Chainless (shaft-drive) bicycles were a novelty around the turn of the century, pioneered in France and Belgium by Metropole and FN, and promoted vigorously by Colonel Pope in America. Chainless sales tapered off in America by the time of Colonel Pope’s death in 1909. Despite Quadrant’s early bevel gear shaft drive patent, and Humber marketing the Metropole in Great Britain from 1897, chainless bicycles made little impression on the British market.
But shaft-drive bicycles did make a major contribution to the design of automobiles. Though chainless bicycles were not uncommon in their day, very few chainless tricycles were made. (This one, of course, came onto the market fifty years after the pioneering models). With a rear axle rather than just a hub in a bicycle, the layout of a chainless tricycle is much closer to that of a car.
American Engineering companies both large and small spent the war years contributing to their governments’ war effort. To wile away the time, many soldiers dreamed up ideas for a product they would make when they returned home. After war’s end, many capitalised on their war-time experience by building well-engineered items. The Gearcycle would appear to be a typical example of this: it uses a normal children’s tricycle body, with just its drive train and axle unique to the particular model. Often the products were over-engineered bearing in mind their sale prices. Shaft-drive bicycles were too expensive for the market when were built initially. The Gearcycle was only made for a few years, so it appears to have suffered a similar fate. There are very few surviving examples.
1940s Gearcycle Chainless Children’s Tricycle
Cherry Red with Ivory Trim
Front Wheel 20″
Rear Wheels 16″
I found this rare shaft-drive tricycle in the USA in 2015.
TRICYCLE ACATENE MODEL 153