Initial thoughts on Pinion Gearboxes

sklar custom pinion gearbox bike

The Pinion Gearboxes have been around for a long while now but their popularity in Europe is just now starting to break its way into the US bike scene. Last Fall Sklar Bikes started receiving orders for frames built with the mounting system for these gearboxes and as someone who had eyed them for years, with only a little riding experience, I was pretty excited. Being that Sklar builds all custom bikes, it feels great to offer something that is really special and harder to get. These frames have mostly seen use as commuters, “bikepacking bikes” and everyday trail bikes for customers who are maybe less maintenance-inclined or just intrigued by this neat system. So far all of those customers have been psyched on their bikes and I am happy to build with pinion, though there are certainly pluses and minuses that come with it.  At the end of the day, it is pretty easy to overthink a bike, but of course overthinking bikes is my job and so what follows are my thoughts on Pinion from the perspective of someone who builds bike frames for a living and also spends a whole lot of time riding them.

I will start with the things that I like about Pinion.

Range - The first time I hopped on a 12 speed pinion bike I was pleasantly surprised by the range of gearing. The 12 speed gearbox boasts 100% more range than an Eagle cassette and it feels like it too. This part is really impressive

Simplicity - if you are like me, derailleur cages get smashed, sticks get tossed into cages. None of that to happen with Pinion and that is pretty cool. No derailleur dangling off the back is nice aesthetically, though I wouldn’t choose the gearbox if vanity was number one.

Setup and Maintenance - getting these gearboxes setup is surprisingly easy and pain free, which I was relieved to find out after some headbanging experinces with Rohloff and the like in the past.

There are though, a number of things that I’m not 100%  excited about with pinion

Weight - While the Pinion system is still drastically better than an internal hub because of its’ placement on the bike, at the end of the day it is still heavy. I’ll be the first to tell you that weight is one of the least important characteristics of a bike, but any time it is concentrated in one place, it is going to change the way a bike rides. Is it bad? I’m not sure, but definitely different.

Chainstay length - A number of builders are using their own mounting brackets for Pinion gearboxes and if Pinion continues to be a popular option I am going to have to go that route too. Pinion’s cast steel bracket is nice, but due to it’s design a frame can only be built with realllllly long chainstays. I am talking minimum of 460mm on a 29er - that is long. To spend so much time and effort designing a drivetrain system and entirely overlook something as important as how the bike will handle is crazy and frustrating to me. A lot of folks are using these for touring bikes where long chainstays are fine, but to put a gearbox to use on a bike that will see everyday offroad use is really tricky.

Gripshift - word on the street is that a thumb shifter option is on the way, but for now gripshift is the only option. Gripshift is not for me.

Cost - not the most approachable

So will you see a gearbox on my next bike? Ahhhhhh, maybe… I am still up in the air to be honest. As the spring rush slows down and I have some more time on my hands I reckon I will sit down at the computer and CAD up my own mounting system, at which point I suppose I’ll have to give it a shot.

pinion gearbox bikepacking frame
sklar pinion gearbox commuter bike.jpg

Lost and Found Gravel Race - Raffle to Benefit Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship

I first encountered the Sierra Buttes Trail stewardship when I attended the first Grinduro race back in 2015. I was immediately impressed by what this small trail organization was able to create - A solid community helping to build world class trails throughout one of the coolest regions in the US. Fast forward a few years and a few more trips to Northern California for SBTS events to where we are now. This past spring a few framebuilders - Sklar, Mosaic, Stinner and Mcgovern cycles decided to get together and do something exciting to benefit the trail stewardship. Enve Composites, Chris King Components, SRAM and WTB also stepped up to donate parts for these world-class bikes. 

The chance to win one of these beautiful handmade bicycles is now yours! Enter the raffle Here:

Remember that all of the raffle money goes to support trails and you are able to write off your ticket purchases as a donation to a 501c3 non-profit.

About The Sklar up for Raffle 

Win this Sklar All road!

Built with the same precision and attention to detail as any Custom Sklar frame, this bike is ready to handle it all. Ample clearance means you can run a 700 x 42c tire or 650 x47.

The "58" cm frame would be ideal for someone in the 5'10-6'2" range. The geometry errs more on the road bike side of things, so this bike is perfect for long days on gravel, like the Lost & Found gravel race for example, but is fast, fun and snappy on single track too.

The build is as nice as they come. Chris King bearings, Enve cockpit and seatpost and Enve's brand new, yet to be release G23 rims (I have gotten to test out a pair the past few days and they are so nice). This bike is as nice as they come and I'm looking forward to sending it off to one lucky winner.

Sklar All-road | A steel all arounder for gravel and more

Gravel grinders and All-road bikes are hot these days! These buzzword-laden names describe a type of bike that is, at the end of the day, a really versatile and fun bike. As I have described before, some of these bikes lean towards a "mountain bike with drop bars" while others are more of the "road bike with big tire clearance" category. This bike is closer to the latter. Road bike-ish geometry with clearance for a 700x45c or 27.5x2" tire. When I say road bike-ish I mean that the fit is similar to what you may see on a road bike, though the head tube is slightly taller and the stem just a touch shorter with an ever so slightly longer top tube. These very slight changes keep handling snappy and fun, but a lot nicer on the descents. A few mm of added bottom bracket height also helps with pedal strike off road while keeping the handling fun on roads paved or not. This bike uses super lightweight steel for a light and responsive ride. 

All that stuff is cool. But what does it actually mean?

What it means is that this bike is really fun for leaving your front door and seeing where the day takes you. It's good for that early season lunch ride where you plan on riding road, but you notice that a new trail has dried out. It's perfect for keeping up with your friends on road bikes when you want to, or hanging with friends on light trails too. It is also going to be fun (probably type 2) when I ride it 100 miles at the Lost and Found gravel ride in a few weeks.

If I could only have one bike, this would be it, and I can't wait to put more miles on it because this one is mine!

Lear more about Sklar All road and Monstercross bikes here



Billy's Ultra-Commuter, tourer, do-it-all bike

Billy lives in Portland where it's always nice to ride a bike. Whether it is a sunny summer day, or one of the other 360 days of the year. I kid! But really, Portland is a great city to bike commute and to recreate in, so we created this really special ride.

Though I may consider this a gravel bike, it has some serious influence from the randoneuring world. A higher handlebar height adds comfort for quick trips to the coffee shop or artisinal pencil sharpening store. This will also help with some of the off-pavé riding that Billy plans on doing when he loads this thing up for a weekend bikepacking trip or a spontaneous adventure ride.

The frame features a double top-tube. Homage to Bennedict's UltraNutmegger.

The custom fork features some nice NOS TrueTemper blades and clean mounts for the custom front rack that integrates seamlessly with a Wald basket. Basket packing is very hot in Portland these days.

Anyhow, this bike was great fun to build and I am happy to see it being ridden around!

Learn more about Sklar Gravel, commuter and all bikes drop bar here

Mark's 29+ Single Speed

It is exciting to get to know folks through building bikes, and Mark is one who I have gotten to know pretty well. This is the third Sklar headed to his household down in Durango, CO and I could not be more excited. Mark has been romping around on my old 29+ singlespeed for the past few years but he was ready to trade it in for something fresh.

This is what we came up with. A little more "modern" XC geometry. Something Mark can shred around Durango every day. It is set up dedicated Singlespeed with Paragon Machineworks sliding dropouts, a PAUL SS hub and White industries freewheel - old school!

If Mark ever decided to put on some gears though, the frame has routing for a rear derailleur and it is as simple as swaping out the drive side slider. So easy!

I am excited for Mark to get out on this bike, I know that he rides a lot and I know that he rides well. I am hoping to make it down to Durango at some point and see it there in its natural habitat.

Read more about Sklar custom Mountain bikes here

Brandon's Custom Steel Gravel Grinder - Monstercross

I went to engineering school with Brandon up at Montana State, so it was cool to hear from him about having a frame built this past fall. Brandon now lives in Oklahoma and was wanting a bike to get out on the awesome gravel roads and paths and sometimes singletrack that he rides there.

We designed this bike with all day comfort and handling in mind, but keeping it fun and capable when single track needs to be shredded.

The frame uses a combination of Colombus and Vari-wall steel for a nice light build. Brandon decided to deck the bike out in very nice parts like the White Industries Crank set, Enve post and bar and Chris King bearings all around.

As pictured the bike is set up with 700x45c tires, but it will also clear a 27.5 x 2.1" tire.

I love the Matte blue and orange color on here as well. Matte powder with a paint matched fork.

This should be a great bike for Brandon and I can't wait for him to get it out on the road. I have to say I am a little jealous myself!

Learn more about Sklar Gravel Grinder and Monstercross bikes here.