When I first I first saw the NuVinci Planetary Drive at Eurobike in Germany on some Ellsworth Bicycles shortly after it was released by the US based Fallbrook Technologies, I admit that I found it cool, but didn’t take the time to properly understand how it worked and why it so special. The Australian brand Chapelli Cycles who have built up a name with affordable fixies have just released a higher end model that uses the NuVinci drive which means it is time to better understand how the drive works.
For $1395 you can pick up a handmade, handpainted lugged chromolly bike with the NuVinci N360 hub that is described as an infinitely variable hub. Very basically it means that from the lowest to highest gear there is no selecting individual gears, instead the plantary drive allows you to use a gripshift like a dial to go up and down the gears. The change is seamless so you don’t select a specific gear and are not limited to 10 gears or 21 gears instead you can use the entire range by just rotating the shifter. A handlebar mounted display gives you a visual clue whether you are in a high or a low gear range.
One of the reasons Fixies became popular is the simplicity, no gears means less maintenance and fewer problems. Most of these bikes you see on the streets are in fact single speeds rather than actual fixies meaning that unlike a track bicycle, there is a freewheel hub so you don’t have to constantly pedal. With the popularity of fixies and single speeds, the look and feel of these bikes were retained by some brands though an internally geared hub such as the Shimano Alfine or Nexus was integrated that then gave the rider a range of gears but with hassle-free low maintenance. Not to mention making them more practical for urban riding.
Typically Chapelli bicycles are sub $500 and they already offer an internally geared Sturmey Archer 8-speed bike for $555. The Chapelli NuVinci raises the bar with attractive optics and higher quality components. Exact spec’s are not yet available though the custom built lugged frame alone seperates it from mass produced frames. The chrome plated deep V rims are an eye turner though will need care and cleaning to keep them looking good.
The technology of the NuVinci has not yet been explained in details and the best way to understand how the gearing works and seemless shifting is achieved to to watch the video from the manufacturer, take note of the second part where they describe how torque is transferred.
Chapelli retail online and you can take a closer look at the NuVinci model on the website.