Chainless bicycles- look Ma, no grease

25 Comments

Dynamic_bikeGear Live is always finding cool stuff and these chainless bicycles from Dynamic Bicycles are just awesome.  The bikes utilize a driveshaft system that is totally enclosed in the tubes of the bike and the gears are all in the hub.  Since there is no chain there is no grease to get all over your clothes and you won’t get caught in the chain while riding.  More importantly it means you can switch gears while stopped meaning you can always start in the gear you want.  Now this is pure mobile tech.  $579 – $749.

25 Comments

Patrick Perugini

Vaccinefiend’s post above is offensive and misleading. So let’s set the record straight. This customer owned his Dynamic Bicycle for nearly a year. He called us and claimed that his shaft drive was broken and asked for a refund. Even though his bicycle was 9 months beyond the normal return period, we offered a refund in good faith that it was actually broken. When the bicycle was returned to us, it did not have the problem he claimed — the shaft drive was perfectly fine. His bike only need some adjustments and it was as good as new. When we called him to tell him his bike did not have the problem he thought and that it was running great, we thought he would be pleased. He wasn’t. We did the service at no charge and even offered to ship the bicycle back to him at our expense. He refused. At Dynamic Bicycles, we have a great reputation for our excellent customer service. But even we have to draw the line when we think we are being taken advantage of. This customer clearly was trying to take advantage of us. He thought he could claim to have a problem and send a bike back after riding it extensively for nearly a year and get a full refund. This is incredulous. Yet despite his attitude, we still gave him a generous refund – his entire initial purchase price less 15% plus shipping – quite a deal for using the bike for nearly an entire year. Then he goes onto blogs and posts his drama for the world to see. We regret that this customer had difficulty with his bike, but we stand behind our bikes and our efforts to serve him. He clearly had no interest in resolving the problem with his bike – all he wanted was his money back.

vaccinefiend

I owned a Dynamic Bicycles shaft drive bicycle. The Sussex shaft drive was not built to specifications that could handle the torque generated when pedaling uphill, or pedaling hard on level ground. The result was that the shaft drive was not maintenance free–in fact, it broke. I replaced it with a new shaft drive sent by Dynamic Bicycles. The new one began to break and I was told by their Production Manager that I was exceeding the specifications of the shaft drive. I received a verbal agreement from him to refund the purchase price of the bicycle. Dynamic Bicycles even took care of the return shipping for the bicycle.

Once they received it, however, the president of Dynamic Bicycles told me that I had owned the bicycle longer than 30 days, so the satisfaction guarantee no longer applied. I was given the option of having my bicycle returned to me with a tightened bolt and new grease, which would supposedly fix the problem, or receiving a refund minus the cost of shipping and a 15% restocking fee. Despite phone conversations, emails and then a complaint process with the Better Business Bureau In Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont (thttp://boston.bbb.org/WWWRoot/SitePage.aspx?site=27&id=b9531757-8bff-425c-83ce-ef5cf233e6a5), the president of the company would not uphold a verbal agreement stated twice and acknowledged by email. Because I do not live in Massachusetts, the state where Dynamic Bicycles is located, it made no sense for me to pursue a mediation or claim in small claims court, which would have required my presence. I will never do business with Dynamic Bicycles again, nor would I recommend doing business with Dynamic Bicycles. I am also weary of bicycles sold with shaft drives built by Sussex.

Camera Ken

Ooops — my note should be to Mike in 94803 and not Ross.

Sorry, Mike.

Camera Ken

Hi Ross:

Thank you so much for your personal, thoughtful and detailed review. It always seems odd to me that Internet material is so often written by people with no direct experience.

I am from Vancouver, where the local transportation authority is thinking seriously about a Bike Share Program. Other cities, that have existing programs, are looking seriously at shaft-driven bikes as a way of reducing maintenance costs. So I’m becoming interested, with an eye to perhaps replacing my ancient bike with a shaft-driven model. I like to ride, and dislike the time I spend on fiddling with my chain and derailleur system

Thanks again.

Mike in 94803

Here’s my review of my ’05 Dynamic Outback bicycle:

Summary
After over 1500 miles commuting on an ’05 Dynamic Outback I deem it a quality bicycle. I had some initial problems that were mostly user caused and resolved satisfactorily. Concerns about weight and drivetrain inefficiency appear to be non-issues. The model has been upgraded by Dynamic since ’05. I would buy another Dynamic bicycle.

About me – I’m relatively fit but am not a “biker”. I currently average 30 miles a week, mostly on the weekend, mostly road with a few percent on the dirt. I have enjoyed a couple of years when my riding was 100 miles per week and have at least 10K miles of sporadic riding experience over 30 years and six bikes. I rode in Massachusetts (including one winter in college), and the San Francisco Bay areas. I’m relatively well educated and like to tinker and repair as a hobby. I have put 1600 miles on my ’05 Dynamic Outback at the time of this writing, almost 1K in the past 6 months and I have kept a log since buying the bike.

General, non-Dynamic comments about the bike – This is my first full-suspension bike, and first with a disk brake (front only). For my kind of riding, I don’t think I’m going back. The degree of comfort and control offered by the full suspension gives me more pleasure than the weight it suffers. As for the brake, it is a simple cable-operated unit and yet it is superior to any of the V-, cantilever or side pull brakes on any other bike I have ridden. I occasionally enjoy a thousand-foot descent, two thousand if I go pleasure riding, and I’d rather watch the disk glow at night than worry about popping a tire from the heat.

Cost/value – Dynamic is not any more expensive than bike-store bikes and not much more than Internet bikes. If you get on the ‘Net and price bikes with similar components, the Dynamic bikes seem about 10% more expensive. I guess that is what you are paying for not having to hassle with a chain anymore, and note that if the drivetrain lasts as long as they say, you’ll more than make up the price difference by 10K miles from not having to buy a couple sets of chains and sprockets during that time. Sometimes Dynamic has bikes on sale, and then they look equivalently priced with the competition. As for shaft-drive competition, there are but few other shaft-drive bike manufacturers out there. I found a low-end looking brand from the East, a more expensive and apparently small volume, made-to-order one from Canada, a post-moderne design from Holland that must be targeting the cafe’ market, and Dynamic. Dynamic seems to be targeting the all-weather commuter, the weekend rider that wants a dependable, low-maintenance bike, and maybe the techie-type who wants something different, like the guy I bought my bike from. My impression of the company, after interacting with them and riding their bike, is that they are enthusiasts who want to promote bicycling, by bringing a quality product to market that offers some advantages to people, and make a fair buck while they are at it. The information they provide on their website has of course a positive spin (it’s advertisement after all), but honest and so far complete.

Weight – Yes, the shaft drive is heavier than a chain drive; they say by a pound and that seems about right. Dynamic says 34# and mine weighs in at 35# with my tool kit. So is it too heavy? It feels as heavy as the other full-suspension bikes in the bike store. Since it doesn’t have filthy chain grease all over one side, I’m encouraged to hold it close and use my body to lift it, not out at arms length, and it thus feels lighter to lift than my old hardtail Fisher (but not my old Cannondale VX900 – now _that_ was a light bike, made of beercans or something!). At this price range, <$1K, none of the competition is particularly lightweight.

Efficiency – Some on the Net have opined that the shaft drive is not as efficient as a chain, but guesstimates vary. I don’t notice any particular inefficiencies with the drive. My impression is that it is the same as the clean and lubricated chains that I had on my previous bikes. Any loss in efficiency must be less than what I feel from low tire pressure, the compressing suspension or mountain versus road bikes in general. (My bike doesn’t have a lock-out shock or forks, but I notice the new model from Dynamic does). Compared with other riders and bikes that I have passed or passed me, my mountain bike is as fast as the road bikes when coasting downhill (which I attribute to my road tires and a suspension that reduces unsprung weight relative to their bikes), and I climb as well as the other mountain bikers at my fitness level. Yes, the fit road bikers leave me behind on the climbs, but they do no matter what mountain bike I’m riding; road bikes in general climb roads faster than mountain bikes. Again, for me so far it’s the rider, not the drive train.

Durability – The frame seems rock-solid and shows no sign of creaks or cracks so far. The components are mid-grade or commuter level, not useless junk but not high end either, and typical for a bike in this price range. Dynamic has made improvements to the front and rear shocks, brakes and shifter since my vintage bike, keeping up with the market. At 1500 miles the bike seems tough enough for my on and off road commuting and the rare extremes of my riding: urban assault (hopping curbs, hitting potholes, riding down inconsiderately placed steps), and trail, single track or technical mountain biking (but nothing extreme (no trials, jumps, tossing bike off cliffs, etc.). Typical for bikes in its price range.

Internal gear 8-speed hub versus 20-something gears – The gearing with the Shimano-8 is purported to span most of the range of the average 24 speed bike, since there is a lot of overlap in the standard mix-and-match front and rear chainwheel and sprocket sets. The eight gears are certainly sufficient for my needs: my bike has the “sport” or low-ratio shaft and it goes just about as fast in 8th as I care to go (~30 mph with my quickest cadence), and still lets me climb the steepest hills I can find around Berkeley, which has some hella-steep, “Yikes, my house slid down the hill” hills. Yes, the lowest gear is not as low as the lowest gear on my old bike, but I stopped using that gear anyway once I got into shape. If you need to use that lunch plate sized rear granny cog they put on the beginner mountain bikes, then you’ll just have to get off and walk on a Dynamic until you get into better shape. Typically when faced with a really steep hill I UPshift and get off the seat to pump with a slower cadence, and then I’m in at least second or third gear. If I have to get off the seat in first gear, then it’s time to get off and walk. Off-road, the lowest gear takes me to the limit of of my traction skills. In short, I’m not limited by the gearing but by the rider. If I had one of their road bike models with the bigger wheels, I would still get the “sport” or low-ratio shaft. If you’re a real biker in good condition, or likeyou’ll probably prefer to ride with the higher ratio street shaft. Of note, the feel of the Inter-8 is different than a deraileur system. It reminds me of the transmission in my motorcycle: preload the shifter a little while backing off on the power and snick, it snaps into the next gear. Upshifts are quicker than my old rear XT deraileur (downshifts are similar), and up and down shifts are quicker than a front deraileur. Sometimes I get a mis-shift but less and less as the system wears in, and all together less mis-shifts than with a deraileur system.

It has been said that, “All of the benefits of a shaft drive can be realized with an enclosing chain guard and an internal gear hub” – If I could find such a bike, I might get one, but all such that I can find are big, heavy cruisers. Certainly no mountain bikes have enclosed chain guards, mounting for such a guard or internal gear hubs. One could custom make such a bike, but probably not for what Dynamic charges.

It has also been said that, “The rear wheel is a pain to remove if you have to repair a flat”. If one only needs to pull the tube out to patch a leak then there is no need to remove the wheel. But yes, removing the rear wheel requires one to remove 2 screws and unbolt the axle — about 30 seconds more than removing a quick-release wheel, so count up how often you’ll have to pull the rear wheel to swap inner tubes or compact the bike to fit in the trunk of your Miata (with the quick-release front wheel off it fits fine in my old Z-car, my wife’s Eclipse and a friend’s Prius). Commuters will likely ride with puncture-resistant tires, tubes or liners, or stay away from the curb.

Problems:

I had some early problems but note that my bike is an older-generation Outback and appears to have been re-designed since. The first problem was that despite torquing to what seemed a proper amount (around 50 ft-lb), the rear axle nuts would loosen up, the axle would shift and then the bevel gear would pop past the retaining circlip and grind away at the gear-change mechanism. Surprisingly, the drive still works when this happens, and I would only notice trouble shifting and later a wobble out back. I replaced the circlip with a stiffer one from the hardware store, and strung lock-washers on the axle bolts. Problem solved, but note to secure the axle Tightly on this bike. In hindsight, the loosening might also have been caused by the Shimano hub loosening up on the inside and thus allowing the axle some freedom to loosen up, so make sure you service and re-assemble that hub properly.

Second problem was that my shaft broke at around 800 miles, but was immediately replaced by Dynamic for free, even though it was by then past the 2 year warranty. They said there was a bad batch of shafts in some of the ’05 models. Fair enough, and certainly kudos to Dynamic for standing behind their product no matter what. Swapping drives was easy, especially if one has pulled cranks before, and of note, they even sent me a crank-puller tool with the new shaft!

The third problem was with my Shimano Inter-8 hub, specifically the innards (ball bearings, retainer cage, coaster-clickers and springs), came loose and jammed the gears, but I traced this to my (and the previous owner or his bike shop), ignorance in reassembling the hub properly. This hub must be bolted together tightly (to the point where it just starts to show resistance to turning), and lock-nutted tightly or it will unravel. Despite all this abuse, the gears look fine and run great now that I’ve cleaned the shrapnel out. I could whine a little about the twist-grip shifter and how it detracts from positive indexing of the gears, but I notice that the new Outbacks come with Shimano’s newer rapid-fire trigger shifter. Of note, there exists the mythical Rolhoff Speedhub, with 14 internally-indexed gears spanning over a 500% range, supposedly the most fantastic internal-gear hub on the planet. Well, next time I have an extra $1400, I’ll ask Dynamic to build me a bike with one! (Send contributions to…)

Maintenance – MY particular bike was rather high-maintenance in the beginning, but mostly due to my own cat-killing-curiosity and/or incompetence. If one just leaves the darned thing alone, it is a low-maintenance bike after the initial break-in. That said, even with remote help from Dynamic, for service new owners should either have access to a good bike mechanic or plan on becoming one themselves. Since Dynamic bikes are bought on the Net and not from a bike shop, that service will not be free.

Suggestions to Dynamic:

Keep up the integrity and customer satisfaction. That makes me a repeat customer.

Offer a little “tool kit” as an Option, you know, with a stubby screwdriver, allen set and a wrench for the rear axle.

I suspect with your relatively low volume that you can and sometimes do a little customization of bike orders (seats, bars, pedals, lights, panniers, helmets, whatever), so mention this or make it more obvious on your website. Last time I bought a bike at a bike shop they offered to swap out or add on anything in the store that could be made to fit (adjusting the price of course). Since your customers are buying online they have more limited options. Maybe you can get a link with an online bike accessory supplier.

As a wacky idea, somebody should ponder the Scion business model and offer totally customizable bikes, from fork spring rate to Bling clipless shoe light LED color, for sale online and delivered right to your door.

Ross Cookis

I own a dynamic tempo – it can be used EVERLONG as I STLL LOVE it – pretty easy to fugure out how to tune it up – YOU can do it your self easily – any questions write me COOKIE82365@HOTMAIL.COM or CALL ME 413 447 2025 after 11pm Sat, Sun, Mon.

Charles Day

I would be very cautious about buying a Biomega. My own experience has not been good, especially about Biomega honoring their 3 year warranty. Specifically, about eight months after purchasing a Biomega Copenhagen, I started to experience a grinding noise coming from the pedal crank case, where the gears connect the shaft of the pedal with the drive shaft. What I observed was a wobbling pedal shaft, because apparently either the crank case cap was improperly fitted or not tightened enough. The worst part was trying to get Biomega to honor their warranty or effectuate a remedy. Based on my experience, I wouldn’t count on obtaining any support from Biomega. The bottom line: I regret having bought a chain less bicycle, but more so a bicycle made by Biomega. Choose another manufacturer.

Peter

I’ve been considering the Sidekick folding chainless bike. It looks perfect for my commuting needs. I could bike to the train station, fold it up and carry it on the train, and have it to use at the other end. The chainless design seems ideal for a folding bike, since the bike will be lifted in and out of carrying bags, luggage spaces, etc.

Anyone have any experience with this model? Comments?

Thanks,
Peter

Ross Cookis

I wrote last June and thier has been one response her, but I am still considering a chainless bike. Last summer I went with a high end road bike to comliment my high end mouintain bike – I have the best in both worlds and I should be content, but I am not. I still want a bike to ride back and forth to work that i can utilize most of the year. I am sick of bringing extra clothing with me to work or pulling my long pant leg up, looking silly on the way. Any way I keep coming back to Dynamic bicycles and I want to hear from someone who owns one and can be honest about how the bike is. I am leaning toward the Tempo for my commuting purpose – I don’t need a fast road bike or durable mountain bike as I have already said. I want a bike that I can ride to and from work day in and day out that will handle salty roads and sometimes terrible weathr conditions. If you can help me I would appreciate it.
Ross

yaqa

Further to my earlier comment (November 13, 2006), Dynamic Bicycles responded to my concerns, partly by asking what they could improve, partly by supplying me with some free of charge replacements and offering a refund for repairs done by a local shop (since the shoped owed me there was no charge and I did not have to request Dynamic Bicycles for a refund).

Dynamic Bicycles even read this site and inquired on how they could improve their service.

yaqa

I own a Dynamic bicyles bike, “Tempo”
I were extremely happy with this bike had it not a few flaws that have nothing to do with the shaft drive.
The flaws are that, presumably, because the sellers of the bike have to keep the price low, are putting secondary components with the bike that are a bit below standard, they have no proper after market customer support and do not respond too well (so far) to my concerns. But nothing of those flaws are anything that a bit of skill and ingenuity and a few good tools cannot solve (though, it defeats a bit the purpose of having a low maintenance bike)
As for efficiency. I cannot see any difference on my level of riding, which is going to work every day with it. Incidentally, I have put on clamp pedals for the first time ever, and that seems almost like a turbo charger and I cannot understand why it took me so long to even try them out.)
I would have prefered a different kind of gearing but that is not available, so I have the second best, which is the lower shaft ratio which is better for some mild hills.

In essence: i would buy such a shaft drive bike again, but maybe not from dynamic – unless they improve on their after market response.

andres

the technology chainless is very great, but how is price of sistem transmision

Ross Cookis

I came to this site to find information that could be helpful to me making a decission about buying a dynamic bike. I am looking for a review from someone who ows or has owned a chainless bike from dynamic bicycles. Can any one help me?

Roquentin

With respect to concerns about efficiency, note that the Dynamic Bicycles website speaks to this. See the “How will the shaft drive effect or enhance riding performance?” section of:

From what they say, it doesn’t seem as though the efficiency of their product is anything to be concerned about, and in most cases transfer of power will be improved.

Rob Tresidder

Hi jk!

You claim that the shaft drive is totally enclosed in the tubes of the bike. Not so! Well at least not in the frame tubes. On the Zero/Dynamic, the shaft is enclosed in its own dedicated tube. Current BMW motorcycle technology encloses the drive shaft in the swinging rear arm: that is seriously cool, but would require the inclusion of a universal joint.

What is all this obsession with mechanical “efficiency”? The everyday bike is involved in a constant trade-off between efficiency and convenience: upright posture, no toeclips or SPDs, heavier frame and components, chain cases, mudguards etc.

All the best

Rob

Rob Tresidder

Hi jk!

You claim that the shaft drive is totally enclosed in the tubes of the bike. Not so! Well at least not in the frame tubes. On the Zero/Dynamic, the shaft is enclosed in its own dedicated tube. Current BMW motorcycle technology encloses the drive shaft in the swinging rear arm: that is seriously cool, but would require the inclusion of a universal joint.

What is all this obsession with mechanical “efficiency”? The everyday bike is involved in a constant trade-off between efficiency and convenience: upright posture, no toeclips or SPDs, heavier frame and components, chain cases, mudguards etc.

All the best

Rob

Andy

John is right, the commercial failure of shaft-drive bikes is the result of an insidious conspiracy involving a powerful cabal of bicycle shop owners and the chain industry!

Seriously, shaft-drive bikes have appeared and disappered since the early 1900’s, if they offered any compelling advantages over chain drive you would be sure the marketplace would embrace them.

Personally, I would love to see a belt drive system to displace chains; it would utilize a variable-sized pulley to change gear ratios and a belt tensioner.

And if you are having hassles with ‘grease’ on your chain you are either overlubing the thing or should get a chain enclosure.

John

If you or I owned a bike shop, and got a substantial volume of trade in repairs and parts, mostly in relation to the chain and gears, would you or I really want to sell something that doesn’t have a chain and exposed gears to be repaired or replaced ?

makogon_6

By the way I think that exterior of the Dynamic Bicycles sucks… Biomega is on the front edge of exterior design as usual.

makogon_6

I own a shaft bike, type Biomega Amsterdam, of Danish Biomega. I would like to say that I am far from being a recreational cyclist. and use the bike as a transport around Copenhagen after hours. (I take train to and from work). Before I purchased this bike I owned a Dutch Classic Gazelle with 5-gear internal gear hub and fully covered chain. My Biomega has a 7-gear internal hub from SRAM, aluminium frame and disc brakes forward as well as drum brakes rear.
This bike is very challenging and personally I experience a constant urge to ride faster. It is also easier to ride up the bridge. Overall feeling is that the bike is much faster then what I had before. Actually that Dutch Gazelle Primeur was stolen and that was why I decided to go for a chainless.

Dave Walkerden

Shaft drive bicycles have been produced as far back as 1910 and employed the same design as they do today. The power losses most cyclists talk about are losses that affect Kw of power and rise with pedal RPM’s. Since most recreational cyclists use a low cadence and rely on torque, the losses are undetectable to the casual cyclist. The same is true with motorcyclists, though shaft driven bikes with rear suspension will rise and fall under power on/off and affect handling. This is why few sportbikes use shafts, not because of power losses. Lord knows power is rarely a problem for a 1200cc streeter. (see Yamaha V-Max)

ROHIT TOOR

i would like to know more about this technology.this is a great technology advancement.bikes with no chain ,no grease and no breakdown thats great.

Val

The idea of a shaft drive with internal gears interests me. It seems that on the various bicycle forums everyone has an opinion, mostly negative, about these bikes, but none have ever owned one. I’d like to read from riders of the experiences and opinions of those who have actually owned them.
I’ve often wondered why this type of bicycle never became popular. It would appear that a drive shaft would be the ideal means of power transmission from pedal to multi-speed hub. I’ve owned both chain drive and shaft drive Honda motorcycles, and can’t imagine why anyone would choose the hassles of a chain over the shaft. In searching the web it appears that most of the shaft drive bicycles that are available are made in China, as many other bikes are too, but few shops sell the direct drives. There must be some tremendous disadvantage to them, but I can’t see what it would be for the average cyclist. From my experience with motorcycles, it would be nice never to have to think about cleaning lubing and replacing worn chains, replacing worn cogs and chainwheels, and the constant maintenance required.

Wim

I just wanted to point out that the chain more efficiently transfers the energy from the pedals to the rear wheel than a set of angular gears and shafts can.

This is why sport motorcycles always use chains. or a similar setup. Some motorcycles do use shafts but they are less concerned with accelleration performance.

On pedal power, I’d expect you to be extremely concerned with how efficient the bike was for road riding, and less so for harsh environments where the maintainability of the shaft might weigh in more.

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