For years I’ve been keen to build a sporty, super-commuter, winter-training, do-all sort of bike; low maintenance and relatively light-weight with large tires and full-fenders. Think fast winter group rides or long gravel road slogs—obviously this is a tall order. On a few occasions I’ve been very close to moving forward with the project, but wasn’t totally convinced that I had sourced the right parts, ultimately delaying it again and again.
Then came the Pinion C.12 gearbox.
We saw the potential benefits of the Pinion right away here at Co-Motion. With its wide range of gears, the gearbox paired with a Gates Carbon Drive belt would provide an alternative to the ever-popular Rohloff internal hub system. The fact that the Pinion gearbox is located at the bottom bracket instead of the rear hub means that wheel choice is not limited, providing a great advantage. However, the frame must be specifically made for a Pinion gearbox, thus eschewing a conventional bottom bracket and permanently committing the frame to this set-up. We set about designing and fabricating the necessary frame parts: a cradle for attaching the gearbox to the frame, sliding dropouts for belt tensioning, and a drop bar shifter. After this was done, we made it available on several of our models; and it proved to be a very popular and well-liked option. Even so, there were still quite a few things to consider before moving forward. While internally geared systems are commonplace and accepted in many cycling genres, “sporty” isn’t one of those genres.
Then in early September, we were invited to build a bicycle for the 2018 Chris King Open House and Builder Showcase. We were discussing a few build options when it occurred to me that I had the perfect bike for us to build for this show.
Thus began the Klatch Pinion CTX project.
Chris King offered a couple of special release color options—matte mango and matte turquoise—for whichever components the builders chose. We chose the mango, and to complement the all-road nature of the Klatch, we also picked a tapered Inset headset, and Enve G23 carbon wheels with Chris King R45 hubs.
Of course, we have several stock build options available for the Klatch model, but considering the “show” aspect, and some other personal criteria, I ultimately pieced together a custom component group to round out the build. One of the more interesting parts we used for the show bike were some pre-production drop bar shifters made by Cinq5. They utilize TRP hydraulic brakes that have been modified to accept levers that actuate the Pinion gearbox. Prior to this, all shifters available for Pinion have been twist shifters, which isn’t really in line with what I was aiming for here, so I was happy that they were willing to send a set of their prototype levers for use on this bike.
Now, for the frame itself. In keeping with the spirit of the build, I opted for the CTX (formerly CS3) frame option. While the CTX refers to the Variwall tubing used—THERMLX—the heart of this feature is the use of an integrated carbon mast, replacing the stock steel seat tube with a carbon tube upon which a mast cap is placed. The Co-Motion mast cap allows for 20mm of saddle height adjustment, so there is a custom aspect to this setup. There are some minor ride-quality differences with the mast, but the main advantages are weight savings and aesthetics.
One bit of custom design I did on this bike is the rear brake. The stock Pinion frame has a post-mount rear brake that slides with the dropout during belt tensioning. Since our dropout design does not allow for this feature with a flat-mount, I attached the mounts directly to the chain-stay, meaning they had to be perfectly placed to align the caliper with the rotor once the rear wheel was slid into proper belt tension. This worked flawlessly, but it does mean that changing the initial drive gear (changing belt, sprocket, or rear cog will change the final tensioning placement) is nearly impossible, making it a negative for most people.
Lastly was the paint color. I tend to lean towards mostly neutral colors for my bikes. I’ve had several versions of gray over the years; ranging all the way from white to black, but it seemed this bike really needed a bit more pizzazz. I decided that a matte purple frame would provide an appropriate contrast to the matte mango parts; it would add to the overall appearance but not become the focal point of the bike.
The final assembly went fairly smooth, which was quite pleasing considering the deadline for delivery was just a couple of days away, and there are usually some unforeseen issues when using a new combinations of parts.
I delivered the bike to the Chris King factory in Portland several days before the show so that they would have an opportunity to set up the display and have it ready for John Watson from The Radavist to do a photo shoot. Delivering the bike in person gave me a chance to get a quick peek at a handful of the other 18 bikes that would on display; enough to see that this was going to be an amazing collection.
One of the unique facets of this event is the Builder’s Summit that happens the Friday before the show itself. The builders, along with some guests, met up for breakfast at the King factory cafeteria before heading out on a ride to Chris’ house for lunch. Breakfast had, we departed on the ride. All but a couple of attendees had brought another bike for the ride (Me: a custom Camino…the first of our carbon-mast bikes); about 30 people on a collection of bikes that formed what was essentially a rolling bike show rode out of Portland, through Forest Park, along Skyline Road, then through the rolling hills out to Chris’ barn. We couldn’t have asked for a better fall day for a bike ride. Once at the barn, we spent the better part of the afternoon hanging out, eating food, and talking bikes as well as other less, and more, important topics.
I wasn’t too sure what the”Summit” really meant beforehand, but by the time we readied ourselves for the return ride back to town, it was clear. A lot of the frame-builders at the show are people you’ve heard about, read articles about their bikes, seen images from bike shows, etc., but having the opportunity to just hang out a bit, it was interesting what a relaxed and honest group it was. Open conversations about how each builder handles certain frame-building issues, ideas for the future, upcoming projects,general challenges faced on a production level; so much valuable information and people willing to give it. It’s easy to see the passion in a group like this. The passion for bikes, for cycling, and for the constant desire to keep up with the demands of the industry, as well as the demands of the customer, yet somehow melding these together in a way that is still something each builder is proud to build.
Show-day Saturday sort of came and went in a blur. There was a lot of interest in our bike. The race-like look of the bike along with the Pinion gearbox proved to create a unique juxtaposition; certainly good in a show like this one. With 18 show-quality bikes on display from some of the best builders around, it would be easy for a bike to blend in and be hardly noticed. Like us, many builders brought”gravel” bikes: all-road bikes with large tires. There were a couple of mountain bikes, but it was obvious what the focus of most builders is these days. It made me long for a good ol’ skinny-tire road bike…super light, super fast, and smooth roads.
That is, until the next morning. I’d planned on doing a cross race on Sunday before heading back to Eugene, even packed up my single-speed Co-Motion Demon cross bike for the trip, but thinking about the ride through Forest Park, and seeing that the beautiful weather continued, I decided I just couldn’t wait. So I set out on ride number one on my new Klatch.
I’d been told about a different route through Forest Park when we were riding through on Friday; Leif Erikson Rd. It did not disappoint, nor did the new bike. Leif Erikson takes you up a path that is a mix of gravel, dirt, and rock. About a 6 mile climb on, what feels like, a road that was made for bikes. The more you ride on a road like this, the more it seems like it’s what cycling was always meant to be. It’s just rough enough that you need to pay attention to your line, and just uphill enough that you have to stay on top of your effort. All of this under the canopy of trees that put the “forest” in Forest Park. My route exited the park on Skyline Rd and a popular road ride route that finishes with a ripping descent down through the tunnels of NW Cornell Road into downtown Portland.
As I sat outside the coffee shop enjoying my requisite pastry and espresso, thinking what a perfect route I’d just completed, I spoke to a couple just heading out on super-fast, super-light, skinny-tire road bikes. hey asked where I’d been, then replied while pointing at their bikes, “That’s a great climb…but too rough on these bikes, and the ride back is too slow on our mountain bikes.” I could think of nearly 18 examples of bikes they may prefer to ride that day, but I could only think of the name of one.
POST SHOW UPDATE: A FEW RIDES IN, AND A FEW CHANGES.
It’s been a few weeks now since the show. I’ve made a couple of changes to the bike, and had the chance to put it through its paces a bit.
First off I had to return the Cinq5 shifters. Turns out they were the only set around, so they were anxious to get them back. I was told that I’m on the list for a set from the first production run; likely available just after the new year. So in the meantime I have installed one of our Co-Motion Pinion twist shifters. They are specially designed for mounting just next to the stem on drop bars. This means having to move your hand to that position for shifts. I was concerned that this would be limiting for more spirited riding, but ultimately it hasn’t been an issue and works quite well with the nature of the Pinion shifting. Due to the necessity for a slight letup of pressure on the pedals during shifts, the moment it takes to reach for the shifter becomes a part of the timing, resulting in pretty seamless shifting. It just takes a bit more foresight than a conventional derailleur setup.
I’ve been on fast group rides. Easy trail rides. Rough gravel rides. Rainy commuter rides.
A sporty, super-commuter, winter-training, do-all sort of bike; low maintenance, relatively light weight, large tires, full-fenders……Tall order? Maybe, but so far this Klatch Pinion CTX has proven to be just the right recipe.
-Billy Truelove, Production Manager and Janitor