Exclusive Interview: Deviate Cycle, The British Engineered Pinion Gearbox Enduro Bike
February 14th, 2018
February 14th, 2018
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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What do you get when two Alpine guides from Britain get together and design the bike of their dreams? Well, you get Deviate Cycles' Guide. The Guide is a bike that certainly deviates from the sea of enduro and trail bikes out there at the moment; building a carbon 160mm travel frame with a Pinion gearbox and accenting with time-proven components that have been tested on the job in the Alps. But is it all just a gimmick? And hasn’t this been done before? I ask chief engineer, Chris “Dev” Deverson, what it’s all about.
Who is it for?
In a nutshell, the Deviate is for the rider who wants a bike capable of smashing out big descents in the Alps, one that will make light work of rocky paths and bike parks, both abroad and in the UK, and one that is wholly capable of doing so without an uplift, and doesn’t cost the Earth in maintenance, even through a harsh British winter. Obviously every enduro bike on the market is aimed at maximising the descents without being a full-on downhill rig, but the Deviate has managed something that few bikes on the market can, and it’s all down to clever suspension design and chain-lines.
So What’s So Special About the Suspension?
The Deviate’s high pivot point allows the rear wheel to move away from the force of impact, which means that momentum is maintained without pulling the bike backwards, which would normally slow you down over every bump. In adition, the force of impact is directed straight into the shock, meaning that hits get dampened correctly. Dev explains that on a conventional pivot point the wheel has to move vertically, so there’s always a component of that force stretching your frame, resisting the direction you’re moving in, and generally slowing you down.
“When using the Deviate through those rooty, square-edged trails, you will really notice it”, says Dev, “The leverage ratio we put on the shock is more downhill-esque, so the shock curve is more progressive, and we just tweaked the tail end, so that it levels off a bit as you bottom out”. Dev further explains that the problem with an air shock is that as you get to the end of the travel, the volume is small but the the pressure is very high, so tweaking the tail end of a shock will extend that bottomless feel throughout the travel. “This all means we don’t have a ‘poppy’ trail bike, but it gives us the ‘plough down’ bike that we wanted” Dev continues.
So why the Funny Chainline?
With a high pivot point bike you need an idler to maintain the pedalling performance of a modern bike, specifically, a bike that doesn’t squat when you pedal. The chainline therefore goes up and over by the pivot point in order to optimise a good amount of anti-squat. “We target around 110%” says Dev. It turns out that the gearbox also acts as a complimentary feature to this anti-squat action, as the straight chainline doesn’t move when gears are changed, which means that you always have the same anti-squat action no matter what gear you are in. The Zerode DH (G2) bike had something similar, but it needed two chains to achieve it.
“Pedalling uphill with the anti-squat that we’ve got is perfectly achievable as well,” says Dev, “of course there’s a tiny bit of bob, every bike bobs, but because we’ve nailed the position of the idler in that sweet spot, there’s no kick-back from the bike on technical climbs, so the traction is incredible, meaning you can ride up rocky climbs without that jarring kick-back feeling”. Having seen the Deviate in action on Italian footpaths, it’s clear that this bike is all about the tech, gobbling up rocks and roots both on the ups and the downs.
About The Gearbox
Pinion were seemingly the only logical choice for Deviate. They’re the best at what they do, they stand behind their product with a five year warranty, and if there’s any problems, which are very unlikely, the German company just take it back and sort it, with no questions asked. Deviate did consider an alternative from France, but it just didn’t compare with the range of a Pinion. In fact, the Pinion gearbox on test was a 12-speed with 600% range, so with SRAM Eagle being at 500% you get a whole heap more variety of gears to play with on the Pinion. And if that’s still not enough, you could even spec an 18-speed gearbox if you really wanted to. Add the fact that your gears are now totally weather-proof, your chain will likely last for years, not months, and regular services are a thing of the past, and what’s not to like?
The Deviate is currently running grip shift, as this is what a Pinion is spec’d with. Dev says it may take a little while to get used to, but after a week of riding it becomes more second nature, and the action is good for large jumps between gears. Incidentally, having a gearbox means you don’t have to be pedalling to change gear. You can stop dead at the foot of a hill, change up into your easiest gear whilst sitting still and get on with it, without the usual faff of lifting your wheel off the ground to engage it, or without cracking and crunching your gears on the move. Being able to change gear whilst freewheeling is obviously a benefit too, especially when climbs and undulations can sneak up on you, and pedalling to get in gear can mess with your enduro warrior stance.
So why not a rear hub gear? Well, Dev explains that having a rear hub gear means that there’s a weight penalty on the rear wheel, so that mass has a negative effect on the suspension as you have to accelerate and decelerate those extra grams every time you go over a bump. The Deviate has all of it’s weight in the bottom bracket, which doesn’t affect the suspension in the same way. In fact, the Deviate has no need for a rear derailleur, so the suspension has even less to concern itself with.
Athlete and friend, Richard Vine spent the Summer with The Guide and said “it’s a lot faster than anything I’ve ever ridden!”. I suspect you’d expect him to say that really, but having ridden with Rich at Bike Park Wales all day, swapping between the Deviate and his Yeti SB50 29er, the evidence is clear to see, and it’s not just ‘new bike syndrome’ either. On the rougher descents, when all we could do was freewheel, Rich and I would be pretty well matched with him on the Yeti and me on my 170mm YT Capra. Put him back on the Deviate and the two of them mosey off into the sunset without me. The Deviate suspension clearly works as Dev had intended, not wasting any energy at all in forward momentum, with next to no objects slowing it down thanks to the clever suspension design. The bike simply gathers more and more speed at ever opportunity, leaving me in a wake of dust and envy.
A quick blast on the Deviate myself would reveal an uncanny downhill-feel to both the suspension and the cockpit. It is a sturdy and planted ride that just gets on with the task in hand, with no fuss at all. I’ve never really noticed kickback on a bike before, chalking it up to just one of those things we deal with on the rough terrain, but its absence is noted after only a few trails on The Guide. It’s no wonder it picks up so much speed on the descents. In fact, it barely snorts at the features on offer at Bike Park Wales, with all the plushness of a much burlier bike. It certainly doesn’t feel or act like a trail bike.
Well, of course you do. Sure, it appeals to a particular niche of rider, but it does it extremely well, and I think it’s what us Brits, with our crap weather and penchant for annual Morzine pilgrimages, have all been waiting for. All that and no need to carry around a spare deraileur or mech hanger any more. Nice.
Orders will start to be accepted at the end of February 2018, but you can register to pre-order. Expect prices from £5,699 fully built, or £3,399 for the frame only.