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came about when two engineers (and mountain bikers) looked at the exposed derailleur gearing system and considered it outdated.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.
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 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.
- FrameZerode Taniwha
- ForkFox 36 Factory 160 mm Boost
- ShockFox Float X2 Factory EVOL RVS
- HandlebarRenthal Fatbar Carbon
- StemRenthal Apex 50-60mm
- SeatpostKS Lev Integra
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.