7

Today we studied about mechanical stepless drives, which appear to be used quite widely in industry machines, such as CNC lathes.

The concept of varying the transmission ratio arbitrary, without fixed steps, seems tempting for a bike. Has it ever been tried commercially?

6

There have been designs, but cyclists tend to be picky about increases in weight or losses in efficiency.

Bicycles do not have the problems of large spinning masses or rough clutching at low speed, and we seem to do OK with discrete steps in the gear ratio.

  • Also, with only a single tooth difference between adjacent cogs, the gearing on most derailleur bikes is pretty close to stepless anyway. Sometimes I shift and the difference between the gears is so small that I feel as though I haven't shifted at all. – Kibbee Oct 24 '14 at 19:42
5

The NuVinci® N360 is a continuous variable transmission that is roller based. It is marketed and used mainly on hybrid and low maintenance city bikes. They must have had some market success as they have been around since 2006. I recall seeing them at Interbike around that time.

More info in the internal structure

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