First look: Lal Bikes’ Super Drive – Divide a shift into two before it happens on the track

It would be fair to say that mountain bikers everywhere have had a bad experience with a changer at some point, which is what drove Cedric Eveleigh from Lal Bikes to create Super Drive, a drive system that separates the two functions in standards. derailleur (displacement and tension of the chain), while the custom-built switch is out of danger. Super Drive’s four key elements are durability, efficiency, chain damping and a lower unsprung mass, all on a highly swivel suspension platform.

The idea popped into the head of the Canadian mechanical engineer one day while he was breathing on a trip in the spring of 2019, and he immediately set about building a stationary prototype driveline. Cedric has patented Super Drive in Canada, and while the patent is pending internationally, he is already working with a major mountain bike company to create a frame that will use the system. The prototype in the launch video is limited in range, but the current version can accommodate a 10-51-tooth cartridge and has only two specific requirements; a 52 mm chain line and a T47 bottom bracket.

The first task of a shifter is to push the chain over the cassette gears to change the gear ratio. Second, the pulley holder tightens the chain when slack is created by shifting to smaller gears, preventing it from jumping off the front blade and cassette when the bike jumps down the path. Cedric has placed the cageless shifter inboard on the swingarm and moved the chain tensioner to the center of the bike, over the chain ring. Although it uses a conventional hub and driveline parts, the frame must be designed around the entire system.

The tensioner rotates around the axis of the bottom bracket and extends counterclockwise to provide more slack in the chain when the shifter switches to the larger cassette gears. Conversely, when a shift is made to a smaller gear, the tensioner is pulled by a cable toward the front of the bike by a cartridge in the down tube, controlled by a spring and damper. The most exciting thing is that the system keeps the chain tension almost identical in all gears. Conventional drive lines increase the voltages in the lower gears, which contributes to more resistance than the Super Drive.

Add a shorter section of the free chain and as Cedric claims, “A speed-specific tensioner that outperforms any clutch changer on the market”, and you get an extremely quiet and subdued driveline. Super Drive also uses the same number of jockey wheels as a conventional high pivot idle bike, but reduces friction as these wheels have a larger number of teeth than the typical shifter.

As for the unsprung mass debate, the system saves about 150 grams but adds 100-200 grams to the sprung mass. Like Pinkbikes Set Stott discussed in his recent article on why you should not worry too much about weight, there are potential benefits to increasing the ratio of sprung to unsprung by adding more weight to the front triangle and less to the rear.

After meeting Cedric back in August on his journey through BC from Chelsea, Quebec, I was given the opportunity to test the second Super Drive prototype in a parking lot. In a blindfold test, I would not be able to tell the difference between the shift system versus a traditional layout. If anything, the Super Drive should shift even better on the track because the gearshift is mounted at two points and therefore does not rotate around the B-knob pin.

The fact that no B-voltage adjustment is required and no special tools are required to assemble the system helps simplify setup. The position of the shifter also provides more chain wrap around the cassette because the jockey wheel is clocked much higher. Almost hidden in ordinary view, the gearshift also has ample ground clearance and is further protected by being located between the chain and the seat post. To add to the benefits of the system, the chain is kept further away from the elements and will not come into contact with the ground during oscillations.

Production of the driveline components will be led in Canada by Lal Bikes and incorporated by Cedric. The brand name comes from Pierre Lallement, who was credited by some as the inventor of the bike. Where does Super Drive get its name from? Cedric explains, “Supre means over in the Esperanto language. This refers to the fact that Supre Drive is over other drivelines, both physically and in terms of performance.” He really wants to make the mountain biking experience better and more reliable.

As you can imagine, the creation of this idea did not happen overnight, but Cedric is extremely knowledgeable and highly educated. The mechanical engineer by subject has a master’s degree in engineering physics and taught himself to TIG weld by watching YouTube videos and building on his machining practice learned in school. This is not the first time he has put his passion for improving bikes to the test. Back in 2012, he participated in Pinkbike’s Reality Redesigned innovation competition and submitted a Pinion gearbox-equipped downhill bike design.

There have been many wild and crazy repetitions of powertrains over the years; Honda’s RN01 “shifts in a box” with a continuous drive chain, Zerode’s high pivot design centered around an internally geared hub, Cavalerie’s belt-driven gearbox DH bike, Lahar’s CVT project, Allan Millyard’s single-sided swingarm DH bike enclosing the chain an oil bath. The industry has never seen anything like Super Drive before tackling multiple problems at once, like exposed shifters, chain setbacks, but still using readily available driveline and hub components. All eyes will be on Lal Bikes to see which brand has licensed Super Drive, how it will be used and who else can in the future.


I also had the chance to catch up with Cedric and ask a few questions on his way when he finished dumbfounding industrial people in the Sea to Sky area.

How and when did you start mountain biking?

I’m lucky to have grown up with XC mountain bike trails out the back door, so I have been mountain biking since I was about 7 years old.

What was your first bike?

My first real bike was a Norco Bushpilot hardtail.

What did you study at university?

My undergraduate degree was mechanical engineering and my master’s degree was engineering physics (both in Canada). A highlight of my undergraduate degree was a couple of internships in Berkeley, California. My master was especially funny; my research project was about corrosion-resistant coatings for use in molten salt nuclear reactors, and I came to a research internship in Shanghai.

When did you realize the flaws in the mountain bike powertrains?

I’ve been aware that gearshifts stink for a long time. I remember I posted all the pro gearbox comments on Pinkbike around 2010, so it goes back so far at least.

What does the sales model of Supre Drive look like, and how do you see the manufacturers incorporating this into their product line?

Lal Bikes will manufacture the shifter, chain tensioner and pulley in Canada (probably coastal BC, and perhaps also in Europe later). The sales model is the same as other drivetrain companies: sells to bike companies that specify Supre Drive, and also sells directly to mountain bikers, etc. I am currently working with a larger mountain bike company to develop a bike with Supre Drive, and I am planning to collaborate with many more.

What made you embark on such a project?

After my master’s degree, I decided to shift my focus back to mountain biking technique, which was what made me enroll in mechanical engineering in the first place. The most noticeable problem with mountain bikes is gear shifters, so I focused on that. While brainstorming possible solutions, I got some motivation from seeing the thoughts outside the box of Ceramicspeed Driven. The Eureka moment for Supre Drive happened while I was out on a trip, and the idea was promising enough that I could switch from brainstorming to building prototypes.

How did you learn the manufacturing skills to build your own working prototype, and how was that process?

I have had to learn a number of fabrication skills for this project, both for the frame and the driveline. Most of this was learned during the project, but some of it was learned in advance in student machine shops at the university. Some skills like 3D printing are quite accessible, but others like CNC machining and TIG welding have a much more difficult learning curve. I’ve learned a lot, but I still have a lot to learn, especially to switch from prototyping to manufacturing. I look forward to having others on the team who are knowledgeable about manufacturing.

To answer your question about how the learning process was, it has been insanely amazing. With 3D printing, the availability of information online, local makerspaces and other things, there has never been a better time to invent.

What are some of the disadvantages or limitations of the system?

Super Drive requires the idle pulley to be further forward than on most other high pivot bikes. This is because the front of the chain must be forward enough to allow the range of motion of the clamping arm. The front position of the idle pulley limits the frame design. It’s still possible to design frames that perform just as well as the best frames out there, but some previous suspension systems may not work well with the Super Drive.

I was so lucky to pedal the proto around the parking lot. Can you explain how the shifter is able to shift across the cassette if the voltage is at the front of the driveline?

When shifting gears, the basic function of the gearshift is to guide the chain from side to side from one gear to another. There is no need for the shifter to also tension the chain. The upper pulley (guide pulley) on conventional shifters guides the chain from side to side just like the individual pulley on the Supre shifter. If the lower pulley (tension pulley) on conventional shifters does not play a role in shifting, why not move the tensioner arm to a safe place?

Why not go with a gearbox as this is not a traditional driveline after all?

I’m not aware of a way to make gearboxes as efficient and light as gearshift powertrains. However, Super Drive is efficient and light as a gearshift driveline – yes, it’s a gearshift driveline – just a tough one.

What were some of the reactions when you introduced Super Drive to industry executives?

The reactions have been very positive, but also entertainingly vulgar. These two are verbatim:
“This is f ****** fascinating and frighteningly ambitious.”
“I’m not easily impressed, and this is f ****** impressive.”

When do you think we will see the first production version of Super Drive?

For a first production version, I am aiming for 2023. I have a lot of testing to do to make sure I am releasing top quality parts. Also frames need to be developed to fit with Super Drive. It will take some time before Super Drive becomes commercially available, but I’m working hard to make things happen quickly.

What does the future hold for Cedric Eveleigh?

Plan A is to build a large manufacturing company in Canada and make Super Drive as affordable, durable and high-performance as possible. I’m excited about the task of getting a team of people together to build the Lal Bikes company, and I’m also looking forward to collaborating with several frame companies. And of course, the future includes a lot of mountain biking!



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