Bike Design Genius

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The chainless Alpha BikeFor bicycle aficionados, the opportunity now exists to ride chainless, to cruise about town worry-free about the pant legs getting caught.

Curious? Then it’s time to meet the Alpha Bike, a chainless drive creation from a team of mechanical engineering seniors at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Built in-house by the engineering team, the Alpha Bike features an internal chainless drive that can be switched between fixed gear drive and freewheel electronically. The bike’s drive-train, brake systems and onboard electronics are hidden inside a custom-machined frame. An LCD display on the handlebars updates the rider on important journey information. An interesting photo slide show is available on the designer website.

According to the designers, the bottom bracket of the bike houses what is called the Switchable Integrated Free-Fixed Transmission (SWIFT) Drive system.

SWIFT uses an electronically controlled clutch for switching between fixed-gear and freewheeling modes and incorporates a central shaft made from Maraging steel, a Titanium clutch plate, and stainless steel belt pulleys.

Designers of the Alpha Bike are Geoff Johnson, Lucas Hartman, Katie Savarise, Evan Dvorak, and Katie Rohacz. Jonathan Fiene, PhD, served as project advisor.

A front hub houses a drum brake and a dynamo that powers for the system’s electronics. The rear of the bike features a compact three-speed planetary gear set actuated by a standard push-pull cable.

For those tantalized by this work of design genius, don’t get out your checkbook yet, as there is no information available on how this design prototype might be moved into the manufacturing supply chain. The work has been featured in noteworthy places such as Wired’s Gadget Lab and Engadget. The team has won multiple awards for their creation.

Congratulations to this college design team.


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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

Glenn Meyers has 449 posts and counting. See all posts by Glenn Meyers