We don't often have our 'own' bikes here at Pure Mountains, as our guide bikes are usually 'loaners' from the company providing the hire fleet.
In 2020, with more time on his hands thanks to COVID, guide Tim had an opportunity to think about something different.
He wanted a super-capable trail bike for guiding, but also one that could handle the occasional enduro race. As Spanish enduro events tend to be on the scary side of gnarly, a 29er with 160mm of travel seemed a good fit.
However, he wanted something else as well...
Was it possible to have the perfect trail / enduro bike with a... gearbox? Are gearboxes compatible with modern mountain bikes and big mountain terrain?
It was time to find out. Tim discovered Zerode bikes, based in New Zealand, who provide modern trail and enduro bikes fitted with the Pinion gearbox system.
After a very long and winding journey from Rotorua to the mountains of southern Spain, the Zerode Katipo frame arrived and Tim set about building his derailleur-free dream bike.
The build spec was as follows:
- Zerode Katipo frame.160mm.
- Pinion C. 9 speed. Gates Carbon Drive.
- Fox DHX2 rear shock.
- Fox 36 Factory fork.
- Sixth Element Enduro Race wheels.
- Industry Nine hubs.
- Vecnum Vivo 185mm dropper post.
- Sram Code brakes, Formula rotors.
- Extralite stem.
- Syncros bars and Race Face grips.
- Schwalbe / Wolfpack tyres.
- Cushcore inserts.
After a few days of riding the bike, here are Tim's first impressions:
It's silent. Whilst pedalling, freewheeling or heading downhill, all you can hear are the tyres on the dust and rock that make up our trails. It's mesmerising and makes you realise just how much clattering you take for granted from a normal set up.
The gears are a marvel and take almost no time to get used to. The changes are precise and totally reliable. It's a gripshift, so occasionally you'll go for the shifter with your thumb or forefinger and find it isn't there but over time you stop doing that.
The 9 speed gear range is perfect for the big mountains of Spain's Sierra Nevada.
It is heavy, at 15kg with the above spec, but you don't notice that until you have to hike-a-bike, which is very rare here. A lighter shock, tyres and removal of the Cushcores would bring it to 14kg, which is amazing for a bike of this size with a gearbox.
It's a long bike and, compared to my other bikes, has a slack head angle, so I have consciously to edge my body weight forward, in order to properly weight the front end. I was under-steering for a bit, until altering my position and this is particularly noticable on slow technical climbs where the front end can get very vague. Obviously I need to ride uphill faster!
However, once up to speed, it rides absolutely beautifully and without thinking about it, speed has increased, lines are slightly different and braking points have changed. I'm sure there are some concrete technical reasons for this (the guys at Zerode say it's a function of less unsprung weight). The sensation is one of absolute grip and solidity. You're 'in' the bike and the cliché of 'floating' is absolutely bang on. At speed on the rougher stuff at Pure Mountains, I'd normally expect to be kicked off line occasionally and waiting for that does make me a little tentative. However, the Katipo rides like a skimming stone and it's amazing how this encourages confidence and speed.
This is easily the fastest bike I've ridden on this terrain and, so far, I'm thrilled with the Kiwi beauty.