Chainless bicycle experiences
September 21, 2008 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have personal experience with using a chainless bicycle?

I've looked on Google.. PLEASE do not reply unless you have actually ridden one; the bicycle forums I've found are full of people who, while never having tried one, are nonetheless happy to share their non-experiences!

This CoolTools post says that they are quite usable:
posted by portabella to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Not entirely related -- but a friend of mine converted a bike (with the aid of a welder) to a shaft drive setup like the Cool Tools Chinless bicycle you reference. The only difference between it and a standard unit was the sealed driveterrain, stronger 'gears', and theoretically longer life/no service. This bike didn't have any gears (it was a modified coaster bike setup), but an 8 speed internally geared hub would make this the cats meow.

So I am not sure what you are asking -- was it different than a normal bike? Not really. Quieter due to no moving parts (well, the gears/shaft all sit inside a tunnel of oil.. and are sufficiently noise shielded) - it felt oddly -- odd to ride a bike with no crank chain rings -- and it was a very smooth setup.

That being said -- unless I lived in a special situation (extremely cold, extremely chain-adverse weather, long treks across African countries) I would still prefer my good old gear and chain setup. That 8 speed bike is going to have a limited range of gears compared to a modern 27-30 speed.

I find them more a novelty than functionally superior except in rare instances.
posted by SirStan at 11:24 AM on September 21, 2008

Shaft drive? Have ridden. Belt drive? Have ridden. What is the question?

Chains are pretty efficient. Something like 95% and belts are similar. There is some loss of power in a shaft drive bike. For your purposes, it's fine.

But as SirStan noted, this is not a new idea. It's 100+ years old. Why didn't this superior drivetrain catch on?
posted by fixedgear at 2:35 PM on September 21, 2008

Why didn't this superior drivetrain catch on?

Perhaps in part because of sizing. The distance between the rear axle and the crankset + pedals front varies a bit between bikes. With shaft drives, each size bike would require a differently sized shaft. With a bike chain, you can shorten it, and the shifter and derailer take up some slack.

I don't find my chain to be too messy, but if it was, I'd use a chain guard.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:32 PM on September 21, 2008

I've ridden an 8-speed shaft drive bike very similar to this one. It was a smooth ride, the bike looked hella cool, and I loved the fact that the chain would never catch my pants leg. It was heavy, though, and not good for the 5K hilly trail I rode it on. That model specifically would be a good commuter bike in a pretty flat city.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:02 AM on September 22, 2008

I've built a few belt-drive bikes from the ground up- welded the frames, machined the belt pulleys, the whole deal. They have a slightly rubbery feel to the pedal stroke- just a touch. They've all been single-speed mountain bikes. Unenclosed belts don't do well with dirt and grit, so keep it covered and clean if you decide to go with a belt-drive.
posted by wzcx at 9:16 AM on October 1, 2008

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