Even as smart and well thought-through as it clearly is, the true significance of Shimano’s new gearbox patent in the e-bike era is its potential to redefine how disruptive new technologies can succeed in the bicycle business. And that has huge implications for the health and long-term direction of the industry itself.
Shifting the shifting paradigm
The bike boom of the 1970’s was created and defined by a disruptive product technology: the drop-bar racing-style bicycle, and more importantly, by its derailleur drivetrain. Some number of chainrings up front, some number of cogs on a freewheel in the rear, and the whole system enabled by one or more increasingly sophisticated derailleurs to move the chain around.
Functionally, the whole point of the derailleur drivetrain was to allow a cyclist to go faster and farther over more varied terrain with less effort. Almost as an afterthought, it also created the enthusiast-driven market paradigm that has defined the bicycle — not to mention the bicycle business — to the present day. The larger question of whether a particular cyclist even cared about faster/farther/easier didn’t merit serious consideration.
Bicycles were defined by a simple equation: their efficiency in turning human effort into forward motion. …read more