1 in stockNotify me when available
The gearbox bike we've always wanted
It's not very often that we see a bike that truly breaks away from the norm and forges it's own path. At first glance, the Zerode Taniwha (pronounced tanifa) appears to be a fairly standard carbon trail bike, nothing to write home about, right? Wrong. Take a closer look at the drivetrain, and you'll notice something is different. Very different. The Taniwha utilizes a 12-speed internal gearbox, housed at the lowest part of the frame near the bottom bracket area. This effectively eliminates the rear derailleur and cassette. It's much like a transmission for a car, placed into a bicycle, and really makes you wonder, why have more bike brands not pursued a gearbox mountain bike? Digging into history, you'll find that there are a handful of companies that have attempted it, but for one reason or another, they were not able to quite pull it off in a method that was attractive to the end consumer. Zerode on the other hand, have spent years refining the gearbox bike, and with the Taniwha, managed to build an enduro-style full suspension carbon bike that ticks all the right boxes - and it's got a gearbox. It's about damn time.
Zerode is a relatively small bike company with Rob Metz at the helm running the company and designing the bikes. Rob is obviously a rider himself, and found that once he had the chance to ride one of his early gearbox bike creations, he knew immediately that he never wanted to go back to a derailleur. Rob spent the next several years first developing the G1, a gearboxed downhill bike. Shortly thereafter, it was clear that enduro was taking off, and he knew he'd need to go that direction. The Taniwha is a 160mm-travel enduro bike capable of competing with the best of the best.
The gearbox system naturally raises lots of questions, and for good reason. How much drag does it produce compared to a normal drivetrain? How heavy is it? What's the gearing range? Why is the frame so expensive? Can you shift under load? How do you maintain a gearbox? Let's address all of these questions, and more...
Let's address the elephant in the room first. The Pinion 12-speed gearbox/crankset unit weighs about 2650 grams (5.8 lbs). This weight is bolted onto the very lowest part of the frame, which weighs about 2500 grams (5.5 lbs) without shock. Sounds heavy, so let's compare it to a SRAM Eagle 1x12 drivetrain - the closest competitor to the Pinion gearbox. A SRAM Eagle XX1 rear derailleur weighs 264 grams, and XX1 cassette weighs 355 grams. The Pinion gearbox also includes an integrated alloy crankset, and does not use a bottom bracket, so take into account about 615 grams for a decent quality alloy crankset with 30T chainring, as well as removing a 90 gram bottom bracket. The Pinion system uses a 30T rear sprocket, which weighs about 40 grams. Crunch all those numbers, and the Pinion system is about 1360 grams (3 lbs) heavier than an Eagle 1X drivetrain.
Sprung vs. Unsprung Weight
So we know we're taking a weight penalty with the gearbox setup, but it's where that weight is located that's important. Unsprung weight is basically anything that moves when the rear wheel moves up or down. Sprung weight is anything that moves when the frame moves. On a conventional bike with a derailleur and cassette, both those components are unsprung weight, which compromise suspension performance. On the Taniwha, the bulk of the weight is kept low, and it's attached to the frame which means it's sprung weight. This provides the best possible suspension performance, as well as a low center of gravity on the bike which maximizes cornering and handling performance.
The Pinion 12-speed gearbox provides a whopping 600% gearing range, out-gearing even the latest SRAM Eagle drivetrain. It's roughly equivalent to using a cassette with a 10-60T range to put things into perspective. It's a simply massive range that can't be achieved with any other 1X drivetrain currently available.
The Cost and Maintenance
Yes, the frame costs $5,000. But it also includes a precision German engineered Pinion gearbox, a shifter, and crankset. Most high-end carbon bike frames are going for $3,000 - $3,500. Factor in the cost of a high end drivetrain, and you're at $4500 easy. In the big picture, the Taniwha is only marginally more expensive than most other bikes running conventional drivetrains. Then there's the maintenance, which is virtually zero with the gearbox. Simply add oil through a port once a year, and that's it. Chains last MUCH longer on the Taniwha since it is not constantly shifting through gears on a cassette. And best of all, there is no cassette to wear out, which can be a very costly replacement upwards of $400 for SRAM Eagle. There is also no rear derailleur to smack on rocks, which can be another very costly replacement to make. All in all, the Taniwha is an incredibly low maintenance bike, and will run smoothly for years on end.
This is perhaps the most defining trait of the gearbox, and requires that you rewire your thinking on shifting. With a derailleur, you're used to shifting while pedaling. With the gearbox, it's the exact opposite. You shift while coasting, or stopped. When you start pedaling again, you're immediately in the gear that you shifted to - zero delay. This system has numerous benefits but also can get you in a sticky situation if you're pedaling up a hill in the wrong gear. In that case, you would need to stop pedaling for a split-second, shift, and start pedaling again. This may cause you to lose balance while climbing up something steep. It is possible to shift while under very light load with the gearbox, such as when you're lightly pedaling on flat ground. But while under any significant load, you will not be able to shift.
Another aspect to the shifting is the grip-style shifter. Most of us are used to trigger shifters, so this is another adjustment that will need to be made. The gearbox unit requires a fair bit of cable pull, and the grip shifter is the best way to achieve that. It also lets you rip through a lot gears quickly. But for those who simply just hate the idea of grip shift, there are rumors of a trigger-style shifter being developed.
The Pinion gearbox is a complex array of gears and parts, which do create more drag than a conventional drivetrain with a derailleur. According to Pinion and Zerode, the gain in drag is quite small, and depends on the load and gear. Drag is significantly increased on a conventional drivetrain once the cassette is dirtied or muddied, so taking that into account, the gain in the gearbox drag is negligible.
The Rest of the Bike
That addresses many of the questions and concerns regarding this bike. Now we can talk about fun things, like how the bike rides! We've logged some hours on the Taniwha, and our initial impressions are positive. The first thing we noticed was the lack of weight at the rear of the bike. It's a bike that unweights very easily, making it feel quite lively. That's a definitely plus given that it does typically weigh a couple more pounds than most other bikes in it's class. You really don't feel that weight when riding it. The suspension platform is simple and proven, optimizing pedaling performance while achieving the ideal amount of anti-squat throughout the 160mm travel, thanks to the gearbox and constant chain position. Zerode did a nice job on the geometry, keeping up with current long/slack trends, as well as a nice steep 74.5° seat angle for good climbing position, and a slack 65° head angle to keep things comfortable when the descent gets steep. As we mentioned before, the bike is a bit heavier than most bikes in it's class, due to the gearbox. But since the bulk of that weight is kept super low on the bike, we really didn't find it to be a detriment to handling or cornering - in fact, we'd go as far as saying it actually helps to have a bit of extra weight down low to keep the bike more stable at speed.
Other details on the Taniwha include internal shifter and dropper routing, one water bottle cage mount that fits inside the front triangle with piggyback shock, and integrated frame protectors on the chainstay and downtube. The Taniwha frame is backed by Zerode's three year manufacturer warranty, and the gearbox is backed by Pinion's five year manufacturer warranty.
The frameset includes rear shock, gearbox, crankset, rear axle, shifter, cables, and seatpost collar.
- Wheel Size: 27.5"
- Frame Material: Carbon
- Rear Shock: Cane Creek DB Air CS
- Rear Susp. Travel: 160mm
- Rear Shock Size: 216mm x 63mm (8.5" x 2.5")
- Rear Axle Standard: 12x142mm
- ISCG Tabs: NA
- BB Standard: Pinion Integrated
- Seat Post Dia: 31.6mm
- Headset Standard :ZS44/ZS56mm
- Rear Brake Mount: IS-160mm
- Water Bottle Mounts: One
- Intended Use: All Mountain / Enduro
- Warranty: 3 Years