Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Retro-Direct Revolution

I'm not going to try to convince you that a retro-direct drive bicycle is practical. While spending several late nights and early mornings at the shop, plotting chainlines and Frankensteining freewheels, some other notions were discussed. What if we made a system where the rider only pedaled forward, where a system of levers and pulleys derailled the chain from one cog to another? Sure, something like that could work and in fact does work, even when people do really crazy things like cram 11 cogs onto a cassette and then charge you $500 for a hunk of metal that you'll wear out in just a couple of thousand miles of wet Seattle riding, but hey this is progress and who am I to disagree?

Well, I'm the guy who right now engages a lower gear by pedaling backwards. I rode the RetroTrek the 18.5 miles home from the shop to Issaquah yesterday and the system is pretty dialed in. While a hunk of wood, a few bits of innertube, a little metal and an old derailler pulley got the drivetrain working great, it's going to take a bit more to rewire my brain and my muscles to get get used to this back pedaling thing. But I think it's good now and then to take a step back, to shift not only our gear but our direction and the way we travel in the world. We travel not only to arrive, but to find delight along the way.

My pal Dan got his retro-direct bike debugged as well and posted photos here:

Is there a place in a world that contains carbon racing bikes and Xtracycles, recumbents and fixie folk, for bikes that pedal backwards but still go forwards? I think there is. Because everyone who has hopped on my bike or Dan's, from Janet to Mark to DeadBaby Dave, has come back grinning with delight.

We may not have a retrodex or be mocked by BSNYC (yet!) but with Locktite on our pedals we are spinning backwards to the future.


Hank Greer said...

That's pretty wild! And the "Retro" label is a nice touch.

WheelDancer said...

I'm very grateful that you are taking this on and hope you post some video. As for me, however, I'm pretty sure I'd turn it into an Endo-Drive experience as I tried to select the right pedaling direction for the gearing I wanted.

Anonymous said...

did you use a 3/32 derailleur chain or a 1/8 singlespeed chain kent? are the freewheels 1/8 or 3/32 ? thx superfreak

Kent Peterson said...

The big (22 tooth) freewheels we could get were 1/8th inch, so Dan & I both went with 1/8th stuff for the drivetrain. The chainring and idler pulley are 3/16th, but they work fine with the bigger stuff. We needed to join about 1.5 1/8th chains together to have enough length to go around the idler.

Kent Peterson said...

Dang, in the above comment I meant to say the chainring and pulley are 3/32nd. All the rest is 1/8th.

Boxer Bikes said...

I really enjoy seeing the evolution of this project, Kent! Your chain tensioner/guide pulley looks much heftier than the earlier design. Glad to see you've retained the wood implement, and your two-tone bar wrap adds a touch of elegance!