a derailleur.

Yes it is heavy. There are positives and negatives with the weight. It is mounted low in the bike, making it feel much more stable compared to other bikes. I found this instantly noticeable. The reduced unsprung mass is not insignificant. I haven't ridden the same model bike with a derailleur and 46 or 51T cassette to compare, but the suspension action is smooth.

Changing gears without pedalling is under rated until you get used to it. The lack of drivetrain gear getting bashed up isn't 100% correct. I've had to replace the tensioner. The belt drive solution looks like this should be much less of an issue. However, it's not hard to replace a tensioner and chains are easy to fix if needed. I've never needed to fix a chain on the Nicolai. I have just replaced the front and rear cogs, and gear cables. All fairly simple jobs. I did need the Pinion tool for the front chainring replacement. I replaced the gear cables because I wanted to fit V2 of the shifter and shifting mechanism inside the gearbox. This version runs 2 cables instead of the single tandem length cable of the original mechanism.

I'm not sure why you'd never be able to sell it. Rohloff hubs have good resale where I am. If the frame breaks I can buy another Pinion style frame and fit the gearbox I have.

If Pivot made a Mach 5.5 or Mach 6 with a Pinion gearbox I'd get one straight away. I like Di2 shifting, so electronic shifting on a Pinion would be good too. There is a Cinq trigger style shifter for the C-Line gearboxes. Lighter weight would be good, as with most bike parts.
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Late reply:

The pinion is awesome for what it is. To address some of your concerns:

In reality, what's an extra 2 pounds? Nothing. I use my Pinion bike for bikepacking and I don't even notice the weight.

I've had mine in 115 degrees. Worked fine. I didn't. Had to scratch from the Tour Divide but it wasn't the Pinion's fault.

It's been bombproof. I've had it for almost two years with no maintenance and no problems. I guess I should change the oil...

I bet I could sell it tomorrow. Like Roholff hubs, I bet they hold their value.

It may be heavy but not "AF."

Good gear range, by the way. I run a 32/32 Gates Carbon Belt system. The low gear is ridiculous. The high gear gets me to about 20 MPH at 70 RPM.

Realistically, very few people need a Pinion. Derailleurs work fine and are pretty reliable and easy to clean and maintain. But the Pinion is pretty cool.
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The reports of drag and shifting under a load are deal breakers for me. I had hamershmidt which was just a 2x gear box. There was noticeable drag just with 2 gears. While I can't speak from experience on pinion, I can imagine what the drag is like based on consistent reviews. That said, I've always been attracted to gearboxes. When one comes out that addresses drag and shifting under a load, the weight penalty is something I could probably live with. Add up drag, shifting, weight, and it's a hard pass for me. Gearboxes have been put on the back burner it seems. Mechs are much more durable than they used to be. Same with hangers. The two biggest issues gearboxes were going to address was bent hangers and mechs. Ask yourself how many hangers and mechs you are replacing these days? If the answer is one of each per year then you might want to deal with all the gearbox negatives. If it's less than once a year you'll probably enjoy a traditional drivetrain more.

I had a Hammershmidt. The Pinion is nothing like that at all. The Hammerschmidt had so much drag that I abandoned using the high gear. The Pinion feels like a normal bike. Nothing exciting about it at all. In a strange way, I was underwhelmed when I first rode it. I don't know what I was expecting but it feels like a regular bike. Of course, now that I have an Onyx hub on mine with the belt it is almost completely silent which is strange until you get used to it. Is this thing on. ha ha?

My only complaint? People see it, think it's a motor, and accuse me of riding an Ebike.

I'm going to agree with the Crank1979, shifting under load as a criteria to select a drivetrain is over-rated.
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A riding buddy has a CF Pinion FS belt drive bike (Zerode) and loves it.
=sParty
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Pinion -- even when brand new -- has way less drag than a well-used Hammerschmidt.
Sounds like a good drivetrain for a DH bike. This is what Honda did when they built a DH bike. That bike was ahead of its time, it's embarrassing that 15+ years later the industry had not caught up yet.
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