Supergear Retrodirect Planetary Gear Crankset
Just when you thought you’ve seen it all someone puts a Supergear crankset by Ziegler-Lam Cycling on the table. At first glance it looks like any number of other small maker cranks from the ’90s mountain bike and CNC’d everthing boom, needless stress risers, chunky corners and all. Grab hold of the bottom bracket and spin it forward and it acts as per usual, pedal backwards and the rings continue rotating forwards at about half speed, doubling the number of available gears. Retrodirect systems pop up through bicycle history now and again, an old design from before effective derailleurs that allows two gears (one gear pedaling forward, a lower gear pedaling backwards). Tinkerers put together modern retrodirect bikes just to prove the concept, and it still works (1, 2). The Supergear is a three ring setup with a planetary gear system that achieves the same effect, and was marketed as the only crankset to integrate a retrodirect system. This is likely from the days of seven speed cassettes, building up as a 42 speed bicycle. Throw some 11 speed rings on there and make a 66 speed bicycle, pair it with an internally geared hub and really go nuts. Interesting, but no surprise that the design isn’t around today. If only I could go back in time and see people mountain biking with a Supergear in the wild, or find someone running one on their bike today. Someone out there has one of these and swears by it.