Pinion P1.12 12-speed gearbox first ride review

Internal gearing takes a step forward

While the promise of gearboxes has been on the horizon for seemingly forever, Pinion has taken one realistic step closer to this becoming reality with its frame-mounted P1.12. Sitting between the cranks, it claims a huge gear range, less maintenance and better efficiency than any internally geared system before it.

No longer just for singlespeeds, the Pinion gearbox opens up gearing for belt drive fans
No longer just for singlespeeds, the Pinion gearbox opens up gearing for belt drive fans

Pinion offers a range of gearboxes, two 9-speed versions, a 12-speed version, and a massive 18-speed internal gearbox. I tested the 12-speed version powered by a Gates Carbon belt drive on a Reeb Cycles 27.5+ hardtail. 

Pinion P1.12 gearbox spec overview

  • 12-speeds
  • 17.7% spacing between gears
  • 600% overall ratio
  • Gearbox weight: 2,350g
  • Q-factor: 174mm
  • Made in Germany

The 12-speed gearbox has a 600% range, that's more than SRAM's Eagle
The 12-speed gearbox has a 600% range, that's more than SRAM's Eagle

Pinion P1.12 gearbox ride impression

The Pinion requires a unique frame, and the frame connection is called the "Pinion Standard" — thankfully all of Pinions gearboxes use the same standard.

As far as placement on the bike, I think it's ideal. The weight is between the cranks, centered and low. Gear changes happen via a Pinion rotary shifter (think gripshift), with two cables exiting and working their way down the down tube to the gearbox.

Overall, the gearbox system is clean and relatively small. It doesn't interrupt the lines of the bike too much. 

Gearing can be further customized with the belt's cogs
Gearing can be further customized with the belt's cogs

Riding the gearbox

I've ridden a few gearboxes and typically have come away wishing for less noise, less drag and a better shifter. On my first ride with the Pinion in the harsh, rocky desert, it was noticeable right away that the system was quiet. It was also definitely more drag-free than other internal gear boxes, such as a Rohloff or Nuvinci. 

A right-hand gripshift handles the 12 gears
A right-hand gripshift handles the 12 gears

Onto the shifter. While better than other internal drivetrain's gear changers, the Pinion rotary shifter isn't as refined or intuitive as I've come to expect from Shimano and SRAM.

The big learning curve with the Pinion system is that you have to pause pedaling when shifting, especially when going to easier gears. It's not as reluctant to shift into harder gears, but it is different compared with Shimano or SRAM where you can simply keep on the gas and grab gears simultaneously.   

However, by the middle of the ride, I was adjusting and even found it was a very strong reminder to keep looking up, to be reading the terrain ahead and preparing before you get to elevation changes. You know what I'm saying, basically how to ride properly.

It is worth noting that you can grab or dump all the gears at once, in a full twist and that it's faster than any trigger when swapping from one end of the gear range to the other. 

The gearbox was attached to a Colorado-born Reeb steel 27.5+ hardtail
The gearbox was attached to a Colorado-born Reeb steel 27.5+ hardtail

Speaking of gears, the range for this 12-speed gearbox is a whopping 600%. That's more than SRAM Eagle 12-speed (500%) and in my opinion way more than adequate.

The spacing between the gears is equal at 17.7% per shift. Shifting into the lowest (easiest) gear it almost felt like the belt had come off, that is until my speed slowed enough for the gearing to catch up. From there, I slowly winched my way up a steep hill. If that range isn't enough, the gearing can be further customized through the cogs on the belt drive. 

Pinion P1.12 gearbox vs. the competition

Internally geared drivetrains are typically rear hub mounted. This places a lot of weight in the rear of the bike and often compromises the ride. But hub mounting allows use with regular frames, whereas the Pinion requires a unique frame.

That uniqueness and being centrally mounted are the main differentiating factors. The other major differences are the Pinion's shifting quality is noticeably smoother, quieter and has less drag. Has Pinion perfected internal gearing? Not in my opinion, but they are on the right path.

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 6'3"/190cm
  • Weight: 175lb/79kg
  • Waist: 34in/86cm
  • Chest: 42in / 107cm
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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