The Benefits of Gears
A chain drive alone (without gears) is effective on flat
surfaces and going downhill. However, when it comes to headwinds, hill climbing,
and even starting on a bicycle without gears--the cyclist has to stand on
his pedals and strain while pedaling at a very low rate. Gears allow the
cyclist to pedal at a comfortable and efficient rate while traveling either
uphill or downhill or with a headwind or a tailwind.
On the old high-wheelers, the pedals were attached directly
to the wheel. One turn of the pedals equaled one turn of the wheel. Gears
allows the cyclist to change that ratio. For steep hills, we choose a gear
that lets us turn the pedals many times to turn the wheel just once; on
flats or downhills, we might choose a gear that turns the wheel many times
for each turn of the pedals.
PAUL de VIVIE, alias "Velocio"
One of the greatest developers and proponents of the derailleur was the
Frenchman Paul de Vivie (1853-1930). A passionate advocate of cycling, he
rode his first high-wheeler at the age of 28, and soon had sold his silk
business and started a bike shop. He also founded the magazine
in 1887, where he wrote under the nom de plume "Velocio," touting
the joys and benefits of cycling. A tireless inventor, he was convinced
that geared bikes, then an oddity, were the future of cycling. Though existing
gear-changers were awkward and unreliable, Velocio was undeterred. He spent
much time inventing various gearing schemes. In 1905 he tested a two-speed
derailleur called the Cyclist. Through his efforts in both engineering and
publicity, the derailleur was ultimately perfected, and a relatively dependable
version was produced by Tullio Campagnolo in 1933.