With the 2014 edition of Le Tour de France underway, it's a
good time to have a look at bike related IP. During the tour there
will doubtless be the usual discussion and debate amongst cycling
enthusiasts about the technology being adopted by the professional
riders, and whether they should adopt the technology on their own
machines. You'll possibly hear references to elliptical chain
sets, tubular rims/tyres and other developments, and you'll
certainly hear talk of electronic gear shifting and power
Rolling in the 1890s
Surprisingly, the foundations of many of the mechanical
developments used on the latest bike designs can be traced back to
the late 1800s, at least. The 1800s was a prolific period for
bicycle related developments. Indeed, in terms of bike related
patent activity, nearly a third of all patent applications filed at
the USPTO in the 1890s were bike related. Many of these historic
patents are accessible today.
Elliptical Chain Rings Turn Full Circle
For example, US Patent 557,676, which issued in 1896, addresses
the problem of dead-spots in the pedalling cycle – the same
problem addressed by current technology chain-sets used by the pros
at the tour. This problem involves the uneven application of power
by the rider during the pedal stroke.
US Patent 557,676 addresses the dead-spot problem by utilising
an "elliptical drive gear", which is similar in concept
to the elliptical chain rings used on present day racing bikes.
Tubular rims are usually the rim of choice for professional
riders as they are thought to provide a lower rolling resistance
than clincher type rims/tyres.
Tubular rims are fitted with tubular tyres which are glued to
the rim. Patents for tubular rims existed as early as 1900, at the
least. For example, US Patent 640,174 describes a tubular tyre for
a bicycle wheel which is fastened to the rim by "... gluing
the edges of the rim and then tacking them." US Patent
636,153, which issued in 1899, describes a beaded tyre similar to
those used on most bikes today.
Patents directed to calliper type brakes for bicycles can also
be traced back to the 1890s, at the least.
For example, US Patent 627,912 describes a front wheel
centre-pull type calliper braking system which is activated by a
lever fitted to the handle bars.
The system is similar in principle to the current braking system
typically used on road bikes.
The 2014 Vintage
This year's tour will doubtless reveal additional
innovations which will generate excitement amongst cycling
enthusiasts – particularly in the area of electronic gear
shifting and pedal based power meters.
Some of that technology will be the subject of current patent
applications by applicants looking to secure a competitive
advantage for themselves, and the rider.
IP is the legal property in the innovation in your business and it is that which drives your revenue and profit growth.
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