Bicycles

Pinion sealed gearbox offers an alternative to those darn derailleurs

The Pinion P1.18 sealed gearbox for bikes is an alternative to derailleurs or hub transmissions
The Pinion P1.18 sealed gearbox for bikes is an alternative to derailleurs or hub transmissions
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The P1.18 can’t simply be installed on an existing bike – the frame has to be designed around it
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The P1.18 can’t simply be installed on an existing bike – the frame has to be designed around it
Gear changes are activated via a SRAM-like grip shifter, are reportedly “lightning fast,” and can span several gears in one shift
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Gear changes are activated via a SRAM-like grip shifter, are reportedly “lightning fast,” and can span several gears in one shift
The gearbox has also found use on commuter bikes
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The gearbox has also found use on commuter bikes
The P1.18 kit also includes custom cranks
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The P1.18 kit also includes custom cranks
The P1.18 features 18 evenly-spaced gears
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The P1.18 features 18 evenly-spaced gears
Because it can only be built into dedicated frames, the Pinion P1.18 isn’t currently available to the general public
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Because it can only be built into dedicated frames, the Pinion P1.18 isn’t currently available to the general public
The Pinion P1.18 bicycle transmission is constructed as a spur gear with a two parallel partial shaft transmissions
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The Pinion P1.18 bicycle transmission is constructed as a spur gear with a two parallel partial shaft transmissions
The Pinion P1.18 sealed gearbox for bikes is an alternative to derailleurs or hub transmissions
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The Pinion P1.18 sealed gearbox for bikes is an alternative to derailleurs or hub transmissions

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

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 available to the general public
Because it can only be built into dedicated frames, the Pinion P1.18 isn’t currently available to the general public

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

29 comments
Jabboson
Its hardly the first, SR Suntour do the 9 speed gearbox in almost exactly the same fashion....
Scion
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.
Max Kennedy
Would be nice to know how this compares to something like the NuVinci CVT transmission.
Gadgeteer
"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.
The Skud
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.
ClauS
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.
William Volk
Rohloff Speedhub Superior in every way.
waltinseattle
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.
wle
all we need is a 3d printer and the file.. (6 lbs!) no mention of cost looks like about $500 wle
Calson
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.