Nothing New?

It has often been said that when it comes to bicycles, every possible innovation has already been thought of by someone, somewhere, sometime.

Here are two examples of "innovations" relating to the bicycle drivetrain which were already known more than 100 years ago. Both are taken from a German Encyclopedia (Kramer's Konversations Lexicon) published in 1907.

  1. The shaft drive.

    Shaft drive bike (Click to see larger image)

    The illustration shows the "Gritzner" chainless bicycle, which according to the text shown below has the advantage of requiring very little maintenance despite being slightly more heavy and giving a more harsh feel on the pedals.

    German text (Click to see larger image)

    The following picture shows a detail of the "Goricke" shaft drive with bevel gears.

    Bevel gears (Click to see larger image)

  2. Elliptical drive. Where normal pedal cranks move in a circular path, "innovations" based on epicyclic gears or chainwheels, notably the Kingcycle K-drive, have made possible an elliptical path. The illustration below shows an explanation of the principle, called the "hypocyclic drive" from 1907:

    Epicyclic gears (Click to see larger image)

    This was used in an early bicycle, with the so-called "Vietor" cranks:

    Elliptical cranks (Click to see larger image)

    The source of the above illustration is "Fahrrad & Radfahrer" by Wilhelm Wolf published by Otto Spamer Verlag in 1890. It was reprinted in 1988 by Harenberg, ISBN: 3-88379-106-1.