Bike CVT: Derailleurs not derailed

It has been brought to my attention that the bicycle has another, new transmission option: the CVT.

The NuVinci gearshift looks like a hub gear, with a command cable coming out one side to the shifter.  Except, you can dial the analog shifter at will, for stepless changes.  And?

Well, there’s the and.  CVTs aren’t really transformative transmissions, at least in the bicycle world.  Human legs have a narrow powerband, sure.  But they can pause and “reengage” at will, with only a loss of concentration, not efficiency, really.  The NuVinci does not weigh less, nor does it save much in friction losses.  It’s more weatherized, but so were hub gears.  So far, it doesn’t span a huge range, which would at least appeal to downhillers.

The target market, then, is utility bikes (in-town or commuting vehicles).  Except, these riders also want a cheap bike, and something with “elastohydrodynamic fluid” (the special grease needed to drive the system) isn’t rock bottom, or anywhere near.  Of course, let’s not have tunnel vision.  The target market is ultimately anyone who will pay the company, including automakers with advanced alternators, variable superchargers, or simply small, advanced hatches.

Should the technology be mass-produced for multiple markets, then bicycle applications will eventually be cheap enough to compete in that market.  Otherwise, I see no leapfrogging or even upheaval.  Heck, people have taken to singlespeeds and related urban bikes.  For the industry, that’s a mindshare and business upheaval if not a technological one (or even anti-technological).


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