QUANTOR Kraftwerk 9.0 – Final Review: by c_g
Is it already a full month that we have had the QUANTOR Kraftwerk 9.0 on test?
Really? Yes, and the time has been filled with a lot of wet weather, muddy trails … all in all perfect testing grounds for the PINION internally geared bike, which I had introduced to you here .
Riding and reviewing this bike had been an interesting experience – for several reasons: Like mentioned in the intro, the FRAME is produced by NICOLAI Maschinenbau and as such is a nice piece of frame building by itself . Maxed out stiffness. Were it not for the CARBONICE seat post that even in the 31.6 mm diameter felt very compliant (more on that in a separate post later), I would be tempted to call the bike harsh. As a package you get both maximum power transfer and a compliant ride.
The bike came to us with the long (100mm) stem on the already longish frame. Lots of pressure on the front for aggressive turning, but when things got a more technical I frequently fought to get back on the saddle from behind (even with the saddle being pushed as far forward as possible). So after a couple of rides, I swapped stems for a more moderate 80mm length, hoping for a better balance on the bike. Strangely enough I felt much more at home on the bike when simply riding but still struggled to find the freedom to move on the bike in sketchy situations. Was the top tube too long? Not really. At 620 mm it was on the long side, but I had ridden plenty other bikes of the same dimensions without having had such issues.
Another fact made me consider if the seat tube angle was not a bit too shallow: With such long chain stays as the Kraftwerk (450mm) I pretty much anticipated it to be a goat in the uphills, but much to my surprise the bike did only do good on moderate grades. Once things got steeper, the front end became very light and it took a lot of weight shifting to remain in control in seated climbing. Too much to still pedal efficiently, in my opinion. Out of the saddle uphills efforts were no issue at all.
Where the QUANTOR Kraftwerk absolutely shone, was on tamer epic rides. I took the bike on some long rides and felt that covering long distances efficiently was the core quality of the bike. It has a certain feel to it, that turns the bike into an extension of the body when riding more moderate trails or simply going on epic training rides. Much fun and a great motivator if that is what you need to get out and ride even when the conditions would suggest you stay at home.
On the other side of the spectrum, on steep or technical downhills, the Racing Ralph tires put an early limit to aggressively riding. Later on I decided to mount more aggressive trail tires, only to find that my one set of tires, that would mount on the NOTUBES Crest rims, the SCHWLABE Hans Dampf, wouldn’t pass through the chain stay yoke.
Bummer, but luckily the climate turned just a bit drier at the end of the test so I could ride aggressively even with the Racing Ralph on the rear. Much in consensus with its climbing abilities, the Kraftwerk did well up to a certain degree of difficulty, but once things would get sketchy, it became clear, that the Kraftwerk was not the kind of bike, that would willingly ask for more. It takes some riding skills to keep the bike under control then – a clear indication for me that the Kraftwerk simply is more of a marathon, long distance rider, than a single track trail bike. Nothing wrong with that, but it is good to know before committing to it.
At 11,8kg (or 26lbs) the top of the line Kraftwerk 9.0 sure cannot be called a light weight race bike, but it is pretty much the lightest option available with the PINION internally geared system. By the light wheels, high-end componentry and low center of gravity, the weigh is less pronounced on the trail and hardly noticeable in terms of handling, but physics cannot be denied. When the trail points uphill longer, this bike requires a bigger effort than say a light standard marathon bike.
I have already given you a detailed look at the PINION 1.18 internally geared drive train in my review of the MI:TECH Epsilon , but will give you a short summary of my recent experiences still. The gearing range is huge. At 636% it surpasses even the range of a 3×10 drive train. I hardly ever reached the extreme limits of the system when riding – there always seems to be a lower or a higher gear available.
The system is fully sealed and running in an oil bath, so it is completely unaffected by the climate and riding conditions. Rain, mud or snow – the gearbox does its job unaffected by either. But it does this job differently than what you know from your standard external drive train. One thing is that you can shift into any gear even when standing, but shifting under pressure becomes very hard. When shifting from 6th to 7th and 12th to 13th in which the planetary gear constellations change, it is virtually impossible unless you completely take of all pressure from the pedals. As you can guess, this trait can be unnerving when you are riding in technical terrain, but is easier to tolerate when riding more XC style.
Another peculiarity of the PINION gear box is a slight grinding sound in the lower 6 gears. This is only very slightly noticeable when riding standard cadences, but becomes more pronounced when forces get higher and RPMs decrease … to a point where you can even feel vibrations though the cranks. I am not saying this means a reduced efficiency, but it felt awkward and usually had me shift down into a lower gear. No doubt if you prioritize low maintenance and trouble free running under any circumstances – say for traveling into remote regions of the world, the PINION 1.18 (or ROHLOFF Speedhub as an alternative) are the way to go, but both do have peculiarities to consider when you are coming from a externally geared drive train. (Update: According to QUANTOR an Update to the P1.18 is just around the corner, that is said to help shifting under power and reduce the grinding sensation.)
Another aspect of the QUANTOR Kraftwerk is worth mentioning – its clean looks and aesthetic appeal. I am riding a whole lot of different bikes every year, but this one received a particularly large amount of positive comments – be it the industrial and elegant looks of the frame or the clean looks of the drive train, the combo seemed to be particularly well received by many.
VERDICT: Due to an exquisite frame made by NICOLAI (that only suffers from a tight tire clearance), the top end components and the very clean aesthetics, the QUANTOR Kraftwerk 9.0 is a very special bike.
Geometry and handling are tuned towards riding long distances with style and efficiency. The bike does very well on tamer and moderately technical trails but doesn´t encourage hardcore trail riding. With this in mind the components are chosen well and complement the character of the bike in every aspect. The slight grinding sensation when riding low cadences under pressure and the high weight of the PINION 1.18 drive train are compromises one has to take for an virtually maintenance free drive train system with the largest possible gearing range.
Not everyone will get a hard tail that weighs 11,8kg (or 26 lbs) costing almost € 5500,- but then again those raising such arguments are not the ones that will eventually buy a Kraftwerk 9.0. It is the combination of high-end components, the worry free PINION system and the alloy frame „Made in Germany“ that sets the bike apart from the rest. For those prioritizing the carefree character of the bike over a bit more weight, they can choose from two other lower priced versions of the Kraftwerk and receive the same frame and drive train only with more down to earth components.