I had short call today with Patrick Perugini and Devin Kelly of Dynamic Bicycles, and I asked them the one question that’s been on my mind about shaft-drive bikes: Since shaft-drive and internal hub technologies have been around for more than 100 years, why hasn’t it caught on for bikes?
Their answer: Commercially available internal hubs for bikes were limited to three speeds until within the last decade. So the shaft drive really hasn’t been practical until recently. It hasn’t had the time to catch on.
Don’t take their word for it. Here’s a quote poached from Sheldon Brown:
In the late 1990’s, internal gears underwent something of a renaissance, with the development of wide-range 7-speed hubs. Progress has continued since. Four different brands are currently available, with as many as 14 speeds. Three-speeds and five-speeds are still currently in production, and they offer an economical, practical alternative.
So are we bearing witness to a great catalytic moment in the evolution of bikes? Like Gregor Mendel’s research finally combined with Darwin’s theory? Like peanut butter finally meeting chocolate? Or am I just being seduced by the novelty of this stuff?
A few of us in the office took it for short test rides. Everyone was impressed. The shaft drive is very quiet and responsive. It feels different from a chain drive, and even a belt drive, but the difference is subtle. It’s kind of hard to describe. It’s very non-chainey. Was that helpful?
The photo above is Robin Carlson during his two-minute test ride. If anyone around the shop would have taken an instant disliking to the bike, I figured it would have been him.
He liked it too!
I asked my brother-in-law, Jamie Boyer, to review this bike. I don’t know anyone who can torture test a drive train better. We’ll publish Jamie’s review in about a month.
But, unless the bike explodes or something, I’m going to have to think of shaft-drive-plus-internal-hub as a valid option for bike commuters.
The biggest downside I can see at this point, is that I can’t get the theme from Shaft out of my head.
Stay tuned for the full review in the near future.