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Review: Tanami Xplore Pinion gear touring bike

Alia Parker's picture
The Tout Terrain Tanami Xplore touring bicycle with Pinion gear system. Cycle Traveller

Those who made it down to this year's Ausbike in Melbourne would have been treated to a very special sight – the first ever touring bike running the revolutionary Pinion gearing system to reach Australian shores.

The German designed Tout Terrain Tanami Xplore, imported by Martin Turner at Urban Cycle who sniffed it out at this year's Eurobike, is like no touring bike you would have seen before, for starters, the gears are integrated into the bottom bracket. That's right, I said the bottom bracket – not the back wheel.

Developed by engineers for Porsche, Pinion's P1.18 gearbox is fully internal, like a gear hub, but much more versatile. All up, there are 18 speeds with sequential increments of 11.5%, greater than the 14 speeds offered by Rolhoff. All up, the gear range is 636% with no overlapping like on a derailleur system, making it the widest of any gear system on the market.

“The Pinion system moves the gearing from the rear wheel (internal gear hub) to the bottom bracket position, which provides a better weight distribution, particularly when the bike is loaded with front and rear panniers,” Martin says. “The gearbox is a sealed system with the transmission gears operating in a bath of biodegradable oil.”

The Pinion P1.18 bicycle gear system. Cycle Traveller

Much like trusty hub gears, the internal nature of the Pinion gearbox makes it less prone to problems and low maintenance, requiring an oil change just once a year. The system should last 60,000km.

But what does it ride like?

Martin was kind enough to allow me to test the Tanami Xplore, albeit it was only possible in large circles in the Ausbike testing area which was essentially a car park, but my overall opinion is, I like it.

Naturally, it feels quite different to ride and as I'm accustomed to derailleur gears, I'm very conscious of the differences, especially because I'm paying close attention to them. For instance, I can feel a very mild vibration in the pedals as the gears churn round. But given there's no chain hopping from cog to cog, there's no drag when changing gears. Gear movements are also very simple, with only the right hand needed to turn the grip shift. Compared with derailleurs, shifting gears almost seems too easy. As with all gear systems I've used, the gears switch best when the pressure is reduced on the pedals.

The bike moves freely and smoothly, although it is hard to know whether this is down to the weight distribution of the Pinion, or the design of the Tanami Xplore. Having also ridden the bike's cousin, the Tout Terrain Silkroad, I am certain a large part of this is due to the bike's wonderful touring geometry – Tout Terrain sure knows how to make a touring bike. Having said that, I do feel very steady on the bike and I'm inclined to attribute part of that to the placement of the Pinion.

The gear ratio is wide, but as I'm riding around on flat ground with an unloaded rack, it's hard to really get a good sense of how they will perform going up hills, but as far as I can tell, the granny gear feels like it is low enough to haul a heavy load up a mountain.

Conclusion

Test riding the Tout Terrain Tanami Xplore with Pinion gears. Cycle TravellerThe Tanami Xplore is a great bike and a nice addition to the Australian touring bike market. Combining ideal touring bike geometry, chromoly steel frame, 700c wheels and the mechanics of the Pinion gearbox, it's a bike that is capable of handling a wide range of touring conditions, from road to dirt trails. It's also a bike that comes with all the bells and whistles the modern touring markethas to offer, including disc brakes, dynamo (used for generating power) and a USB 'The Plug II' in the cap to charge your devices. A nice feature is the integrated steel wrack, which makes for a sturdier design for carrying gear.

Low maintenance with a wide gear range and better weight distribution, it's a bike that should be immensely popular. The only thing holding this bike back from flooding the market is the price tag. At $6,000-plus, many will be left dreaming, especially if you really do plan on riding more than 60,000km because replacement gears will not be cheap. However, as Pinion technology slowly gathers more market share – as it is starting to do – and with the possibility of new competitors entering the market, such bikes should become cheaper over time.

In the meantime, if your budget allows for it – go out and get one!

Images from top: The Tanami Xplore touring bike with Pinion gear system. 2. The Pinion. 3. Concentrating on the car park test ride.

Comments

Looks like a fascinating bike - love the concept of BB-mounted gears. Would really like to see a proper review though - I don't think you can learn much about a touring bike by riding it unloaded in a car park.

Alia Parker's picture

Yes, it was not an ideal testing ground as mentioned, but the best I could do as I wasn't able to take the bike out of the Ausbike testing area. As it's the only one in the country at the moment, it's a bit of a protected species. Would love to give it a more robust testing. Still, I thought it was worth letting everyone know about.

Really big thanks for the review of the Tout Terrain model.The pinon gearing system looks the goods as well.Looked into the Tout Terrain models back in 2008,but went for a Thorn Sherpa frame set and build it here in Sydney.Yes it would good to read a review with it loaded and on all sort of road conditions which Australia can throw at it.Big Thanks

very nice but $6k...ouch

Could buy a nice new motor bike for that price. Will surely come down in the very near future.

I suppose it's just a matter of a pinion.

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