Guido Kunze world record

No one has been higher: extreme sportsman Guido Kunze has set a new world altitude record with his Pinion bike. He rode his fatbike with the Pinion P1.18 transmission from the Chilean Pacific coast to the northwest crest of the Nevado Ojos del Salado, the highest volcano in the world. On the 16 October Guido reached the new record altitude of 6233 metres above sea level. It took him 37 hours, 11 minutes and 12 seconds to cover the 343 kilometres from sea level to the 6899-metre altitude.

The record trip was the greatest challenge of his life for Guido: thin air, steep climbs over loose surfaces at wind speeds up to 130 km/h were some of the obstacles he had to overcome. The Pinion P1.18 helped Guido meet all his challenges. He could always maintain the right pedalling frequency with the closely meshed 18 gears and the centre of gravity of the Pinion fatbike kept him balanced and safe.

Guido is familiar with breaking records: the 48-year-old Thuringian has previously ridden 4200 kilometres non-stop through Australia and mastered the Tour de France in one stage. He was also successful in the legendary Race across America. However, Guido is not a full-time professional: he works Monday to Friday in his sports shop, the “”Laufladen Zwei G”” in his home of Mühlhausen. He was back selling running shoes, bicycles and triathlon equipment three days after his world record.

You can still change gears smoothly even under pressure and when you are exhausted.

Interview with Guido Kunze

Guido, you have been back for two weeks now – fully recovered?
Basically yes, I am still surprised at how quickly I have recovered. Only my fingertips are still somewhat numb.

The Atacama desert is considered one of the most hostile environments on earth …
Just the wind can drive you mad. The noise. Constant whistling. Add the difficulty in breathing and the cold. Those are things that you cannot prepare for – the reality is brutal.

The equipment for a world record must also be perfect. You were on the way to the top with a Pinion transmission – how did you make it together?
During preparation for the ride I had a lot of discussions with my friend Frank Schneider, who also uses Pinion transmissions for downhill racing. I also really wanted a belt drive. I also wanted my fatbike to have a low centre of gravity – the Pinion transmission in the bottom bracket was the first choice.

You had a choice of four types. What made you select the P1.18?
It was obvious that I would never be able to use the high gears going up the mountain. The constant gear steps of 11.5 percent were the deciding factor. You can still change gears smoothly without jerking even under pressure and when you are exhausted. I made a lot of adjustments before the trip to Chile. For example, at home I did a lot of riding in a quarry with the transmission. I wanted to find out what worked best with gravel and scree. I finally decided to use a P1.18 with a bottom ratio of 1:1. It was exactly right.

Why did it have to be a belt drive?
A few years ago I rode across Australia; that was a very dusty trip. I seemed to spend the whole trip cleaning the chain, because it was always clogged and crunching. I did not want to deal with that on the Ojos del Salado.

Discussions for and against transmissions always come down to the weight.
Yes, the weight. I think that is a little overdone. The important factor is where the weight sits. The rider or the rotating mass of the wheels are one factor. A transmission in the bottom bracket, i.e. the centre of the wheel, is not much of problem. When you lift up my record bike, it feels quite light – simply because it is very well balanced with the Pinion transmission.

When you lift up my record bike, it feels quite light – simply because it is very well balanced with the Pinion transmission.

However, it was not a production bike
No, but maybe it will be. My sponsor Ghost was very excited about the idea of a belt drive and Pinion transmission. We worked with Ghost to adjust the geometry of the fatbike for me and the project. The frame was specially made for the record attempt. The transmission was a production model. The only difference was that I did not want a brand new transmission. So the Pinion technicians ran the transmission on the test stand for a few thousand kilometres. It worked perfectly after that.

It sounds as if the world record was only a part of a larger project.
Exactly, we developed a number of exciting solutions during preparation, some of which have the potential to go into production. You could certainly not achieve a record of this type alone. The Wiegand company, for example, normally manufactures parts for luxury cars. They manufactured a light and very small cover for the belt for me in two weeks. In contrast, I also came back from such an extreme trip with ideas for improving minor items for Ghost and Pinion.

But that is no more than just a side issue.
Yes and no. For me as an athlete I have always greatly enjoyed being able to develop and implement ideas. Particularly with Pinion you can see that they have engineers who are excited about their product and are always wanting to improve it. And because they make everything on site, they can implement changes very quickly.

The 6233-metre altitude is of course extreme – where would you use Pinion transmissions in normal life?
I think Pinion transmissions would be absolutely reliable on long trips or in the city. For mountain biking you would have to worry about breaking a rear derailleur or bending a derailleur hanger. I consider that the centre of gravity in the bottom bracket is a huge advantage for all applications. You have a bicycle that is comfortable to control and is perfectly balanced.

Particularly with Pinion you can see that they have engineers who are excited about their product and are always wanting to improve it.