Bicycles

Torque-multiplying crankset promises cyclists more bang for their buck

Torque-multiplying crankset pr...
Ultime Ti has a planetary gear system built into the drive-side crank
Ultime Ti has a planetary gear system built into the drive-side crank
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Ultime Ti is a claimed 10.8 percent more efficient than a regular crankset at delivering torque
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Ultime Ti is a claimed 10.8 percent more efficient than a regular crankset at delivering torque
Ultime Ti is permanently set to a single 1:1.44 ratio
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Ultime Ti is permanently set to a single 1:1.44 ratio
Ultime Ti has a planetary gear system built into the drive-side crank
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Ultime Ti has a planetary gear system built into the drive-side crank
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On a regular bicycle crankset, the chainrings turn in a 1:1 ratio with the crank arms. In the case of the Ultime Ti crankset from French company MG Tech, however, things are a little different – an integrated planetary gear system actually turns the chainrings faster than the crank, reportedly allowing cyclists to deliver more torque at a given cadence.

Some readers may recall Truvativ/SRAM's similar (and now discontinued) HammerSchmidt 2-speed crankset. Riders could use its planetary gearing system to pedal at a 1:1.6 ratio, or they could disengage that system and go with the traditional 1:1.

There's also a lesser-known 3-speed crankset made by Poland's Efneo, with a planetary gearing system that allows riders to switch between 1:1, 1:43 and 1:1.79 ratios.

The folks at MG Tech, however, chose to keep things lighter and simpler.

Ultime Ti is permanently set to a single 1:1.44 ratio
Ultime Ti is permanently set to a single 1:1.44 ratio

Initially developed by founder Bernard Git, their Ultime Ti is permanently set to a single 1:1.44 ratio, and is equipped with two chainrings that are shifted between in the regular fashion. Because the system is a claimed 10.8 percent more efficient than a regular crankset at delivering torque, though, smaller (and thus stiffer and lighter) chainrings can reportedly be used to deliver the same performance as proportionally larger ones.

Additionally – and more importantly – the company states that riders should be able to go faster with same amount of effort, or maintain a given speed with less effort. All you engineers out there, please feel free to share your thoughts on the veracity of that claim, in this article's comments section.

"Determining the ideal ratio of the planetary is where the magic is in order to deliver the most efficiency for the rider," MG Tech's Dominique Anderson tells us. "If the gear is too low, there is no advantage. If the gear is too large, it becomes too difficult for the rider to turn such a large gear."

Ultime Ti is a claimed 10.8 percent more efficient than a regular crankset at delivering torque
Ultime Ti is a claimed 10.8 percent more efficient than a regular crankset at delivering torque

He says that the whole system – including bottom bracket adapter, bottom bracket, crankset and the buyer's choice of chainrings – tips the scales at about 1,150 grams, which is reportedly 400 grams less than the HammerSchmidt.

Ultime Ti is designed for use on all types of bikes, and is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of €569 (about US$663) will get you a crankset, when and if they reach production. And in case you're wondering about the "Ti" in the name, the axle is titanium, but the cranks are aluminum.

Sources: Kickstarter, MG Tech

Update (July 24, 2018): We contacted MG Tech for more information on the Ultime Ti to address the concerns raised by our readers and Dominique Anderson from the company responded as follows:

As an experienced rider, bike mechanic, and mechanical engineering, I have ridden these cranks for some time and my experience is factual. I don't have the strength to turn over a 53x12 riding up an 8% grade over 700 meters as do some of my slogger friends. I stall.

I was laughing up a hill the first time I rode the Ultime cranks at 36rpm in the equivalent to a 53x12, just turning over the gear smoothly. Then with 100 meters to go to the top, accelerated steadily while seated. Never could I do that without the Ultime cranks.

With our cranks the additional leverage is a result from using smaller chainrings. With the planetary gear - that is not too big nor too small - we provide that additional leverage (thus more torque) using an equivalent overall gear development that is consistent with range of cassettes and chainrings available today.

Thus, cadence is by choice of the cyclists with our Ultime cranks, just as any cranks today. One can spin at 30 rpm, 70rpm, or 120 rpm and higher - just change gear like usual. But each gear is available through the cranks with constant and greater leverage.

We are preparing results using a basic engineering test with an inline scale connected to the chain on one end and to the other side of the crank, a simple weight. We compare results for standard Campagnolo crank with a 53 chainring versus an earlier version of the MG Tech Ultime (the planetary gear system being equal to today's version, the cosmetics and assembly simplified in the latest version).

The leverage is what is clearly illustrated, with a measurable gain each time for the Ultime crankset.

We will finalise numbers and photos to share with you and your audience in the next day.

Plus, have a look at the 90 tooth chainring on the bike attached ridden by Serge Perroud. Only with the Ultime cranks could Serge start from zero on his own to get up to speed. With standard cranks, he required assistance to get going.

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12 comments
christopher
Is any cyclist actually dim enough to not understand that this is exactly the same as simply changing gears on a regular derailleur? Actually - it's slightly worse even - this adds extra friction at the crank, adding to the friction already present in the derailleur. If you're riding a fixie, change your sprocket ratios to get a lighter and less-friction but otherwise identical outcome.
MD
I may be out of line but: "chainrings faster than the crank, reportedly allowing cyclists to deliver more torque at a given cadence" Wouldn't the chain ring rotating Faster than the crank result in LESS torque transferred to the drive unit... The system FORCES the cyclist to Exert more force on the pedal for a given cadence, resulting in a higher speed Basically it makes pedalling seem like you are in a higher gear, more speed, less torque (power is unchanged)... (1.4 ratio is the same as swapping a 60 tooth gear for a 84 tooth gear, just a bit more compact.)
Bob Stuart
Torque and speed vary inversely, but gears take a tax if used to adjust them. Sadly, small changes in bikes work as a placebo for the inventor, masking the problem and keeping him convinced.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
If you are going down a steep hill or have a strong tail wind and can't spin fast enough, this would make a higher gear available allowing you to generate more torque. This must be what is meant. You will go about 35 mph with a 52/14 gear and a cadence of 90. The gearing in the article doesn't seem to serve much purpose.
KimW
30 years past when I worked for Shimano I picked up their 5 sp internally geared crankset. That combined with a Rolhoff internal rear hub unit allowed me to have a range of gearing that was unbeatable. There were some gears that were only a tenth or to different but who cared. My frame was stolen from my van when I had the cranks off and have never been able to replace the spindle so they sit today as a reminder of glory years past. Shimano has been absolutely no help.
Kpar
MD, you are absolutely correct. That is exactly the thought I had. US$663 seems like a lot to replace the derailleur with something that does the same job.
Doug 1950
As this item has appeared on New Atlas some people will give it credence. This is sad. It would be far cheaper to fit a chain ring with 44% more teeth, or a rear cassette with a greater number of rings and a greater range. Posing value would not be as high, though.
JoelTaylor
Umm....Why? It's not much less then a Schlumpf drive, which has two gears with better range. Speed Drive - 1:1 and 1.65 Highspeed Drive - 1:1 and 1:2.5 Mountain 1:1 and a 2.5:1 under-drive.
ljaques
christopher, bbbut, it's black, and made out of billet titumularium and aluminium and black paint, and it makes you work harder, and it only costs four times what the bicycle did in the first place. What's =not= to love about it?
Tony Morris
Agree with all the comments above. This is snake oil and New Atlas should do a better job of filtering this rubbish before giving it oxygen.