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I have found the 1930s Gearbox Bike - Restoration video on Youtube.

This is a 1930's bicycle which was manufactured with a gearbox that you can shift like the one on a motorbike or a car, though there is no clutch involved. Current gearboxes in production are electronically controlled and are bulky. They are claimed to be less efficient than the derailleur shifting on a chain drive and I expect them to be more expensive due to the electronic system and the shifting mechanism powered by the servo motor. This 1930's gearbox setup seems to use fewer parts and is less bulky. The only drawback I can see (from the video) is having just two gear ratios. However, they seem to be worth a try - if not for sports, at least for daily commute.

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    What benefits would this system have over internal gear hub? The torque at bottom bracket is more than twice as much as at hub, so it would end up quite heavy and expensive.
    – ojs
    Apr 20 at 17:52
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    Any internal gear hub (IGH) is a manual gearbox. And the rather expensive top model is actually claimed to be as efficient as a derailleur. IGHs range from three gears to 14 gears (one even has infinite gears) with seven gears being the most wide spread design. Since they are closed systems, they are much more robust and lower maintenance than any derailleur can ever be. I.e. perfect for commuter bikes that just have to work reliably every morning. Apr 21 at 10:08
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    I've read somewhere that derailleurs are more efficient as long as they are regularly cleaned. Something most people can't be bothered with ;-)
    – Berend
    Apr 21 at 13:01
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    @Berend ... and as long as the jokey wheels are on high quality ball bearings, nothing is deformed such that it rubs against the chain, etc. pp. Also stuff that people can't be bothered with. As long as you are not aiming to win races, derailleurs are just vastly inferior to IGHs. Apr 21 at 13:28
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    @Criggie that's not really how coaster brakes work. The brake itself is inside rear hub and back pedaling just controls it. Before the brake shoes are worn out, it doesn't need much more force than hand brakes.
    – ojs
    Apr 22 at 18:49

2 Answers 2

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There is currently to my knowledge one manufacturer of gearboxes: Pinion.

Compared to internally geared hubs (IGHs), their flagship product offers more range (max 636%/18 speeds, vs 514%/14 speeds for the Rohloff), but is heavier and requires specific frames. (IGHs also require specific frames, but the requirements are the same for all IGHs, unlike Pinion's system that require a frame with custom mount.) They are also heavier (800g more than a Rohloff, that is itself heavier than a derailleur).

It looks like mountain biking is a use case where gearboxes have a comparative advantage over IGHs: the gearbox replaces the bottom bracket, so is at the center of the bike and is part of the suspended mass.

Pinion also has gearbox unit that includes an electric motor (although there are e-bikes with gearboxes that use hub motors). In that case, the weight penalty is proportionally lower.

For daily commuting, the cost of such system is likely to be a problem, as well as the limited availability. There are also much less expensive options for bikes with an IGH and belt drives that will probably give you the advantages you are looking for - Shimano's Alfine and Nexus ranges are widespread and much more affordable than Rohloff.

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  • For daily commute, the cost is a bit more complicated question. Where I live (Finland) the maximum tax free bike benefit is 1200€ per year, so you need expensive leasing bikes to max out the benefit. The usual choice is electric assist, but I can certainly see Pinion going for the same market.
    – ojs
    Apr 20 at 22:39
  • Uh, I was trying to explain why cost is not a problem but explicit goal for daily commute bikes. I seriously doubt that people suddenly started buying 3000€ e-bikes with their own money right at the moment the tax benefit was announced.
    – ojs
    Apr 21 at 7:23
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    There are Two, TWO manufacturers of gearboxes! Our chief manufacturers are Pinion and Schlumpf...(what about Honda?) There are THREE manufacturers of bicycle gearboxes.... Amongst our bicycle gearboxes are Adler, Hammerschmidt, ... oh I'll come in again....
    – Criggie
    Apr 21 at 9:45
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    @Criggie that sounds a lot like an answer.
    – ojs
    Apr 21 at 11:28
  • @ojs They all make or have-made gearboxes, but none of them are 2 speed and lever-operated in the same way OP is asking about. Probably not a separate answer.
    – Criggie
    Apr 21 at 19:11
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A two-speed frame mounted gearbox with a gearstick? Not outside niche artisan bikes perhaps intended for shows like NAHBS.

The rear derailleur and multiple cogs may feel like it has a lot of metal that isn't used (which is true) but it also is more "efficient" than any IGH or other gearing system.

The rear derailleur is above 95% efficient, and the only two that are better are single-speed and fixed cranks, neither of which provide any gearing.

See What's the efficiency of hub gears compared to derailleurs? for a lot of comparisons between systems (not a duplicate question.)


There was the Raleigh Chopper which had a three posititon gearstick on the top tube, however it controlled a standard Sturmey Archer three-speed IGH in the rear wheel, nothing like your sample video.

Sourced from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Chopper then cropped and scaled down.

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