Shaft drive bikes are the new craze, with a lot of debate over whether it is more efficient, has a longer lifespan than a chain and cassette, and whether it has a chance of taking over from what we see as the conventional setup. But what most people don’t realize, is that the shaft-driven bicycle is not a new idea, in fact, it is more than a hundred-year-old idea.
The first shaft-driven cycle was actually a tricycle in 1880 and the concept was later used in the bicycle by two independent bicycle builders, one in London and one in the United States, both filed for patents for their designs in 1890 and they were both granted in 1891.
The first design of the shaft-driven bicycle had the drive shaft running just above the chainstay, enclosed in a tube, while the later models made use of the chainstay as the shaft tubing.
While the shaft-driven bicycle had its appeal, especially to female cyclists, who were still riding in long dresses, of not catching one’s clothing in the chain, the introduction of the chain guard did a lot to negate this benefit and the popularity dwindled, largely due to its higher cost.
We have a beautiful Shaft Drive bicycle on loan from Franschhoek Motor Museum on display in the Trail’s End Bicycle Museum. It is a 1905 model using the Lloyd’s Cross Roller Gear system patented in 1897 by Quadrant Cycles, Birmingham, be sure to ask for a tour on your next visit to the hotel.