It would be fair to say that mountain bikers everywhere have had a bad experience with a derailleur at one time or another, which is what drove Cedric Eveleigh of Lal Bikes to create the Supre Drive, a drivetrain system that separates the two functions of the standard derailleur (shifting and tensioning the chain), while also placing the purpose-built derailleur out of harm's way. The Supre Drive's four key elements are durability, efficiency, chain damping, and a lower unsprung mass, all on a high pivot suspension platform.
The idea popped into the Canadian mechanical engineer's head one day while he was catching his breath on a ride in the spring of 2019, and he immediately set to work building a stationary prototype drivetrain. Cedric has patented the Supre Drive in Canada, and while the patent is pending internationally, he is already working with a major mountain bike company to create a frame that will use the system. The prototype in the launch video is limited in range, but the current version can accommodate a 10-51-tooth range cassette and only has two specific requirements; a 52 mm chainline and a T47 bottom bracket.
A derailleur’s first job is to push the chain across the cassette cogs to change the gear ratio. Secondly, the pulley cage tensions the chain when slack is created by shifting to smaller cogs, keeping it from jumping off of the front chainring and cassette as the bike bounces down the trail. Cedric has placed the cage-less derailleur inboard on the swingarm and moved the chain tensioner to the middle of the bike, above the chainring. Although it uses a conventional hub and drivetrain parts, the frame must be designed around the entire system.
The tensioner pivots around the bottom bracket axis and extends counter clockwise to provide more slack in the chain when the derailleur shifts to the larger cassette cogs. Conversely, when an upshift is made to a smaller cog, the tensioner is pulled by a cable towards the front of the bike by a cartridge in the downtube, controlled by a spring and damper. Most intriguing is the system keeps the chain tension nearly identical across all gears. Conventional drivetrains increase tension in the lower gears, causing an increase in drag.
Add in a shorter section of free chain and as Cedric claims, "Speed-sensitive tensioner damping that outperforms any derailleur clutch on the market", and you get an extremely quiet and damped drivetrain. The Supre Drive also uses the same number of jockey wheels as a conventional high pivot idler bike, but reduces the friction since those wheels have a larger number of teeth than the typical derailleur.
As for the unsprung mass debate, the system saves roughly 130-grams of unsprung mass, but adds 100-200 grams of total mass. Like Pinkbike's Seb Stott discussed in his recent article about why you shouldn't worry about weight much
, there are potential benefits to increasing that sprung to unsprung ratio by adding more weight to the front triangle and less to the rear.
After meeting Cedric back in August on his venture through B.C. from Chelsea, Quebec, I was presented with the opportunity to parking lot-test the second Supre Drive prototype. In a blindfolded test, I would not be able to tell the difference in the shifting system versus a traditional layout. If anything, the Supre Drive should shift even better on the trail, because the derailleur is mounted at two points and therefore does not rotate around on the B-knuckle pivot.
The fact that there is no B-tension adjustment needed and no special tools are required to assemble the system helps simplify setup. The positioning of the derailleur also gives more chain wrap around the cassette because the jockey wheel is clocked much higher. Almost hidden in plain sight, the derailleur also has abundant ground clearance and is further protected by being nestled between the chain and seatstay. Adding to the benefits of the system, the chain is kept further away from the elements and won't contact the ground under oscillations.
Production for the drivetrain components will be headed up in Canada by Lal Bikes and incorporated by Cedric. The brand name comes from Pierre Lallement who was credited by some as the inventor of the bicycle. Where does the Supre Drive get its name? Cedric explains, "Supre means above in the Esperanto language. This refers to the Supre Drive being above other drivetrains, both physically and performance-wise." He genuinely wants to make the mountain biking experience better and more reliable.
As you can imagine, the creation of this idea didn't happen overnight, but Cedric is extremely savvy and highly educated. The mechanical engineer by trade has a masters in Engineering Physics and taught himself how to TIG weld by watching YouTube videos and built on his machining practices learned in school. This is not the first time he's put his passion to improve bikes to the test. Back in 2012, he participated in Pinkbike's Reality Redesigned innovation contest and submitted a Pinion gearbox-equipped downhill bike design.
There have been a lot of wild and wacky drivetrain iterations throughout the years; Honda's RN01 "derailleur in a box" with a continuous drive chain, Zerode's high pivot design centered on an internally geared hub, Cavalerie's belt-driven gearbox DH bike, Lahr's CVT project, Allan Millyard's single-sided swingarm DH bike that enclosed the chain in an oil bath. The industry has never seen anything like the Supre Drive before, tackling multiple problems at once, like exposed derailleurs, chain kickback, but still using readily available drivetrain and hub components. All eyes will be on Lal Bikes to see what brand has licensed the Supre Drive, how it will be applied, and who else might in the future.
I also had the chance to catch up with Cedric and throw a few questions his way once he was finished dumbfounding industry folk in the Sea to Sky area.
How and when did you get into mountain biking?
I’m fortunate to have grown up with XC mountain bike trails out the back door, so I’ve been mountain biking since I was about 7 years old.
What was your first bike?
My first proper bike was a Norco Bushpilot hardtail.
What did you study in university?
My undergrad was mechanical engineering, and my master’s was engineering physics (both in Canada). A highlight of my undergrad was a couple of internships in Berkeley, California. My master’s was especially fun; my research project was on corrosion-resistant coatings for use in molten salt nuclear reactors, and I got to do a research internship in Shanghai.
When did you realize the flaws in the mountain bike drivetrains?
I’ve been aware that derailleurs suck for a long time. I remember upvoting all the pro-gearbox comments on Pinkbike around 2010, so it goes back at least as far as that.
What does the sales model of the Supre Drive look like and how do you see manufacturers incorporating this into their product line?
Lal Bikes will manufacture the derailleur, chain tensioner, and idler pulley in Canada (probably coastal BC, and maybe also in Europe later on). The sales model is the same as other drivetrain companies: sell to bike companies that spec the Supre Drive, and also sell directly to mountain bikers, etc. I'm currently collaborating with a major mountain bike company for them to develop a bike with the Supre Drive, and I plan to collaborate with many more.
What sparked you to tackle such a project?
After my master’s, I decided to switch my focus back to mountain bike engineering, which is what got me to sign up for mechanical engineering in the first place. The most glaring issue with mountain bikes is derailleurs, so I focused on that. While brainstorming possible solutions, I got some motivation from seeing the outside-the-box thinking of Ceramicspeed Driven. The eureka moment for the Supre Drive happened while I was out on a ride, and the idea was promising enough for me to switch from brainstorming to building prototypes.
How did you learn the manufacturing skills to build your own working prototype and what was that process like?
I’ve had to learn a variety of fabrication skills for this project, both for frames and the drivetrain. Most of this was learned on the fly during the project but some of it was learned beforehand in student machine shops at university. Some skills like 3D printing are quite accessible, but others like CNC machining and TIG welding have a much more difficult learning curve. I’ve learned a lot, but I still have a lot to learn, especially for switching from prototyping to manufacturing. I’m looking forward to having others join the team who are knowledgeable about manufacturing.
To answer your question about what the learning process was like, it has been friggin' great. With 3D printing, the accessibility of information online, local makerspaces, and other things, there’s never been a better time to invent.
What are some of the downsides or constraints of the system?
The Supre Drive requires the idler pulley to be farther forward than on most other high pivot bikes. This is because the front section of the chain needs to be forward enough to allow for the range of motion of the tensioner arm. The forward position of the idler pulley constrains frame design. It’s still possible to design frames that perform as well as the best frames out there, but some previous suspension systems might not work well with the Supre Drive.
I was lucky enough to pedal the proto around the parking lot. Can you explain how the derailleur is able to shift across the cassette if the tension is at the front of the drivetrain?
For shifting gears, the basic function of derailleurs is to guide the chain from side to side from one sprocket to another. There’s no need for the derailleur to also tension the chain. The upper pulley (guide pulley) of conventional derailleurs guides the chain from side to side just like the single pulley on the Supre derailleur. If the lower pulley (tension pulley) of conventional derailleurs doesn’t play a role in shifting, why not move the tensioner arm to somewhere safe?
Why not go with a gearbox, since this is not a traditional drivetrain anyways?
I’m not aware of a way to make gearboxes as efficient and lightweight as derailleur drivetrains. However, the Supre Drive is efficient and lightweight like a derailleur drivetrain—well, it is a derailleur drivetrain—just a tough one.
What were some of the reactions when you presented the Supre Drive to industry directors?
The reactions have been very positive but also amusingly vulgar. These two are verbatim:
“This is f****** fascinating and terrifyingly ambitious.”
“I’m not easily impressed, and this is f****** impressive.”
When do you think we will see the first production version of the Supre Drive?
For a first production version, I'm aiming for 2023. I have a lot of testing to do to make sure that I put out top quality parts. Also, frames need to be developed to go with the Supre Drive. It'll be some time before the Supre Drive becomes commercially available, but I'm working hard to make things happen fast.
What does the future hold for Cedric Eveleigh?
Plan A is to build a big manufacturing operation in Canada, and to make the Supre Drive as affordable, durable, and high performing as possible. I’m stoked about the task of getting a team of people together to build the Lal Bikes company, and I’m also looking forward to collaborating with more frame companies. And of course, the future includes a lot of mountain biking!
Photo and video credit: Chris Snow
unless otherwise noted.
Fixed that for you.
But will work better with chain covers!
Although, I do think this is awesome and I truly wish him tons of success and/or a potential buy-out for big money just to put this on a shelf.
If they make a derailleur that doesn't brake and need replacing often, how does that help them sell more expensive derailleurs?
You could argue that the move to 1X was pretty innovative. Imagine being at a board meeting and saying, "Our next product allows us to sell half as many derailleurs as before."
Think Pinkbike had a patent article about them awhile back as well... ok, found it. Ya, these - www.pinkbike.com/news/sram-granted-patent-for-drivetrain-with-a-direct-mount-derailleur.html
That said, the talk of big Idler pulleys for better efficiency is a misleading claim.
I don't want to detract from the ingenuity of this approach, however I do have a problem with stretched marketing...
Larger idler pulleys reduce wasted energy by decreasing overall chain wrap angle.
A design like Supre inherently has much more total wrap than a traditional derailleur system.
I certainly may be missing something here, but it looks like Supre will induce ~230° more wrap while in little cog and ~300° more total chain wrap in big cog.
These are an order of magnitude greater than the wrap reduction achieved moving a normal derail to larger idlers (tens vs hundreds of degrees.
This is why it could be cool for DH / Enduro bikes - where efficiency matters less.
(Gearbox is ideal for DH tbh... un-sprung mass on rear wheel minimized & shift capable while not pedaling to name some big points)
All in all really cool to see the passion of folks in the community and the results that come from some interesting ideas and a lot of hard work.
Point being, the huge difference in total wrap angle is more significant than small angle per link differences when only considering diameters of pulleys.
In general the straighter the chain path the more efficient the system. Larger pulleys nudge a fixed system towards more efficiency vs smaller pulleys, but bigger levers are at play when the chain is simply require to bend more (again, hundreds vs tens of degrees).
I think my intuition steered my to assume that this was similar to the case of additional inflection point (which would be a more significant driver) however Supre does not add an inflection point in the chain path. (The high pivot is another story but not relevant to apples-apples comparison).
Did not wake up this morning expecting to brain fart on a system that I have analysed, designed, and implemented many times... however here we are.
Thanks for your comments!
It bends as it enters, and then again as it exits the pulley teeth. Through the rotational travel of the pulley, a fully engaged link does not rotate with respect to its adjacent links. So, the wrap angle of the pulley ends up affecting only the time between link motions (on & off) and not affect a total amount of link motion.
What you said.
I don’t want to be a negative Nancy but how much longer can we flog this dead horse derailleur system for? Get a gearbox.
Gear box designs are still flawed as far as efficiency goes!
Derailleurs work even better when in clean sealed environment
-Standard derailleur for XC/trail
-Supre drive for EN/DH as for now it only works with a high pivot
-Gearbox for ebikes where efficiency is not much of a problem, but torque can be one
Maybe it is enduro mentality?
it should say PROTOTYPE IN BIG LETTERS , they would have been chomping to get it on the front page
More likely get results from using a geared hub mounted in frame
I too wish him and his company all the success in the world, for both being truly innovative and for making it happen. And I'd love to see the Supre drivetrain succeed in the marketplace.
But I also hope Lal Bikes doesn't sell out to Shimano or SRAM, only because history has shown that major players will buy out the smaller innovative companies merely to squash any competition to maintain market share, and then abandon the innovative intellectual property they just bought—eg, Procycle bought out Balfa then mothballed their idler pulley + HSP as well as parallel-linkage VPP suspension designs, and Bauer bought out Mission then mothballed their more anatomically fitting "Purefit" hockey skates.
Specialized exclusive licensed the original US patented Inertia Valve shock design from its inventor Don Richardson (yes the same guy who invented the full floater motorcycle linkage and successfully won a $19 million dollar judgement against Suzuki Motorcycles for stealing his invention) for bicycle shocks (rear shocks only mind you), then didn't actually produce any to the patent design. Instead they and a guy a Fox Suspension basically reversed the patent design to use the inertia valve tech in a different and inferior way, filed their own patent applications and sued anymore else in the bike world who tried to license Don's original design (as they did with Stratos suspension) whilst still not actually paying the promised royalties Don had expected to be getting, because they never actually produced any shocks to his design. Specialized ended up calling their version the Brain shocks and Fox called there's Terralogic for suspension forks. Don holds a number of US patents including one for an vibration damping mechanism for handlebar grips, and a couple for shocks and some for variable engine timing.
But I have bought loads of new bikes and upgraded my transmission to have one more gear many times.
One who makes douchebag statements, particularly sexist, racist or otherwise bigoted ones, then decides whether they were “just joking” or dead serious based on whether other people in the group approve or not.
Please help protect us all from such horrible words spoken by some random person on the internet....that was joke.
My new bike from a few years ago has maybe dropped a chain once in over a year of riding (maybe), I've never had a tire problem, brakes are amazing, and I rode my wheels over a 1000 miles with no damage.
My experience is that durability is amazing compared to what it used to be.
But I’m seriously impressed how reliable stuff has become, I don‘t notice any built-in obsolescence at all in bike components.
Hope the wheel builders were trying to strengthen their wheelsets during the world cup snowshoe races. Heard some wheels were barely surviving a single run.
think of the greenwashing potential where your object of desire outlasts 10 other things
think , people want new things every year damn the environmet
i wonder which will win in the end
You’ve built/designed something outrageous, and deserve tones of praise!
Looks to be a blast to ride, for some reason I get a strong Balfa vibe from the bikes silhouette.
If you’re ever in BC, lets rip some trails, I’ll buy the beer!
If I can piggy back on the "as a bike designer" and "as an engineer" clichés... It does look like quite a job to design that crucial tyre-crank-front-sprocket-suspension-pivots-BB-shell area with the new additions... I don't suppose it can just bolt to the ISCG mounts?
I'd also suggest looking at Taiwan manufacturing in tandem with whatever you do locally. If you want to do significant volume and hit more than just the very top end, getting OEM parts from Canada to Taiwan/China to assemble on to bikes is going to be a logistical nightmare, having bikes sitting around waiting for parts to come in as an absolute disaster.
Don't get me wrong, having the means to prototype extensively and do small batch production in house has a lot of benefits, but Taiwan is super well geared up for this stuff.
"People don’t like change, and the bike industry is one of the most hypocritical industries out there. We want new technology, though not that new – just a little bit new. But, we want it to be a game-changer, but not that game-changing because that’s scary and confusing. NeW StAnDaRdS, wTf GuYs!!!"
Let us know where we can look for it.
That being said, you could probably make some far prettier frames that utilized the same design.
I think back to the Hammerschmidt. Imagine that same idea, but with modern carbon construction, and maybe a wider spread.
I've always wanted to do a SS hardtail build around a Hammerschmidt.
would recommend knocking on wood ASAP
I have broken them in the past though.
But I had to go to four shops to get a new one. Derailleurs are getting better but not tougher.
Fantastic idea and commitment to getting it done, all the best Cedric looking forward to seeing real innovation.
Damned if I can recall where now.
I find it funny how in cases like this, where a product has largely just stayed the same for years, every jumps on the big companies like Shimano and SRAM about how they don't innovate, hate new ideas, etc. But then whenever these companies come out with a new standard of some sort, the same people complain that what they have already works fine and they don't need something new.
The idea that these big companies wouldn't want to sell us a new form or rear shifting in laughable. I am 100% sure they would love too, and have been trying to come up with something for years. But at the end of the day they have to sell it. And when you already have a cheap reliable option its hard to sell people on something else.
Also originally derailleur hanger should address the issue, snapping itself and avoiding damage to the frame or derailleur itself
I snapped 1 this summer
I have not heard much about the Micro Shift. How does it compare to Shimano?
That is an awesome piece of design and engineering. Maximum kudos for this!
It has so many positives and the only downside I can think of is that it doesn't address the asymmetric rear hub but that's hardly part of it's remit so I'll forgive it.
Fingers crossed you get a lot of uptake and become very successful.
Normally I’d instinctively recoil at another set of standards, but this is so out of the box and addresses so many issues that I must doff my cap in respect and admiration, and wish him every success.
Ah, yeah, but did not the same article mention how the extra drivetrain drag of the extra pulleys is nearly more important than weight?
Well done Canadian friend
Looks neat, best of luck to you! I wanna see it in person.
Similar to this, has anyone been following Trinity Mountain Bikes? Their high pivot steel gearbox bike was featured in a PB article earlier this year. They've recently shown a prototype adapter that allows a standard bottom bracket in place of the frame mounted gearbox. Now they've shown a version that puts a derailleur and 6 speed cassette above the bottom bracket (chain driven on the non-drive side). Definitely worth checking out for those that find this kind of stuff interesting.
And the elimination of rock damage to rear derailleurs, while important, should not overshadow (lol) the near elimination of failures that result when a large stick gets caught up in the rear derailleur. That’s relatively common if you’re not riding in a desert.
As I have mentioned in another PB articles, highpivot designs highlight ugliness of traditional drivetrain. Mainly because of the traditional position of traditional derailuer. You @cedric-eveleigh solved not one thing (damn deraileur) but even the visuality of the overal layout. IMO, this is how every HP design should look like. This is the chain routing to be achieved.
(*The three birds seem to be: splitting the mech, adding damping to the tensioner, new high-single-pivot suspension. Maybe just pick one at a time.)
Also - this novel design is ridiculously cool.
No mention of chainstay width though. @cedric-eveleigh can you comment on that? My memory immediately goes to a really well-pedaling and stout-as-hell Lapierre Spicy that I had for a few months some time ago. The boxy chain stays splayed out so wide that my heels rubbed very often. I had to part with the bike.
I reckon that'll take a wee while to become very popular but will then make a serious contender against conventional designs.
Wouldn't that work for tensioning the chain while giving more ground clearance?
I guess that could be solved by mounting the chainring on another axle with a cog to invert the rotation, but that would be adding more complexity and weight, so Cedric must have an edge over me still haha.
I ride a Zerode, I adapted easily and love the Pinion/Gates belt combo for a bunch of reasons - but this design is a great halfway-house between conventional systems and the pinion (*other gearboxes are available) it looks like it solves real world trails issues and will give an improved platform to riders who want many of the benefits of GB's without riders having to adapt to the ride nuances or are panicked by weight/cost/drag or servicing availability. (Weight/cost/drag arguments are losing credibility as the industry has moved further towards burlier bikes and high pivot idlers and prices are quite ridiculous at the top end now!)
Everyone seems to want 1 defining standard to dominate the market killing off all other systems - but given the diverse nature of bikes and riding, why should this ever be the case?! All designs have compromises and none are perfect for ALL applications, innovative bikes are often judged unfairly with this expectation - with reviewers commentating on performance not only as intended by the manufacturer but also for every perceived 'other' application the tester can envisage. There's a reason I wouldn't thank you for swapping my Red AXS off the road bike and Pinion off the Taniwha.. but both systems are fantastic for their application.
The traditional derailleur isn't dead coz of this, nor should it be.. but hopefully we'll see less of them spec'd on the robust bikes PBers like to ride hard! I completely see room in the market for this - hopefully frame designers will too.
Why don't the the 2 big S companies do stuff like this? It requires a lot of companies to jump on and change frame designs for something to take off.. And in cased you haven't noticed, change isn't always accepted really well around here..
I could see a future WAO frame built around this component ty.
When do we get a full review, Pinkbike?
if you’re still reading this, thank you and i appreciate you. i ride hardtails and have found that they’re more fun for the kinds of trails i ride. could you put a high pivot design on a hardtail? i know it helps with rear suspension which a hardtail doesn’t have, so is there any reason it wouldn’t work just to get a better derailleur?
Thanks for the reply and honesty @cedric-eveleigh this is really awesome idea!
So...is there a way to perhaps get around the high-pivot requirement? That certainly makes the design much more niche and limits your revenue pool.
Aside from durability, are there other benefits that go beyond the benefits of Shimano/Hyperglide+? We've seen a few minor improvements in derailleurs but when they greatly improved the ability to shift under load, that was a real feature that solved a real problem. I think for this to really "sing" and the product to take off big time, you'll need to solve one more significant customer problem beyond just durability. That's a high bar of course, but it seems like you are already on that level of innovation.
Repeating what has been seen up thread in other comments; this is the type of drivetrain innovation for mountain bikes that is long overdue. I can't wait to see where it goes from here as it evolves and is perfected.
Made something similar 15 years ago?
PS: I should have led with how impressive it is. I'm especially impressed with your plans for going beyond the garage.
I’m guessing there was no good way to make a torsion spring and roller clutch fit around the bb?
Thanks for the details!
But does it shred?
In the beginning of the video pretty well
Looks like a pretty awesome invention
It tensions the chain all the time...
New Editor/Presenter I see?
I'm going to say Cannondale.
1. You ride in the desert?
2. You never crash?
3. You don’t have kids?
will you look into the front end, now, perhaps eliminating telescopic forks (please) ?