2021 Pinkbike Awards: Innovation Of The Year Winner

Dec 27, 2021
by Seb Stott  


Innovation of the Year Winner


2021's Innovation of the Year nominees include RockShox' suspension-controlling Flight Attendant, the Digit Datum with its novel suspension design, the latest long-range ebikes and a product that promises to minimise the disadvantages of air suspension. But this year's winner is the brainchild of a young Canadian engineer that could save a lot of mechanical maladies.





The derailleur is possibly the best and worst idea in mountain biking. We all know that derailleurs suck. They're expensive, fragile and finicky, yet highly exposed to impacts from stumps and stones. But in a way, they're a really elegant solution.

The derailleur not only selects the sprocket, but its cage also takes up the spare chain when you shift to a smaller sprocket. This tensioning function is a gift to full-suspension bikes as it can also spool out more chain when the suspension compresses and the hub moves further away from the bottom bracket. And because you need a chain anyway to transmit the drive from the crank to the wheel, it's more efficient to use the chain as part of the shifting mechanism, rather than having a separate gearbox plus a chain connecting it to the wheel and a tensioner pulley to allow for suspension movement.

For this reason, plus the need for inter-meshing spur gears in gearboxes, derailleurs are the lightest and most efficient geared drivetrains. Gearboxes may be more reliable, but they add too much weight, cost and drag to go mainstream.

Cedric Eveleigh wasn't satisfied with conventional derailleurs or gearboxes. Inspired by CeramicSpeed's Driven drivetrain, he started brainstorming ideas to solve what he calls "the most glaring issue with mountain bikes" - derailleurs. On a ride in 2019, he thought of this concept and started building prototypes right away.

The gear-selecting part of the derailleur is tucked out of harm's way.
When shifting to the smaller cogs, the tensioner moves clockwise to take up the slack.

The basic idea is to separate the two functions of the derailleur (shifting the chain across the cassette and tensioning the chain). The lateral shifting mechanism with its guide pulley remains by the cassette but is tucked out the way. Meanwhile, the tensioner pulley, which normally hangs down amongst the rocks and roots, is moved to the bottom bracket. This massively improves clearance and reduces the risk of ride-ending derailleur impacts.

It also moves some weight from the rear wheel, where it harms suspension performance, to the mainframe, where it doesn't. Plus, because the two pulleys are larger than a conventional derailleur, and because there's no need for an additional guide pulley behind the chainring, Cedric claims drag is reduced compared to a conventional idler bike with a derailleur. As if that weren't enough, the tensioner is said to provide more consistent chain tension and better damping than conventional clutch derailleurs, reducing chain slap and noise.

Because of the position of the tensioner, the design only works with idler pulley bikes, and only ones with the idler positioned forwards out of the way. Perhaps this explains why nobody has thought of it until now; only in the last couple of years have idler bikes become more mainstream. The plan is for Lal Bikes to build the drivetrain components, and license the system to bike brands to design their bikes around it.

It won't be available until 2023, but we've ridden a prototype around the car park and the shifting worked flawlessly. Apparently, several bike brands have already shown keen interest in the idea, and given the original article already has almost 200,000 page views, it seems the concept is interesting to many of you as well.

Whether the Supre Drive is viable as a production product remains to be seen, and we're not suggesting it's going to take over from conventional derailleurs. But this is the first radically new drivetrain concept we've seen in a long time that doesn't have readily apparent weight, efficiency, or shifting drawbacks.









131 Comments

  • 177 14
 Absolutely the right choice, just really hope it comes to production bikes soon
  • 25 1
 Agreed, I am really looking forward to see what bikes we get as a result of this system. Congrats on the award Cedric, it is well deserved.
  • 34 25
 I dont understand this, the entire bike needs to be designed around it and you are still dealing with a cassette and parts exposed to mud & grit. Just cut to the chase and give us a gearbox already.
  • 9 3
 @zyoungson: That’s likely the real correct answer. And belt drive too.

That being said this is a cool take on the derailleur from an academic standpoint
  • 6 2
 Yeah man, keeping the derailleur safe is a much bigger concern than getting your nuts or shorts snagged in that sprocket. Great idea!
  • 4 0
 @zyoungson: This does need fewer proprietary parts - the crank, frame parts, shifter, and cassette all come from standard sources. Yeah a gearbox would be better but there are few options available and this system may be easier to get out to the public.
  • 5 3
 @cougar797: Why belt drive? They're great for touring and fat bikes, but the greater stretch of a belt (relative to a chain) is undesirable when (as mountain bikers often do), you put a surge of torque through the pedals.
  • 2 0
 @zyoungson: have you ever ridden one up hill?
  • 5 0
 @rodeostu: Dude have you ridden one? Your a boss if you can feel stretch in a gates belt. I’ve ridden one and there is not a noticeable downside.
  • 1 1
 @cougar797: Yes. Perhaps it was internally geared hub on the bike I tried rotating further to engage, but it felt squishy compared the more instantaneous response I get from a hub with many points of engagement.
  • 4 0
 @rodeostu: Yah the dude I know has gear box and belt to a project 321 hub. It feels very normal bike’ish besides being insanely silent and grit free.
  • 2 0
 @cougar797: Problem with a belt drive is you need to disassemble the frame to install/uninstall the belt, and for bikes with a single piece rear triangle a belt drive is physically impossible (unless they cut out a section of the frame)
  • 1 0
 @spuddo: Yah but it doesn’t require maintenance so what’s the issue? Most people service pivot locations and take stuff apart occasionally anyway.
  • 1 1
 @zyoungson: Agreed. Gear boxes still have a ways to go but I think that’s ultimately the right solution. This Supre drivetrain wreaks of inefficiency and mechanical issues, not to mention wholesale frame design changes, and increased bike prices after licensing the tech.
  • 70 0
 I dare not negative comment or else my derailleur will probably fall off in the middle of a ride due to bike gods scorn.
  • 1 0
 Negative comment away. Fingers crossed but I’ve had very few drivetrain problems over the years. One bent derailleur hanger that was easily fixed and just general shifting issues which I don’t see this dramatically helping. The Supre is an evolutionary change; it’s not revolutionary.
  • 57 20
 Yeah I don’t know, it seems like a lot for a problem that doesn’t really affect many riders. I’d agree though it’s an innovative design engineered by one smart individual, cold for him to get an award from pb
  • 12 1
 Never smashed a derailleur but I’m all for anything that protects it a lot more
  • 38 1
 I think it affects way more riders than you think. Yeah many people never break a derailleur when out riding but a ton of riders bump them on stuff which results in misalignment due to bent cages or hangers. Many times this can just be tuned out but it almost always results in less efficiency and is never the same as new. It must be noted that a rock or branch could still get flung just right to damage this system but overall this would really cut down on that significantly.
  • 23 16
 Right? Cant we just get a gearbox instead of another overcomplicated chain and cassette System.
  • 14 6
 After multiple industry developments that truly solved a problem that didn't need solving (15mm front axles, 142>148>157mm rear axles, 35mm bars, etc.) this actually seems to make a lot of sense, especially with the introduction of $450 electric derailleurs. If it only ever saves one derailleur, it's proved itself far more valuable than the aforementioned industry developments.
  • 6 0
 @Mac1987: That's a good argument for this system too. If it can be electrified in the future, you could get electronic shifting that is less likely to turn into a Very Expensive Bad Day after a trip through a particularly unfriendly rock garden.
  • 4 0
 @monkeynaut: If this works well, then having an electronic shifting version would be awesome. Definitely make me a lot less nervous about dropping the coin on it.
  • 2 0
 If you read the discussion on the earlier PB article, you’ll get a better understanding of all the benefits this can bring. It’s more than a ‘derailleur protection’ thing
  • 5 0
 I myself have never snapped a derailleur off. Doesn't stop me from buying 2 spare hangers when I get a new bike, or a new-to-me bike, in the hopes that goes and not the derailleur. I don't build our high-end bikes at our shop but I would take the wireless electronic version of this versus the thought of smashing an AXS derailleur off because I picked a line and my bike was a dick about it.
  • 5 0
 @Mac1987: clutch on my axs derailleur has saved it at least half a dozen times. Not to knock the innovation on display here.
  • 2 0
 @Blownoutrides: Good to hear that functionality is...functional. I also realized the other day it has a manual shift mode if your shifter gets jacked up. I should have probably already known that, but that's what you get for not owning one and getting into the weeds.
  • 2 0
 This is a common issue for anyone who rides in rocky BC or PNW. Not sure about anywhere else
  • 1 0
 I’ve never broken a derailleur but I’ve bent them out of alignment more than once causing it to be a single speed
  • 2 0
 @ThunderChunk: I've bent/broken at least four in the Basel area...
  • 1 0
 @toad321: I've never smashed one either but with the trend of larger cassettes I could see this becoming more common.
  • 2 0
 @notsosikmik: I also think current derailleurs affect how I ride. Like on some backcountry ride where I am miles out, I may avoid that tight chute to save my derailleur.
  • 2 0
 @toad321: not at the expense of a seemingly more complicated system requiring drastic frame design changes. I think this is being propped up by a very vocal minority who seems to ride terribly or are way above average on the aggressive riding scale and catch their rear pulley arm on everything.
  • 1 0
 @gnarlysipes: At a CX race near me, grass ripped off loads of rear derailleurs. Yup vegetation can trash derailleurs too, as can sticks. YOur riding style matters not one jot in such cases.
  • 1 0
 @imajez: I can see that. I’ve done battle with tall grass in my backyard with my trimmer. That said, I still wager it’s a problem for less than 20% of the MTB population. Worth of a solution but not something that should potentially sacrifice frame design for.
  • 33 2
 “ We all know that derailleurs suck. They're expensive, fragile and finicky”

But are they really? They aren’t really expensive, they are simple to set up, and while they won’t take too many direct hits off rocks, I wouldn’t consider them ‘fragile’.

I’m all for improvement and this invention looks pretty cool. But I think people tend to over exaggerate the negatives when it comes to derailleurs.
  • 4 4
 Yeah, honestly, I've been riding for 25 years and I've never broken an RD. I've busted a hanger before, but the RD was fine. The drama about them is overblown.
  • 9 0
 Maybe it depends on where/how you ride. I ride in some very gnarly, rocky terrain, and crash more than I’d like to admit.

I’ve broken a half dozen darrailleurs in 15 years and bent more hangers than I can count on fingers and toes. There’s nothing worse than jumping back on your bike after a little get-off, then ghost shifting the first time you apply heavy torque. It’s especially irritating on modern 12-speeds with their tight tolerances. Good luck fixing hanger misalignment trail side.
  • 4 0
 While I agree that derailleurs aren't that fragile, especially when mounting pads take the hit and are replaceable for €20, I do believe derailleurs are expensive nowadays. A GX derailleur, which I consider midrange (even if bike companies require you to buy high end bikes to not get NX), has a MSRP of €130 and street price of €110. I consider that reasonably expensive for what it is. A few years back you could get a Zee DH brakeset for not much more (I paid €150).
With the rising popularity of electric shifting, the price of a replacement derailleur seems to start at €300 and go above €500 depending on model. That's expensive enough that I consider every invention that puts that €130-€500 derailleur more out of harms way as valuable.
  • 1 1
 @Mac1987: That's exactly the reason I don't buy SRAM, the value is just not there if you're riding often. SLX is a direct competitor to GX, and the RD-M7100 costs €65. The new Deore RD-M5100 (€50) is functionally the same as every derailleur higher in the line, just little bit heavier. Buy that and SL-M8100 shifter for the 2 gear up-shift, and probably some pulleys from RD-M8100 - and you're golden. It will even shift your 12S SRAM cassette with no problems.
  • 1 0
 @Kaspitch: it's personal, but I prefer Shimano myself. However, 70% of bikes seem to come stock with SRAM drivetrains. When that GX derailleur gets destroyed, a single SRAM replacement is still cheaper than a Shimano SLX derailleur with XT shifter (with shifters, I think XT is worth it over SLX).
  • 1 0
 @Kaspitch: actually, I looked up the prices. SLX RD-M7100 derailleur is roughly €70 and XT SL-M8100 shifter is roughly the same. Not that much more expensive and better than a €130 GX derailleur. So I have to agree with you: better to replace a broken GX derailleur with SLX derailleur and XT shifter. Crazy but true.
  • 2 0
 @Mac1987: Its hard to beat the value of the "low end" shimano stuff like SLX. XT, and Zee.
  • 2 0
 @zedpm: "Yeah, honestly, I've been riding for 25 years and I've never broken an RD. I've busted a hanger before, but the RD was fine. The drama about them is overblown."

Yeah, honestly, I've been alive for 40 years and I've never had a heart attack. The drama about them is overblown.
Anecdotes are not data.
  • 2 0
 @imajez: I know you're not engaging in good faith, but I feel like responding anyway. Obviously I''m not claiming that RDs never break, and clearly my experience is different from other riders' experiences. It's also worth noting that an anecdote is in fact a piece of data. An anecdote is not a complete data set, but of course we all know that. Sorry I don't have a peer-reviewed study showing total ride hours with the rate of RD destruction; I guess I can't participate in the discussion.
  • 26 1
 Pumped for Cedric-- stomped all the big boys!
  • 21 1
 @ForbiddenBikes - next Druid and Dreadnought with this drivetrain please!! Price it similar and I'm in. I'm sure most of your customer base would agree.
  • 2 0
 2nd
  • 10 2
 I do think this deserves an innovation award!

However, I haven't broke a derailleur since the early 90's and I don't like that this seems to put a lot of limitation on suspension design...?
  • 11 0
 Does it come in oil slick?
  • 3 1
 Underaged comment lol
  • 9 1
 Riding dense East coast forest I can go through 2+ derailleurs a year with wayward sticks everywhere. Looking forward to progress on this design. Big props Cedric!!
  • 2 0
 Agreed. I'm not worried on a flow trail, but my friend had 3 blow up in the last year or two from rocks and roots. It's getting harder to fix those issues with the tight supply chain XD I just ordered a cheap Box drivetrain for a trail bike. I'll keep the fancy stuff for my cross country bikes.
  • 2 0
 Yup folk think it's just rocks that trash derailleurs, but sticks and even some grass can rip them off.
  • 9 1
 Can we talk about the saddle on that bike though please
  • 1 0
 I wish I knew more....it sure is different than mine!
  • 5 0
 If you have a 170mm of taint, you only need 10mm of saddle nose. Taint length is proportionate to saddle nose requirements...everyone knows that.
  • 7 0
 It's an ISM PM 2.0 saddle (they're known for their road saddles but this is their mtb model). ISM saddles put less weight on our plumbing in the middle and more weight on bones on either side. It's maybe not for everyone but it works for me.
  • 1 0
 @cedric-eveleigh: I have referred a few different dudes to similar saddles. Works just as well as certain pharmaceuticals. I would refer everyone to them, but I feel it is a trade off. Performance on or off the bike. If you need it, you need it. Just like the pill, I don't think it wise to use it unless you have to. But I will go that route if I ever have too.
  • 2 0
 @takeiteasyridehard: Wow! So you're telling me that if I get one of those saddles I'm going up from "relieving" myself from 5-6 times a day to 10 or 12?
I can only get my hands on so much vitamin E baby! I won't have any time left to ride...
  • 2 0
 @danger13: hmmm....Im not following you. If 'relieving' yourself, to you, means urinate, that's not what I was talking about. If 'relieving' yourself means something that viagra might help with, then you were following me, but I also think you should probably speak with your doctor or therapist about it.
  • 3 0
 @takeiteasyridehard: Username checks out.
  • 5 0
 @JTepic: I realized that after posting and had a face in palm moment. There could be a lot of potential inferences based on my username and my comments...some of which are kind of funny. Most of them would not be accurate though. I just worked in shops for about 17 years and had a couple unexpected conversations with customers about their saddle choices or setup and how that might be affecting their private life. I found 3 solutions for them. Make sure the seatpost saddle clamp has enough clearance to the underside of the saddle - one guy was basically riding a fully rigid seat. Others needed a different saddle angle or contour of saddle. And a few needed to ditch the saddle nose altogether and go the ism style saddle direction. If you work with the same customers long enough, they will tell you things you might not expect or want to know. Luckily for them, I got past the awkwardness and was able to help them find a solution. I even had one of their wives thank me...
  • 2 0
 @takeiteasyridehard: I'm going on the assumption that you've never seen Blazing Saddles. Cleavon Little for the win !!!
  • 1 0
 @danger13: I'll put it on my watch list. Is this a with or without the wife movie?
  • 1 0
 @takeiteasyridehard: with the wife if she will put up with childish humor
  • 1 0
 @takeiteasyridehard: It's a typical Mel Brooks movie, some parts are screamingly funny, some are junior high bad taste humor. I'd recommend both Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs. Maybe not movies you watch over and over, but definitely worth a look.
  • 1 0
 @takeiteasyridehard: thank you the right way I should think....
  • 3 0
 I always thought that a derailleur could be mounted out of harms way up on the seatstay and slide in an out on a parallel rail type system over the cassette. Excellent choice.
  • 1 0
 I thought the same thing! The problem would be tensioning the chain with the derailleur above the cassette. Pedaling would pull on the tensioning pulley and would create slack in the chain and mess up your shifting. Probably a way to engineer that out but it might end up making it heavier and less efficient than a traditional derailleur. There's really only so many ways to make a bike shift and that's what makes this system so cool
  • 1 0
 @olafthemoose: It would be a complete redesign of a derailleur system - not just a conventional derailleur mounted up top. Maybe one day. But lots of $$ is made on replacing destroyed derailleurs. That's the incentive not to do it.
  • 3 0
 I cannot count the number of derailleurs I've gone through over the years. This is a great idea and I hope it gets the traction it deserves from the bike industry.
  • 1 0
 It seems to create more complication than it actually solves.

Pros:
- It could potentially save you from having to replace a broken derailleur every once in a blue moon

Cons:
- Proprietary system
- Less refined than competing products
- Requires proprietary frame design
- Adds complexity
- Greatly limits rear suspension design
- Not fully enclosed (susceptible to dirt and debris)
- Not entirely safe from sticks or rocks getting flung into the drivetrain
- Not entirely safe in the event of a crash

Compared to a gearbox and a classic derrailleur, this seems like a "worst of both worlds"-type of deal.
  • 1 0
 It looks like I will need to carry around a rocket scientist to remove the rear wheel. Maybe there is an easier solution I am missing. Will there be a serpentine belt type decal on the frame like they put under the hoods of cars.
  • 4 1
 Terrific engineering work on display here but his marketing department has their work cut out for them.
  • 3 0
 The saddle on that bike should have won! Bahahaha
  • 1 0
 On second look, the saddle does seem to steal some credibility from him....then again, I don't think Fabien Barel's legs or knees ever came remotely close to touching a saddle.....so apparently some don't need the nose. To me, it's a horrible idea though...the saddle that is.
  • 2 0
 Engineers gonna engineer.
  • 2 2
 A new TREND !! ... Being as fashion concience as the next blogger. I will be promptley be depositing my current bike in the nearest dumpster upon completion of this latest snark.
  • 2 0
 as awesome as this is, and well deserved too
how's it gonna work on a HT or a non HP frame?
  • 2 0
 Does it come with shin guards?
  • 2 0
 So many happy places for sticks..........
  • 4 4
 Solution in search of a problem. If this is the "innovation of the year", it's either a slow innovation news year or the folks at PB need to get out there more.
  • 4 4
 More parts to go wrong, reduced efficiency, looks crap and will collect mud..... but hey, its the bike industry and someone will buy it - interesting concept though.
  • 2 0
 Don't understand why Flight Attendant was even nominated...what a WOTAM.
  • 1 0
 Looks like something developed in '90s in a garage somewhere in ... somewhere Wink
  • 1 0
 Innovation will happen in 20 years, when the patent will have expired. Or sooner if the company fails.
  • 2 0
 SuperWheel got robbed again!
  • 2 0
 The square wheel never got mentioned?
  • 1 0
 So everyone is supposed to ride a high pivot bike now? Also, where's the efficiency test?
  • 1 0
 There have also not been enough comments on the design brilliance of the sweet stick-stand used in the photo.
  • 8 8
 The award goes to something you will never see or ride yourself, ever...Why?
  • 4 2
 Speaking for yourself obviously. I'm hoping to have it on my next bike
  • 1 0
 that depends on the terms of licencing the idea. if he's greedy or unreasonable, it won't happen, but if he's smart i think a couple manufacturers would be happy to adapt this to their frames
  • 1 0
 @markifi: Cedric says he's working with a couple brands already. My question/hope is if they can keep the price aligned with that of a standard frame+drivetrain combo.
  • 5 2
 Why neg propping this? Few days ago people agreed with Maes that idler pulleys make no sense, now are excited by a design which works only for high pivot bikes. And even for them it is a proprietary niche solution which will bite you when something breaks, instead of just buying a new derailleur you will wait for weeks to replace it. It's a cool concept with no practical meaning.
  • 1 0
 @lkubica: (I'm not downvoting anything, more productive to discuss!)
Have you tried just buying a derailleur lately? Getting parts from a small, agile company that manufactures onshore*, will most likely be quicker than waiting for Sramano parts. And of course, if the design pans out, less likely to break in the first place.

*It's going to be on my continent so that works in my favour, maybe not yours.

Some did agree with Maes but this will be terrain dependent: high pivots are getting pretty common where I live. Further, it's likely Cedric, working with established companies, will find a way to make the design work with low pivots
  • 1 1
 @AndrewHornor: I can get pretty much everything I want in europe. cranks, derailleurs , tyres, bikes ...
This one can have any practical meaning only when applied to normal bikes. The only way to do this is to place the tensioner lower (like a tensioner for some gearbox bikes), but then you would have to magically route the chain though the chainstays or ... make the derailleur hang ... So untill anyone proves it can be done for non-hp bike I refuse to accept this as a viable solution. You can believe in whatever you want, even in miracles, fairies, gods, lizard people, but this belief will not make them real.
I would like to own a hp bike but they will never get mainstream enough to validate a new derailleur system. Hp is basically a thing in DH an enduro (assuming you do not agree with Maes)and that's it.
  • 1 0
 i knew it wasgonna be him
  • 1 0
 Worried about riding one in bad conditions.
  • 1 0
 The Dave Weagle of drive trains?
  • 1 0
 #RideMoreComplainLess in 2022
  • 1 0
 Waaa, what about minaar? Waaa
  • 1 0
 Stand over height for his only customer...his sister...
  • 1 0
 This is a perfect match for the current high pivot trend
  • 1 0
 Great l guess.
  • 2 2
 I’d vote the most glaring issue with mountain bikes is Pinkbike.
  • 1 0
 yay!
  • 1 0
 Looks like a Gazelle ...
  • 2 3
 I mean it's fine but it's so far from production it's barely worth talking about?
  • 17 18
 LAME! Obviously should have been flight attendant!
  • 15 3
 This is sarcasm, if you're detector is malfunctioning. Congrads Lal!
  • 5 0
 @kcy4130: Haha I was like 99% sure it was sarcasm. Cause lets face it. It would have to be.
  • 9 0
 Only if Flight Attendant can turn my fancy electric socks on and off too.
  • 5 7
 Not really the best "innovationa" I would say. Just a protorype that will never get massed produced.
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