NuVinci’s Latest: Automatic Bicycle Shifting!

Nu Vinci Automatic Shifting System

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.

Nu Vinci Developer Kit Controller (Where You Set Your RPM Range)

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!

CVP Hub & Developer Kit Automatic Shifting Unit

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.

Thanks!

-Pete

P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips!

Comments

  1. says

    Pete, this is a most curious idea for a bike. I can’t picture in my head what a continuously variable drivetrain is, and why there would be infinite “gearing” possibilities. Is the system actually moving the chain in some way? What is it doing when it picks the settings for you? What happens if you don’t keep up with the preset cadence? (if you drop below on a hill, or go above while descending?)

    • says

      Hi Kevin, It is definetly a different shifting system. Here is a video that best explains how the mechanics work:

      https://www.fallbrooktech.com/02_demo.asp

      The infinite “gearing” possibilities refers to any gear ratio between the low and high range. Normal bicycles have say 27 specific indexed gears between low and high. The NuVinci allows you to pick any gear ratio between low and high. For instance you could select the gear ratio 14.5 (between gears 14 and 15 on normal indexed gear system). That is gear ratio you could not select on a normal bicycle drivetrain (derailleur or internally geared hub).

      The automatic shifting system uses a little “computer” and sensors to adjust the hubs gearing to make sure you are pedaling in that rpm range that you selected.

      The NuVinci system does have a low and high gear range. If you drop below or go above that the system would not be able to keep you in the specified rpm range. The difference between the low and high range will fit average riding conditions and with an electric bike you will probably be able to maintain the rpm range on the hills 🙂

  2. Frank the BBB says

    Yhis adds more complexity and possible problems to the bike. WHAT IS SOO HARD ABOUT HOW HARD IS TWISTING A SINGLE GRIP TO CHANGE GEARS??? People are not that stupid!! It does not take that long to get used to a simple twist shifter (especially with the new N360 hub that only needs 3/4 of a turn compared to the old hub that needed 2 1/2 turns)!! I hope bikes are not going to get rediculously electronic like cars have adding to more things to go wrong, decreased reliability, and costly repairs!! WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO THINK FOR OUR SELVES, AND NOT NEED COMPUTERS DOING MOST OF OUR THINKING AND DECISION MAKING!!!!!!!

    • says

      Hi Frank, I hear what you are saying. I agree that sometimes these new technologies get too complex. I am a big fan of simplicity. On the other side I am curious to see how this system holds up over time. If this automatic shifting system can prove to be reliable, I am all for it.

      Here is another thought: A lot of people really like automatic shifting cars, why not bikes? It’s not that hard to shift a manual transmission on a car, but a lot of people like automatics. I think we need to see how this goes with the bicycle. Based on my experience at the NuVinci design and testing headquarters, I believe they are in it to make their auto shifting system work really well, but of course time will tell.

      Overall, I am excited to see what improvements can be made to the bicycle to get more people interested in riding them. I think simplifying the riding experience is a big step in the right direction. I am also excited about things like the belt drive and flat resistant tires and tubes because they take away some of the regular maintenance hassles.

      • Brian O'Brien says

        I think ANYTHING that helps people to get riding is overall a good thing. Taking shifting out of the equation in order to enhance a persons ride experience is going to open the market up so more people can ride and enjoy cycling. If you don’t want to have to shift that doesn’t mean you are stupid or lazy as I believe the previous post implies. I think it just says you want a different ride experience that’s all. Nothing stops anybody from just getting on their old human powered only bike and riding to their hearts content. Moreover, I don’t see anybody willing to trade in their index shifting for the old friction type.. 🙂

  3. Jess says

    I would love to try this out! Shifting is certainly fun but most of the time I find myself lagging behind ever so slightly then trying to decide how many gears to change or when to go to a different crank sprocket. Some times I don’t want to pay attention to shifting, I just want to cruise along. My wife doesn’t like shifting so avoids her bicycle. This setup could make efficient bicycling practical for her, and easier for me.

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Jess! I hear what you are saying. I think automatic shifting can make biking more fun for someone who is not used to shifting the gears to get the best performance. I have found that someone who rides now and again tends to leave their bike in one gear (usually a hard one to pedal efficiently) and that can take the fun out of a ride. I am excited about technology that can make biking easier to enjoy in order to get more people on bikes 🙂

      • Jr says

        The NuVinci N360 also makes me beautiful and svelt–the point is–when will it be available????? or is it only an addon after market now. There are 2 shops in Austin that Fallbrook reports as distributors, but neither have brick and mortar storefronts. Thanks, but teasers are not helpful and frustrating

  4. Cottagethyme says

    Pete, This is just what I have been looking for to help me choose the right e bike for me. The problem is in the US many of the best e bikes are not available or I don’t know where to buy them – the Dover with Nuvinci for one. I am close to purchasing a 2009 Kalkhoff, but have not yet. I need a 35 mile range (one way). It takes 3 1/2 hours one way and 2 1/2 the other. I just found your podcast. Thanks Dave

    • says

      Hi Dave, I know what you mean. There are some really cool electric bikes that are not available in the US yet. It seems that more are becoming available. For instance I know of a few stores in the US that are now carrying Gepida (NYCeWheels & Electric Bikes Northwest). As of right now I don’t know where you can get the Raleigh Dover in the US. For ideas on electric bike stores check out the Ebike store guide:

      https://EbikeStorehq.com

      It seems that a number of ebike companies offer a higher capacity battery pack as an option (14ah or 15ah compared to the regular 10ah). Those higher capacity packs will help with your longer commute.

  5. Jr says

    I live in Austin and I am dying to ask Cedar Park for a demo in order to decide to wait for The NuVinciN360 or go ahead and get the Kalkhoff PC. I believe I marveled at the NuVinci about 3 years ago at an inventor’s expo in Austin but it was $2K then. Could this be? Apparently NuVinci just procured new investors–so how long do I need to wait to demo or to buy please?

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