What's Bike of the Month, you say? It's like Bike of the Day, but more. And less - there's one BOM for every 30 BOD's, on average. Geddit? That's right, in 2017 we'll be highlighting the raddest build of each month, chosen from the sick sleds selected for Bike of the Day. And to start us off, fresh tech that has us so excited we're loosing sleep over it here at Vital. No, we're not talking Plus or Boost or 12 gears or metric. We're talking gearboxes. Some say they're the future, others say the future is now - and one of those people is Vital member sideshow, proud owner of this rad Zerode Taniwha , your Vital Bike of the Month January 2017!

Hello Vital and all the wild riders of the community!

Thanks for dropping in to check out my new pride and joy which has been awarded "Bike of the Month"!

Without further delay, here's a little peek into my world:

Age: 26.87 (March birthday)

Where do you live? Keene, NH, USA

Favorite local trail to ride? We have a couple networks of trails around the region, but my favorite is the original (and still growing) Drummer Hill recreation area. It's where I grew up riding XC, and later built hike-a-bike sections for "practicing" my DH riding. Now, with trail bikes in their prime, the ability to connect up big loops with a variety of trails has breathed new life into our groups rides and the trails themselves. In my mind, it's still some of the best riding in the US, and it's pretty interesting that it still compares strongly to notable international trails.

Tell us about how and why you ended up picking the Zerode Taniwha? Hold on tight, we're going for a ride here: back in March of 2016, I was asked to compete in the Deep Summer Photo Challenge in Rotorua while I was in New Zealand for their summer. During the event, through a friend, I ended up staying with Rob Metz, the brilliant mind behind Zerode. I have been a huge fan of this work for years, and in a "fan boy" way it was a little surreal initially to be staying at the company HQ. Through the week we got talking about bikes (big surprise), and spoke at length about the Taniwha, as he was officially unveiling it at the Crankworx event. One morning over breakfast, I asked what I thought was an innocuous question about suspension or something, and before I knew it, Rob went into full DeVinci mode grabbing scrap paper and a pen, wildly drawing out what he was explaining. I actually understood what he was telling me, and that's when I knew the trail bike was going to be a game changer, just like the G2 DH bike (ask me about that one next!). So, that morning lingered on my mind a long time, and it all came home to roost one afternoon in Morzine, France 3.5 months later: My first run, of my first day on my own bike all summer, and I ripped my derailleur off. And then ripped off my hanger 36 hours later. I emailed Rob that night about getting a Taniwha. For me, at this point in my "riding career", I want a bike that needs minimal maintenance, is reliable, and functions well. The Taniwha has a hermetically sealed gearbox, a chain that never has excessive force being applied to it, and a suspension design created for shredding. I've only given it a "parking lot shakedown", but so far, it feels incredibly comfortable and ready to send!

How did you go about selecting parts for the build? I am very particular about how my bikes are spec'd out. After racing for a decade, I expect a certain "feel" in the contact points, and suspension that does exactly what I want it to do. With the seat, I wanted the ideal adventure saddle, and the Cromag Trailmaster LTD is one of the best. It's like a leather chair, but for your bike. Headset is Chris King, and I shouldn't have to explain why. Grips are the ever-popular Longneck slip-ons (wire-tied to the bars). I don't like the play that lock-ons develop, and with slip-on grips, if they get loose, just rewire them. The Renthal cockpit has been a go-to since they first hit the MTB market, I just like the bar geo and went with the matching stem for kicks. The anchors are 203mm Saints because I weigh 215lbs/97.5kgs without bike kit, and I slow down about as well as a freight train. Wheels are DT 471s, and that's based on durability and weight - this is my first 27.5 bike, so I went with what seems to be prevalent on privateer race bikes. Tires are Schwalbe Magic Mary's front and rear for big mountain riding, and I think we all know how sick those tires are for shredding the hell out any trail (I have a Nobby Nic in back right now because the local trails don't really call for that sort of full-on tread all the time). All the suspension (and dropper post) is Fox. I've been running their parts since Day 1, and that's that - stiff and adjustable are important factors for me. I also got a S.A.R. spring for the DHX2 in back because Dave Garland is onto something with those! And yes, I went with coil in the back, because air is light, but coil has the true performance characteristics I want (the 36 RC2 up front complements that well). Lastly, the things I stand on are DMR Vaults. I ride flats, because I'm not a kook, and the big ol' platforms are much appreciated.

Notable with this whole build: these are not boutique bits and pieces, so when I'm traveling the hope is that parts can be sourced reasonably easily. This was a problem last summer. I also wanted to make sure all of these parts are ones I can service myself if need, without hassle.

What are you most stoked about on the bike? I am most pumped on the suspension design and geometry.

What are you LEAST stoked about? I am not stoked it is just sitting in the basement right now with no where to ride it.

How does that gearbox transmission compare to a regular drivetrain? This is going to separate the crowd. There are trade-offs with everything, and I've chosen to take the route of reliability and low-maintenance. What it has that a normal drivetrain does not is a load of friction. Bear in mind I've only ridden this bike 3 miles around my neighborhood, but it's noticeable. Those who count Watts are going to be annoyed. But, I'm curious to see how this actually translates on the trail, as road riding is a lot different to trail riding in terms of feel and pedaling efficiency. I'll gripe for a moment more, and say that the degrees of engagement in the pawls of the gearbox are too few, and will likely take a while to adjust to - again, not a deal breaker, just a difference, and one I find annoying currently. An interesting point of note is that the Pinion gearbox has a torque threshold clutch thing, where it physically won't shift under load. It's like how with a chain drive, you need to feather your pedaling so you don't mash gears - but with the gearbox, that threshold is much much higher, so it starts to make sense to pre-shift a climb, rather than try to change up mid-climb. The action of the grip shift is good though, and immediately intuitive. All that needs learning is the ratio from gear to gear, and to anticipate gear changes under power. The upside of the gearbox though, isn't just how it functions, but rather that it keeps the weight low and in the middle of the bike. The rear wheel is lighter for it, so there is less unsprung mass for the shock to work with, and thus the suspension works better on a whole. Not having a cassette and varying chain tension also helps maintain a consistent leverage ratio, so the suspension kinematics don't change in relation to gear selection i.e. the "My bike feels better chainless" effect. So my watts might not translate as fluidly to the back wheel, but at the end of the day that just means I'll get stronger to overcome the power loss, and riding in variable conditions will be a lot more fun because I will have less to clean.

Is this your only bike? No...hahaha! I have a Zerode G2 DH bike I bought while I was in Queenstown, NZ last year after wanting one for about 5 years. Also, new to the quiver for this winter is a Specialized Fatboy fatbike, and that's been a revelation - so much fun, and keeping me sane in these winter months.

What bike did this replace / What bike were you on before this? The Taniwha is replacing a Yeti SB66 '14 which has seen 5 straight summers of abuse. It's held on for all the miles of insane riding in NZ, France, Austria, and here at home. But, it was time to get current with the standards for the sake of finding parts, that and I actually think 27.5 is faster after having ridden enough borrowed bikes last summer and then getting back on 26. Times and tech change, gotta keep up!

How long do you plan on riding this bike? I'm not the kind of person who buys and sells bikes each season, so this is my new trail bike. Period. Hahaha!

If you could get another new bike (any kind/type) right now, what would you get? I honestly really want a 130mm trail/XC bike. The riding here at home isn't too big, and a faster pedaling bike that climbs would be perfect. I'm actually in solid shape for the first time in forever, so I'm really enjoying smashing climbs and rolling trails.

Thanks for having me on for a chat about bikes!


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36 comments
  • adrennan

    2/3/2017 6:45 AM

    i love it. everything about it (ok like others the grip shift oddly bugs me, but i can deal). the build kit is out of control. you talk about the suspension design being one of the best things about it. it looks like a pretty standard single pivot or am i missing something?

  • sideshow

    2/6/2017 9:04 AM

    Bear with me, I'm no engineer, but this is my best understanding of it and I added in links to youtube explanations from that rad engineering guy:

    The single chain line (no cassette) means that the suspension is never affected by the gear selection (the "My bike feels better chainless effect I alluded to in my write up). This addresses the "anti squat" principle of suspension design. Coupled with a lighter rear end [no cassette or derailleur], the unsprung mass is reduced, meaning the force it takes to move the wheel out of the way/engage the shock is less, thus making it more sensitive to the undulating terrain i.e. the rear end tracks the ground better.
    The really interesting piece of design has to do with the "instant center" of the bike, and how it remains incredibly central through the progression of the travel. I cannot explain that well though, as Rob explained it to be only one (in amazing detail), and I don't want to incorrectly address it, so here is this instead. You're correct in saying that it's a single pivot, based on the relationship of the axle to the main pivot, but link driven single pivot bikes can have a host of characteristics built into them via the links and their placements. I hope that helps, and if someone has something to add or correct, go for it - it's Monday and I'm in the clouds after being away for the weekend.

  • lister_yu

    2/2/2017 10:44 PM

    sick bike - love it and honestly the weight is not that important.
    I did not have any clue what the weight of my bike was until a friend wanted to know and it felt 2kg heavier when pedaling uphill afterwards.

    Maybe you could do a long term review after 6 months and again after 12 months as it would be very interesting to see/hear on how the bike holds up. Have fun riding!

  • sideshow

    2/6/2017 8:46 AM

    There is a plan to do just that actually - stay tuned!

  • zoso

    2/2/2017 9:04 PM

    How has no one asked yet?

    Weight please.

  • sideshow

    2/11/2017 9:41 PM

    Update: 36lbs or 16.86kgs
    Bear in mind I weight between 215-218lbs or ~98kgs, so to me, this doesn't matter.
    Inertia is your friend when riding, and I've got alllll of it! hahaha
  • sideshow

    2/2/2017 9:16 PM

    I have no idea. If I weigh it, I'll let you know. My best guess is 34-35lbs. I weight a lot though and have no issue with pushing a bigger bike, and it helps that the 12spd gearbox has a ridiculously easy high gear...you could climb a wall with it. Stay tuned!

  • big bear

    2/2/2017 9:01 PM

    I could never get used to grip shift.

    If a "pull" of the cable is needed in both directions, would left and right trigger shifter thumb paddles work if geared correctly?

  • sideshow

    2/2/2017 9:13 PM

    I mulled this over one day. Having zero engineering background or anything remotely akin to design prowess, I'll say this: I think it can be done, but because of how much wire is spooled in the grip shift (and thus the distance the wire needs to travel per shift), the problem may have more to do with the size of theoretical shifter. Just a guess. If Pinion makes one, I'll be one of the first in line for it. With that said, I don't mind the grift shift, and I'm curious to see how it all shakes down on the trail.

  • pedrosalas7

    2/2/2017 9:37 PM

    The issue with doing this is that the cable pull ratios (that is the amount of cable that's pulled with each shift) of the gripshift and the trigger shifter must match for it to function properly, and that generally isn't case between diferent companies.

  • F1234K

    2/2/2017 1:39 PM

    Nice bike! You have some pleasant surprises waiting for you when the snow melts...

  • MTBrent

    2/2/2017 12:43 PM

    I live in Henniker, hope to cross paths on the trails to see this beaut in person!

  • sideshow

    2/2/2017 8:07 PM

    Perhaps so, I'll be hard to miss!

  • onenerdykid*

    2/3/2017 5:21 AM

    Truth
    (edited: I had a little heart icon planned, but it didn't make it)

  • shimstack

    2/2/2017 12:37 PM

    Awesome bike!

    I really appreciate the honesty about the gearbox drag, no shifting under load, and low engagement points. This stuff rarely comes up in the magical internet gearbox world where so many think these are the magic bullet. It sounds like a good solution for someone who wants a tough, low maintenance rig.

  • sideshow

    2/2/2017 8:07 PM

    I think candor is important around this subject, as the gearbox isn't a "cure-all", but rather as you pointed out a different approach to a drivetrain to meet a different set of rider requirements.

  • F1234K

    2/3/2017 1:38 PM

    I think it is important to try it in real world conditions. I honestly don't notice the drag on the trail and the engagement, I agree is terrible, doesn't come into play either (I do have an i9 hub which I think is important - having a low engagement hub would probably result in a poorer experience).

    I obviously came from a normal drive train before this (XX1) so its not like I don't know what that felt like, and I have swapped bikes with friends on the trails since I've gotten the Taniwha. They agree the way it pedals and transfers power into motion is simply better regardless of the above mentioned car park flaws. In the end, real world experience is what matters.

    To me this means 2 things:
    1. the current gearbox solution is already a better experience in many ways to other options
    2. there is room for improvement to make it even better going forward and hopefully Pinion are on top of that.

  • sideshow

    2/6/2017 9:07 AM

    Encouraging to hear that! I was hoping this was the case. Being snowed in here in the North East hasn't been conducive for actually getting to experience this bike properly. I was only writing about initial impressions, and I am thrill to hear from someone with time on the bike that what I describe was of little to no concern out on the trail. Hope you're shredding a few extra corners for us still surrounded by snow!

  • killerisation

    2/2/2017 12:18 PM

    "The Taniwha is replacing a Yeti SB66 '14 which has seen 5 straight summers of abuse."
    Why did no-one tell me it was 2019 already?!

  • mbikes1

    2/2/2017 12:42 PM

    "NZ, France, Austria, and here at home" sounds like he has been living the dream and following the seasons for the last 3 years.

  • sideshow

    2/2/2017 10:31 AM

    Happy to field any questions from the audience if any queries arise.

  • Whattheheel

    2/2/2017 12:14 PM

    I am curious if your brake pads are wearing wrong. It looks like the brake caliper is spacered up too high? Love the bike tho! Nice work!

  • blacksim549

    2/2/2017 7:32 PM

    I also noticed this.

  • sideshow

    2/2/2017 8:03 PM

    Good eye. Somehow, among many boxes of parts, I didn't have the right ones (I thought I did). So, those are avids as stand-in because I was getting impatient and wanted to take the bike for a spin. I now have the correct shimano mounts, and all is well!

  • Whattheheel

    2/3/2017 10:53 AM

    I should prolly be doing work at the bike shop but it's winter so I had some free time to drool on the taniwha and noticed it.

  • chrisingrassia

    2/2/2017 7:59 AM

    Price tag on this bike?

  • sideshow

    2/2/2017 10:31 AM

    I prefer to look at how much money I saved: I built the wheels, $400. Brakes from CRC, $200. Local shop hookup on tires, $80. Found a deal on the seat online, $30. The gearbox, shifter, seat collar, and rear hub came with the frame too, so that was a nice bit of kit I didn't have to source!

    You pay to play when it comes to this sport, and the numbers for the other components are listed online if you'd like to crunch the numbers. I'm just not a fan of talking money, I find it a little tacky, nothing personal.

  • chrisingrassia

    2/2/2017 10:40 AM

    I'm asking because I also build all my own rigs from ground up. What does frame set alone run? I have no clue, nowhere to be found in the US.


    It's not tacky, it's insightful for a prospective builder. My Nomad and HDR and Capra are in the $15k vicinity total, obviously I don't need to be lectured on "pay to play". Good quality ish is worth it.


    I also like how right above me you say "happy to field any questions!" and then refuse to answer my question =/

  • sideshow

    2/2/2017 12:14 PM

    Ok, a little googling goes a long way here, and I said it was nothing personal, that was from my end, not passing judgment. Not trying to bicker here, I gave you the answer I was comfortable with, I have not tallied the cost of this bike, being that it's piecemeal and the build took 7 months; the cost has been spread out. All I know is that in total it has probably exceeded my credit limit and I couldn't have bought this outright.

    http://www.zerodebikes.com/page/enduro/
    http://www.zerodebikes.com/page/taniwha-pre-order/, download the PDF for pricing, there are multiple options.

    All of the other parts are hit or miss on price, and it took me hours of research and patience to find what I needed and waiting for out of stock to come back into stock.

    Happy building.

  • dan.wojo

    2/5/2017 1:44 AM

    For me, right after its built I choose to 'forget' the cost as well.

    Every build is different, there are so many variables that the total cost of this is not important. As you rightly said, a ballpark figure can be easily worked out for someone eager to replicate or build something similar for themselves.

    Sweet build. I'm planning one too as soon as the XL is released. I'm also coming of a 26er.

  • ianjenn

    2/2/2017 3:59 PM

    Here is the link to the USA distributor.

    https://www.zerodeusa.com/zerode-taniwha-frame/

  • chrisingrassia

    2/3/2017 2:32 PM

    just what I was looking for thanks

  • ianjenn

    2/3/2017 4:02 PM

    Yeah I am expecting mine next week. I am in San Luis Obispo if you ever wanted to see one in person.

  • LivinFreerider

    2/2/2017 7:14 AM

    Well deserved. Bash it like you mean it

  • sideshow

    2/2/2017 10:23 AM

    Thanks! I certainly plan on it!