Pinion Gearbox Drivetrains

Words Pete Roggeman
Photos David Ferguson
Date Sep 20, 2016

Like the AC in our Vegas hotel room, the low hum that accompanies all drivetrain announcements is ever present. In comment sections and in person, someone always brings up gearbox transmissions. On day 2 at the Outdoor Dirt Demo (driven by crickets and tumbleweeds), I found myself at the Pinion booth chatting with Christoph Lermen, co-founder at Pinion. With his partner, Michael Schmitz, they conspired together while working in the transmission development center in Weissach, Germany while they were working for a little car company called Porsche. So there’s the engineering pedigree we’re dealing with here. Or the insanity, as it were. “I used to work at Porsche, but left it all to pursue the development of a fledgling bike transmission system favoured by anti-establishment types and off-grid colonists”.

ib2016d2 pinion gearbox hub internal 1

This is a cutaway of the 18-speed Pinion gearbox. Shift action in the demo stand feels smooth – but lay off shifting under heavy load, mmkay?

They envisioned a bicycle transmission that prioritized precision and durability and all the other hallmarks of German engineering. Their catalog is so precise that the pages can be used to cut limes. My margarita tastes great, by the way.

ib2016d2 pinion gearbox hub internal 2

I think they make all the cogs look different just to confuse us.

In theory, gearbox drivetrains are as amazing as . However they have a few things to overcome: first, they require proprietary frame design to accommodate their housing. Second, there is a weight penalty (system weight of the P1.12 – their MTB-aimed gearbox – is 2,350 grams). Third, there is drag that comes along with these systems, and it is not insignificant.

ib2016d2 pinion gearbox hub internal 3

Made in Germany. Of course.

I didn’t ride one of the bikes they had on hand, but we are working on a tester. Pinion paired up with Gates Carbon Belt drive bikes at Outdoor Dirt Demo – mostly because both companies are geared towards minimizing maintenance – but you can get a chain-driven version as well.

ib2016d2 beer bike gearbox hub 2

Here’s a Pinion on a Reeb bike. As in, Beer backwards. I dunno. All the demo bikes in the Pinion/Gates booth also featured belt drive transmissions in a v2 guise. The second generation is said to shed mud more easily and stay in place. We’ll get a tester and see.

ib2016d2 beer bike gearbox hub 3

Pinion is a sealed system that requires maintenance approximately every 5,000 miles. Perfect for long-distance excursions and other applications where maintenance intervals are greater than usual.

ib2016d2 beer bike gearbox hub

Why wouldn’t you jut call ’em Beer bikes? The Pinion shells are not as obtrusive as I thought, and the weight (which is a penalty) is at least concentrated low in the bike.

Do you wanna gearbox?

Tags: gearbox, Pinion, Porsche
Posted in: News

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Dirk  - Sept. 21, 2016, 3:15 p.m.

If you're curious how the thing actually works, scroll through this page. I had absolutely no idea!


Andy Eunson  - Sept. 22, 2016, 8:50 a.m.

If I understand that correctly, the only gears moving while pedalling is the gear you have selected. That would reduce the internal friction because the gears you are not using are "coasting"? In a Rollhof, are all the gears moving at all times?


Dirk  - Sept. 22, 2016, 9:13 a.m.

As the bottom gears are fixed, I believe they would make the top gears freewheel until selected by the pawls. But some sort of animation would really help figure this out.


ZigaK  - Sept. 21, 2016, 11:42 a.m.

The new version of pinion has magnesium cast casing, drops 350g, narrower q-factor, max 12 gears with 600% gain ratio


kimcheefartz  - Sept. 21, 2016, 1:32 a.m.

I love my Pinion bikes.
I have one in a touring bike, and one in a hardtail MTB contraption.

Awesome, being freed from derailleurs and ever-changing axle/hub/drivetrain "standards".

You mentioned: "3rd, they're draggy"? Admittedly, without spending time on a tester?
Spend time on one before writing about what they feel like, eh?


ZigaK  - Sept. 21, 2016, 5:21 a.m.

A German bike magazine called Fahrrad Zukunft did a test and it shows it is indeed "draggy"


DrewM  - Sept. 21, 2016, 8:26 a.m.

A 5-year, transferable, warranty on the gear system is a bold statement.

Derailleur systems are just so relatively simple, efficient, precise, lightweight and inexpensive it is hard to imagine gear boxes catching on beyond a very small minority of riders for whom the benefits outweight the negatives.

Very cool innovation all the same and it's hard to argue, in the case of full suspension bikes, with trying to take all the unsprung weight of a 1x drivetrain and move it to the lowest spring point on the bicycle.

In summation. It comes in 9 colours (including black and raw) and uses a twist shifter. The twist shifter is .


Chuck  - Sept. 21, 2016, 10:28 a.m.

See I disagree with the statement on derailleurs. This past month I have gone through 2 derailleurs from riding relatively non-technical terrain. One was from a stick catching and the other from I have 0 clue because I was on a climb. I've bent hangers, stretched chains, worn down cassettes and rings, Etc. Derailleurs are fragile and shifting can be finicky, causing issues. Yes derailleurs are cheap and light but that is because they've been mass produced and widely accepted for years. The concept of a gear box has become more and more appealing to me, the more research I do and the older I get (now 30 and been riding seriously for 16 years). I think there is incredible potential with gear boxes, just like bikes pre-2010 before we figured out how to make the all mountain bike actually light, capable, and pedal-able. I say, more gear boxes!!!!


ZigaK  - Sept. 21, 2016, 10:59 a.m.

I had a rd jam in the spokes and it was completely mangled. I just pulled it out, a little bending and I could ride home without much problems. A new one was 50 €. It happens to me every couple of years. So no big problem I agree. But it's a hassle. So it goes back to evaluating pros and cons.
With pinion the pros for me are less maintenance and failures, more space for the rear tire with the same q factor, single speed rear hub = wider hub flanges, ss chain, optimal chainline and a peace of mind that you don't have to dread what big S will come up with next to "force" you in to buying new bike = futureproof.

I would say the very small minority of riders who would buy a pinion bike is at least as big as for example fatbike minority, which is pretty much serviced by all of the major brands plus a lot of specialized mini brands. And fat bikes also require approximately the same amount of proprietary stuff as a pinion bike does.

I see that you started something about twist shifter - I guess that's another con for many.

Pete Roggeman  - Sept. 21, 2016, 9:27 a.m.

By your logic I also wouldn't mention it as being precise, or low maintenance.

The extra drag presented by these systems is a known trait, just like the weight penalty. I didn't qualify it or pronounce a verdict, I was laying out the pros and cons.


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