U of C students make new gears to improve winter biking

A team of engineering students hope the invention eliminates some key problems that cyclists face, primarily freezing parts and corrosion.

They say invention will prevent gears from locking up and corroding in winter

Evan Magnusson, left, Nazanin Moghtaderi, Alex Robertshaw and Parth Thakurdesai are the engineering students trying to make winter biking less destructive. (Colleen De Neve)

A team of Calgary engineering students has developed a mechanism to keep avid cyclists going all winter — and not having to replace the gear system every year.

The students from the University of Calgary, led by student Parth Thakurdesai, hope the invention eliminates some key problems that cyclists face, primarily freezing parts and corrosion.

"Winter riding can take a toll on the bicycle, especially if you have a traditional derailleur system. It tends to wear out due to corrosion, due to gravel being stuck in the chain and that causes these gears to chip," Thakurdesai told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"One season later, almost all parts need replacement."

Instead, the students' invention has a series of hub gears, offering multiple speed ratios to the rider, that are connected by a chain in a triangle formation link from the pedals, to the gear hub to the back wheel. That's all covered by a strong casing.

To test their idea, they packed the gears with snow until it turned to ice. Then they rode the bike around.

Winter cycling can be cold and dangerous but regular commuters have strategies to stay active all season. (John Rieti/CBC)

The students found they were able to change gears easily, a feat impossible under the same conditions for a traditional derailleur gears.

Their bike also drove better in the cold Calgary temperatures.

To come up with the project, the students looked at all the reasons why biking in the winter is difficult and can ruin a bicycle. But slipping can be solved with studded tires, and braking can be improved using disc brakes.

Nazanin Moghtaderi, left, Parth Thakurdesai, Alex Robertshaw and Evan Magnusson. (Michael Platt)

"The only problem that we really thought that didn't have a good enough market solution had to do with the speed gearing systems of a bicycle," Thakurdesai said.

The invention is still in the early days, and the team hopes to work with Innovates Calgary, a venture capital fund meant to assist entrepreneurs locally. They want to test the bike over several winter seasons to see how it holds up to regular riding.

"There's still quite a lot of testing to do," he said.


With files from Josie Lukey and the Calgary Eyeopener.