Review: Pinion P1.18 Gearbox with Gates CDX Belt

Review: Pinion P1.18 Gearbox with Gates CDX BeltScore 70% Score 70%

The review you’ve all been waiting for! We have cycled more than 8500 kilometers with the Pinion P1.18 Gearbox, so I guess it’s time to publish our user review now. We’ve received quite a few emails of curious people, so here it is. Keep reading to find out how we experienced the Pinion Gearbox!

Soon after jumping on our Pinion bikes we were forming our opinion on this gear system. But in order to write a reliable review, we wanted to put the P1.18 to the test and cycle at least 7500 kilometers with it. Unpaved, paved, rocky, sandy, muddy, wet, dry, hot and cold, the Pinion has been there with us. And how did it perform and how is it still performing?

Pinion P1.18 Review
A little bit of mud..
Pinion P1.18 Review
..and some water!

About Pinion

Being former Porsche gearbox engineers, the guys at Pinion have the ambition to develop top products for the best bicycles on the market. They have been on the market since 2011 and are revolutionizing bicycle transmission in the form of their Pinion Gearbox. Apart from the P1.18 we were able to test, the Pinion family includes three other gearboxes: the P1.12 for mountain biking and bicycle touring, the 9 speed P1.9 XR for e-bikes and the P1.9 CR engineered particularly for urban bikes. All their transmissions are 100% “Made in Germany”. The name and number of the gearboxes correspond to the amount of gears, in our case 18 gears.

What is the Pinion Gearbox exactly?

The Pinion box is an enclosed unit with seals between the housing parts, which prevent water and dirt from affecting the transmission. The complete transmission consists of two consecutive sub-transmissions with 6x3 gears. This is multiplied to yield 18 gears. Due to the sealing system the box cannot leak any oil.
The box itself is located at the position of the crankset, which means that you need a specially designed frame in which the box fits to be bolted with six bolts. The 18 gears are evenly spaced with an 11.5% increase per gear. The box itself weighs 2698 gram and makes you about 800-900 EUR lighter (compared to same Santos bike with Rohloff).
Visit Pinions website if you are interested in more technical information on the Pinion Gearbox

pinion p1 18

Comparison to the Rohloff Hub

Not sure if it’s fair to compare these two internal gear systems, because of the price difference, but I guess many people want to know how the Pinion performs compared to the Rohloff hub. Let’s start with some numbers:

DataPinion P1.18Rohloff Hub
Price+ 800-900 EUR1000 EUR
Weight2698 grams*1985 grams*
Number of Gears1814
Gear range636%526%
Gap between Gears11.5%13.6%
Warranty5 years2 years
Oil change intervalEvery 10.000km / Once a yearEvery 5.000km / Once a year
MaintenanceReplace internal gear cable every 10.000km
Gates BeltCDXCDC and CDX

Ratio Profile P1 18

* Detailed Weight Table

Below is a comparison of a detailed weight table; the parts and their weight to make each system work:

PinionRohloffDerailler (XT)
Gearbox incl. cables: 2698gHub incl. shifter, cables and cable guide: 1820gShimano XT Cranks incl. Bottom Bracket: 860g
Shifter: 95gCranks + front sprocket: 680gShifters and cables: 255g
Crankarms: 435gRear sprocket 22T: 87gDeraillers (front + rear): 139 + 249g
Rear hub: 250gGates CDC 118T Belt: 84gRear hub: 338g
Gates CDX 118T Belt: 92g Cassette: 223g
Front sprocket 32T: 188g Chain: 273g
Rear sprocket 32T: 188g  
3946g2671g2337g

Those are the facts, but I’m sure you also want to know if we did notice any difference in riding behaviour? And yes, we did. First of all, we felt no resistance in any of the gears and with that the gearbox is very silent and smooth. And secondly, the steps are smaller between gears and therefor there’s always a right gear for you; uphill or cruising on the flats.

testing The Pinion 1.18 in the field

As we’ve mentioned in the beginning of this post we’ve put the gearbox to the test for about 8500 kilometers. For us the break in period for the gearbox to run smoothly was around 1000 kilometers, contrary to the 500 that Pinion mentions. We could feel the teeth running more smoothly every day, while gears 1, 2 and 17, 18 took a bit longer, probably because we don’t use these often enough. At this point we found the gearbox much smoother and more silent than the Rohloff and were falling in love with the system. Shifting is direct and easy with changing multiple gears at the same time. It is silent and we feel absolutely no resistance. But after 1500 kilometers, Ellen started to have issues with the cranks: ticking and creaking with every kick. We dismounted the cranks to discover they already had worn out. The same thing happened to my cranks, but after about 2000 kilometers. This probably has to do with the fact that my pedal frequency is a lot higher than Ellen’s. In both cases Pinion sent us new cranks and the second pair were the CNC milled ALU cranks instead of the Forged ALU cranks we had initially. While we waited for the cranks, we could keep going as we shifted the cranks a quarter turn, so the issues with the cranks were no direct show stopper, just annoying.
Happy with our new cranks we continued our smooth and silent ride crossing the United States on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

pinion forged cranks
Pinion Forged Cranks
pinion cnc milled cranks
Pinion CNC milled Cranks

But again, after about 6000 kilometers the ticking in Ellen’s cranks returned. This time it’s not a continuous ticking and creaking, but an irregular sound. We think it has to do with weather conditions; temperature and humidity seem to influence the amount / presence of ticking and creaking. Some days it’s gone, some days it’s there. I guess the cranks are a point of attention for Pinion and need improvement. Right about the same time my front sprocket came loose, even though it was tightened at the required amount of torque and a local bicycle mechanic came to the rescue.
Apart from the irregular ticking in Ellen’s cranks, both boxes are performing very well and we have not had new issues with the system. 8500 plus kilometers on the odometers and still going strong.

So, in short, the gearbox itself is performing as expected, but we experience that the accessories, especially the cranks, do have start-up problems.

Gates CDX (Centre track) Belt

A couple of years ago I tested the CDX belt for about 17.000 kilometers and found that the belt wore out faster than the unbeatable CDC belt. Since there is no CDC / Pinion combination, we were relying on the CDX belt once more. The general opinion is that the CDX wears out faster, that it has more resistance and stuck little stones may cause the belt to break. But, is this really still the case? I have no equipment to test the resistance or the tearing strength for that matter, it’s all about how I feel the belt is performing compared to my personal experience with the CDC belt on the Santos Travel Lite with Rohloff and belt. And that being said, I don’t see any reason why the belt would break due to sand and little rocks. I do notice that the durability is less than the CDC, since there’s visible wear and tear around the belt’s teeth (not a lot though). I also find that the CDX belt more easily grinds when it’s dry. In my opinion, once the durability of the CDX improves, the CDX is just as good as the CDC. And I do hope they figure out something to minimize the grinding, which make the belt system sound like a cheap worn out chain…
Note: in the mean time Gates has introduced a new and improved Centre Track system which is not mounted on our bikes at the moment. Maybe I get the chance to test that in the future and maybe that is the improvement I’ve been looking for.

And someting to keep in mind: don’t tension the CDX as much, it’s not necessary at all and will improve your riding experience.

gates cdc belt
Gates CDC Belt

gates cdx belt
Gates CDX Centre Track Belt

Conclusion

The way the gearbox itself performs is something we both got used to very easily and it definitely has advantages over the Rohloff hub: it’s silent and smooth, we feel no resistance in any gear, the steps are smaller and the range is wider. But the Pinion still has one start-up problem that needs improvement; the cranks.
Would I prefer the Pinion over the Rohloff? If money was no object and with improved cranks I’d certainly say yes. Is it necessary? Not really. The Rohloff has been a loyal partner for more than 20.000 kilometers and we have been able to cycle anywhere we wanted in any condition. But the Pinion does have its advantages over the Rohloff. Is it worth the money? That’s totally up to you, I don’t know the value of money for you and that is something you have to decide for yourself.

PROSCONS
18 gearsHeavier (see weight table)
636% gear rangeRequires a specially designed frame
11.5% gap between gearsPrice**
SilentCranks (start-up problems)
No resistance 
Very smooth 
5 year warranty 

**Note: a price comparison of the 3 systems (Pinion, Rohloff and Derailler) is worth another article.

If you have any questions or remarks, please comment below!

Pinion P1.18 Review
The Pinion in the field
Pinion P1.18 Review
getting wet again!

Pinion P1.18 Review
Some singletracks for fun
Pinion P1.18 Review
Steep and rocky on the GDMBR

Very nice piece of technique, but not necessary

70%

Conclusion The way the gearbox itself performs is something we both got used to very easily and it definitely has advantages over the Rohloff hub: it’s silent and smooth, we feel no resistance in any gear, the steps are smaller and the range is wider. But the Pinion still has one start-up problem that needs improvement; the cranks. Would I prefer the Pinion over the Rohloff? If money was no object and with improved cranks I’d certainly say yes. Is it necessary? Not really. The Rohloff has been a loyal partner for more than 20.000 kilometers and we have been able to cycle anywhere we wanted in any condition. But the Pinion does have its advantages over the Rohloff. Is it worth the money? That’s totally up to you, I don’t know the value of money for you and that is something you have to decide for yourself.

Performance
85%
Durability
55%
Price - Quality
65%
Usability
75%

About The Author

Bicycle Junkies

World cyclists Elmar and Ellen. Born in the Netherlands and cycling the world since 2004.

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90 Comments on "Review: Pinion P1.18 Gearbox with Gates CDX Belt"

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Bart Linssen

Mooie vergelijking. Ik dacht alleen dat de roloff pas na 10.000 km of 1 jaar olie verversing nodig heeft.

Stephen Jones

Thanks for the review! Despite your cranking problems, I have great hope that they will overcome them soon enough.

Pa

Wat een uitgebreid technisch verhaal. Fantastisch.
Pa

Bart

Je hebt helemaal gelijk. Moet ik het toch vaker gaan doen 🙂

Richard

Specially designed frame? Irregular clicking? No matter how you try to honey it up those two things condemn this product to laughably inconceivable.

Peter de Visser

Verdraaid interessant verslag gelardeerd met technische gegevens.
Met genoegen gelezen.
Zeer opmerkelijk dat naast dit ingenieuze, high tech speeltje zoiets schijnbaar simpels als een cranck snel problemen oplevert.

Stephen Jones

If they don’t figure it out (and I’m pretty sure they will), there is still the Rohloff which, all said and done, is still a very good system.

Stephen Keller

I would really like to see that price comparison article for the three systems (derailleur, Rolhof and Pinion), especially if you could factor in on-going maintenance costs (chain/belt replacement, cog/cassette/chainring replacement, oil, etc.).

Wilfried

Hallo E+E,

Tikje (…) laat maar toch nog.

Kun je iets beter aangeven wat er aan die cranks mankeerde?

Het zijn delen die stilstaan t.o.v . andere delen dus dat “worn out” begrijp ik niet.
En de tanden waren het ook niet omdat je verder kon door ze versprongen te hermonteren.
Hebben ze een smal raakvlak op de trapas waardoor ze jouw trapkracht niet aankunnen en kantelen cq loswerken?

Ben benieuwd!
Groet en goede thuiskomst!

Wilfried

Mark

Hi, I just got a Tout Terrain Tanami Xplore and although I only have about 200 miles on it I’m really liking it. My previous bike had a Shimano Alfine 7 speed hub and personally I doubt I’ll ever buy another bike with a derailer. BTW, Tout Terrain sells a few “last year” models on their website. Even with shipping and import fees into the US I saved a bundle and love the bike.

Wilfried

Hoi E+E,

Het is nu duidelijk. jullie waren dus idd te sterk haha.

dit sterpatroon van de cranks is helaas en “uiteraard” uniek wat toch wel een nadeel is zo hier en daar op de wereld…

wilfried

Alastair

How did you find the gear spacing, I’ve been looking at the P18 v P12 and the P12 looks adequate for touring. With the even %age spaces I wonder if both the P18 and Rohloff are just too close together.

Also were you given any weight limitations? All I can glean from Pinion is a 110kg rider limit including backpack. Tout Terrain mention a 140kg limit including luggage. These seem quite conservative, particularly for a big guy on a long tour.

Mark

I’m not sure about a weight limit, I’m not a world traveler. I do find myself skipping gears up shifting and down. I commute with a lot of hills so I’m ok with the extra gears.

Mark

I only have about 350 miles on the bike so far. At about 300 one of the crank arms fell off while I was riding. I put it back on and it’s been ok. I contacted Tout Terrain and they basically said it was my fault for not checking if it was tight. Not happy about that, I don’t know who installed them. Other than that it’s been good. I got a great deal buying from TT but if I’d payed full price is be pretty pissed. Time will tell I guess.

Sciphot

Hello,
Dankjewel for your Instruktion Pinion Review! I’m at the moment having a custom made 12 speed Pinion constructed, a light travelling bike which I intend to ride long distances. I hope the crank problem is fixed! How did you change the oil on your long trips? Did you take oil along? And any special tools, for example a torque controlled wrench? Thanks for your help and GROETJES uit MÜNCHEN

Sciphot

Mark

Once a year or 10.000km is whats recommended for the oil, so for me, it’ll be once a year and I’ll do it at home LOL.I hope the crank problem is fixed also but in my case I think someone just messed up torquing the bolts. This year I have a 2 week, about 600 mile trip planned. If that goes well then maybe next year the I’d like to ride across the U.S.A. All the torque specs along with service videos are on the Pinion website.
Mark

Mark

So my crank fell off again at 450 miles. Guess I have to constantly check to see if it’s tight LOL. I’m contacting Tout Terrain and Pinion to see what they have to say

Stephen Jones

That’s a little disappointing. I had big hopes for that. I guess, if I do lean towards non-deraileur, I’ll be going Rohloff.

Mark

I feel like I’m kinda stuck now.Hoping to get new cranks from somebody.

Alastair

Many thanks for the previous reply and for having the best article on the Pinion I’ve been able to find. I was wondering if you knew of any other resources worth looking at in respect of the Pinion. Not the standard sort of review stuff as I’ve looked at them and none of them come close to this. But are there any really technical ones, maybe where they strip and rebuild, etc?

I’d also be interested in any forward looking technical info, as in ideas about where this style of bicycle gearing may head. Derailleur/Rohloff/Pinion/Alfine efficiency comparisons, how light could they make a BB gearbox? Is there a chance the Pinion bridge plate could become a standard like a traditional BB shell did?

Berthold

The online magazine fahrradzukunft.de has published data on efficiency, they show, that Rohloff is about 3 – 4 % better than pinion.

Mark

So an update on my Pinion cranks. I didn’t realize that there was a center shaft bolt that held the cranks on, which means that the 1st time it fell off the bolt was lost. After I put it back on it was just a matter of time till it fell off again. I sent a rather lengthy email to Tout Terrain and Pinion stating my unhappiness with them both. No one tried to figure out what happened, just “put it back on and tighten it”. Pinion is now sending me 2 new cranks with new bolts so I am happy about that. I think I have the forged cranks and I asked them to send me the CNC cranks so we’ll see.

Mark

so, just an update. Today I received 2 new cnc cranks and bolts from Pinion. Turns out my old ones were the forged.I’m awaiting some assembly paste and Loctite that Pinion recommends for installation. To Pinions credit, they sent me the cranks without hesitation and got them to me quickly. Hopefully this will end this and I’ll be able to get back to th riding my bike.

Joey

Hey thanks for posting this review. It’s difficult to find content like this on the Pinion system.
I’d like to know how people feel about use of the shifter:
1. Is it light action? Say, compared to the shifter on the Rohloff hub, how does it actually feel at the hand to shift?
2. I’ve noticed that the numbers on the shifter go right the way around the barrel, so to shift from 1st to 18th would require rotating the shifter almost 360 degrees which would take multiple twists of the wrist. Has anyone experienced this as an issue or is it quick enough to achieve a dramatic change in gearing?

Joey

Jan
Great article! For the first time, I’m planning to buy a worthy World Traveler (Santos), and I’m having a lot of trouble deciding between the Rohloff hub and the newer Pinion system. I’m leaning towards the Rohloff because it has proven itself countless times over, and the Pinion is more or less unknown territory for me. Price is also an option, here in The Netherlands a Pinion drive would cost exactly 1000 euros more than a Rohloff hub. I can spare the money, but only if I get a proven product. I also throw warranty in the mix. Here, the “unproven” Pinion went from 2 years warranty when it came out, to the current 5. This seems a lot compared to the 2 years of the Rohloff, BUT, here in The Netherlands, the importer for Rohloff guaranties LIFE LONG guaranty, if the oil in the hub is changed once a… Read more »
Pierce

Hi

So I am not alone. The creaking and clicking is starting to get to me. Just one more question for pinion p1.18 users, I have this on a tout terrain, nice bike, but no one ever seems to mention the delayed uptake click when starting from rest or when coasting starting to pedle again, there is a small gap between gear connect and drive connect. Is this everyone’s experience? I think I need to change cranks too. My left hand crank has literally fallen off twice (1) once becaus when I picked up the bike no crank centre bolt was in place the second time? Incredible that a bike can be designed that actually unscrews a crank centre bolt? What is wrong with a left handed thread.

Mark
I had one of my cranks fall off twice. After the 2nd time I realized that the center bolt was missing. I sent a detailed and not so nice letter to Pinion and TT and told them I wanted new cranks. Pinion didn’t blink and just wanted to know what size I had. I have had them on for a few hundred miles now and have had no problems. I think it originally was an assembly issue. Pinion now recommends using carbon/alloy assembly paste on the cranks on the crank spline and LocTite on the bolts. I did that with my new cranks and so far so good.I have about 900 miles on mine now and it is starting to loosen up nicely.I can shift between several gears at a time which can be useful on hills.I agree there is sometimes a gap when shifting gears but I’m getting used… Read more »
Pierce

Yes have contacted seller and will contact pinion directly. Because these bikes and gear system are still rare in UK it is difficult to find anyone else to discuss these concerns. You start to become a bit neurotic about ‘am i paying too much attention to the noise?’ ‘maybe its supposed to do that?’ It is like reading an agony aunt page and realising you are not the only one. Looking forward to a happier future now …. assuming the cranks do the job. Thanks again for the ‘lived experience’ with the pinion.

Ben Nichols

Very interesting review thanks. Nice that you rode it lots before writing. I have ridden rohloff and it is certainly nicer than derailleur, but I think that both Rohloff and Pinion are solutions to a non-existent problem. Even regular Deore transmission will give years of good service, all the bits are cheap and widely available. The main advantage of Rohloff and Pinion is that you do not need a dished rear wheel, but Rohloff rather mitigate this by not selling a 36 spoke hub. I guess that is one up for Pinion. Me I am sticking with the cheap stuff I can fix and replace completely myself!

Volker

Hallo Jan and greetings from sicily. I just bike here from Munich, 2000km. A great tour! I used a Pinion 1.12 with a cdx belt on a bike that was built for me. I LOVE the Pinion (and yes, I also had problems with the cranks). BUT the real issue is the Hub. I use a cassette Hub with spacers. No good… I need a singlespeed in silver without the attachments for disc brakes. And not crazy noisy… The perfekt Pinion Hub! Do you have an idea? Would be great to hear from you!
VOLKER

Pierce

Cranks arrived today. So hope this helps. Will let you know.

Clint

Thanks for the review. Thinking of a long-distance titanium bike with either Ultegra triple chain rings and Ultegra rear derailleur, or belt drive with Rohloff hub, or belt vs chain drive with Pinion transmission. Guess I will wait for someone to do the 3-way comparison you talked about. My question is whether you know of a Pinion distributor or frame builder who would incorporate the Pinion transmission in the U.S.?

Shane

Viral bikes is starting to make bikes with the pinion system in the USA. I’m looking into getting one. The website is viral.bike

Michael
Hi Ben This is not about non-existent problems! I’ve been riding my pinion bike for one year on tours, for grocery shopping and weekend joyrides in the woods and country. In mud and snow with an outside temperature at around freezing point, when the space between the rear sprockets of derailleur systems quickly clogs up, Pinion just pulls through unimpressed even when the chain tensioner is frozen fixed in its position. Being able to change gears quickly at traffic lights while standing or when the bike is heavily loaded on tours is not an issue. The low gears of the P1.18 give you a real advantage over derailleur systems on tours with plenty of luggage and inclines of more than 15%. The higher system weight is easily compensated. Since cleaning the drive train is done so quickly I am less reluctant cleaning the bike, which leads to an even better… Read more »
Barry
I’ve had my Pinion 1.12 on a made-to-measure Titanium frame MTB for just over two months now (MSG Bikes in Lancing, Sussex did the build). I had the (650B) wheels built up using the Hope singlespeed rear hub, which works extremely well with the Gates carbon drive I specified. It’s been a miserable wet late Spring and early Summer here in the UK, so I’ve been shipping a lot of water and mud without any problems. The weight differential of the Pinion box means the bike isn’t superlight, but it handles extremely well, with the gearbox weight nicely centered. A huge advantage on an MTB is the ability to change to/from any gear rapidly on encountering unexpected gradient changes – no more crashing cogs and chain drops, and no more bent rear mechs from hitting rocks and stumps. The only issue I’ve experienced is some loss of tension in the… Read more »
William

Nice to read you review. I too have graunching cranks. Furthermore my gears occasionally drop out with a loud report like a pistol shot. It only happens pedalling up long steep hills. Pinion have dismissed the graunching as a wrongly tensioned belt. I think they’re mistaken. They haven’t answered my request for advice about the gears dropping out. But they’ve asked me to get my dealer to send them back the whole thing because it’s leaking oil.
I’ve only had it three months. I’m very pleased with it – or I would be – but for the problems. I’m just hoping their customer service lives up to their product profile!

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