Lal Bikes Supre Drive – A Better Derailleur Solution?

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Is this the week when all the stupid annoying bits of mountain bike tech are finally going to be fixed? We’ve already seen two takes on improving the infinitely annoying Presta valve, and now we have a new take on the rear derailleur. Will the Lal Bikes Supre Drive eliminate rock bashing woe? Will our derailleurs no longer dangle, tangle and bend? Let us see…

The inventor of the Supre Drive is Cedric Eveleigh, a mechanical engineer and mountain biker, operating from his parent’s basement in Quebec, Canada. His company, Lal Bikes, is named after Pierre Lallement, who is considered by some to have invented the bicycle. Eveleigh first built his prototype in 2019, and today he’s releasing the idea on the world. (Thanks to Tom Howard for the eagle eyed tip off!)

Lal Bikes will manufacture the derailleur, chain tensioner, and idler pulley in Canada (and maybe also in Europe later on). These parts will be sold to bike companies that spec the Supre Drive, and also directly to mountain bikers, etc. Lal Bikes collaborates with mountain bike companies in the development of frames equipped with the Supre Drive.

Cedric Eveleigh – Lal Bikes
Lal Bikes Supre Drive

During its development, he’s been posting on Instagram, indicating that that a bike company was interested in his design, but that it needs frames designed specifically for the Supre Drive:

The Supre Drive is different enough that it requires frames to be designed around it. This past summer, I was put in touch with a major mountain bike company. After seeing my second prototype bike on a video call, they covered my flight so that they could test ride it. The test rides were fun and they were stoked. I’m now collaborating with them while they develop a prototype frame of their own that’ll use the Supre Drive. This is a photo from when my dad dropped me off at the airport for this trip in August. No, the bike company isn’t Norco. I just like that t-shirt. It’s from when I used to wrench in a bike shop that sold Norcos. This collaboration with a bike company is exciting, and I plan to collaborate with many others while I focus on the drivetrain parts.

Cedric Eveleigh
Lal Bikes Supre Drive

Who might he be collaborating with, then? Knolly, or Banshee? Forbidden already plays in the idler world, and Guerilla Gravity is into doing things differently. It will certainly be interesting to see – and to see whether the Supre Drive idea takes off or joins the ranks of inventions that never quite made it.

Lal Bikes Supre Drive

This all hints at a drivetrain built into the frame. Another earlier Instagram post said ‘A cassette and no derailleur to be seen, but I can assure you that this bike has a functioning drivetrain’. Combined with his reference to the chain tensioner and idler pully, it sounds rather like what Chris Porter says he would do if he had a pile of money to sink into a project – except Chris talks of gearboxes:

If I found a couple of hundred grand down the back of the sofa tomorrow, I’d make a linkage fork gearbox bike with a transferable drive where the drive is moveable – you can move the drive point in relation to the pivot, up and down, so that you could make it squat or not – with a seat post on a four bar linkage, and I’d do all of that with recycled steel tubes. That would be amazing, to be able to use old bicycle tubes to make the most technologically advanced bicycle but without actually having a single patentable or technologically advanced process, just brazed steel tubes. That would be amazing.

Chris Porter

A further clue lay in the name: Supre, which means ‘above’ in Esperanto. Given Eveleigh says he’s trying to solve the problem of bent and broken mechs, it seemed likely that he was somehow turning the whole thing upside down, with a derailleur above the cassette – and perhaps idler pulley to make the elevated chainline work?

Apparently we won’t have long to wait – he’s going to reveal it at some point today. But feel free to speculate wildly until we have some hard facts. We’ll update this story when all is revealed!

And Here It Is…

Eveleigh has now released details of his new design:

Lal Bikes Supre Drive: How does it work?

Lal bikes Supre Drive

The derailleur has no cage, clutch, or torsion spring. The equivalent of these parts is transferred to a chain tensioner at the middle of the bike. The tensioner arm pivots around the bottom bracket axis.

Lal bikes Supre Drive

The blue line represents the chain in the lowest gear, and the red line represents the chain in the highest gear. Shifting to lower gears makes the tensioner arm pivot backward, and shifting to higher gears makes the tensioner arm pivot forward.

There’s no derailleur hanger and no B screw, but it has high and low limit screws. The derailleur is rigidly mounted to the frame at two points, making it well-braced and capable of withstanding impacts. However, impacts are unlikely because of the ground clearance.

Supre drive Lal bikes Supre Drive

The Supre Drive moves the task of tensioning the chain to the middle of the bike and lets
the derailleur focus solely on shifting. The tensioner arm is connected by a cable to a cartridge that contains a spring and a damper. This cartridge is inside the down tube. Whereas conventional derailleurs produce increasing chain tension in the low gears, the tensioner system of the Supre Drive produces approximately constant chain tension across all gears. This is achieved by decreasing the leverage of the cable on the tensioner arm as the tensioner arm rotates back during shifts to lower gears. This decrease in leverage compensates for the increase in force from the spring. The approximately constant chain tension improves the efficiency of the Supre Drive. Additionally, the large size of the pulleys also improves the efficiency of the Supre Drive. The damper is hydraulic. It’s speed-sensitive, meaning that there’s a lot of force when the tensioner arm rotates fast (which occurs while riding over rough stuff) and there’s less force when the tensioner arm rotates slowly (which occurs while shifting).

The first prototype

Supre Drive Specifications

  • Compared to other high pivot bikes with an XT derailleur, the Supre Drive has around 130g less unsprung weight but 100–200g more total weight. This extra weight is sprung weight at the middle of the bike. In other words, the Supre Drive increases the sprung to unsprung weight ratio.
  • Compatible with off-the-shelf hubs, bottom brackets, cranks, chains, shifters, and cassettes. Two specific requirements are a 52mm chainline and a T47 bottom bracket.
  • The frame must be designed around the Supre Drive.
  • The latest version works with a 10-51t Shimano cassette (although the prototype bike shown here has a 10-45t cassette).
  • Adjustment is the same process as conventional derailleurs except easier because there’s no B-limit, setting the chain length is simpler, and there’s no derailleur hanger alignment.
Lal bikes Supre Drive

I designed and built two prototype bikes with the Supre Drive. In this announcement, I’m showing the second prototype bike. It has a steel frame and high pivot suspension. I designed and built all of the unique parts, including the derailleur, chain tensioner, idler pulley, and frame. I machined the pulleys and several other parts, I 3D printed many of the derailleur and tensioner parts, and I welded the frame.

Cedric Eveleigh

Now you can see more, what do you think? Will this make Cedric’s fortune and it’s the drivetrain of the future? Or will the laws of unintended consequences kick in and we’ll find some other problem that renders this another interesting historical curiosity in the history of drivetrain innovation?

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Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 54 total)
  • Lal Bikes Supre Drive – A Better Derailleur Solution?
  • Premier Icon matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    I’m going for a Honda DH bike style in frame derailleur box….

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Free Member

    I think WRP may have beaten them to it
    https://www.instagram.com/reel/CWKBxfJBwXZ/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

    Premier Icon Tom Howard
    Full Member

    That WRP doesn’t look to be 12 speed though, like Lal is promising.

    Premier Icon cedrico
    Free Member

    That drivetrain is a fun concept, but it surely has a lot of drag because of the number of times the chain engages and disengages with sprockets. The Supre Drive doesn’t have the drag of that drivetrain or others like the Pinion gearbox. Also, that WRP drivetrain has a tiny cassette. It’s clear that it won’t replace conventional derailleur drivetrains.

    Premier Icon honourablegeorge
    Full Member

    cedrico

    Also, that WRP drivetrain has a tiny cassette. It’s clear that it won’t replace conventional derailleur drivetrains.

    Yeah, fine for a DH bike, but getting a 52t Eagle cassette in there?

    Premier Icon andyspaceman
    Full Member

    Interesting, would like to see more. My money would be on something similar to chainstay-mounted derailleur on the OTT FX-FR that was featured on this very site a week or two ago. Not sure what he’d have planned for the chain tensioning side of things, but there’s a few options out there that could be employed or adapted.

    Premier Icon Superficial
    Free Member

    WTF kind of news article is this? Can you let us know when there’s actually some news instead of attempting to manufacture hype for someone we’ve never heard of?

    Premier Icon Tom Howard
    Full Member

    You only want news about things you already know about?

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Free Member

    You only want news about things you already know about?

    Premier Icon ayjaydoubleyou
    Free Member

    https://lalbikes.com/

    its up now

    Premier Icon Sharky
    Free Member

    If the thing in the article doesn’t have a price tag yet how can I complain about how expensive it is? Even worsely, if it doesn’t even exist yet I have to start inventing all kinds of reasons to criticise it and I resent being made to think that far.

    Premier Icon ayjaydoubleyou
    Free Member

    It looks like a normal (style, but proprietary) mech that is twisted up out of the way, added benefit of no chain growth due to high pivot.

    Is it only the no chain growth that gives it its compact nature. With a redesigned chainstay would this work on any and all full sussers?

    Still has the cassette and mech at the rear as unsprung mass, so not the game changer some may have hoped for.

    Premier Icon Thepurist
    Full Member

    It’d better be good cos it sure aint pretty.

    Premier Icon ayjaydoubleyou
    Free Member

    It’d better be good cos it sure aint pretty.

    I’m unclear on the purpose of the company. Are they trying to sell the unique drivetrain which requires a proprieatry frame/rear triangle, and thus necessitating a test bike to put it on for marketing purposes?

    Or are they trying to sell the full bike? Because needlessly low top tube is an aesthetical no from me (and is reminiscent of the Sick! frames).

    Working with to-be-named north american brand may suggest the former.

    Premier Icon Superficial
    Free Member

    You only want news about things you already know about?

    No, I want news that actually includes some information.

    Which we now have. It looks interesting.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Full Member

    A Better Derailleur Solution?

    Another one?

    Premier Icon ayjaydoubleyou
    Free Member

    Now I’ve read the article on the other website, I’m coming round to the idea, it has cleverly combined the high pivot/idler suspension, with a more compact and efficient deraillier set up in a way that previously had two separate (and therefore non optimal) systems. Colour me impressed.

    Front triangle still fugly though.

    Premier Icon honourablegeorge
    Full Member

    Considering he just bought himself a welder and taught himself welding, the bike looks great. And he’s not selling the bike – he wants to manufacture the system and sell it to bike companies, and seems he has one lined up already

    Good luck to him, it’s clever.

    Premier Icon BruceWee
    Full Member

    Bollocks, I had this idea about two months ago.

    I also had the idea about Colnago’s Blockchain bike register thing about a year ago.

    I really have to start doing something about these things.

    Premier Icon mick_r
    Full Member

    I quite like that. Already having ideas of the hardtail frame I could make around it.

    Premier Icon drinfinity
    Free Member

    I like that concept. A cyclocross version would be interesting – our family goes through about one mech per 3 races between us.

    Premier Icon nickc
    Full Member

    Given that bikes with one idler pulley system are draggy as fuck*, two idler pulleys are going to be a nightmare.

    *technical term

    Premier Icon Tom Howard
    Full Member

    Given that bikes with one idler pulley system are draggy as *****, two idler pulleys are going to be a nightmare.

    *technical term

    It has the same number of pulleys as a regular drivetrain, high pivot idler bike. I’ve had no issues with extra pulleys, drag wise.

    Premier Icon scaredypants
    Full Member

    I like the idea – I’m not a smasher of mechs but still sounds good to me

    agree that the frame’s ugly but then it’s a proof of concept thing

    Premier Icon andyspaceman
    Full Member

    Good lad, just watched the video. That’s some impressive work.
    I had a very innocuous low speed knock against a log earlier this year. Cost me a new mech, hanger, and new spokes and re-true in a near-new back wheel.
    Hopefully it has all the benefits he claims and this gets some momentum.

    Premier Icon Gribs
    Full Member

    I like that concept. A cyclocross version would be interesting – our family goes through about one mech per 3 races between us.

    The front tensioner would soon fill with mud at a cross race.

    Premier Icon shermer75
    Free Member

    That was quick!

    Premier Icon shermer75
    Free Member

    Finally! Looks great. Wonder if it makes taking the wheel out or changing the chain harder

    Premier Icon hodge1365
    Full Member

    So, Honda were there first then…..

    Premier Icon rootes1
    Full Member

    Spliting the derailing part from the tensioner was how it was before Campag developed the ‘modern’ derailleur, with systems in the 1930’s like Osgear.

    osgear

    https://mariposabicycles.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Praderio_details_01-1024×683.jpg

    Premier Icon andyspaceman
    Full Member

    And is exactly how the 2 and 6 speed Bromptons shift between their rear cogs today.

    Premier Icon Nigel Leech
    Full Member

    Bike looks OK to me. Makes sense to have a huge standover if you can only make one demo bike.

    The system looks OK too. Not so wacky that no will entertain it, regardless of benefits (e.g. alt-sus forks).

    Premier Icon Jim Trailrider
    Full Member

    The achilles heel of rear mechs being in the line of fire often comes up but if they were vulnerable we’d have ditched them years ago. It’s a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Premier Icon ndthornton
    Free Member

    It has the same number of pulleys as a regular drivetrain, high pivot idler bike. I’ve had no issues with extra pulleys, drag wise.

    These pulleys are larger than the missing jockey wheel so might actually be more efficient.
    I think it’s ace

    Premier Icon squirrelking
    Free Member

    The achilles heel of rear mechs being in the line of fire often comes up but if they were vulnerable we’d have ditched them years ago. It’s a problem that doesn’t exist.

    That’s a brave claim.

    Premier Icon Michaela
    Full Member

    It’s clever and all that but man, just give me a 5 speed gearbox FFS.

    Premier Icon cookeaa
    Full Member

    The achilles heel of rear mechs being in the line of fire often comes up but if they were vulnerable we’d have ditched them years ago. It’s a problem that doesn’t exist.

    They are vulnerable, but the issue manifests itself relatively rarely. I mean across all gear-dangler equipped bikes.

    Mech smashing issues primarily affect off-road riders and mostly those participating towards the “Gnarr” end of the scale.

    The problem that most alternative solutions to derailleurs face isn’t necessarily technical, it’s mostly market based, your main target group are a niche within a niche still. And when that solution potentially comes at a substantial premium converting interest to sales is even more challenging. If it could be sold in other areas it would have a better chance perhaps.

    He’s done the right thing IMO; develop the idea into a working prototype, file patents and setup a company to act as the commercial side to his interests, then go looking for an established manufacturer because he’s not only pushing a drivetrain idea, it’s a whole bike essentially, and he won’t have the resources to turn that into a viable business on his own…

    It’s clever and all that but man, just give me a 5 speed gearbox FFS.

    Ta Da!*

    (* Out of stock/probably not enough range/probably not quite what you had in mind).

    Premier Icon ctk
    Full Member

    Love it, hope it gets put into production.

    Premier Icon Michaela
    Full Member

    Ta Da!*

    (* Out of stock/probably not enough range/probably not quite what you had in mind).

    Indeed 🤣

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