Zerode Taniwha Pinion Gearbox Bike | First Ride

December 28th, 2016

By Adam Wight in Bikes,Features

Zerode Taniwha – New Zealand ripper with Pinion gear box

Gearboxes for bikes are nothing new – they’ve been lurking for years and brands like Zerode Bikes has been using them for some time.

But generally they’ve been reserved for quirky home builds and niche brands – though reliable gear box units are becoming more available now and some incredible looking bikes are popping up.

This is the Zerode Taniwha – a 160mm travel carbon fibre beauty that hails from New Zealand, with the 12 speed Pinion gear box.

Zerode Taniwha

For as long as I can remember I’ve looked at the traditional derailleur design on mountain bikes and wondered if there was a more reliable option. The current offering hangs under the chainstay, perched for rock strikes and collecting muck on the way. The Zerode Taniwha is what I look for in a bike. Photo | Rachel Gurney

The Detail

The Zerode Taniwha offers 160mm of travel via a single pivot just above the bottom bracket, and uses a swing link design to drive a downtube mounted shock.


The Zerode Taniwha has a 12 speed Pinion Gear Box transmission with a whopping 600% gear range! Photo | Rachel Gurney

With a 74.5degree seat angle, 65degree head angle as stock (based on a cup system for further adjustment) and roomy 1202mm wheelbase on the size large sample I rode, geometry is up to date – but it’s the drive train that separates this beast.

Housed around the bottom bracket is the 12 speed Pinion gearbox. This offers a huge 600% gear range and a host of other benefits including virtually no maintenance, and a marked difference in unsprung weight.

Pinion are a German brand that manufacture a seriously small and lightweight gearbox with 12 gears and very little required maintenance. Nicolai have been using Pinion for a while (check this awesome Nicolai/Pinion combo out right here) on their functional looking bikes, but this is the first time I’ve seen a gear box put to great use on a lovely looking bike.

The Zerode Taniwha is a looker – though not cheap. UK importer Stif offers the Taniwha from £5799. Check out full options right here. 

Out on the Trail

Zerode Taniwha

I spent a long time chatting to Rob from Zerode bikes about the Taniwha – even before riding it I was loving the idea of this weapon. Photo | Rachel Gurney

The Zerode Taniwha offers a different kind of ride quality to the usual carbon super bikes. As soon as you turn a crank you’re immediately aware of something different – something mechanical and strong. The Pinion 12 speed whirrs away beneath you as you effortlessly spin pedals along the fire road. There’s very little resistance and feedback – far less than expected.

There’s a freewheel in the gearbox itself as well as in Pinion’s own rear single speed hub that offers almost instant pick-up with minimal fuss. Another bonus is the hub flanges can be evenly spaced with no dish – building a stronger and stiffer rear wheel.

Additionally, not having a rear mech means the damping effect of chain growth and overcoming the resistance of a clutch* is eradicated. The Pinion design means chain tension is constant throughout the rear axle’s path resulting in an unbelievably supple, unhindered suspension action.

* clutch mechs add a form of resistance to suspension action, that can be likened to low speed compression.

Zerode Taniwha

I instantly felt at home shredding the Zerode Taniwha – the bike just hauls! Photo | Rachel Gurney

The extra grip it offers to the back end is insane – rough stuff and braking has almost no effect on braking and traction.

Something else I should mention here is weight distribution. The Zerode Taniwha can be built to weigh jut over 14kg – which is very acceptable for a gearbox bike. Pinion say they’re constantly working to bring the weight of their unit down and plans The real beauty here though, is where that weight is positioned – and boy can you feel the benefits when riding.

Zerode Taniwha

Once at the top of some greasy Rotorua gold, I drop in behind Rob and immediately witness some of the most outrageously smooth riding I’ve seen in a long time. Nose taps to manuals; corner squaring to drifting wall rides and dirt schralping cutties. Man, this dude can ride. But many of you will already know that – he’s no newbie to the NZ bike scene. Once at the bottom, spinning along the fire road and heading towards a tasty little singletrack climb, I clutch a handful of the gripshift and go straight through about 10 gears and I’m back winching, the 12 speed Pinion offering me a 600% range, that’s pretty awesome compared to Sram Eagle’s 500% submission. Photo | Rachel Gurney

With the gearbox carrying the most mass, it’s perfectly located low and centrally, aiding cornering and maximising suspension action as the frame willingly sits into its travel between consecutive big hits or rough sections.

Gear changes via the grip shift does take a little acclimatising, you need to back off the pedals ever-so-slightly when shifting. But, you can drop or jump the entire box in one rapid twist if required. Once you get the hang of the backing off and pre-empting when you need to change; attacking a nasty bank or preparing for exiting a turn at speed can be achieved smoothly.

We Say

The Zerode Taniwha is a stunning looking bit of kit with all the appeal of modern Enduro race bikes – aswell as the innovative Pinion gear box.

Personally I’d like it a little longer, slacker and steeper in places. However, that’s my dream with nearly everything I ride and not selective of the Taniwha.

But the Zerode Taniwha offers everything I look for in a bike – perfect looks, brilliant suspension action and the unique attributes that you can only get using a system like the Pinion gear box. Nothing feels quite the same when you go back to a regular rear mech and transmission.

Zerode bikes are imported to the UK by those fine chaps at Stif.

For full details on complete builds and frame/gearbox options click right here. Bear in mind that although pricy, the frame kits include the transmission. You only need to add fork, wheels and finishing kit.




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