i want to know about the complete design and dimensions of the shaft and suggest me to give more efficiency to the bicycle

  • I think we need a few more details, i.e. are you intending to do a hardtail or soft tail. Is it for an MTB or a road bike.
    – Henry
    Jan 22, 2016 at 19:27
  • Efficiency to the transmission system specifically, or efficiency to the bike overall? Chain drive is considered to be the highest efficiency available. Total weight comes into it too - a shaft will have to be hollow. Where does the freewheel/coasting happen, or will it be a fixed gear? Could add brakes on the driveshaft. For added complexity, consider a 2 wheel drive.
    – Criggie
    Jan 22, 2016 at 19:57
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    As an me student you should be able to design the shaft. Your biggest problem is a gearbox to spin the shaft at the crank. And then alignment at the wheel as you have the chainstay to deal with. If you run a chain to a gearbox it kind of defeats the whole idea. I suggest you start bamboo shaft mock up. Do you have a plan B project?
    – paparazzo
    Jan 22, 2016 at 19:58
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    So you want to do the design, starting with us giving you the design? How is this not "please do my homework for me?"
    – Móż
    Jan 22, 2016 at 21:51
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2 Answers 2


Always remember, cycling technology is driven by reducing the weight of the bicycle. Having a shaft that weighs half the weight of your bicycle is something you should avoid.

These are consideration when building a shaft:

  • Weight: 500gram to 1kg heavier than normal chain drive is ok, 1-2kg kg is not bad, but over 2kg+ is terrible.
  • Strength: must be able to withstand torque of at least 200 N.m, in practice it could be 3-4 times the minimum. Apart from the torque, you need to analyse the hoop strength. For example, the shaft should not break under normal drop/horizontal impact. I cannot tell you how thick and how big the shaft should be, because different materials will result in different design.
  • Compatibility: how you integrate the shaft driven into a normal frame. Bevel gear is a good start. Design a bevel gear appropriate for cycling is the next. Don't integrate a heavy bevel gear, which was designed for car/industrial machine, into your shaft. Design it yourself, shave as much weight as possible, but keep it as strong as possible.
  • Gearing: Start with single gear, or integrated gear hub. It is the easiest way. If you are using single gear, having a bicycle that is more than 11 kg is undesirable. Also check gearing ratio. Design a pinion (part of bevel gear) that could be threaded into the single gear wheel. (Last time I remember it is some imperial 1.375x24 tpi or something close to that)
  • Torque: for the same weight, shaft-drive is at great disadvantage comparing to chain-drive regarding maximum deliverable torque. So, again consider gearing appropriately so that the torque is as small as possible.

Aiming to build a shaft driven bicycle for efficiency is the wrong direction. Efficiency improvements of shaft over chain driven in bicycle is negligible. Not to mention, shaft driven is overshadowed by an (un)established market regarding gearing on bicycle.

Advantages of shaft driven:

  • Low maintenance
  • Better durability
  • Slightly better efficiency over time, since it requires less maintenance
  • Can be driven with high-torque, very good for some of the electric mid-drive motor

Disadvantages of shaft driven

  • Heavy. However, with the cost of carbon fiber being driven down, a carbon shaft designed for bicycle might just be light and economical just as a chain driven.
  • Expensive when repair/replace, again, market is the keyword
  • Specifically, you have an allowable loss in the drivetrain of 2% under optimum conditions. More than that and your design is less efficient than a chain drive bike. So start by coming up with a pinion drive that loses less than 1% (you have two, one each end of the shaft).
    – Móż
    Jan 22, 2016 at 21:54
  • Great answer. You can add shaft 'wind up' as another disadvantage. Whenever you ride hard you can really notice the shaft twisting under each pedal stroke due to the fact out output is not constant. I remember reading somewhere that our peak torque is higher than a small internal combustion engine. This makes designing a shaft drive difficult due to the need to also keep it light.
    – Rider_X
    Jan 23, 2016 at 5:40
  • @Rider_X "small IC engine" as in 4 cylinder turbo, not small as i 900c Japanese eco. 100kg rider on 170mm crank = 170Nm
    – Móż
    Jan 23, 2016 at 5:45
  • @Mσᶎ - I believe a bit smaller like a motor scooter or small motorcycle. It will take some work to track down the source. I remember being excited that we at least beat a lawn mower.
    – Rider_X
    Jan 23, 2016 at 5:59
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    @NhânLê - yes agreed, but torque is what causes shaft wind up and on a shaft driven bike the shaft will experience two wind up and release cycles per pedal revolution which is pretty harsh relative to a drive shaft in an engine, which will experience a wind up at the start of power delivered but will remain wound up due to the more constant power delivery of an IC engine.
    – Rider_X
    Jan 23, 2016 at 18:58

Here's some prior art for you to search out...

Reader "Unclemiltie" reminded me that America's first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, loved to ride his bike, and was still riding in his 80s. It's a little bit ironic that he made his fortune at the helm of what was then the world's biggest oil company, which greatly enabled America's love affair with the automobile. This Library of Congress photo shows him posing with his shaft-drive Columbia bicycle.

From http://bikeretrogrouch.blogspot.co.nz/2016/01/the-non-politics-of-riding-bike.html

Rockefeller with his bike

Unfortunately he's standing in front of the interesting bits. However we can see that there is no chainring. There are also no brakes, so his bike was likely a fixed single-speed. To me this implies a toothed ring gear at the front and at the back, with a fixed drive shaft between them. As a plus it would pedal backwards as well as forwards, but no gearing. Lubrication of the gears is likely an oil bath, like a car's differential.

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