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Pinion sealed gearbox offers an alternative to those darn derailleurs

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March 13, 2013

The Pinion P1.18 sealed gearbox for bikes is an alternative to derailleurs or hub transmis...

The Pinion P1.18 sealed gearbox for bikes is an alternative to derailleurs or hub transmissions

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Rear derailleurs are problematic, particularly on mountain bikes. They get bent, they get gunked up, and they’re exposed to the elements. While sealed hub transmissions lack these problems, not all of them have axles that are strong enough for multi-terrain use, they add revolving weight, and that weight is added in the back of the bike – not low and in the middle, where you want it. German company Pinion has developed what it claims is something better ... a sealed gearbox located adjacent to the bottom bracket.

Known as the Pinion P1.18, the device has been in development for the past seven years. It was launched commercially just last year, and recently gained attention when it appeared on an award-winning bike at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

So, how does it work? Well, to quote the Pinion brochure:

“The Pinion P1.18 bicycle transmission is constructed as a spur gear with two parallel partial shaft transmissions, one with three gears, and the other with six gears. The multiplication of three by six ratios gives 18 real ratios spaced in even, ergonomically ideal, steps of 11.5 percent. The P1.18 thus achieves a total gear ratio of 636 percent.”

The Pinion P1.18 bicycle transmission is constructed as a spur gear with a two parallel pa...

The gears are lubricated with a 60-milliliter oil bath, that the company states should be changed once every year or 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) – no other maintenance is required. The gears are said to be good for at least 60,000 km (37,282 miles).

Because indexing of the shifts takes place within the box, users don’t have to worry about replacing stretched shifter cables. Gear changes are activated via a SRAM-like grip shifter, are reportedly “lightning fast,” and can span several gears in one shift. Additionally, they can be performed even when the cranks aren’t turning.

It sounds good, but of course nothing is perfect. For one thing, the P1.18 can’t simply be installed on an existing bike – the frame has to be designed around it. Additionally, the gearbox itself weighs in at around 2.7 kilograms (six pounds) – for comparison, the combined weight of a Shimano XT front and rear derailleur sits at about 384 grams (0.9 lbs).

Because it can only be built into dedicated frames, the Pinion P1.18 isn’t currently avail...

It should be kept in mind, however, that the P1.18 makes a cassette unnecessary, plus it incorporates components such as a bottom bracket shell and axle. It also allows for the use of a belt drive instead of a chain, which plenty of folks would no doubt appreciate.

Because it can only be built into dedicated frames, the Pinion P1.18 isn’t currently available to the general public. A list of manufacturers using it on their bikes can be accessed via the company link below.

Source: Pinion via BikeRadar

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
23 Comments

Its hardly the first, SR Suntour do the 9 speed gearbox in almost exactly the same fashion....

Jabboson
13th March, 2013 @ 06:08 pm PDT

I love the idea, but I guess it will come down to how heavy a bike is using it. As pointed out above, the frame and pedal infrastructure would be quite different (no cassette etc...). It might be possible to replace some of the frame too by using the gear case as part of the structure. Maybe this wouldn't be used by pro racers, but for commuters and weekend warriors the ease of maintenance and convenience might win through.

Scion
13th March, 2013 @ 06:22 pm PDT

Would be nice to know how this compares to something like the NuVinci CVT transmission.

Max Kennedy
13th March, 2013 @ 07:49 pm PDT

"not all of them have axles that are strong enough for multi-terrain use,"

The Nuvinci has a solid axle. Plenty strong.

"they add revolving weight,"

Near the center of the hub, where revolving mass matters least.

"and that weight is added in the back of the bike – not low and in the middle, where you want it."

I don't see how the center of a hub is any higher than the bottom bracket, especially since the Pinion extends above the BB.

"The multiplication of three by six ratios gives 18 real ratios spaced in even, ergonomically ideal, steps of 11.5 percent."

The Nuvinci is ergonomically ideal because it has infinite ratios. Even owners who don't like the weight will attest to that. You can always find the perfect gear, not just something close. Also, consistent gaps aren't optimal. The thinking has always been smaller gaps in higher gears and larger gaps in the lower gear range.

Gadgeteer
13th March, 2013 @ 07:50 pm PDT

Heavy or not, still sounds good to me. Fiddling with gear changes is a pet hate ... anything that simplifies the process would be welcome. Didn't somebody invent an 'automatic' bike gearbox a while ago though? Just pedal and it changes up (or down) as the needs of the bike change.

The Skud
13th March, 2013 @ 11:36 pm PDT

I have a Sram iMotion 9 hub and rarely go above gear 6. I think a 9 (3x3) or 12 (3x4) gearbox would have been more relevant, lighter and cheaper. Shimano have an 11 speed Alfine, and Rohloff had the previous record of 14 speed.

ClauS
14th March, 2013 @ 08:52 am PDT

Rohloff Speedhub

Superior in every way.

William Volk
14th March, 2013 @ 09:17 am PDT

omg its not weightless! wharever.

some others are fragile! yes...others.

lets see one in "plastics with silicon bronze bearing surfaces for liwest lowest friction and weight. perhaps a 3d printer expert can program one up.

me. i want one that has edrive incorporated and can hanfle regen. lacking that..one that is fast detatch.

waltinseattle
14th March, 2013 @ 09:21 am PDT

all we need is a 3d printer and the file..

(6 lbs!)

no mention of cost

looks like about $500

wle

wle
14th March, 2013 @ 10:09 am PDT

Fine for a commuter bike in Holland where there are no hills and the lack of cables might be viewed as advantageous. This is a good example of design engineers starting with a project before they fully understand the problem and what users actually like and do not like with current solutions. The Italians have been producing pre-stretched cables for decades that greatly reduce and needed adjustments and the shift lever mounts often include tension adjustment mechanisms.

This design still makes use of the chain which is the one item that the average commuter would like to have go away.

Calson
14th March, 2013 @ 10:21 am PDT

Walt, type at a slower speed and put at least some effort into observing the preferred rules for spelling and grammar.

Beyond that criticism I would like to see someone do a competent engineering study comparing the various CVTs, belt drives, transmissions, along with costs. BTW, a few more ponds in a transmission is really irrelevant if you just add a bigger battery for the front wheel motor. I have used bikes for around town transportation for over forty years. I do not care if the whole bike weighed three ponds wet, having some extra push from a pedelec is worth it.

StWils
14th March, 2013 @ 10:37 am PDT

Oh, to return to the days of yore when all we had was Sturmey Archer's 3 and 4-speed hubs. Simple, safe, cheap - as opposed to the 'unsafe and any speed' derailier contraptions they force on us today.

Dave Brough
14th March, 2013 @ 11:08 am PDT

Literally a go back to the past!! which means maybe the bicycles are "improving" their gears

Tiago Roque
14th March, 2013 @ 04:20 pm PDT

I suspect that this transmission has more friction than a good derailleur transmission.

Slowburn
14th March, 2013 @ 05:46 pm PDT

Love it and would opt for the belt drive for sure. If I can stand on it and apply max pedal power without breaking it (200lb of mostly muscle between my ears) I would trade the additional net weight (maybe 2 to3 lb) as compared to derailleur, cassette, etc. Nothing like the sweet action of German gears and bearings.

Mirmillion
14th March, 2013 @ 06:23 pm PDT

As with all issues regarding energy use or conversion it is a matter of efficiency, cost and versatility. This solution have been on my wish list for many years but now I think that an electric generator - supercap - battery - hub motor(s) is the optimal driveline when using modern high efficiency power electronics.

Kenneth Palmestål
15th March, 2013 @ 03:21 am PDT

We look forward to a "Shaft-Drive" version! ...Why not?

Alastair Carnegie
15th March, 2013 @ 09:37 am PDT

hm, seems quite strange since there is already truvativ hammerschmidt or schlumpf dual speed chain wheel...I cant see strong benefit, as there is still rear chain guide :-(

I bought oldschool Sturmey-archer X-RF8 which is fine, see

asida
15th March, 2013 @ 10:06 am PDT

One of the weaknesses of a chain/derailleur is gear range duplication. A dedicated cyclist will build their own rear gear cluster and choose their front chain wheels to customize their shift points and limit ratio overlap.

The second major weakness of derailleurs is seen when on tries to shift in high torque circumstances such as honking up a hill. Even when the best riders and mechanics tune a riders bicycle it's common to for the chain to slip 5 to 10 gear teeth or throw the chain completely. If the chain gets bound up behind the rear gear cluster and spokes or the front of the gear stack and the frame, the rider is going down and there's not a hell of a lot that the rider can do about it. I broke an ankle from the sudden impact of a chain jamming. That was during my freshman year in high school when I rode an average of 70 miles a day.

The gearbox concept eliminates those problems, but I have to wonder how precisely, quickly, and smoothly they'll complete the high torque shifts. Since I can no longer ride a conventional bicycle. The gear box concept would be ideal for hand powered bikes.

Noel Frothingham
15th March, 2013 @ 07:18 pm PDT

re; Alastair Carnegie

Shaft drive bicycles have two high friction gear sets. I would rather drag a meter wide parachute.

Slowburn
16th March, 2013 @ 03:49 am PDT

How does it compare to a Schlumph drive?

James Donohue
8th April, 2013 @ 08:23 am PDT

Why do sealed drive bikes not exist?

Not like pinion just a derailuar in a box

Sealeddrive
24th December, 2013 @ 02:42 am PST

I have a Pinion, Nuvinci, Alfine8 and 11, Sturmy 8 and had a Rohloff.

Nuvinci is great on non fun type bike. The weight out back is way too heavy for good handling performance off road. I run mine on my shop bike, and it's great. Alfine 11 offers nothing over 8 really IMO. I have an Alfine 8 in my Zerode DH sled and it's great for that. Rohloff was great. But expensive and again heavy for fun handling. Sturmy 8 is crap, on my pub bike now. Pinion is awesome. I haven't ridden a bike with massive range for years, as I didn;t see the point, but chugging up long hills on long rides really is nice. Too many gears, maybe, but still great. I have the Pinion on my all day epic ride 27"(650b) Nicolai Helius. And it's rad. Getting a Effigear boxed Cavalerie asap to complete my stable.

Chains last several times longer on all of these bikes, so do gear cables as they're never under load. Being able to shift any time is amazing once used to it. No more compromised shifting. You might not think you have hassles with a mech and shifting, but wait til you're used to a gearbox and go back to a mech and you'll soon see how compromised you were.

They may be a touch more inefficient in a lab compared to derailleurs, but add some dirt, more than often worn components and or a chain guide or narrow wide ring and you'll find they're probably about equal. Then there's the fact you're always in the right gear, not wasting energy thinking about when you can change gears and never being caught in the wrong gear. I'd say on most rides you save more energy using a gearbox.

Cranky
4th April, 2014 @ 01:31 am PDT
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