Sam Patterson has his eye on urban commuters. And he’s betting that a new crankset he designed will intrigue product managers looking to give 2011 commuter bikes a new look. Patterson is no stranger to the industry. He helped put SRAM on the map with his work designing Grip Shift and other key SRAM components . He spent 14 years at the company before leaving in 2000. Back in the mid-1980s, Patterson had been working on exotic fuel injection systems at a boutique R&D lab in San Diego.
He met SRAM’s Stan Day while skiing at Park City. Day had gone to school with Patterson’s brother. Patterson, tired of sucking in gasoline and diesel fumes, began kicking around product ideas with Day and eventually they came up with Grip Shift for road bikes. Day, a triathlete, wanted to shift from the drops without reaching for downtube shift levers.
The 55-year-old mechanical engineer has now teamed up with FSA to introduce the Metropolis Patterson Transmission (PT), a new internal two-speed planetary-geared crankset. It seems Patterson has harbored a long-simmering dislike for front derailleurs. And this crankset eliminates them. From a manufacturers’ standpoint, installing the Metro PT is a snap on the assembly line. It’s compatible with most conventional frame designs. Forget installing and setting front derailleurs. No need for a chain guard to protect pant legs from grease. Shifts are lightening fast. And you can shift under load at will. It has a 1.6-to-1 gear ratio
with drive gears of 28T and 43T. Use any rear cassette you like or internal-gear hubs. It’s a cast aluminum crankset with an eye-catching, brushed alloy silver finish. If there’s a downside, the unit weighs 1,780 grams, but Patterson said it can be trimmed to about 1,500 grams. As for pricing, Patterson said his first year’s goal is to produce a modest volume at a high enough price to keep him in business. Year two, as demand ramps up, pricing will come down. This was Patterson’s first public unveiling of the system. Douglas Chiang, FSA’s managing director, said he’s optimistic about the new addition to FSA’s Metropolis group, a line of city-style handlebars, stems, seatposts and cranksets. Patterson has a multi-year agreement with Chiang.
Judging from the number of people test riding the Metro at Saturday’s Ride On event at the Freshfields Resort and Conference Center, Chiang and Patterson have reason to be optimistic. At one point, a European
product manager interrupted a conversation to ask whether the system could be used with a belt drive. Patterson assured him that with some minor modifications, a beltdrive option would pose few problems.
The Metropolis PT was installed on a sleek Giant city bike. It looked great. A test ride confirmed Patterson’s boasts. It shifts instantly and there’s no balking when shifting under load. If there was a disconcerting moment it was the three-speed shifter. I initially kept searching for that third shift, but there was none. After a few minutes, it wasn’t an issue. Patterson said the system should appeal, at first, to the European commuting market. “It’s a functional replacement for a front derailleur, the internal shifting is fast and works under load, it never derails and will fit any bike with downtube cable routing and fixed chain stays,”he said.
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