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  1. #1
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    Zerode Taniwha & Pinion review

    This bike needs its own dedicated thread for owners to discuss and for prospective buyers to ask.

    I bought one with my own money and literally picked it up on the drive from CA to CO (via YNP in WY) to race in Breck Epic. I was supposed to have it months earlier but there were delays in getting the frames to the US. I got 4 rides/63 mi in prior (Downieville, Teton Pass, Jackson, Denver Front Range) to the three 40+ mile stages that I completed and used a ShockWiz to help me get set-up.

    Purchased from Cyclemonkey
    https://www.cyclemonkey.com/bikes/ze...ha-enduro-bike
    A modified "Performance" build

    He are the spec highlights:
    Size Large Frame (I'm 5'10")
    Pinion C1.12 gearbox
    Cane Creek DB AIR [IL]
    Dual Position Rock Shox Pike (currently 2017 loaner, non-boost. Waiting for the 2018 DP boost in black to become available)
    CushCore in the rear wheel (I’ll eventually have it in the front)
    hand built alloy wheels.

    Why this bike? And why now?
    I’ve been riding substantially the same bike for over 12 years, the Intense 5.5 EVP (M) in a 2x9 configuration and recently I found a size 5.5 FRO (L) front triangle on ebay for cheap… It’s had about 6 different front forks, ranging from 100mm to a 160mm triple crown, and most recently a 150mm fox 32. It’s been a great bike and affectionately become known as my “franken-bike” due to its mismatch of parts and overall age. So yeah, it was time to replace my trusty quiver of 1.

    I admit very much to having lusted after both a Yeti SB 4.5 (as an ideal BE bike) and the Yeti SB 5.5 as the ideal bike for most of my local trails and definitely in the 1x12 configuration since 1x11 couldn’t even match the range of my 2x9 Intense. I have a predisposition for doing things differently and I went to college with the owner of CycleMonkey so when I saw the announcement of the Zerode and read between the lines about the Pinon, it seemed like a good match. I loved the gear range, the lack of drivetrain maintenance, and purported incredible suspension suppleness/capability that the reduction of rear wheel weight makes possible, and well dang, it just looks COOL and is intelligently different.

    So I’ve had the bike for a little over a month now and done a little over 200 miles on it.
    This is NOT the ideal bike for a race like Breck Epic… BE is just too smooth and fast and not technical enough for a bike like this. However, it would be great for a race like BCBR (finisher, 2015) and of course it would be great for Enduro racing. For me, it’s going to be perfect for the rowdy rocky trail we have here locally and will be just fine as an all-day adventure bike on mixed backcountry terrain.

    But back to the BE since 50% of my miles so far are from there. I lost track of how many times I heard “Whoa… a FS singlespeed???” At BE there are several long climbs that turn into hike-a-bike sections: The 11 speed drivetrains were walking when I was in gears 2-3, racers with Eagle still spinning when I was in 2, but then usually everyone was forced to walk and my spinning in 1 was still slightly faster than the walkers. Until eventually I had to walk as well just to rest my poor chafing butt. There are several reviews that all claim this bike descends incredibly. I don’t have much to compare it against but would agree. I would get generally passed near the bottom of hour long plus climbs by everyone and their little lightweight xc racer bikes but then on the downhill I would catch most of these people again by the bottom of the descents. I would yo-yo with the same group for 5-6 hrs each day. The comparison was amazing. On wider doubletrack dh’s, they’d be gingerly picking their way down the A-line and I’d throw the Taniwha into the gutter and just fly through the b-line option without slowing down or worrying about anything. There was one super technical descent at Breck Epic on day3 where I was feeling the flow and I really felt the bike finally came into its own. It was everything I love about mtn biking, dare I say primitive BC or New England style downhill. Big technical loam covered boulders, wet roots, tons of them at all different angles, relentless wet mossy rocks embedded in wet damp dirt, chunky, very technical singletrack. www.strava.com/segments/12902876 It was AWESOME and definitely the race highlight for me. I was 20th for the day on that segment, handily beat my friends, and was only 1:16 off the likes of pro downhiller Tomi Misser (though his xc bike probably held him back…)

    Since I’ve been back home, I’ve only been able to get it out on 1 of our local downhills for its first “true comparison.”
    I flubbed the attempt with the climb switch engaged on 1 lap and about 10 psi too much pressure in the shock on the 2nd lap, but was still able to come within 10 seconds of a PR I set on my buddies Nomad 2 years ago and was faster than I ever road it on my Intense. I remain very confident that I will definitely be setting lots of downhill PRs on my local trails. I am very interested to see what the dataset on the climbs will tell me. I am hopeful that I will be in the same ballpark as my old worn-out Intense. TBD

    OK so onto the Pinion specifics.
    The reviews out there are mixed but sometimes with the caveat, “With a few more rides, I could probably figure it out.” Once you get “retrained” it’s faster. The "let-up" in certain gears when going up, is more pronounced, but then the shift is instant. No waiting for the chain to move and soft-pedaling, while it ca-chunks and pings while it moves under load. And as many gears at a time as you want, instantly. It will upshift under torque while pedaling 99% of the time, downshift under low to medium torque, 75% of the time. The other 25% it won't downshift period under any torque, the gripshift literally won’t turn. This necessitates a more pronounced "let up," as in a very quick 100% reduction of torque that can easily be timed at the top of a pedal stroke followed by a quiet and instant shift (or shifts) and then pedaling at 100% power. OK, so how about that grip-shift? It works just fine. I can brake and shift at the same time and it works. Would I prefer a paddle-style shifter? Yes. At the long days of BE, I did notice that my right hand was starting to fatigue. While the shifter is effortless when coasting when shifting under pedaling load it can take more effort, especially if you’re trying to force it. Probably not an issue for 2-3 hr rides, but noticeable on 5-6 hr ones. I also have noticed that my right grip is already showing signs of wear from the twisting motion.
    For me the biggest negative is this: The degrees of engagement of the pinion is not that great and combined with the engagement of the hub, engagement can be sloppy and inconsistent if you need to make technical see-saw moves with your pedals to avoid rockstrikes and then quickly re-engage for power. I have the stock Zerode hub and would recommend buying one of the better higher engagement hubs that are out there in order to minimize this slop. It’s noticeable and will be significant for some people. I will probably do a swap out since I really enjoy technical climbing and tight punchy trails that require precise timing of pedal strokes.
    The other downside related to the Pinion is occasionally the internal pawls will slip a single engagement. Maybe once per ride and usually after a see-saw technical section. But never more than one partial rotation at a time. So it’s recoverable and the gear doesn’t change, it just means your feet rotate ~15 degrees (or whatever the rotation between pawls is). My guess is there must be some instances where the pawls don’t get a full solid engagement and then sometimes slip. I’m curious if anyone else has this issue. The mechanical engineer in me thinks that long term this could wear the engagement surface and cause more slipping long-term.

    Shoot that’s about all I have for now. I’m hoping to get onto some of our good local rowdy downhills this weekend (and some climbs) and start getting more Strava comparison data.

    If you’re in the Southern CA area, Zerode will be bring their Bay-Area fleet down to San Luis Obispo later this fall for a demo day with Bike Church Shuttles www.facebook.com/BikeChurchShuttles/ Or you are welcome to demo mine on a shuttle day in SLO.

  2. #2
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    First, thanks for the thorough review. Secondly, the BE on a big squishy bike? Yikes, but impressive. I wasn't aware they took you down west jefferson, but that ride is an annual must do when the aspens are turning.

    Have you noticed the gearbox breaking in at all? What's the total weight on your build? Cyclemonkey also seems to be a proponent of Rohloff, why the pinion for you instead?

    Cheers

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the review. Can you fit a 2.6-2.8 on the back? Please give an update as you get more ride time on it.

  4. #4
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    Nice review and when I get more time I will do one myself. I do agree with most you have to say and I too worry about that internal pawl slippage. 8 months in and it doesn't seem to be getting any worse but the gearbox has freed up a whole heap and that is quite noticable. I have an Onyx hub but i did try it with a Zerode hub and the difference is night and day. The Zerode hub felt awfull so I too would encourage all to get a high engagement hub.. love the bike

  5. #5
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    How about a custom fixie hub?

  6. #6
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    Thanx for the review.

    When chosing the parts for my P1.18 Pinion-bike I tried to find the optimum rear hub with the least available degrees of engagement because I found it irritating on all the "gearbox" bikes I demoed.
    "Unfortunately" it was the Chris King Singlespeed hub which had one third! of engagement degrees of regular hubs, so I took it. You can literally hear the difference while coasting - it's a very high frequency.
    However I was curious about the feeling with a fixie hub.
    Now that's surprisingly easy to find out because you only have to strap/bind/knit the wheel-spokes to the rear sprocket to make it "one piece". So every time you are coasting the rear wheel drives the sprocket and chain/belt and the pawls in the gerabox do the actual coasting.
    What was it like?
    Due to the already very few degrees of engagement in the King-hub the benefit regarding this was little. What was very different was the coasting sound - it reminded me of the sound of a three-speed hub on an old ladiesbike. Very low frequency.
    You could clearly distinguish the three "stages" of the Pinion while coasting (in case of the 1.18) 1-6, 7-12 and 13-18 because they have very different frequencies themselves. That would be the same on all the Pinion-boxes.
    I could not sense any difference in efficiency while coasting although the driven belt does create additional friction.
    After all the main differnce was the sound and that was anything but disirable (my personal view), so I quickly went back to the King-Coaster.

    However, if you try this with a regular hub you should feel a real difference in engagement angle and I would encourage anyone with a Pinion to at least try it out once.

    Cheers...

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3.14ter View Post
    Thanx for the review.

    When chosing the parts for my P1.18 Pinion-bike I tried to find the optimum rear hub with the least available degrees of engagement because I found it irritating on all the "gearbox" bikes I demoed.
    "Unfortunately" it was the Chris King Singlespeed hub which had one third! of engagement degrees of regular hubs, so I took it. You can literally hear the difference while coasting - it's a very high frequency.
    However I was curious about the feeling with a fixie hub.
    Now that's surprisingly easy to find out because you only have to strap/bind/knit the wheel-spokes to the rear sprocket to make it "one piece". So every time you are coasting the rear wheel drives the sprocket and chain/belt and the pawls in the gerabox do the actual coasting.
    What was it like?
    Due to the already very few degrees of engagement in the King-hub the benefit regarding this was little. What was very different was the coasting sound - it reminded me of the sound of a three-speed hub on an old ladiesbike. Very low frequency.
    You could clearly distinguish the three "stages" of the Pinion while coasting (in case of the 1.18) 1-6, 7-12 and 13-18 because they have very different frequencies themselves. That would be the same on all the Pinion-boxes.
    I could not sense any difference in efficiency while coasting although the driven belt does create additional friction.
    After all the main differnce was the sound and that was anything but disirable (my personal view), so I quickly went back to the King-Coaster.

    However, if you try this with a regular hub you should feel a real difference in engagement angle and I would encourage anyone with a Pinion to at least try it out once.

    Cheers...
    Great info! I would thing the CK and Project321 ss hubs would be the best bet for sure as far as poe. This bike really has my interest and looking forward to more reports and hopefully a demo ride.

  8. #8
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    They seem to be fairly active with their demo fleet, they just rolled through CO 2 weeks ago. Could always reach out and get their schedule.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Rock View Post
    They seem to be fairly active with their demo fleet, they just rolled through CO 2 weeks ago. Could always reach out and get their schedule.
    Thanks. Left a message today and tried calling a gain after a ride with no answer. Will try again next week.

  10. #10
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    How does the rear suspension feel under braking?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by crank1979 View Post
    How does the rear suspension feel under braking?
    Pretty amazing... I demo'd it in Bellingham this weekend. The bike's rear wheel tracks super well in the sketchier, chunkier, lower traction sections under both braking and bombing. #unsprungweight
    Last edited by AllMountaineer; 09-10-2017 at 08:17 AM.

  12. #12
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    Great Zerode Taniwha demo by the Cycle Monkey guys at Fanatik this weekend in Bellingham. Got to ride a Taniwha with them for 2.5hrs, 17 miles, 3,000 ft at Galbraith. Rode Evolution (twice!), Irish Death, SST, Air Chair, and climbed up Ridge, Banditos, Tough Love and Tower x 2.

    As stated in the prior post, the bike's rear wheel tracks super well in the sketchier, chunkier, lower traction sections under both braking and bombing. It jumps as well as any bike I have ever ridden, particularly on the big jumps thanks to the transmission weight in the BB. That definitely moves the weight into a neutral balance point and keeps it low on the bike for great handling/jumping characteristics. Also felt great on woodwork, it's easy to feel centered, balanced and confident and I tried two features I had never ridden before.

    We rode a mix of technical single track climbs and fire-road climbing. It pedaled good enough with the rear shock wide open that I only remembered to put it in climb mode once, on a longer logging road section. On the single track I found it surprisingly easy to maneuver through tight switchbacks and tractored up and over the technical stuff with ease. It's no featherweight so keep your hardtail 29er handy if you're going for climbing records on Strava, but it gets you where you need to go.

    I am going to buy one and build it up before winter... Just tired of trying to maintain my bike in the mud. I figure 1-2 seasons of replacing the Eagle cassette/chain and it's a wash. Planned build:

    • Pike or Fox 36 fork, probably going 160 as it never felt outgunned and was very point & shoot on the climbs
    • XT Brakes, 203 front rotor 180 rear rotor
    • Carbon 30mm rims from Light Bike or similar (want to keep the rear wheel as light as possible to maximize the unsprung weight)
    • Maxxis Minion 2.5WT front & rear during winter (probably use a Nobby Nic 2.35 in the rear during the summer months)
    • 800mm Carbon Handlebar
    • SDG Ti-Alloy Saddle
    • 50mm Stem


    Zerode Taniwha & Pinion review-21414766_10159161899305005_5488125727224383839_o.jpgZerode Taniwha & Pinion review-fullsizerender-2.jpgZerode Taniwha & Pinion review-img_4163.jpg

  13. #13
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    I don't own a scale, so I have no idea. I'll see if I can get back to you on that. I expect the break-in feel to be rather subtle and hard to notice w/o a direct new/broken-in comparison. I'm at 240 miles, so definitely approaching what is considered "broken in." The only time I notice the gear noise is on the road. On the trail it's not noticable, and wouldn't be unless your trails are big smooth higher speed spin-fests.

    Yes, Cyclemonkey really likes internally geared bikes. I chose the Pinion because it looks cool... And well it just makes sense from a suspension performance standpoint. Rohloff just gets you a BIG HEAVY wheel with no other benefits. The pinion/Zerode is a bike paradigm shifting design with other noticable benefits besides just being "internal geared"


    Quote Originally Posted by B. Rock View Post
    First, thanks for the thorough review. Secondly, the BE on a big squishy bike? Yikes, but impressive. I wasn't aware they took you down west jefferson, but that ride is an annual must do when the aspens are turning.

    Have you noticed the gearbox breaking in at all? What's the total weight on your build? Cyclemonkey also seems to be a proponent of Rohloff, why the pinion for you instead?

    Cheers

  14. #14
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    I have a 2.4 WTB Trail Boss on the back and it has GOBS of room. I can take actual measurements, but I would definitely be comforatable running a 2.6 back there on dry terrain and maybe even when its muddy. I'll take a look when I get a chance.

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    Here's the link to the Fanatik review. They did a nice job on explaining the sprung vs unsprung weight in better written prose than I.

    https://www.fanatikbike.com/blogs/en...niwha-reviewed

  16. #16
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    I have 0.46" of clearance at the chainstays at the widest knob on the 2.4" wtb trailboss. More at the seatstays

  17. #17
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    water bottle mount solutions???

    Anyone else frustrated by the location of the water bottle mounts? My frame is size large and the bolts are located such that they are useless. I thought at first it was my old-school cage so I bought a new Lezyne side mount. It still interferes with the shock but with gobs of clearance down below.

    The water bottle mounts need to be moved and inch further down the downtube so that you can fit a water bottle in the frame.

    I drilled a new hole in my water bottle cage and along with a fabricated washer plate and a stack of washers to change the angle of the cage, I will be able to mount the water bottle cage such that you can easily fit a normal size water bottle, and it appears a size large bottle. I have not deflated the shock to confirm, but i feel pretty confident it will work.

    Anyone else notice this issue or have an better solutions? I can take a picture of the final "McGuyvered" solution once I finish it. Here are the before and not-quite-final solutions:

    Zerode Taniwha & Pinion review-wbinterference.jpgZerode Taniwha & Pinion review-lg-wb-modified.jpgZerode Taniwha & Pinion review-modified-wb.jpg

  18. #18
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    I got to demo one of these a couple days ago from Fanatik up in Bellingham, and as everyone has said already, it was completely mind blowing. I am looking for a bike to replace my Enduro this winter and was planning on getting a long and slack 29er, something like the Pole Evolink 140. After riding the Taniwha I've changed my mind, and I am definitely considering one of these.

    I had a GoPro on most of the day and put together a video with my thoughts on the bike and a bunch of riding clips at Galbraith with a few other guys I met out there, including Joe from Fanatik.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVZLiaADVDM&t=476s

  19. #19
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    I've got a first release size LG with the P1.12 Pinion and weighs around 33 lbs.
    Some comments and answers to some of the questions here:

    I currently have a 2.6 DHF WT on the rear. I tried the 2.8 DHR II WT, and though it just cleared, I heard it rubbing on the chain tensioner when cornering. Note I have trimmed down the spring retaining boss on the Pinion tensioner and added mid position mounting holes in the bracket all to get a bit more tire clearance.

    In terms of break in, I believe the drag in the box has reduced a bit as I've gotten more miles on it, though not as a side by side comparison to a new box, it is subjective and could be me just getting more use to the bike. I don't find the drag of the box a big issue, but that said, I wouldn't choose it for an XC race bike. Fine for the intent of the Taniwha.

    In terms of shifting, I agree that you can get a shift in under some load conditions, but I have just developed the habit to always pause pedaling when going to an easier gear, and light pedaling to a harder gear. Shifting then is effortless. I don't like to force things as this is telling me I am likely harming long term durability. Once you get use to it, which doesn't take that long, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

    In terms of the gearbox slipping, I have experienced it maybe 3 times, say 1 every 25 rides. Maybe being easier on the shifting allows the gearbox to more positively engage and possibly avoid the slipping.

    I would agree that my biggest disappointment with the gearbox is the takeup. I have an I9 120 POE hub on the back, which I have on other bikes, and the takeup is way more on the Pinion. I haven't counted the POE of the Pinion but it is coarse. Most of the time it is not noticeable, but when you need to back pedal to clock the pedals and get back into it you notice a lot of takeup followed by a good clunk in the gearbox. The takeup seems fine if you coast and then hammer, it only seems to be when you back pedal. I think that is because the rear wheel freehub does the spinning when coasting so the only takeup is the back wheel freehub. When you back pedal the Pinion, you open up the freehub there.

    All the comments about rear traction being out of this world are true. A very noticeable change from my T275c.

    Overall I like the Taniwha and the Pinion, though some minor room for improvement, but there is no prefect bike out there IMO.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackP42 View Post
    I've got a first release size LG with the P1.12 Pinion and weighs around 33 lbs.
    Some comments and answers to some of the questions here:

    I currently have a 2.6 DHF WT on the rear. I tried the 2.8 DHR II WT, and though it just cleared, I heard it rubbing on the chain tensioner when cornering. Note I have trimmed down the spring retaining boss on the Pinion tensioner and added mid position mounting holes in the bracket all to get a bit more tire clearance.

    In terms of break in, I believe the drag in the box has reduced a bit as I've gotten more miles on it, though not as a side by side comparison to a new box, it is subjective and could be me just getting more use to the bike. I don't find the drag of the box a big issue, but that said, I wouldn't choose it for an XC race bike. Fine for the intent of the Taniwha.

    In terms of shifting, I agree that you can get a shift in under some load conditions, but I have just developed the habit to always pause pedaling when going to an easier gear, and light pedaling to a harder gear. Shifting then is effortless. I don't like to force things as this is telling me I am likely harming long term durability. Once you get use to it, which doesn't take that long, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

    In terms of the gearbox slipping, I have experienced it maybe 3 times, say 1 every 25 rides. Maybe being easier on the shifting allows the gearbox to more positively engage and possibly avoid the slipping.

    I would agree that my biggest disappointment with the gearbox is the takeup. I have an I9 120 POE hub on the back, which I have on other bikes, and the takeup is way more on the Pinion. I haven't counted the POE of the Pinion but it is coarse. Most of the time it is not noticeable, but when you need to back pedal to clock the pedals and get back into it you notice a lot of takeup followed by a good clunk in the gearbox. The takeup seems fine if you coast and then hammer, it only seems to be when you back pedal. I think that is because the rear wheel freehub does the spinning when coasting so the only takeup is the back wheel freehub. When you back pedal the Pinion, you open up the freehub there.

    All the comments about rear traction being out of this world are true. A very noticeable change from my T275c.

    Overall I like the Taniwha and the Pinion, though some minor room for improvement, but there is no prefect bike out there IMO.
    Good report. I would like to see the next gen have more tire clearance and the ability to ratchet be improved.

  21. #21
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    Has anyone ridden both the Zerode and a Nicolai Helius Pinion to be able to compare the ride of both?

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