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  1. #1
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    AutoBike (Automatic Transmission)

    This is a bike I bought over ten years ago, and have never ridden. My intent was to add it to my bike collection for it's uniqueness.


    Close up photo shows the counterweights, or centrifugal weights, which sense the speed (RPM) of the wheel. As the bike speeds up, the weights move closer to the rim, and the black plastic disk between the hub and the cluster, pushes the chain onto a smaller gear.
    Did anyone else ever buy one of these?
    I took it for a test ride, when I first got it, and it shifted wonderfully, never jumping or getting stuck between gears.
    This automatic transmission was invented by someone who believed in the KISS theory; Keep It Simple, Stupid.
    There is nothing wrong with this bike, I just don't ride it because I know how to shift, so I don't need it.
    Questions? Comments?

  2. #2
    Hip to the Game. bcart1991's Avatar
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    I always thought they looked/sounded sort of scam-ish.

    I can see how a non-fitness rider could get on board, but not anyone who uses a bike for anything more than "getting around." Also, I can't see those components lasting too long under a regular cycle of use.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcart1991 View Post
    I always thought they looked/sounded sort of scam-ish.

    I can see how a non-fitness rider could get on board, but not anyone who uses a bike for anything more than "getting around." Also, I can't see those components lasting too long under a regular cycle of use.
    I wouldn't call it a scam. The mechanism works perfectly, and although you can't see the details in the photograph, I assure you it is well designed.

    The genius of it is that the weights slide along the spokes, in such a way that any wheelbuilder could build a new wheel around it (with the same # of spokes).

    Anyhow, It's been kept out of the rain for the ten or more years I've had it, so it's in perfect condition.

    As a custom bike builder, one of the things people have asked for is a bike that shifts automatically, and I show them this bike, and they say "Nevermind"... and they leave. That's good because my time is valuable.

    I should take it out for a ride once in a while.

    It's really idiot-proof, believe it or not.

  4. #4
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    Shimano has an new automatic, a bit silly on a 3 speed.
    http://kwc.org/cycling/tech/shimanos...ansmissio.html
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  5. #5
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    Auto bikes were sold on infomercials to couch potato's who had good intentions of getting in shape. The one I have is identical to yours and was found at the curb on trash day. It is in excellent condition, as I imagine most still are, since I doubt many were used for more than a few dozen miles. While the bikes are decent quality, the design does have a few drawbacks. The worst in my opinion is the fact that upshifts while hammering (even lightly) will throw your feet off the pedals. It is best to just putt along, which is really what these bikes were made for. Also the chain will clatter as it try's to shift if you allow your speed to remain "between" gears. But one can easily learn to avoid this by either slightly speeding up, or slowing down, in order to facilitate the shift. I've also had it lock in one gear a few times when the derailleur jumped the pie plate on bumps and got hung up.

    Still, like you, I feel it makes an interesting addition to my collection. I keep mine at work and use it for deliveries to our nearby second building, or lunch rides on days I didn't ride to work. I also let anyone who's interested take it for a spin. The quick release seat lock comes in handy for this.
    Last edited by AlmostTrick; 12-04-07 at 10:29 PM.
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    Interesting bike...an ex-neighbor of mine, a retired aircraft engineer (helped develop the original Lear Jet), spent a year or so working on an auto trans for bikes as a hobby, and he had one of these around for awhile. I rode it a couple of times, and it worked fine, though nothing about it appealed to me as a cyclist.
    What I always wonder about this idea, especially now, is where the market is. Back in the friction-shift days, you could at least justify it by saying that shifting a bike was a little bit tricky--it was possible to get between cogs. These days, though, bikes are effectively automatics with selectors anyway. It's impossible to miss a shift in a properly set up indexed driveline. Seems to me the only demand for something like this would be among people who aren't going to ride very much no matter how easy you make it.

  7. #7
    Hip to the Game. bcart1991's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
    Auto bikes were sold on infomercials to couch potato's who had good intentions of getting in shape.
    This is what I was trying to say.

    It was made for people who wanted to ride a bike without really trying.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    The thought of automatic shifting has never appealed to me. I'm likely to want to shift at different "thresholds", depending if it's early in my ride and I'm "fresh", or later when I'm more fatigued.

  9. #9
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    The thought of automatic shifting has never appealed to me. I'm likely to want to shift at different "thresholds", depending if it's early in my ride and I'm "fresh", or later when I'm more fatigued.
    Oh yeah, that's another thing. The Auto Bike shifts a little too early for me, keeping your cadence low. I like to spin. Plus you always have the drag of the derailleur on the pie plate, which gets worse in the higher gears because of the spring tension. Still, they are unique.
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  10. #10
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  11. #11
    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    I would call this a governed bike rather than an automatic. The gear is dependent solely on rpm. It does not take load into consideration, like an automatic trans should.

    The Nuvinci, while not automatic, is a much better design for the cyclist that does not want to learn the complexity of shifting. It is a CVT so it is always engaged, you can change "gear" while pedaling, coasting, or stopped. The gearing is infinite between the high and low points
    http://www.fallbrooktech.com/NuVinci.asp
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  12. #12
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    An internally-gear hub that is simple to use(Nexus, SRAM, SA) makes a lot more sense for most folks than the AutoBike types. If it's too much trouble to click a shifter, then maybe a singlespeed is the answer. How about an Auto-Shifting Singlespeed!!?

  13. #13
    Hey guyz? Guyz? Wait up!! Siu Blue Wind's Avatar
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    Wow this is cool. Can you explain how the black disc pushes the der please? It's hard to see how it would get it to the smaller gears. How do the weights moving outward affect the center black disc? Or perhaps a closer pic?
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  14. #14
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Siu Blue Wind View Post
    Wow this is cool. Can you explain how the black disc pushes the der please? It's hard to see how it would get it to the smaller gears. How do the weights moving outward affect the center black disc? Or perhaps a closer pic?
    The derailleur is sprung in the reverse direction of a normal derailleur. With no input it pulls the chain all the way left onto the lowest gear. The derailleur rides against the pie plate (black disc) which is conected to three weights placed between the hub and the rim. As increased speed pulls the weights out, the pie plate moves right, pushing the derailleur and chain into the higher gears.

    What looks like a normal 6 speed freewheel is actually fixed onto the hub. The "freewheel" is in the front chainring assembly, which allows the chain to run (and gears to shift) any time the bike is rolling, even if you are not pedaling. Every time you roll to a stop, it will automatically shift back to the lowest gear.
    Last edited by AlmostTrick; 12-04-07 at 10:28 PM.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have ridden one. Was not at all impressed.

  16. #16
    Gorntastic! v1k1ng1001's Avatar
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    Even though I think these are stupid in general, it is a unique thing to have around.

  17. #17
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Seems to me that it is a solution without a problem, and adds complexity rather than simplicity to the design.

  18. #18
    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Put airless tires and a belt drive on it and you might have something.

  19. #19
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velo Dog View Post
    Interesting bike...an ex-neighbor of mine, a retired aircraft engineer (helped develop the original Lear Jet), spent a year or so working on an auto trans for bikes as a hobby, and he had one of these around for awhile. I rode it a couple of times, and it worked fine, though nothing about it appealed to me as a cyclist.
    What I always wonder about this idea, especially now, is where the market is. Back in the friction-shift days, you could at least justify it by saying that shifting a bike was a little bit tricky--it was possible to get between cogs. These days, though, bikes are effectively automatics with selectors anyway. It's impossible to miss a shift in a properly set up indexed driveline. Seems to me the only demand for something like this would be among people who aren't going to ride very much no matter how easy you make it.
    I think you nailed it- Index shifting has filled the market niche for this product.

  20. #20
    Kamek ralph12's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by halfspeed View Post
    Put airless tires and a belt drive on it and you might have something.

  21. #21
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    Sorry to have to dig up such an old thread, But to update this story, I wan't to report that this Autobike has been sold. It had been sitting around in my Mother's garage, taking up valuble space, so I took it to a local Thrift Store & Antique Shop. I got $25.00 for it. He had looked it up on Ebay, or something, and found one for sale, asking $75.00 (but no bidders). I was ready to accept $15.00, so when he offered $25.00, I said "Sold".

    That is the story of how I disposed of this automatic transmission bike. It had so little use, that the tires still had that fuzz on them (Sprue, is what it's called).
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11629987@N02/sets/72157639939606343/

  22. #22
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    As long as I can afford the space it takes, I'll be keeping mine just for the uniqueness of it. It’s just another conversation piece in my small bicycle “museum”. haha

    I also have a Shimano coasting bike which I plan to keep. This one is an electronically controlled automatic three speed which functions much smoother than the Auto Bike. It even has an adjustment to tailor the shift points to the rider. Both are very cool in my book, even if they are not practical for most of my riding.

    Thanks for the thread and update hotbike!
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  23. #23
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    Just wanted to add these two pictures, as close-ups of the shifting mechanism. There are three weights that slide outwards , by centrifugal force, as the wheel spins faster, and moves a black plastic disk, to push the chain into a higher gear. The counterweights slide on the spokes. I think there are two or three threads with the Autobike, and I used these photos in one of the other threads. I think it best to compile them here.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11629987@N02/sets/72157639939606343/

  24. #24
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    Test-rode one once. Owned by an eccentric weirdo who haunted a local gas station. It never shifted when I wanted it to. Interesting concept, crap reality. Wouldn't mind having one as a collector's piece.

  25. #25
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    I think if I ended up with one of those I'd turn it in to a single-speed, and I'm not normally the single-speed type. I just prefer shifting when I want to, not when the bike wants to.

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