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Review Priority Bicycles Model 600. Round-The-World Touring Bicycle?

Can a “commuter” bicycle be the best all-road touring bike?

In my home area of Central Wisconsin, unpaved roads outnumber paved roads. Of course, we have plenty of paved highways, county roads and town roads. But the best bike riding is in the grid of rolling rural paved roads with intersecting gravel roads nearly every mile. The sparse rural population and the massive expense to pave and maintain these roads means that thousands of miles of Wisconsin country roads will remain gravel.

Years ago, as a bicycle tourist, I avoided ALL unpaved roads. Back then, my long and fast bike tours were on narrow 1-inch tubular tires and restricted to paved roads. But today, I seek out unpaved roads. The scenery is better, and you can enjoy it without being threatened by dangerous traffic. I have become a “gravel junkie”! I enjoy planning routes that maximize the miles on unpaved roads. Central Wisconsin may have some of the best crushed granite roads in the country. In fact, red granite is the official rock of Wisconsin!

I also travel at a slower pace these days. I’m not interested in setting personal-best speed records. I enjoy rides of several hours, and bikepacking trips of several days. Besides, I also feel that every gravel mile is the equivalent of two road miles, so I enjoy a slower pace, encounter minimal traffic, AND get twice the exercise.

I’ve owned many, many different styles of bikes over the years. With my continued interest in bicycle touring, I compiled a long list of features that I would include in my perfect bike for round-the-world travel.

If I could design my Ideal RTW Touring Bicycle from a blank slate, what would I include?

First, I would want the lightest possible frame and fork but without sacrificing durability and without breaking the bank. Steel is the proven favorite, but lighter aluminum is my choice. Titanium is still lighter but much more expensive and harder to repair, if ever damaged. Since this is a bike for long-distance tours and not a single-track MTB, I eliminated the suspension fork in favor of a traditional fork. I also specified an aluminum fork versus the trendy carbon-fiber fork found on many “gravel bikes” for bomb-proof dependability. Of course, the frame and fork must be designed to accept front and rear pannier racks.

Secondly, I need the most versatile and strongest wheel set. My choice would be 650b wheels built with tubeless-ready rims. Many people believe that 700c wheels are lighter, but for touring wheels with similar tires, the slightly smaller 650b rim and shorter spokes are lighter and stronger. In addition, 650b tires (or 27.5-inch) are available in a wider range of widths and tread patterns.

The wheel specs for my touring bicycle also include tubeless tires. Not only do tubeless tires eliminate pinch flats, but they are also self-sealing for most thorn or road debris punctures. Like your car or motorcycle, larger punctures can often be plugged without removing the wheel.

Third, I would build-in a front dynamo hub to add both lights and recharging capability for all the electronics we carry. The dynamo powers the headlight for inevitable night riding. During the day, it charges a storage battery which I can then use to recharge my phone, GPS, camera batteries, etc.

Finally, I wanted the most reliable and maintenance-free drivetrain. As an experienced bicycle traveler and a former bike shop manager, I can fix anything on a bike and have repaired or replaced many chains, spokes, freewheels, derailleurs, and crank sets over the years.

After considering the rear geared hub options, I chose the center-mounted Pinion drive with a Gates carbon belt.

By choosing the Pinion drive, I eliminated spare chain links, a chain tool, and chain lube. I also eliminate the need to carry a spare derailleur hanger. Most importantly, the Pinion gear drive eliminates the time-consuming and grimy daily (or more often!) chain and freewheel maintenance on dusty or muddy roads.

Good News! I didn’t have to have my Dream Touring Bicycle custom-built. These wish list features are found in the Priority Bicycles Model 600.

The Priority 600 is designed to be a daily commuter and road rambler. But I also saw the potential to transform this bike into a gravel grinder and all-road touring machine.

The Priority 600 features the 12-speed Pinion Gearbox with the new DS2 rotary shifter. This is an automotive-inspired drive created by two former Porsche transmission engineers in Stuttgart, Germany. The Priority 600 bicycle is named after the Pinion’s massive 600% gear range that is equivalent to a traditional 30-speed bicycle. Most importantly, the fully gearbox offers unmatched versatility and dependability in a maintenance-free oil bath housing – while replacing the standard bottom bracket.

This is my review of the Priority Bicycles 600. I recently completed an 80-mile loop from my home in Marshfield. This route pieced together both paved and unpaved roads, being about 75% gravel – or 60-miles. The ride was intended to fine-tune the modifications I had made to the Priority 600. The ride also provided some conditioning miles before the two last competitive events I have planned for the Fall: Chequamegon MTB Festival (40-mile mountain bike race over the sharp hills in NW Wisconsin) and the Ironbull Red Granite gravel grinder (50-miles on mixed roads and trails near Wausau, WI.)

This is my first bike with the Pinion enclosed gear drive. The most striking difference is that the Pinion drive at the bottom bracket is connected by a Gates carbon-reinforced belt to a single rear sprocket.

For both commuting and bicycle touring, the chain and derailleurs have always been the weakest links in bicycle design. These are expendable wear parts. The rear derailleur, in particular, is also the single most vulnerable component on your bike. If your bike simply falls over at a rest stop, the critical alignment may be ruined. Worse, crashes, impacts with sticks, or the accumulation of mud on cross-country routes can break the derailleur hangar. Your ride is over unless you have the tools and skills to convert your broken bike into a “single speed”.

I researched the Pinion drive extensively before making the purchase. One impressive story was that of Kamran Ali, who trekked from Argentina all the way to Alaska riding his Pinion-drive bicycle. Here is a photo of Kamran in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. He writes: “Here, at this sign, my bike comes to a gentle stop. The bike computer shows that I have reached the destination of my tour at latitude 70°21’N. In 3 years, 7 months, and 10 days, I have covered a total distance of 33,105 km.”

Kamran logged almost 20,000 trouble-free miles on his Pinion gear drive! has more testimonials of cyclists that have tallied even higher numbers, some circling the globe.

Closer to home, Ryan Van Duzer completed the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, the Baja Divide, and the Colorado Trail (along with thousands of additional loaded touring miles) with his Priority 600X mountain bike, relying on the same C12 gear drive. He has also ridden his Priority P600 over 1,000 miles from his home in Colorado to Iowa, then across Iowa for the 500-mile RAGBRAI tour.

Priority Bicycles has equipped the stock 600 for the urban rider. It is delivered with upright handlebars, fenders, flat pedals, and slick street tires that are perfect for commuting. Priority is based in New York and there are 10’s of thousands of commuters who rely on their bicycles. The trouble-free, maintenance-free Pinion drive is perfect for the urban commuter. But I went to work modifying the 600 to become the ideal gravel bike and long-distance bikepacking rig.

To build my ideal bikepacking rig, I reversed the stock build and removed the fenders, added clipless pedals, installed a rack for panniers, and replaced the stock tires with tubeless tires for a better grip on loose gravel. The “commuter” bike has become a gravel bike. The truth is that the best touring bikes – combining durability, comfort, and versatility - also make great commuters - even though my bike will never see New York!

I have ridden many miles on drop bar gravel bikes. “Gravel” bikes based on road bike geometry have never been comfortable, resulting in a literal pain in the neck. Most bikes targeted at the trendy gravel market have an aggressive riding position that is great for short, fast rides. But I have not found this to be comfortable for riding - not racing - and especially not comfortable for multi-day touring.

In contrast, the Priority 600 shares a more upright geometry with both commuting bikes and touring bikes. Now that I have logged hundreds of miles on my 600, I am very satisfied with the comfort of the bike as well as the performance of the 12-speed Pinion drive. The evenly spaced 12 gears has the same wide range as my 27-speed traditional touring bike. However, the Pinion transmission provides perfectly spaced gearing without any overlapping, redundant sprocket combinations.

The Priority 600 also is more versatile than my traditional touring bike with 27-speeds and narrow 700c wheels. While I have ridden many gravel miles on hard-packed roads with the 32mm tires, any loose surface causes the wheels to wash out. The 600 has wider 650b wheels and I chose to set these up with 45mm Pirelli gravel tires, converted to tubeless. These are ideal tires for hard-packed gravel as well as paved roads and roll quietly and smoothly. They will be a great choice for extended bike touring, as well.

When touring on paved roads with my 700c tires, I’d typically run 80 psi – and endure the sharp jolt of every bump up the seat post. But with the 650b wheelset on the Priority 600, I run the Pirellis at a max of 35 psi for more cushion. Since I converted these tires to tubeless, I have the option to air-down to 25 psi or lower for soft sand or rougher roads. Riders who never venture off the pavement will be happy with the stock 47mm WTB Horizon tires or might opt for a narrower option for less rolling resistance.

I admit that there was a short learning curve when shifting the Pinion drive. I learned to stop pedaling and count to ONE while shifting. That’s it! If you simply stop pedaling for an instant, the gearbox shifts smoothly and silently – exactly like your auto transmission, which is what you would expect from former Porsche engineers!

But the benefits of the internal gearing far outweigh this required alteration of your unconscious skill of shifting while pedaling. First, you can shift across multiple gears. I routinely shift down two gears as my speed drops on steep hills. Then, I also upshift two or more gears as I gain momentum at the crest of hills. The Pinion gearbox “snicks” precisely into the gear you select.

The biggest advantage is still the protection of the internal geared transmission, along with the zero-maintenance carbon-fiber belt. The conventional bottom bracket, crank sprocket (or multiple sprockets), drive chain and front and rear derailleurs are eliminated. Also eliminated are the continual adjustments, lubrication, and maintenance of the bottom bracket, chain, and derailleurs. In the rain, mud, and sand you may need to lube your chain several times per day. You may also need to clean the debris from the chain to prevent destroying the derailleurs and jamming the freewheel gears.

ALL this is eliminated by the Pinion gearbox and belt drive. The Gates belt is run DRY. If it starts to squeak, clean it with an old toothbrush and water! Best of all, the drive belt should outlast at least three chains, and each chain might cost as much or more than the replacement Gates belt, not including all the time and money that you’ve spent on chain cleaning and lubes.

I give the Priority 600 my FIVE Star rating as a touring bicycle!

Want to learn more? Here's Dave from Priority Bicycles to highlight the features of the Model 600:

I liked the Model 600 so much that I also purchased the Priority 600X Adventure MTB for more vigorous off-road bikepacking.

Side Note: I love the P600X so much – and have now planned more rides on rougher roads and trails that necessitate the suspension fork - that I have since SOLD the P600. Another rider contacted me who was getting ready for a tour from the U.S. to Argentina! My lightly used P600 is happily doing exactly what I had intended – shedding the “commuter” label and has become a round-the-world traveler!

touring bicycle


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