By Jim Langley
Jim’s Tech Talk
By the time you read this I’ll be on vacation and enjoying some beautiful riding along the seacoast of New Hampshire and Maine. If you spot me on my blue Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro give me a wave!
I was in a rush to pack my gear and skedaddle, so this Tech Talk is a quickie, but hopefully interesting nonetheless. I want to show and get your comments on the fascinating new drivetrain from CeramicSpeed that debuted at Eurobike, which just took place in Germany. I couldn’t attend but caught the highlights on the GCN channel here:
CeramicSpeed is calling their amazing new drivetrain Driven and claiming that it’s the world’s most efficient drivetrain (at 99%), topping chain and derailleur drivetrains which have been the most efficient seemingly forever.
Here’s a nice video discussing the Driven’s innovations courtesy of bike guru Shane Miller (aka GPLama).
As you would expect, Driven caught everyone’s attention. Yet lost in the fanfare is that something like this happened over 100 years ago in the late 1890s. Back then, though, chains and sprockets were nowhere near as refined and efficient as today’s. Some were hardly smooth at all.
So there was way more incentive to improve things and inventors came up with what became known as the “chainless” bike. Like CeramicSpeed’s Driven, these antique drivetrains utilized a shaft to transfer the power from the crank to the rear wheel. But instead of bearings, they used different types of meshing gears.
Several world records were set on chainless bicycles, some by arguably America’s greatest-ever, Major Taylor, who rode an Orient Chainless made in Waltham, Massachusetts to many victories the world over.
Yet, as successful as they were at the races, the meshing gears on the shaft, chainring and rear hub were heavy, wore quickly and made it difficult to remove the rear wheel. Then, chains and sprockets improved significantly and – while chainless bikes like those old ones still exist, they are not at all mainstream.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Driven drivetrain can make the grade and revolutionize our future bicycles. But, even with its modern bearings and materials plus infinite gearing options it’s only a tiny bit more efficient than chains. And it seems like adding shaft-drive mechanisms to frames in production could be a challenging hurdle. I wish them luck.
Please see CeramicSpeed’s Driven webpage to learn more.
Ride total: 8,968
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.