Chain free drivetrain concept Driven has formally detached itself from parent CeramicSpeed, in a bid to seek outside investment and disrupt what it calls the “comfortable monopoly” of the industry giants.
Driven Technologies, formerly a concept owned by CeramicSpeed, is now its own entity and is aiming to bring product to the market in “two or three years.”
It seems clear that the entities will maintain a close relationship going forwards. All development will be housed under the Driven Technologies umbrella, and Driven owns all patents and intellectual property. However, CeramicSpeed’s Driven team will be continuing the development and all CeramicSpeed’s resources will be available for Driven to use, explains lead inventor Jason Smith – in a video housed on CeramicSpeed’s channels.
“Driven has the advantage of the resources of CeramicSpeed’s manufacturing and distribution, yet with the investment opportunity of a start-up,” Smith said.
He stated that existing systems use “greasy chains snaking through complex pulley systems,” due to a lack of “need to innovate.”
In the video, Smith said that the existing market leaders have a “comfortable monopoly”, with only two large manufacturers sweeping up 95 per cent of the market share.
“They’re not hungry to innovate,” he stated, adding “[they] have invested millions into tooling and processes to create these complex pulley systems, can you imagine what it would cost them to change their entire manufacturing process? This is why we haven’t seen a change in decades and the market is ready for a major disruption.”
Driven will be seeking crowdfunding via the platform SeedInvest, with a minimum investment of $1,000. A third of the company – $1 million – will be sold to investors, valuing the company at $3 million, though a 10 per cent inventive increases this to $3.3 million.
Driven unveiled a working, shiftable version of the drivetrain at Eurobike in 2019, publishing wind tunnel data via use of the Specialized resources in August.
The design swaps the chain and rear derailleur for a shaft drive, using ceramic bearings instead of gear teeth.
Advantages include reduced friction – something Smith is passionate about, having founded ‘Friction Facts’ independent lab testing in 2012 before joining CeramicSpeed when the company bought the outfit.
The system is also more aerodynamic, and “around 15 per cent lighter” when weighed up against a comparable chain style drivetrain, according to Smith. He also said that – when economies of scale are equal – it’s more cost effective, and it will be interesting to see if this is passed down to consumers. There’s no rear mech dangling off the back of the bike, which could represent benefits in terms of longevity and maintenance, too.
Finally, the system could provide a real impetus for innovation.
In an exclusive interview, Smith told Cyclingnews: “When you look at the rear of a typical bicycle, the way everything is positioned and the spoke patterns too, are all dictated by the drivetrain. I don’t want to spill the beans on development here, but let’s say that by using something like Driven, where the freehub function can be in the driveshaft and not in the rear hub. It completely opens up the real estate of that rear hub area.
“Our cassette is relatively flat, meaning it’s not wide like a traditional cassette and can be placed more inward in the rear hub assembly. So now with the cog assembly spinning in sync with the rear wheel, it’s actually mated to the rear wheel and can actually become part of the hub assembly.”
Driven Technologies, which began as a “skunkworks” project, is aiming to get bikes specced with this drivetrain in shops in a few short years. Smith said he expected a “two or three year potential lead time before they’d be ready for primetime in the market.”
Whilst the focus so far has been on efficiency and aerodynamics, Smith says that Driven is now working on tech also aimed at other areas of the market, such as e-bikes and commuter bikes.