Review of Pinion P1.18 GearBox

Current Mission

A 25000 km solo bicycle journey from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world in South America to Alaska on a STEVENS BIKES bicycle equipped with a Pinion P1.18 Gearbox and a Gates Carbon Drive belt. I am currently in La Paz in Bolivia after having cycled 6500 km from Ushuaia in the last six months.

Why Pinion?

In July 2015, I completed a 10,000 km bicycle journey from Germany to Pakistan. Back then, my bicycle was equipped with a derailleur system and a chain. The chain broke a number of times on long uphills and the gear system wore out after a couple of thousand kilometres. In later stages, the gears were skipping. The chain and the gear system required regular cleaning and lubrication after a ride in rainy, muddy, dusty or snowy conditions. It was a big headache!

Therefore, while preparing for the much longer and more challenging bicycle journey through the Americas, I began to look for alternatives. One day, I stumbled upon a page on STEVENS BIKES website, where I saw their new bicycle STEVENS BIKES P.18 equipped with a Pinion P1.18 Gearbox and Gates Carbon Drive belt. I had not seen or heard about the Pinion system before. The concept and the technology seemed radical. As I read about how it worked, I began to appreciate the technology and the engineering behind the Pinion Gearbox. Soon I came to the conclusion that it was the best solution for my next tour bicycle.

Here is why?

1. My bicycle weighs around 50-60 kilos including all the gear and food. The terrain across the journey is incredibly diverse; from steep uphills and downhills to long stretches of flat plains. Within a matter of minutes, I can go from cruising at 80 km/h on a downhill to grinding my way up on a steep uphill at 5 km/h. Pinion gearbox has 18 gears with an incredible range of 636% and the steps between the gears are smaller, so there is always a right gear to keep cycling.

2. The Pinion gearbox is sealed, so I don’t have to clean it after riding in bad conditions. During the last 6500 km across South America, the gear system went through many different scenarios without causing an issue. Recently, I cycled the Altiplano in Bolivia during the peak winter season, where during the day temperatures would drop below freezing point and during the night it could be as low as -10°c to -20°c. In the morning, I would find my water bottles frozen to solid ice. In the past, I had faced issues with ice-clogged derailleurs and I couldn’t shift the gears. But with the Pinion gearbox, the weather and environmental conditions became irrelevant. The bicycle was always ready to roll, no matter what. In the Altiplano, the tracks were challenging with deep sand and loose rocks. The wind blew dust and sometimes snow but I had no fear of them. There were also ice cold water streams to cross in the Altiplano. In the famous Carretera Austral route in Patagonia (Chile), it rained regularly. There, I hiked with the fully loaded bicycle through muddy forests and small rivers. Other fellow cyclists had to clean their derailleurs and chains regularly, but not me. Recently, I crossed a couple of salt flats in Bolivia, including Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat on the earth. In some parts, the crust of the salt flats was soft. My bicycle was covered with salt and brine at the end of the day. If it were derailleurs and the chain combination, the salt would have accelerated the rusting of the metal parts and therefore would have required frequent cleaning, but in my case, knowing that I had a sealed Gearbox with a belt system that is not exposed to such problems, I didn’t mind taking the shortcuts in the salt flats, be it cycling through the shallow salty waters or going over the thin salt crust. All in all, in the last few months the Pinion Gearbox has seen it all and never failed me.

Design

Visual aesthetics of the bicycle and its components are as important to me as their function. The design of the Pinion gearbox is compact and elegant and its central placement in the bottom bracket not only gives a better weight distribution to the bicycle but looks very balanced to the eyes. My gearbox is in shiny blue colour which gives it a modern, intelligent and a cool look.

Gear Transmission and Operation

Even though as an experienced touring cyclist who toured thousands of km with the derailleur system, I could never get used to the gear shifting on derailleurs. Changing gears on derailleurs is much more cumbersome as you have to shift the gears using with the front and the rear derailleur which involves two shifters. You also need to choose the gears carefully to make sure that the chain is running in a straight line between the front and the rear cogs. You cannot change the gear while the bicycle is stationary, and not all the gears on the derailleurs are usable.

With Pinion, all these problems are gone!

The gear shifting is lightening fast and easy. You can switch from one gear to another gear with a simple turn of a shifter; this comes very handy as on a roller coaster terrain I may have to shift to gears which are further apart. Having only one shifter means, I can hold a GoPro camera in my left hand and still be able to shift to any gear with the right hand. Another advantage is the ability to shift gears even when not pedalling. So if I make a stop on a steep uphill I can shift to an easy gear first and then start pedalling rather than doing it the other way around. The gearbox operation is smooth and silent. I didn’t feel any resistance in the internal planetary gearing, and there has never been a gear skipping problem.

 Conclusion

Choosing a bicycle with the Pinion P.1.18 gearbox was the best decision I made when planning the biggest tour of my life. I have met a lot of touring cyclists on the road and introduced them to Pinion. Strangely, almost none of them had seen the Pinion system before. Some even took my bike for a test ride. Pinion made a quick impression on them as the limitations and the problems with the derailleur system are known to everyone since ages.

Thank you to Pinion for coming up with this ingenious solution which not only gives an excellent gear range but is also maintenance free. Now, I can only focus on the ride itself instead of worrying about the maintenance of the bike or looking down at the chain to see if it is running straight on the cogs!

11 comments

  • Sounds very interesting. Now a comparison between the Pinion P.1.18 gearbox and a Rohloff would be very handy…

  • I rode a Van Nicholas ‘Deveron’ from Lisbon to Holland early this year. Agree with all of Kamrans conclusions…sensational bit of engineering. I’m told that there’s a degree of rolling resistance with Rohloff…none with Pinion.

        • Thanks for the link Kamran. It then ends up a question of which set of advantages outweigh the other, both Rohloff and Pinion being great systems. For me, the lack of rolling resistance on the back wheel and the ‘anchoring’ weight distribution on the bottom bracket with Pinion would sway me towards the Pinion system still. However both will do the job well and will still be cranking after many years on the road. Mind you, I admit to a bias, having ridden the Deveron with Pinion for 9wks over 3500kms and loved it. Cheers mate.

  • Hi Kamran, hope you doing well. I have noticed that your current Stevens P18 2016 bicycle has disc brakes compared to the traditional V brakes that you had on your trip from Germany to Pakistan. I was just wondering how you getting on with the disc brakes? From my research, in general people usually prefer V brakes for long expeditions due to the ease of availability of spareparts. But I also believe in Americas probably its much easier to find disc brakes replacement than in Central Asia. Now that you have been using disc brakes for a while on your current Americas expedition, would you have considered disc brakes on your Germany to Pakistan trip ?

  • In response to Rene, there’s something fundamentally wrong with the efficiency comparison you referenced. The only gear for which the Rohloff transmission can be equivalent to a fixed chain is gear 11, as the hub is locked up. In all other gears the hub internals are in motion relative to each other. A better comparison of the relative efficiencies of the gears comes from Rohloff itself; see:

    https://www.rohloff.de/en/experience/technology-in-detail/mechanical-efficiency/efficiency-measurement/

    I’m also not convinced that the Pinion gearbox, with its maximum of two reductions on two shafts, is less efficient than the Rohloff, which has two or three reductions and many bearing surfaces, over the full range of ratios.

    As pedantic footnote, and with the greatest respect for your achievements Kamran, the Pinion gearbox is not a planetary type like a Rohloff. It is more of a conventional gearbox.

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