Review: Pinion P1.18 Gear System

When I was looking for a touring bike, I thought about what I didn’t want before I wondered what I did want. I did not want a 2 or 3 gear chainring. I didn’t want a Rohloff Speed Hub or a Shimano internally geared rear hub. So that left me with a 1x or a Pinion. If I went with 1×11 or 1×12, we would talk about mountain bikes or custom gravel bikes. I wanted a simple solution with more features than just a big rear gear and could accommodate touring with panniers.

The Pinion P1.18 hub is a marvel of engineering. It has a series of gears set into a sealed housing and resembles a car’s automatic transmission. There is no maintenance beyond changing the internal lubrication once a year. I have ridden about 3000km so far and haven’t changed anything. It feels and sounds exactly like the day it arrived from Poison Bikes.

You can see from the pictures that the gearing system is paired with a Gates carbon belt drive. The belt doesn’t flex or stretch, and to clean it, spray it with some water. No lubrication or messy grease is necessary. It does take a little while to get used to riding this kind of system. The feeling under your feet is different from a regular bike. It feels like you’re moving a complex machine, that a lot is going on under your pedals. The feeling of motion goes away after a bit, and you’re left with instant power or instant gear changes.

Many other reviews will give a more detailed view of the technology and the inner workings, so I will not cover that here. The Pinion was an excellent choice for me and some of the tours we do with panniers and a heavier load. One of my favorite and always upbeat YouTubers, Ryan van Duzer rides a Pinion system. He has several videos on his experiences – and he has hammered that thing to death on long, grueling trips.

There are some downsides, however. The system needs a special frame and you would need to be fairly technical to build your own if you could even get the parts. I have plans to get a mountain bike frame with a Pinion format, but it’s hard to find the right version and size, not to mention I’d have to dismantle my trekking bike. The P1.18 weighs more than a comparable gearing system from Shimano or SRAM, so if you’re a weight weenie, the Pinion is a pass for you. Also, the cost is more and you are locked into that ecosystem. No mixing and matching shifters or chainrings, you got what you got. Lastly, it’s not drop-bar friendly. Cinq makes a silly-looking, and incredibly expensive STI-like shifting system for road bikes, but it’s perpetually unavailable and looks like it would be a hassle to install.

Overall the Pinion P1.18 has been a good choice for the kind of tour we do with a trekking bike. Sometimes we go lighter with a bikepacking setup or medium with a couple of small panniers on a mountain bike, but for a fully packed bike, the Pinion is a dream. If you’re in Europe, have a look at Poison Bikes. They will custom-build your bike to any size and specs you want. The service is excellent, and the quality is outstanding.

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