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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