Cardan-driven bicycle – features, pros and cons

Kudos to whoever invented the bicycle. A versatile means of transportation that is primitive and unpretentious. Most of them are propelled by a chain drive, but some are equipped with brutal gimbals. The simplicity and reliability of this design is characterized by durability and sturdiness. A gimbal-driven bicycle is reliable, long-lasting, easy to maintain, and high performance.

History of origin

Why aren’t there as many shaft-driven bicycles as their chain-driven counterparts? There is a perfectly logical justification for this phenomenon: it is not profitable for manufacturers to produce gimbal bicycles because their service life is so long that the company loses customers who have once purchased the vehicle.

Cardan or shaft drive appeared at the end of the XIX century: it was created and patented by the English inventor A. Fernhead. A few years later, the scientist moved to the United States, where he transferred his invention to Pope Manufacturing. Thus a bicycle without a chain with a gimbal became a popular means of transportation.

Another company released a batch of bicycles with a non-standard mechanism in 1910. Improved models were used by athletes at competitions. Naturally, after that the number of bicycles with a shaft drive increased noticeably. A little later, cardan bicycles appeared in Europe. During the war, German soldiers had exactly such models in service.

Distinctive features


These models do not have the usual sprockets and chains, and the torque is transmitted by means of gears. The shaft is a strong tube of steel, which is rigidly coupled to the wheel gear. There are no bending elements in the mechanism, which is a kind of guarantee of strength and reliability.

In the usual bicycle gears, the chain constantly needs lubrication and cleaning, quickly stretches and fails. Sprockets, too, wear out and require constant monitoring of their condition. The driveshaft, on the other hand, requires virtually no expense except for occasional lubrication.

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Bike manufacturers have established the production of bicycles equipped with an electric motor with shaft drive. The bearings of such models do not need to lubricate, and all parts are made of particularly durable material. It turns out that cardan bicycles are much stronger and more reliable than their chain-driven counterparts, since the life of the cardan gear is more than 50 years. Here it is worth considering the pros and cons of such bikes in more detail.

Advantages and disadvantages

Bicycles with a shaft drive are not common: in their popularity they are noticeably inferior to chain models. Despite this, gimbals have their own advantages:

  • Excellent cross-country ability. Due to the increased clearance bikes are suitable for travel on rough terrain – they confidently overcome obstacles in the form of a curb and high bumps.
  • Safe and unharmed clothing. Due to the fact that there are no sprockets on bikes with gimbals, there is no chance to get dirty or tear your pants.
  • Reliability. Cardan gear requires attention only after 30 thousand km run, while the chain drive needs to be serviced after 2-3 thousand kilometers.
  • Transmission is under reliable protection from dust, dirt and sand. In contrast to the gimbal, it is contamination that often causes the bike chain to fail.
  • Flawless operation of the rear suspension and balance.

And now about the disadvantages of a bicycle with a gimbal. They are and, it must be said, for someone can be very tangible:

  • On average, such bikes weigh 1 to 3 kg more than conventional models.
  • A small number of gears: from 3 to 8.
  • Independently repair the bike in the case of a cardan gear breakage is not possible.
  • Reduced power by about 3%.

Some owners say that a bicycle with a cardan drive costs much more than a model with chain drive. This is true, but the high cost is more than offset by the minimal financial cost of repair and maintenance. A driveline bike noticeably loses out to chain-driven models, which are superior in terms of speed. But for a leisurely ride on the road or leisurely walk to the cottage bike with gimbal will be very helpful.

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Dynamic Bicycles

Not many companies manufacture gimbal bikes. This can easily be explained by marketing risks and low popularity. Nevertheless, there are companies that have been successfully manufacturing gimbal bikes for several years:

  1. Alpine. The company is known to a wide range of cyclists. Alpine produces reliable and productive models, the main advantage of which is almost silent operation, easy running and a long service life. A popular model of the company is the Alpine Bike 300M. The gimbal is easy to care for: a minimum of maintenance and only 50 ml of oil per year.
  2. Eltreco. The company produces electric bikes with gimbal drive. The popularity of bikes is due to the convenience of their operation: many models feature a folding design, which is very convenient for transportation. In addition, all the company’s products are characterized by increased engine life and reliability of the entire structure.
  3. Mifa and Dynamic Bicycles. The products of these two companies are not as well-known as the previous two. However, their bikes are great for off-road riding and city streets.

Nevertheless, buying a gimbal bike is not as easy as it may seem at first glance. Not every store can boast the availability of models in this category. Therefore, those who want to buy a bike with a gimbal, you should first pay attention to the range of online stores.


To summarize, it can be said that bikes with gimbal drive in some parameters are markedly superior to their chain-driven counterparts. They are excellent for riding in the city, do not require scrupulous inspection and maintenance every 2 thousand kilometers, and also cope well with light and medium off-road. But for those who expect high speeds, it’s best to look for a vehicle with a chain drive.

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