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Pre 1900 "direct drive" bike - is this a unicorn?

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Pre 1900 "direct drive" bike - is this a unicorn?

Old 04-18-22, 01:01 PM
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martl
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Pre 1900 "direct drive" bike - is this a unicorn?



A friend of mine got this from a fellow collector. It may possibly be french. Manufacturer is unknown.

Does anyone have knowledge of such a bike, personally or in a museum?
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Old 04-18-22, 04:57 PM
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That is a first for me.... interesting, but no help for your question

bis spater
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Old 04-18-22, 05:44 PM
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Check on The Classic and Antique Bike Exchange. Someone there can probably ID it pretty quickly. www.thecabe.com
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Old 04-18-22, 06:10 PM
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Pretty sure there's a couple of similar examples in the Pyror Dodge book, The Bicycle
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Old 04-18-22, 07:16 PM
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The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago used to have a good display of bike technology. I suspect some of it belonged to the Schwinn family collection. Back in 1994, the display included a bike of this type, where a few gears were used to transfer the power from the cranks to the rear wheel.




This collection might be part of the bicycle museum in Ohio (New Bremen?) now.

Steve in Peoria
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Old 04-18-22, 07:33 PM
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This is certainly not definitive, but I think it is a bit later, early teens, but pre WW1. The frame geometry, at least to me, is more along post 1900. I am happy to be corrected.
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Old 04-18-22, 10:38 PM
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Looks like that thing would eat pants legs for lunch.
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Old 04-18-22, 11:18 PM
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Pretty wild looking, curious what are the downsides...? Pant legs, fingers? Flex between the gears? Better or worse than a shaft drive? How come turn of the century shaft drives weren't more popular on bicycles?
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Old 04-19-22, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by martl View Post


A friend of mine got this from a fellow collector. It may possibly be french. Manufacturer is unknown.

Does anyone have knowledge of such a bike, personally or in a museum?
Looks like it has reverse.
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Old 04-19-22, 09:03 AM
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The subject bicycle is what is generically referred to as spur gear drive. In mid-1890s the bicycle industry experienced a boom. resulting in a plethora of new manufacturers. The increased competition led to increasingly lower prices and profits and by the very late 1890s market saturation resulted in an industry recession. At the time, the chain was viewed as the primary area for bicycle improvement and many manufacturers focused on developing chainless models, as a means to increase their market share.

The most common solution was shaft drive but spur gear drive was one alternative selected by some manufacturers. The example in the Museum of Science and Technology is a Caroll (see attached), who patented the bicycle spur gear drive in the USA in 1895 but were out of business before the turn of the century. Personally, I've seen about a handlful of surviving Carroll and there are other known manufacturers of spur gear drive bicycles including Humber and Hildick, so it's not a unicorn, though they are still very rare. The issues with spur gear gear drive were the extra weight and cost, which prevented it from becoming popular. It was primarily a novelty and had largely disappeared by the turn of the century, though there have been periodic attempts at resurrection.


Last edited by T-Mar; 04-19-22 at 01:42 PM. Reason: corrected 1995 to 1895
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Old 04-19-22, 11:55 PM
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To heck with that elegantly executed but dumb direct drive contraption,... I want to ride the bike!

Look at those frame angles! Look at that beautiful seat and bars! That thing looks great!
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Old 04-20-22, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by bamboobike4 View Post
Looks like it has reverse.

Many bicycles from this era were capable of reverse. Freewheels were rare and the early coaster brakes weren't very effective, so fixed gears were the most popular configuration. There was also the cost factor. Upgrading to something like a New Departure coaster brake could cost the equivalent of a week's wages for a typical labourer.
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Old 04-20-22, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago used to have a good display of bike technology. I suspect some of it belonged to the Schwinn family collection. Back in 1994, the display included a bike of this type, where a few gears were used to transfer the power from the cranks to the rear wheel.

This collection might be part of the bicycle museum in Ohio (New Bremen?) now.

Steve in Peoria
The Bicycle Museum of America is located in New Bremen, Ohio. The owner of the Clark forklift company purchased the Schwinn collection and brought it to New Bremen to help draw tourism. I don't have a picture of the gear drive bike, but I am sure I saw it when I was there in 2017. There was a lot of innovation in the early years while people were figuring out what worked and what didn't. There are many examples at the museum.

THE BICYCLE MUSEUM OF AMERICA



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Old 04-20-22, 09:48 AM
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Presumably modifying a bike that old is a no-no, but in post #1's photos those two big gears are calling out for drillium.
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Old 04-20-22, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by WildRalph View Post
Pretty wild looking, curious what are the downsides...? Pant legs, fingers? Flex between the gears? Better or worse than a shaft drive? How come turn of the century shaft drives weren't more popular on bicycles?
It does look like a little frame flex would result in a cog disengagement... not a good bike for sprinters.
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Old 04-20-22, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
Many bicycles from this era were capable of reverse. Freewheels were rare and the early coaster brakes weren't very effective, so fixed gears were the most popular configuration. There was also the cost factor. Upgrading to something like a New Departure coaster brake could cost the equivalent of a week's wages for a typical labourer.
i think to propel forward one pedals backwards? Would need another intermediate gear to provide more typical pedaling action
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Old 04-20-22, 09:59 PM
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Interesting! I bet the drive train efficiency is a lot better than a chain. (Well chains have a 130 year head start, but done right, that rig would have zero sliding frictional loss, just steel pushing steel.)
@repechage, they got it right. Looking from the drive side, ie that photo; pedals go clockwise so the pedal sprocket spins the middle sprocket counter-clockwise which spins the hub cog clockwise. No re-learning required.
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Old 04-20-22, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
i think to propel forward one pedals backwards? Would need another intermediate gear to provide more typical pedaling action
No, this drive would propel you forward using our normal clockwise pedaling motion (as viewed from the drive side, of course).
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Old 04-20-22, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by tiger1964 View Post
Presumably modifying a bike that old is a no-no, but in post #1's photos those two big gears are calling out for drillium.
It looks like it has aluminum discs with steel ring gears. Rather high tech for the era. You'd be cutting and drilling for minimum benefit.

Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
It does look like a little frame flex would result in a cog disengagement... not a good bike for sprinters.
I'm pretty sure it has a solid right chainstay that jogs around the middle sprocket. Although there would have to be provisions for maintenance.

I'm not sure there would be flex that would disengage the cogs without some critical damage.
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Old 04-21-22, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
It looks like it has aluminum discs with steel ring gears. Rather high tech for the era. You'd be cutting and drilling for minimum benefit.

I'm pretty sure it has a solid right chainstay that jogs around the middle sprocket. Although there would have to be provisions for maintenance.

I'm not sure there would be flex that would disengage the cogs without some critical damage.
An even higher technology design was employed by Hildick's spur drive bicycle to avoid violating the Carroll patent. Instead of using a sprocket with a traditional hub and axle at the centre, the intermediate spocket was a large ring that rode on a slightly smaller diameter carrier. This approached reportedly eliminated some of the mass of the intermediate sprocket (though I wouldn't want to repack all those ball bearings).



On the Caroll, the intermediate sprocket is held within a secondary rear fork that attachs to the rear seat stay. The drive side chainstay only extends horizontally as far back as the axle of the intemediate gear. At that point, it jogs upward to form the inner blade of the secondary rear fork. The intermediate rear gear uses an eccentric axle adjuster to provide proper mesh with the crankset sprocket ( I guess I can't call it a chainwheel). Proper meshing with the teeth on the rear wheel sprocket is then achieved by standard horizontal slots in the rear fork ends. See attached detail photo.



IIRC, the sprockets were quite wide, around 1/4" to 3/8. So, you'd need considerable flex to cause an issue. Besides, these weren't the types of bicycles to be owned by big, strong, flex inducing cyclists. The previously mentioned Hildick provided a solution, as the ring style sprocket allowed a straight, continuous, more rigid, chain stay to pass through the centre.

Last edited by T-Mar; 04-21-22 at 06:46 AM.
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Old 04-21-22, 07:03 AM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
i think to propel forward one pedals backwards? Would need another intermediate gear to provide more typical pedaling action
More coffee? Ha, ha. An even number of gears would put the final one in opposition to the first, while an odd number would make the first and last the same. No matter how many there are that's the simplest way I can think of explaining it.

Forward-backward-forward...

-Gregory
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Old 04-23-22, 01:26 PM
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thanks for all the comments! As opposed to the Caroll design, this one has an "open" chainstay - the only connection between the front stump and the rear half is the axle of the big gear.

The owner has done research in german language collector forums and this seems to be one of 4 currently known, no one knows a thing about the manufacturer even though the large cog is stamped. Owner also believes the bike may have been "refitted" to race spec later (as in around 1910-1920) but is pretty sure about it being pre-1900. He has already restored several bikes of that vintage so i trust his verdict.


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Old 04-23-22, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago used to have a good display of bike technology. I suspect some of it belonged to the Schwinn family collection. Back in 1994, the display included a bike of this type, where a few gears were used to transfer the power from the cranks to the rear wheel.




This collection might be part of the bicycle museum in Ohio (New Bremen?) now.

Steve in Peoria
Steve, Richard Schwinn of Waterford fame is a descendent of the Chicago company. Perhaps there might be some family lore?
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Old 04-23-22, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
Steve, Richard Schwinn of Waterford fame is a descendent of the Chicago company. Perhaps there might be some family lore?
could be??
There was some weird/interesting stuff in the museum in Chicago, and I suspect not all of were Schwinn products. Heaven only knows how big the collection actually was. Sometime after(?) my photo, there was a bike museum in downtown Chicago, not far from Navy Pier. Lots of bikes, which I assume all/mostly went to New Bremmen.

They seem to have been happy to show the collection off, at least based on the fact that they put part of the collection on display at the 19th RAGBRAI in 1991. I managed to take a few photos, back in the pre-digital days of photography.....



















You never know what you'll see on RAGBRAI!

Steve in Peoria
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Old 04-23-22, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post

Thanks for sharing your photos! My eye goes right to the Paramount Series 50 and 70 mountain bikes. It's cool to see them brand-new.
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