The finalists for the 2023 Innovation of the Year were the Cane Creek Tigon, Classified Powershift, SRAM Transmission, Pinion E-Drive and Shimano Linkglide. The Innovation of the Year award goes to… Pinion E-Drive Motor Gearbox Unit The Pinion Motor Gearbox Unit (MGU) takes the win largely because, of all of the wonderful innovations nominated for this award, the E-Drive has the greatest potential to change how full suspension eMTBs can be designed for the better. Centralizing weight around the bottom bracket, the Pinion E-Drive tangibly increases the sprung-to-unsprung mass ratio, something that is widely agreed to be advantageous for vehicle handling in general. And, with only a single sprocket at the rear wheel, suspension designers must consider only one chain position, versus the 11 or 12 chain positions that come with a modern wide range cassette. In packing all of the necessary hardware to deliver 9 or 12 discreet gears alongside the 85 Nm motor, Pinion also do away with a vulnerable derailleur. And, that single, compact unit is also claimed to offer maintenance-free functionality for 10,000 kilometers – requiring nothing more than a 10-minute oil change thereafter. That’s an astounding improvement over the incumbent derailleur-operated drivetrain, and can be considered even more impressive against the backdrop of the reliability of current mid-drive motors that are commonly in use. On regular bikes, the gearbox does of course offer all of those benefits. However, the additional weight and the additional drag in the system have been two factors limiting uptake. On pairing the technology with a motor, both of those factors are largely banished to oblivion. Oh, and unlike some of Pinion’s gearbox-only systems, the E-Drive units benefit from a more ergonomically-pleasing trigger shifter (instead of grip shift, which proved to be woefully lacking in popularity). While Ralf Hauser’s first impression of the Pinion E-Drive was largely very positive, we are yet to put this technology through any long term testing. We have a good understanding of Pinion’s capacity to produce reliable gearbox technology, but the reliability of the motor component is yet to determined. We are yet to see any full production bikes rocking the 9- or 12-speed MGU, though the Rotwild RX.1000, Simplon Rapcon PMAX Pinion, and Bulls Vulca Evo look set to change that imminently. As was mentioned in the nomination article, Pinion also offers their Smart.Shift system without the motor for use on regular bikes – that means an electronic trigger shifter is now available instead of the twist-shifter that Pinion used for years. Faster shifting combined with the reliability of a gearbox could help the system gain more widespread acceptance, but no matter what, there’s no denying that it’s an innovative advancement.