As the northern hemisphere looks forward to a much deserved summer, innovators in engineering and technology are looking to make subsequent winters a little less hazardous for some.
The engineering students at the University of Calgary in Canada are devising ways to keep cyclists and their bicycles safer during the winter months. Apart from the challenges of controlling bikes on pathways that are iced over, cyclists struggle with their gear systems which are also affected in snowy conditions.
When temperatures plummet salt is used to keep the ice off the roads. But it is also sand and grit which get into the derailleur gears (the gears that keep the bicycle moving), and can cause chaos. Lubricating the gears with oil doesn’t help either - it just attracts more dirt.
In general, the metal components of bicycles are in danger of rust and other forms of damage during winter in the northern hemisphere. After a winter of riding, a bicycle basically needs to be fully repaired, with new parts fitted to the frame.
“Winter riding can take a toll on the bicycle, especially if you have a traditional derailleur system. It tends to wear out due to corrosion, and due to gravel being stuck in the chain which causes these gears to chip.”
Those are the words of Calgary engineering student Parth Thakurdesai, speaking to Calgary Eyeopener. He and three other students (Evan Magnusson and Nazanin Moghtaderi, and Alex Robertshaw) have engineered a ‘hub of gears’. They claim it will ensure bikes remain free of corrosion and general damage during and after an icy and wet winter season.
The invention involves connecting the chain to a ‘triangle formation’. The chain goes from the pedals, to a gear hub and then back to the wheel. An encasement protects the gear hub from the weather conditions and prevents dirt from entering the gears.
To test their new invention, the engineers iced up the gears, and then took the bike for a spin. It turned out that they were able to move between gears with ease. In the same icy conditions the traditional derailleur gears would not have been able to shift between gears. In winter conditions many bikers give up and opt to put robust tires on their bicycles.
The students have every intention of further developing their gear system. They will test their improvements over a number of winters before commercializing it.
“Calgary Eyeopener.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/calgary-eyeopener/.
“U Of C Students Make New Gears to Improve Winter Biking | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/winter-biking-university-of-calgary-1.4606559.