We so often see design done by engineers, and rarely see engineering done by designers. But Chris Holloway, an industrial design student at London's Brunel University, has pulled off a rather impressive feat of ID's sibling-rival profession.
"While every other part of the modern mountain bike has changed to meet the modern demands of downhill racing, the gear system has barely changed for more than 100 years. For the pinnacle of the sport, it is clear that a better alternative had to be found," said Holloway, providing background for his invention: The Link gear system, which rather than being a series of fixed-size gears is instead made of four moveable segments.
By shifting inward or outward, the segments essentially change the diameter of the gear and thus the gear ratio. Beyond that I have absolutely no frickin' idea how it works or how he could have possibly cooked up something this complicated-looking. And Holloway even designed it so it could be retrofitted to existing cranksets, so you don't have to get a whole new bike to enjoy his system.
"On full suspension bikes, it is important to minimise unsprung weight to obtain the maximum performance. By removing the rear derailleur and cassette, the mass is relocated between the riders feet and away from the suspension, which gives much better small bump response, as well as increased grip and cornering ability," Holloway explains.
Is the idea both workable and mass-produceable? It sure has Brunel University's vote of confidence--they've patented the design.