Review: Zerode Taniwha

Zerode is a New Zealand based company which started out making downhill bikes. More recently they have turned their efforts to the Taniwha, a hard hitting enduro bike. While there seems to be an ever growing supply of single crown big chargers, the Zerode bikes stand out from the rest with their gearbox drive systems.

Zerode Taniwha-21.jpg

 

The Pinion P1.12


Pinion came about when two engineers (and mountain bikers) looked at the exposed derailleur gearing system and considered it outdated. With experience from the German sports car industry, they set out to create an alternative.

 

Zerode have opted to use Pinion’s P1.12 gearbox system, designed specifically for mountain bike use, on the Taniwha. The gearbox features 12 gears all equally spaced with a 600% gear ratio, putting it ahead of traditional 2x10 or 1x12 derailleur systems in terms of gear range. Our test bike was fitted with a 30T sprocket and chainring.

 


Zerode Taniwha-3.jpg

Zerode Taniwha-8.jpg

The weighty gearbox is placed exactly where you want it, low and centre.
A major benefit of having a closed gearbox system is that there are few external parts to maintain with the exception of the chain, sprockets, and tensioner arm tucked behind the crankset. The result is a drive system that only requires a basic oil change (60ml) every 10,000 kilometres or once a year.

 

The sealed system means that you no longer have to worry about water, dirt, sticks, and other trail debris getting into the drivetrain. Shifting remains consistent no matter the conditions and there is no fear of grinding your precious parts to death when the trail is damp. There is also no rear derailleur hanging awkwardly between the bike and trail obstacles or waiting to fall apart under the strain of a poorly judged shift.

 

Doing away with the rear mechanics reduces the unsprung mass on the rear of the bike. Pair this with a fixed chain position and the Taniwha should boast excellent suspension performance.

 

The claimed weight of the P1.12 gearbox is 2,350 grams. While I’m not certain what parts that number includes and how much overlap is accounted for with common parts like chains and sprockets, it is still heavier than its closest rival: SRAM X01 Eagle. That said, the bulk of the Pinion systems weight is tucked low down in the bottom bracket area minimizing the impact of the extra weight. Even with the Taniwha’s full carbon frame construction, our test bike weighed a hefty 16.08 kg.

 

The Bike


The gearbox drive system aside, the Taniwha meets all modern enduro bike expectations. The geometry is sufficiently low and slack, and although the reach is perhaps not the longest in the game, it still makes for a roomy fit. The bike is attractive in the carbon and gives you an immediate sense of its big mountain capabilities.

 

While the fork supported a boost hub, the rear remains 142 mm. Due to not having to accommodate a cassette, a single speed hub can be used to build the rear wheel with a symmetrical dish, making it stronger.

 

Zerode Taniwha Geometry.jpg

 

Build specification


  • FrameZerode Taniwha
  • ForkFox 36 Factory 160 mm Boost
  • ShockFox Float X2 Factory EVOL RVS
  • HandlebarRenthal Fatbar Carbon
  • StemRenthal Apex 50-60mm
  • SeatpostKS Lev Integra
  • SaddleFabric
  • ShiftersPinion gripshift
  • BrakesSRAM Guide Ultimate
  • SprocketZerode 30T 170mm crank arms
  • ChainShimano XTR
  • CranksetPinion 30T
  • RimscSixx 27.5 END
  • HubsIndustry Nine boost
  • TyresMaxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT
  • GearboxPinion P1.12
  • RotorsSRAM Centreline 200/180
  • HeadsetCane Creek Forty
  • Weigth16.08kg
  • PricingR129,900

 

The Ride


Gears and shifting


The Pinion system makes a mechanical purring sound as you ride along. It was hard to tell whether this was coming from the tensioning system or the gearbox itself. Despite the sound, pedalling felt decidedly smooth with little indication of power loss in the transmission system.

 


Zerode Taniwha-7.jpg

Zerode Taniwha-6.jpg

All the benefits of a single speed drivetrain.
The Taniwha rides like a normal bike except for shifting. Where a derailleur system requires you to move the chain through pedaling, the Pinion gearbox does not. It simply changes gear on command of the shifter. This means that you can even shift while remaining completely stationary.

 

The downside, however, is that the gearbox does not shift when applying power through the pedals. I found that if I got the timing just right I could get away with shifting down to a harder gear while still applying force but jumping to anything easier simply resulted in grinding sounds. This is not a huge problem on steep slopes but trails with varying gradients, you can not run through the full range of gears while staying on the power to the same extent that you can on a derailleur system.

 

It was convenient being able to pre-select gears before dropping into a trail. Likewise, changing gears while riding technical trails or midway through a hard berm without having to risk a few sneaky pedal strokes was revolutionary on the downhills. The combination of a rider’s familiarity with a trail and the Pinion’s pedal-free shifting will make for a frighteningly fast pace.

 


Zerode Taniwha-11.jpg

Zerode Taniwha-13.jpg

Shifitng is performed via a familiar gripshift system.
While the Pinion system is excellent on the descents, I struggled to appreciate its operation on the climbs. The act of pausing your pedalling while changing gear is severely disruptive to your momentum and cadence, especially on technical climbs.

 

The Pinion P1.12 shifts gears through a grip shift system which functions very well. One nitpick is that it is hard to shift gears while covering the brakes: at least I was unable to master the technique.

 

On the trails


In defense of any faults of the Pinion system while getting to the top of the mountain, the Taniwha makes a supremely strong case when hurtling down them.

 

Zerode Taniwha-9.jpg
The Zerode Taniwha is an amazingly capable descender. The shuttle rash is an indication of how this bike is supposed to be used.

 

To put it bluntly, the Taniwha has the best feeling rear suspension of any bike I have ridden. Decluttered from the constraints of a derailleur system, it is outrageously sensitive with unparalleled levels of grip. Even bashing through the roughest rock gardens had me wondering whether the rear wheel ever left the ground.

 

Once up to speed, there is little sign of the bike's overall weight, as momentum carries you effortlessly through rock gardens, drops, and over jumps. The bike feels planted in turns and will hold almost any line you choose through rough sections.

 

The specification choices on our Taniwha test bike complemented its ability. The Fox Float X2 embraced its newfound freedom and outperformed my expectations with the Fox 36 continuing to prove itself as a world class fork.

 

The combination of the wide cSixx carbon rims and Maxxis Minion DHF tyres are spot on for the Taniwha, providing the levels of grip that the bike demands. Some might point to the components adding a few extra grams but I feel strongly that there is no point trying to build to a bike’s weakness when the strengths are just so damn good.

 

Zerode Taniwha-22.jpg

 

A bike with so much ability demands a rider that pushes hard and fast on every ride. On slower trails of moderate steepness, the weight of the Taniwha is noticeable and the bike feels somewhat bulky. Where constant pedalling is required to keep up the pace, the Pinion system struggles to match the fluidity of a derailleur system. The Taniwha is better suited to steep trails.

 

For those looking for the burliest, baddest 160mm enduro bike possible, the Taniwha is it. But you're going to have to be able to forgive a below average climbing experience. Flick into the lower gears and you’ll be climbing slowly but with ease. But no matter how good the gear range or the bikes climbing ability, gravity does not discriminate and 16 kilograms will always be 16 kilograms. Add the weight to the inability to shift while pedalling and the overall climbing experience on the Taniwha can be frustrating. It will be worth paying close attention to your local trail’s shuttle day schedule.

 

In the end


The Zerode Taniwha has the most impressive rear suspension that I have ridden, crushing trails like no other enduro bike. It feels like the rear wheel never leaves the ground. The resulting grip and composure are unmatched. The Taniwha might not be the perfect fit for climbing the mountain but once you turn it downhill, it's very easy to forgive any faults. If you’re a hard charger looking for a bike that won’t hold you back, the Taniwha will happily take as much as (and probably more) than you can deliver.

 






29 Comments

Traveler, Jul 28 2017 07:09

I've read a couple of sterling reviews on the Zerode. If internal gearboxes points towards the future I cannot wait to add one of them to my collection.

Grease_Monkey, Jul 28 2017 07:14

If they sort out the whole pause your pedalling before shifting to an easier gear, I would not hessitate to go this route. But until then, it seems like you are essentially buying a DH bike.

Other than that it looks awesome. The fact that chainline is always perfect and maintenance is so minimal is a huge selling point.

Hopefully we will see more development in this area and some price and weight saving in the near future!

niterider, Jul 28 2017 07:46

The latest ones are shipping with a newer version of the gearbox, which I believe is a tiny bit lighter.

 

How much do those tyres weigh?

blackwing, Jul 28 2017 08:44

That bike is setup in full attack mode wirth Maxxis Double Down DH tyres, full DH rims and the like. I am sure lighter rims and switching to the Csixx XCM rims will drop a few kilo's.

 

I have test ridden this very bike and were also amazed by how quiet it is, and the suspension performance is next level.

 

Also switching to a Pike and Monarch + options from Rock Shox will save a few bucks and the bike's performance will be nearly the same.

 

If they had one in XL and with 29er wheels I will be selling mt kidneys to get my hands on one.

 

The new C1.12 gearbox is also lighter, so that is one way to take more weight off.

stefmeister, Jul 28 2017 09:14

The latest ones are shipping with a newer version of the gearbox, which I believe is a tiny bit lighter.

 

How much do those tyres weigh?

Over 1 kg each.

Marcelcerdan, Jul 28 2017 09:17

Hey guys. 

 

Thanks a lot to BikeHub for the review ! 

 

Those tyres are Minion DHF 27.5x2.5 DD, weighting 1.2 kg each. Plus we have cSixx Fomos in. The rims are the cSixx DH version too while for most clients we go enduro version and lighter tires. You can shave a few hundred grams here if you like.

 

The gearbox can shift going uphill. You just need time and practise to master it, but it definitely can. Even, you can go through the 12 gears in one twist. The trick is to back up a little from full crank pedalling, become lighter on the pedals for a split second and shift at the same time. It means getting use to the process and the grip-shift twist itself. It means accepting to learn again and only practice will make you perfect at it. 

 

Cheers

JX - Zerode SA /  jx@zerode.co.za / http://zerode.co.za / https://www.facebook.com/zerodeSA/

NicoBoshoff, Jul 28 2017 09:32

"It will be worth paying close attention to your local trail’s shuttle day schedule"

 

That's pretty disappointing for an AM bike.  You just described a park bike right there.

James29, Jul 28 2017 09:52

Im probably the most unfit rider in SA but even on this bike i havnt seen you reach the top of any enduro stage before me nico 😉

fusion01, Jul 28 2017 10:24

You'll no doubt get fools slagging off new technology and wishing this bike included a 7 speed setup cos "they just work" etc etc LOL. :)  Point is this is all very exciting! If I was going to sell a kidney, why not spend it on something that's somewhat cutting edge.

BaGearA, Jul 28 2017 10:26

THIS IS THE FUTURE !!!!!!!!!!

Marcelcerdan, Jul 28 2017 10:37

THIS IS THE FUTURE !!!!!!!!!!

No ! This is now. Come and try it ;)

Headshot, Jul 28 2017 10:54

Getting rid of the rear derailleur and cassette is an advancement in bike design I would embrace with open arms if finance permitted. Far more worthwhile than bigger wheels, boost and all that rubbish. In fact it negates the need for boost at the rear. Put on a  Schwalbe RR super gravity and Magic Mary snakeskin and thats around 600g saved. A Pike would save a little bit more. If We are honest our full on enduro bikes weigh around 14kg or more anyway... I do however think that Pinion need to make some advancements in design - get it a bit lighter and provide a trigger shift system. 

NicoBoshoff, Jul 28 2017 10:55

Im probably the most unfit rider in SA but even on this bike i havnt seen you reach the top of any enduro stage before me nico

I haven't been to an enduro race in three years.

NicoBoshoff, Jul 28 2017 11:18

Getting rid of the rear derailleur and cassette is an advancement in bike design I would embrace with open arms if finance permitted. Far more worthwhile than bigger wheels, boost and all that rubbish. In fact it negates the need for boost at the rear. Put on a  Schwalbe RR super gravity and Magic Mary snakeskin and thats around 600g saved. A Pike would save a little bit more. If We are honest our full on enduro bikes weigh around 14kg or more anyway... I do however think that Pinion need to make some advancements in design - get it a bit lighter and provide a trigger shift system. 

Carlton.jpg

LazyEnduroRider, Jul 28 2017 11:20

Im probably the most unfit rider in SA but even on this bike i havnt seen you reach the top of any enduro stage before me nico

 

Awww James, it's OK, you don't have to be humble. You can tell us how badass fit you are, everyone on Instagram already knows.

Hackster, Jul 28 2017 01:14

One day you will be sharing a beer with a mate and you'll say, 'Remember when all our bikes had derailleur transmissions?!'

 

And then you'll both laugh, shake your heads, and order another round.

 

Here's wishing...

LazyEnduroRider, Jul 28 2017 01:19

One day you will be sharing a beer with a mate and you'll say, 'Remember when all our bikes had derailleur transmissions?!'

 

And then you'll both laugh, shake your heads, and order another round.

 

Here's wishing...

 

Absolutely. It's encouraging to see innovation in that direction.

BaGearA, Jul 28 2017 07:27

No ! This is now. Come and try it ;)


Send me A Frame ;) , I promise I'll be the brand ambassador to end all brand ambassadors.

Marcelcerdan, Jul 28 2017 07:34

Send me A Frame ;) , I promise I'll be the brand ambassador to end all brand ambassadors.

Yeah, been there, seen that, done that. We have already ambassadors but we're keen on getting more customers ;)

Matchstix, Jul 29 2017 05:23

Had a parking lot test shifting is fine. Its the same as when you wanted to drop from middle to granny gear on the uphill back in the day, just ease of slightly for a split second and shift. Will be awesome if the can do an electronic shifter like rohloff did

Bizkit031, Jul 30 2017 06:48

Crazy pricing but then this is a boutique brand,you really paying for the gearbox and the frame is nothing special.

Marcelcerdan, Jul 30 2017 08:10

Crazy pricing but then this is a boutique brand,you really paying for the gearbox and the frame is nothing special.

 

Crazy pricing ? Did you check the build ?

http://zerode.co.za/taniwha/

NicoBoshoff, Jul 31 2017 07:31

Crazy pricing but then this is a boutique brand,you really paying for the gearbox and the frame is nothing special.

Nah mate.  Pricing is on par, to fair considering that spec sheet.  It's top end all the way, and considering that you can get this build to a more reasonable 14.5'ish kg with a gearbox is saying something.

 

Also consider the fact that the gearbox will last your lifetime with only an annual oil change required.  What do you spend on drivetrain components over your bikes 5-6 year lifespan?

 

All reviews I've seen say the same thing - best suspension they've ever experienced on the descents. Climbs fine, but shifting is a bit of a schlep on tech climbs.  

 

I think this review was screwed by the overly zealous DH build on this bike.  Spec it like a normal human being with more sensible wheel and tyre combo's sans inserts and you'd get closer to what Pinkbike had to say about it.

Bizkit031, Jul 31 2017 02:18

Crazy pricing ? Did you check the build ?
http://zerode.co.za/taniwha/

I would not of commented if I saw the build,can get it riding just as good with a cheaper build.

Bizkit031, Jul 31 2017 02:20

Nah mate.  Pricing is on par, to fair considering that spec sheet.  It's top end all the way, and considering that you can get this build to a more reasonable 14.5'ish kg with a gearbox is saying something.
 
Also consider the fact that the gearbox will last your lifetime with only an annual oil change required.  What do you spend on drivetrain components over your bikes 5-6 year lifespan?
 
All reviews I've seen say the same thing - best suspension they've ever experienced on the descents. Climbs fine, but shifting is a bit of a schlep on tech climbs.  
 
I think this review was screwed by the overly zealous DH build on this bike.  Spec it like a normal human being with more sensible wheel and tyre combo's sans inserts and you'd get closer to what Pinkbike had to say about it.

Yes that is true,why do builds like that when you can do it cheaper and still get the same ride.