Over de technische achtergronden van de fiets - the technical background of the bicycle
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Gears (under construction and translation)



The distance covered by one crank rotation is called the development. The more meters we want to travel, the harder we have to push on the pedals. (In England they use the gearratio in inches). Most important are rearwheel diameter and sprockets and chainrings used on the bike. Riders often talk about the gear ratio on their race bike: "I rode the Cauberg with 42-18 ". Because the rear wheels of roadracing bikes have a standard size, you can  instantly compare the gear ratios. On the mountain bike this is more difficult nowadays. In the eighties and nineties we rode a standard size, a rim diameter of 559mm ; 26 inch as mountain bikers usually say. The current range of ATB's has also got extra large tyre sizes of 27.5 and 29 inch. Especially if you want to compare different gear systems or wheel sizes, a conversion to the distance travelled, is the best way to make that comparison.

An old-fashioned city bike travels about 4 or 5 meters, for every revolution of the crank. Riders in a sprint or descent, use about 10 meters. development. An ATB with the smallest chainring of 24  and largest sprocket os 32 teeth at the rear (often the lowest gear), travels around 1, 5 m. The speed drops to 5 km/h and it's more difficult to keep balance. Even with the same rim diameter, differences in the distance travelled can occur, because there is a large variation in tire size. By choosing wider tires, or just using a higher pressure , the distance travelled per revolution of the wheel is longer. On the page "downloads" you can find an Excel file for this calculation.

From 1865 to around 1884 all bicycles had a fixed drive (single speed). The efficiency of the drive was high because there were no additional friction losses; the crankset was directly connected with the hub. If the wheel diameter is 1 meter, the distance travelled is 3,14 m. That is actually a light gearratio and to ride faster, they choose for an increasingly larger front wheel. Cyclists were looking for a way to change that distance while riding. The variation possibilities of the development are called gears. The first gear system on the bike, was in the hub of the front wheel, an Internal Hub Gear (IHG) or planetary gear system: the Crypto-hub from 1878. As soon as we are going to use gears, we must accept additional losses by the friction of gears and/ or chains. The introduction of the Rover Safety with chain drive in 1885, made it the possible to fit the rear wheel with a sprocket left and right. The rider had to get off bike and turn the wheel  around though. The differences in gears were never really large, because the chain length had to fit; that was done by sliding in the dropouts. This was used in the first decades of cycle racing, even in the Tour de France until 1935..

The efficiency of the chain on a track bike (fixed drive) is up to 98%. A regular road bike with freewheel is up to 96-97%. In the non-pulling part of the chain we can find the derailleur (see FIG. 1 for B). Here is a 2 to 5 percent loss, on a dirty or rusty chain even up to 10%. The use of small cogs (11-12) can lead to 3-4% extra losses and extra wear of chain and sprockets. The twist of the chain around the jockey wheels is actually too large (or the jockey wheels are too small). This is certainly true in the high gear, this makes the chain wear faster. With optimal lubrication, the light gear (40-24) has a 97% efficiency; The high gear only has a 92% effiency using 50-11. Recumbents is often use tube-like protection systems and rollers to guide the chain. Especially in the pulling part of the chain (in FIG1.a/b  at A) this waists up to three percent efficiency; in part B about half of that.

Each drive has losses; an average derailleur about 5%. That percentage is often higher in geared hubs. This is a big downside to planetary systems: all gears that are interlocking, rotating and transmitting forces. lose energy by friction. Usually the bearings of the planet wheels are plain bearings. The losses of friction by bearings and sprockets can add up to 10-20%. In some gears there will be many planetwheels enabled and others less. The efficiency of the geared hub will therefore depend on the gear selection and the type of hub. An expensive hub like Rohloff, does use bearings; the efficiency is similar to a derailleur. The efficiency of Shimano Nexus 7-speed was very moderate, averaging 85%; the current 8-speed has been improved by using some bearings and another shifting pattern.




Around 1895 in England a system is marketed with an expanding chain wheel. This "Protean 4 speed" had chain tensioner to take up the difference in chain length; an arm with an auxiliary wheel and pressure spring, which was supported on the rearfork. In that same year a Frenchman designed a system with such a chain tensioner, but it also had a swing arm with a fork, which could lay the chain from one sprocket to another: a real derailleur. Probably this was never produced, but the idea existed already.


In fig. 2a, 2b and 2 c we see designs from the 1930s. Until after the second world war, these are the common types of Jockey in the sport of cycling. Mainly used in Italy for the war the Vittoria Margherita, see fig. 2 c; This is a similar construction, but this had the clear fork reversed above the gears and the driver had to back steps to switch. This was also the first Campagnolo systems (see fig. 5a). It was the first rear hub disconnected. This was via a gear on the shaft, and teeth on the dropouts (see fig. 5b), move to the difference in chain length. On Youtube there is a video:


But even before the war, there were already more advanced models, like the Super Champion of fig. 3 and the vulnerable Simplex of fig. 4. The front derailleur of fig. 3 was not used by racers; something for tourists and commuters. Racers had three sprockets on the rearhub; for a real man that used to be enough in those days.

After the war there for Simplex and Campagnolo derailleurs on the market, which were operated by a lever on top (see fig. 5b) ; it meant that the driver had to bend over and was quite deep even led to falls. Campagnolo rear derailleur from 1949 experimented with a deformable parallelogram. In 1953, the final version on the market. The schakelhandles of the front and rear derailleur come then if set on the down tube. The Campagnolo Gran Sport is the most imitated derailleur ever ( Fig. 6).


It was only in 1964 comes a new improvement the manufacturer places the parallelogram Suntour at an angle ("slant parallelogram"); see the right image in fig. 7a. The upper Jockey wheel remains closer to the gears and the derailleur is more accurate. After the patent expires 20 years and all the manufacturers, Shimano, Campagnolo, Sachs etc. come all of a sudden with all new series, all according to this principle.


In the mid-1970s from a switch that is not with a Suntour brings friction works fig. 7b, but via a ratchet system (micro-ratchet); this is later also applied by many other manufacturers.

The next big leap forward, the index circuit (switch with steps). Also here are the necessary experiments, for a good solution to the problem was found. At the end of the 1970s came Bridgestone with Synchro Memory Shift and Shimano with the "Positive Pre Select" derailleur. At the last was the cable not braided, but a rigid wire; you could not only attract, but also print. A scribe with a feather moved about a series of notches on the derailleur. It switched fairly rough and was especially popular with people who have little riding bicycle; that chatter if the roller not gobbling up well under the sprocket. At the illustrious aerodynamic AX-groups of Shimano was also an attempt to get indexed. Here ran a catch on a series of steps higher on the rear derailleur; very vague and disorganized quickly. In 1984 came SIS! Shimano Index System, a system that actually worked! Something for old women, they said at Campagnolo. This arrogance has almost become fatal for them. Campagnolo's shifting system was no longer up to date! Instead of a trend-setter the company became a trend-follower within a year. Although I drove for years on my touring bike with a Suntour rear derailleur and Commander's cross, it took until 1986 for I the Campagnolo Nuovo Record on my racer for the Shimano 600 SIS derailleur. The quality was great, both of the rolling element in the parallelogram, and the wheels, and it shfted fantastic.

Most derailleurs and Shimano switches are interchangeable. An exception are the first 3 series of Dura-ace. The rear derailleurs from 1984 to 1993 are exclusively with Dura-ace switches to use. It doesn't matter if the switch 6, 7, or 8, parties can switch the rear derailleur is interchangeable. Shimano did a masterstroke on marketing policy: derailleurs, gears and chains, to the Shimano SIS all had to select the best possible action. Not only in road bikes, but also at the new fashion: the All Terrain Bikes. With the top group sets as XT and Dura-ace they spoiled the cyclists, who after a test drive not more else wanted; the standard was set! Each competitor had to at least almost as good if the Shimano group in its price range, in order to remain on the market. Each renewal as STI (the switch lever), was in the top group and then by seeped down. Suntour is gone, Huret and Sachs are bought up by SRAM. Only in the race market plays Campagnolo still; the whole ATB-market they are after 1 attempt. Shimano rules!

The derailleur is thus fully developed? Eh, no; there are already improvements have been made by various manufacturers. The course of the cable with a bend at the rear derailleur is very inefficient. Suntour, SRAM and M5 (U-turn-away) for improvements have already figured out. The frame builders had to the Suntour S1 or other frame cam soldering; that was just a step too far. Actually the Suntour was a redesign of the "Nivex altenburger and 38 out of the 50 years.

There are also prototypes, where the gears on the rear axle, and moved the derailleur was no more than a fixed chain tensioner. So you avoid the crooked walk of the chain, but the construction is more complicated and more expensive (simplicity obliges).



Another possibility to switch is the planetary system (= epicyclic system), usually in the hub. The basis of this design comes from clocks and was applied as a link system in 1800 steam engines. The Crypto crankshaft for high Bi (1878) was the first planetary system in the cycling technique; It had two modes: a direct drive and an acceleration. With the invention of the Safety moves the actuator to the rear hub. Around 1900 the first geared hubs on the market for rear axles; Sturmey-Archer in England by the manufacturer and in Germany by Fichtel & Sachs.

Epicyclic systems are based on the roller principle (see fig. 8a); If we have a shelf (black) on two roles (blue), will the role after a rotation across the bottom (yellow) the circumference 2 * π * r . The pivot point of the shelf on the surface goes around the beam d, and explains the distance 2 * π * d off, twice as much so. That might seem a little odd, but otherwise you would a closet on two loose rollers through the House. We provide everything from teeth, roll the bottom and get on the shelf to a circle, and fig. 8b.

A planetary system consists of: a Sun wheel (yellow), planet wheels (blue) the planetary carrier (red) and a ring gear (black). Note: the planetary carrier runs slower than the ring gear. The planetary system is in a hub; the hub includes a shaft, a hub home where the wheel attached and a operator where the chain wheel is stuck. The shaft is stuck in the frame; when a driebak is the Sun wheel on the shaft. We're going to now switch by the hub home and the operator to connect with the planetary carrier and ring gear. If we connect the operator with the planetary carrier (slow) and the ring gear (fast) with the House we have a hub gear. If we connect the operator with the ring gear (fast), and the planetary carrier (slowly) with the hub House we have a delay. The chain wheel is then more often around as the hub home. In our three data is not just the ability to speed up or slow down; the operator can also be linked directly to the home hub. This happens in second gear. Our driebak know so: 1. A delay 2. A direct drive 3. A gear.

By the planet wheel double ("kicked" see FIG. 9 ), it may be for example a second power ring gear. This extends the capabilities. There is a big downside to planetary systems: all gears interlocking, rotate and forces pass, lose energy by friction. Usually the bearings of the planet wheels not more than plain bearings. The sprockets are made via sintering of metal powder (pressed and baked). The surface is somewhat rougher (more friction). One advantage is that the lubricants better stick and attach in the cavities. The losses by friction of bearings and sprockets can really add up to 10-20%. In some States there will be many wheels enabled and others less so. The efficiency of the gear hub will therefore depend on the gear selection. Only Rohloff used anywhere real bearings in the sprockets. Those wheels make them also through machining (only the SRAM Spectro P5 Cargo has also install machined wheels). Usually there is one circuit in which the chain wheel to the hub home linked; the return is then maximum (96%).

The number of teeth on the ring gear is equal to the number of teeth on the Sun wheel, + 2 times the number of teeth of the planetary gear.

The relationship between the gears determine the steps between the accelerations and decelerations. It depends or the ring gear or the planet wheels powered, or we an acceleration (> 1) or delayed (< 1). If the slight acceleration 3/4 of the hard drive, then the 4/3 of the heavy gear fixed drive. This is for example the case for the classic Sturmey-Archer AW and copie hubs, such as Hercules, Steyr, Suntour, Brampton, etc.

At drive through the planetary carrier applies: the gear number = (teeth ring gear teeth + Sun wheel)/teeth ring gear (> 1) in drive via the ring gear: the acceleration-number = teeth ring gear/(teeth ring gear teeth + Sun wheel) (< 1).

When the derailleur is still in its infancy, was the circuit with planetary systems all adult. Before the second world war, there was also made by drivers do use; especially in England. If option had the hubs wing nuts to quickly Exchange wheels at flat tires; there were smaller steps between gears ("close ratio"). A topper was the Sturmey-Archer 3-bake type AR from the thirties ( fig. 10); in 1939 there was even a 4-bake type FM released.

If we make the Sun wheel very small, we make the steps between gears smaller. Unfortunately, the forces submitted, remain the same. The strength of the small wheels is not enough and the construction is unreliable. The steps in a single planetary system are therefore large (at a 3-bake gives a great gear without saying a big delay). The consequence of a real "close ratio" box, if the AR, is a compound planetary system (tiered planet wheels and an additional ring gear) and thus what additional losses.

The way you approach your planetary system (s) want to switch, is one of the problems with the design. The Fichtel & Sachs 4-bak from 1912 (fig. 11) even had all three planetary systems; This construction was complicated, to switching of simplicity.

At the shift system of the Sturmey-Archer 3-bake (fig. 12) serves a chain control pen. The cross bar goes through the slot in the shaft. The threads of the control pin in the cross bar is turned. During switching takes the cross bar, and the sterclutch (link) brings so the connections. The spring loaded causes the sterclutch comes back. If the control pin, disables the hub by the spring loaded to the heavy gear. If we combine a 3-bake with a coaster brake, the braking performance in first gear, sometimes noticeably better than in the third (depending on the construction).

At planetary systems will the fixed Sun wheel the torque that the rider can bring, through the axis passed to the frame. The axis of SA in fig. 12 is flattened, so that he can not rotate. Many manufacturers add therefore still special rings with a blokkeringsnok. At Rohloff (fig. 13b), a hub which is used by many strong riders, and where many light gears in it, they choose even for very rigorous solutions. There is a strong lever to the shaft coupled, which afsteunt on the swing arm. This lever can expire if one uses the special Rohloff dropouts itself; These are equipped with chain tensioners. 

The Rohloff is the absolute top of the IGH. This is a very thoughtful design; There is no compromise on the price of the parts. Everything should be top quality and super reliable; everything is stored and runs in oil. The return is similar to the derailleur, about 95%. At low power as 70W (10% loss), the efficiency is much lower than with 300W (4% loss). The teeth of the gears are of high quality machine steel; to save weight, the larger part of plastic gears, with carbon reinforcement. The total weight is about 1.7 km. The price of the hub is soon 900 euro. The scope of this hub is very large, 526%; the 11th gear is the direct drive. The hub is both when stationary, as under load. Especially the latter is special, because at Shimano cost you that soon a new tray. As both Shimano at Rohloff, the whole gear system be removed in its entirety.

On the pictures below we see the inside of a SRAM Spectro P5 with 2 switchable Sun wheels, 3 tiered planet wheels, and 1 ring gear.

In fig. 14a we see the cams on the axle at B; These are served by the control PIN. The small Sun they can wheel A or the big C block. Both Sun wheels are continuously connected with stepped planet wheels. There are two sets of retainers; on the right side on the ring gear (see fig. 14 c + e) and to the left side in the hub are the retainers of the planetary carrier (see top fig. 14f ). In fig. 14 d we can see the two rows of cams in the hub, where the retainers take home.

The operation of the circuit goes through the clickbox (4 in Fig. 15a). Here serves the cable from the switch, via a cam drive, the redundant control pen. The plastic fixeerbus with guided nok, provides the link between control markers and the clickbox. The steel control pin (1 in Fig. 15b) serves the turn which the Sun pin wheels (B in Fig. 14a). The aluminium tube around it (2 in Fig. 15b) , the coupler (clutch) between the drijfkop, and the planetary carrier or the ring gear. In the first two gears, the drive through the left ratchets (planet wheel carrier) and in the other three via the right p (of the ring gear).


The functioning of the 7-speed of SRAM is the same. The only difference is, that there are than 3 switchable Sun wheels are and that the planet wheels 3 steps.

The construction of the 7-speed from SA, is somewhat similar to the SRAM (both three Sun wheels).

The construction of the Shimano 7-gearbox is totally different; with 4 Sun wheels, two ring wheels and two planetary carriers. Because there are no direct drive and the forces sometimes go by both systems, the return in some gears lower than 80%, and average about 85%.

The 8-bake by SA weather quite different. The first gear is here the direct drive; This means that all other transmissions real gears are. So choose a very low transmission, as for 32 and 24 behind, to this bin.

In the early 1990s worked Sachs to a 12-gearbox; This would be the great leap forward. There was a lot invested in development and automation, but the result was a relatively expensive and heavy hub. There were some teething problems and financial problems; This made Sachs ripe for a takeover by SRAM. After a year stopped SRAM production, development and support of the product.

The Nexus 8-bake is a design with 4 delays, the fifth gear is a direct drive, and there are three gears. By the planet wheels with needle roller bearings, and the fact that there is a direct drive, the average return of this drawer above the 90% off. The range (the difference between the highest and lowest acceleration) of the 8-bin is in addition, risen to 307%, instead of the 244% of the 7-Bin.

In 2010, the Shimano Alfine 11 Bake at the market. The weight is about 2 kg; the lubrication is going through an oil bath, the range is 409% and the price approximately 390 euro; This makes this a formidable competitor for Rohloff, which, however, on all points, except the price, what better scores.

In old (folding) cycling we find sometimes hubs by Sachs with a 2-bake; see the page Duomatic. Here you select by backward to pedal; a later implementation of this hub was zelfschakelend: the Automatic, which recently has been put in a new jacket by SRAM as Automatix. Also S-A has previously had such a 2-bake: the S2 (1966). Sturmey Archer is in 2010 even with a whole new range of these hubs appeared; for convenience, these are called S-2 Duomatic. At S-A recycle them so even type names; What a poverty!


It is of course possible to combine a derailleur and a planetary system. In particular, Sachs has this combination will be applied. At the "Torpedo 2 x 3" was a three versnellingsnaaf with coaster brake, combined with a derailleur and two sprockets. If you then inhibits, first the derailleur vlakgetrokken; This means an extra long dead battle for the brake comes into force. It is therefore nothing.

The Sachs Orbit was a two gear hub, also equipped with a gear block with 5-6-7 sprockets. So could the second chain wheel and the front derailleur are hereby repealed. This construction was more successful. Later, a 3-bake combined with a 7 or 8 cassette in the Dual Drive, first by Sachs and, after the acquisition, of SRAM. Unfortunately you combine not only the benefits of both gear systems, but also the disadvantages. Only in certain cases, such as a Alleweder recumbent, I have chosen for this solution.

The Efneo GTRO Gearbox is a 3 Speed Internally Geared Crankset Replacement. It will give you an effective gear range identical to having a 28/40/50 Triple Crankset up front, without having to use a front derailleur. You can shift the Efneo whether you are moving or standing still!  The Efneo GTRO Gearbox comes in 3 different configurations- Twist Shifter, Trigger Shifter, or Bar End Shifter.


Since 2007 there is an infinitely adjustable gear hub: the Nuvinci, this is not an epicyclic system but a traction-drive. This CVT ' turns off ' with rotating balls instead of gears, such as that in the conventional geared hubs. The special traction-oil in the hub plays an important role in the transmission. Depending on the distance of the point of tangency of the input drive (connected to the sprocket, right) and the output drive (connected to the hub, left) relative to the axis of the gear lighter bullets (gear fast, small RADIUS) or heavier (gear slowly, large RADIUS). The touch point is continuously adjustable by means of a simple rotary switch that has been processed in the handle of the bike. A slight movement is enough to adjust the transfer and in any desired. This allows for an almost infinite variety in the number of ' gears '.

The return of the hub is in the middle (85%); in the lowest or highest gears are the losses even pretty, especially at high power. Since 2011 is a new version of the hub, which weighs just 2.5 kg and has a range of 360%. The technical capabilities of this hub also take, such as disc brake application and loss-as. In terms of data to get than in a real competitiveness with for example a Shimano Alfine 8 or 11 FRY. A new development is the Harmony-bak, which at a certain adjustable pedal pressure, the data automatically adjusts. This Harmony-bak is especially intended for mounting in E-bikes and potentially very promising: use as needed to produce power, (an old socialist ideal). Especially at application of a centre motor is the Harmony a good solution, because the Ark "clear" also good under load; at Shimano is that a weak point. Just make sure the batteries are not empty of touch as the training effect of this combination is significant.

There are tests done with some of the IGH, which we described in a chart the German engineer Andreas Oehler, can read the returns . Some knowledge of the German language is useful when reading that website, but the graph gives a good idea. The thick lines are for a (sports) power of 200 watts. At very low power (50W) takes the return always off (thin lines).


A gearbox that we see hardly in Netherlands, is the 2-speed of Schlumpf . This is not in the hub, but at the bottombracket. While in a hub the torque is more than halved by the drivetrain, the Schlumpf transmits it fully. You shift this 2-speed, by moving the crankshaft to the left or to the right. The steps between the gears are large; it is used in folding bikes (including Brompton) or recumbent is (extra light or extra heavy gears).

Schlumpf also offers  a 2-speed (150%) front wheel hub and a crankshaft, type FSU, for unicycle or imitation high-wheeler; if the tyre choice is 60-787, you get a development of 4,27m.

There are other bottombracket gears in use. The Dutch bicycle manufacturer Phoenix has used a real 3-speed gearbox (no planetary system) type Mutaped (Swiss), for which a special large bracket was needed . Several German manufacturers had that before the war. Bismarck, Wanderer and Brennabor were 2-speeds, Adler a 3-speed, and Rappa a 4-speed. All were beautiful examples of German engineering (see figure 17a/b)


Klik hier om een tekst te typen.

In 2013, this modern gear bottom bracket (see FIG 17 c/d) went into production; the German Pinion has 18 gears and a range of 636%! The weight is 2.7 kg. You must built frames with a special bracket. The yield is around 91%; somewhat less than Rohloff, but certainly as good as other IGH and with greater range. Meanwhile they also produce a 12-speed and two 9-speeds: wide ratio (XR), and close ratio (CR).

This gearbox is often combined with belt drive: http://www.gatescarbondrive.com/ ; a trend that we also see for hubgears like Rohloff and Shimano Alfine. The rear triangle of the bicycle must be divisible, because the belt does not split. Compared to a well lubricated chain, you have some extra losses.

A totally new concept for a drive comes from Denmark. The crankset drives a dynamo and the current that you generate, drives the electric motor in the rear wheel. The chain and gears are not necessary; the combination with a battery or accumulator, is becoming very easy. Maintenance is also much simpler. For a biker on an E-bike for commuting, this can be a very interesting product, but it is only recently marketed. I doubt if yield is sufficient to replace a chain transmission.


Ceramicspeed Driven shaftdrive ; 13 speeds on a sprocket with horizontal (!) teeth. The efficiency is claimed to be 98%. You will need a special frame and a lot of money.



More www. knowledge?

ALMOST ANY OLD BRAKE HUB AND GEAR HUB CAN BE FOUND HERE! http://sheldonbrown.com/sutherland.html

Calculation sheets: http://john-s-allen.com/gearing/hubratios.htm

VIRTUALLY EVERY OLD DERAILLEUR CAN BE FOUND HERE! http://www.disraeligears.co.uk/Site/Home.htm

Lots of archive material from Campagnolo: http://www.campyonly.com/history/catalogs.html

The modern stuff of Campagnolo: http://www.campagnolo.com/jsp/en/index/index.jsp

Interchangeability of parts for Shimano: http://sheldonbrown.com/k7.html#dura-ace.html ; http://sheldonbrown.com/dura-ace.html

Shimano: http://cycle.shimano-eu.com and http://www.paul-lange.de/service/Support/Shimano/Support.php#anker_werk

Information by Shimano for mechanics: http://si.shimano.com/

SRAM: http://www.sram.com

Old SA-hubs: http://www.sturmey-archerheritage.com/index.php?page=history&type=technic ; http://hadland.wordpress.com/category/cycle-technology-history/

On "rijwiel.net" you will find this interesting page: http://www.rijwiel.net/4versnln.htm

The official history of SA: http://www.sturmey-archerheritage.com/index.php

Info about Fichtel & Sachs Torpedo-hubs: http://www.3gang.de/3-gang/index.htm ; http://www.radhaus-freiburg.de/tech/getr_srm.htm

Lots of manuals and parts of Fichtel & Sachs: http://www.scheunenfun.de ; http://www.velo-classic.de

An infinitely adjustable gear hub: www.nuvinci.com

A 2-speed in the bottom bracket: www.schlumpf.ch

Rohloff, when quality is the only thing that counts: www.rohloff.de

Lovers of Internal Gear Hubs have their own place on the internet: http://hubstripping.wordpress.com/