I am the owner of two aged hardtail bikes, one 20 years old, the other one 10 years old. While they are still perfect for getting around in Zurich and leaving them at the train station, I definitely wouldn’t trust them to hold for another 5000 km on a multi-month tour through Iran and Central Asia on the Pamir Highway where I will be hundreds of kilometers away from the next bike shop to get replacement parts or any other help.
So the time has come to go shopping for a new trekking bike! Or more precisely, shopping for components as I want to assemble the bike myself (with the kind help of Philipp, a bike enthusiast with his own bike garage and around 12 bikes!). There are three reasons why I don’t want to buy a bike off the shelf:
- I like building things
- If I want to be able to fix my bike on the tour, there is no better way to learn than assembling it yourself
- None of the manufacturers had exactly all the components I wanted
So in this post I would like to share my reasons why I chose the particular components.
I chose a frame from the German manufacturer Tout Terrain, more precisely the Tanami Xplore. I was looking for a solid steel frame which can withstand the tough terrain of my tour and a total weight of up to 160 kg. And I wanted a manufacturer which is close to me, so in case there is something wrong with the frame, I don’t have to send it overseas.
Of course there are also a few other manufacturers with suitable frames, but I decided for Tout Terrain of some really nice features on the frame such as the rock-solid and built-in carrier and the way the Pinion Gearbox can be mounted without the need of an additional chain tensioner. Also I was really satisfied with their pre-sale customer service and Tout Terrain supports world travelers with a discount on their materials.
The choices when it comes to drive systems were:
- Shimano XT (3 x 10) or similar
- The well-proven Rohloff gear hub
- The relatively new Pinion P1.18 Gearbox
There are already enough comparisons between the various drive systems on the web, some of them sponsored, so I will refrain from comparing all of them again. I will rather explain my considerations when I chose the Pinion P1.18 Gearbox. And during the trip I will provide my personal feedback.
- I wanted a system that requires as little maintenance as possible. The Pinion is completely encapsulated and is supposed to be protected from dust, sand, mud, etc. Also compared to a derailleur, it is less sensitive to deformation during transport.
- Being a startup founder myself, I like innovation. The Rohloff hub is well-proven, but I wanted to try out the new Pinion because on the paper it seemed clearly superior to the Rohloff.
- The range of the gears is unique. 18 real gears distributed over 636% is simply perfect for my adventure.
Doubts about Pinion
Long Term experience
The Pinion Gearbox is relatively new and I could not find a lot of neutral feedback from long-distance travelers. There are of course a few positive test reports in the magazines, but honestly these are not relevant to me as it is well known that it is both in the interests of the manufacturer and the magazines to get along with each other. And these tests are usually a few hundred kilometers, which does not tell that much about the life span of a product. And the two long distance travelers I have found were both sponsored by Pinion.
When I decided to go with Pinion, I contacted them by e-mail if they supported me on my planned adventure, both financially and also in case of problems with the gearbox. Result: No response.
After I called them a week later I was told to resend the e-mail and someone would get back to me. Result: No response for another week, then I was told that their budget is already used for this year, but the second part of my e-mail remained unanswered. So I wrote a third e-mail about how they would support me in case of problems with the Gearbox. Result: No response at all.
It is really a shame that Pinion, at least in my case, has not realized that customer support is a very important part of their business. If Stephanie Römer from Tout Terrain had not assured me their support in case of problems with the Pinion Gearbox and organized a repair kit, I would have decided against the Pinion and chosen the Rohloff. Thank you for your efforts Stephanie, even though this would have been Pinion’s job.
Gates Drive Belt or Chain
I decided to go with a chain instead of the Gates drive belt because I wanted a system that is as easy to fix as possible, especially in the Pamirs. Carrying a replacement belt with me is difficult because it is very delicate and cannot be folder arbitrarily, whereas a spare chain is small and easy transport. Of course a chain is more prone to pollution, but because I only have one chain ring in the front and back, cleaning it is not such a big problem. And as a side effect, the chain is a much cheaper solution.
The last decision was: Disc brakes or not. I chose the Avid BB7 mechanical disk brakes because they have similar breaking power than a hydraulic disc brake but don’t carry the risks of damaging the hydraulic system, making it difficult to repair in very remote areas.