OK, check this out; you jump on a bicycle and there are no shifters! No, this is not a one-speed bike; it has a lot of “gears”.
This is something I experienced on my recent visit to the NuVinci design and testing headquarters. They let me test ride a bike equipped with their “developer kit” that automatically shifts the “gears” for you. But really there are no “gears” because their continuously variable drivetrain has infinite gear possibilities between the low and high “gears”.
That may sound like a lot of techno speak, so let me break it down to a simpler vision. You basically pick a pedaling cadence that you are comfortable, say 60-70 rpm (revolutions per minute of the cranks) and the computer system varies the “gears” for you. The more effort you put into pedaling, the faster you go, but you are always pedaling the same cadence. That means you don’t have to shift to a lower gear for the hills or a higher gear for the flat areas. In fact when you come to a stop sign, the system “thinks” for you and shifts into the right “gear” for when you accelerate from a stop.
What this means is that you “set it and forget it”. You select a pedaling cadence range that feels good to you and the system takes care of the rest. There are no shifters to mess with, and you will ALWAYS be in the right “gear”. Crazy huh?!
The bike that I rode was the Raleigh Dover HS with the mid motor system that adds assistance through the chain of the bike as you pedal (no throttle, pedal assist only). The cool thing about this setup is that there were only 3 controls on the handlebars. 2 brakes levers and the controller for setting the pedal cadence, which was “set and forget” after you pick your cadence range. So the only thing to “think” about was braking every once and a while!
I am very passionate about the simplification of the bicycle because I believe it will make the bicycle more attractive to people who are not avid cyclists. 27 gear possibilities are great for a road rider or mountain biker who know how and when to use them, but for someone new to biking it can be a little overwhelming. After all enjoying the ride is what it is all about; not fussing with the shifters 🙂
As an avid cyclist it was a little weird to forget about shifting! I am so used to being in control of my gear choices and manually picking my pedaling cadence. I think that this automatic shifting system is great for e-bikes because they are generally used for city and recreational riding. It will be interesting to see if automatic shifting makes it’s way into the sport end of cycling.
The Developer Kit is a larger and more complex system originally intended for scooters and other light-electric vehicles, and is based on the previous generation NuVinci N171 CVP. Imagine what a dedicated system for bicycles based on the significantly lighter and more refined N360 CVP will be like 🙂
Do you have any questions for me about my automatic shifting experience on the NuVinci system? Would you like to test ride a bike with an auto shifting system?
Please leave your comments and questions below.
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