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The New WBR Buffalo Bike is First with Two Chain, Two Speed Drivetrain

Buffalo Bike S2 utility two speed 14
21 Comments
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In terms of proof that bicycles can save the world, it doesn’t get much more iconic than the World Bicycle Relief Buffalo bike. Since founding in 2005, WBR has distributed more than 800,000 bicycles across 21 countries while training more than 3,000 mechanics to help keep them running. These are more than just bicycles though, they represent access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities that rural communities would not have otherwise.

Working along with many product testers over the years, WBR is introducing the next generation of the Buffalo bike, the Utility S2, designed in conjunction with SRAM, Trek, Giant, and Karasawa. Notably, this bike has a two-speed, two-chain drivetrain that allows riders to shift gears with a simple backpedal. This is not the first bike with the ability to change gears by backpedaling, but it is the first with essentially two completely separate single-speed drivetrains, only connected by the freewheel. The crankset features a 45/27t chainring setup, while the freewheel features a 19/18t combination for 45/19 and 27/18t gearing.

There are a few benefits to this design including outright durability, and the ability to have two drastically different gear ratios which is very helpful for riders using the bike to carry heavy cargo. The drivetrain is reliant on the new AK-2 freewheel, which is “WBR’s first-ever patented innovation.” Compared to the previous Buffalo bike which used a coaster brake hub, the move to a freewheel allows for the use of caliper rim brakes, and heavy-duty box section aluminum rims with 3x lacing to create strong, but light wheels. Additionally, the standard freewheel interface makes the replacement of the AK-2 a cinch, and the unique dual chain arrangement means the rider can continue to their destination, even if they break one of the chains.

You can help WBR reach their goal of providing one million bikes globally by donating at the link below.

worldbicyclerelief.org

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21 Comments
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Hirondelle Legal Dept.
Hirondelle Legal Dept.
10 days ago

Are the freewheels available as spare parts ?
Looks easier to setup than a RetroDirect.

Chained Up
Chained Up
10 days ago

Does it use Auto-Tune though?

Roberto
9 days ago

Brilliant…How about Gates drive belts for even less maintenance.

Hamjqm
Hamjqm
9 days ago
Reply to  Roberto

They are super finiky and cost $80.

TypeVertigo
9 days ago
Reply to  Roberto

A drive belt needs a break in the frame, usually at the drive-side seat stay.

You may have missed the point of the Buffalo bicycles – they are supposed to be hardy yet inexpensive. Introducing a drive belt is a risk to both design goals. Going single-speed chain was the right way to go, and this is a neat way of introducing gearing options while still keeping to the hardy-yet-inexpensive design brief.

Frank
Frank
9 days ago

I like the idea but wouldn’t a fix gear flip flop hub work just as good. You would have 2 speeds, no pads or rim wear, and put a front brake for safety. Who would care if it took longer to change gears?

Andrew
Andrew
9 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Imagine the guy in the last pic coming to a hill and having to stop, unload all of those pieces of cargo, remove the rear wheel (with…?) and flip it over, then re-mount all the luggage?

tertius_decimus
tertius_decimus
9 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Brain smooth as silk. I wonder if well-educated keyboard warriors are actually less capable intellectually than those Africans living in remote villages with no prospect of getting basic education whatsoever…

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
8 days ago
Reply to  Frank

IF the cost could be dropped, an internally geared crank would be sensible. This is really a great setup. Although I do think the gearing is way too high for many that will ride this bike and where it’ll be ridden

Drew Diller
9 days ago

This is great! I love the practicality.

Deputy Dawg
Deputy Dawg
9 days ago

Superb! I had a two-speed kick-shift bike as a kid. Low gear when the basket was full of newspapers and high gear pretty much the rest of the time, save for the very occasional hill.

Kudos to WBR!

Ray
Ray
9 days ago

Not the first. There is an 1898 Peugeot in the Chateau du Bosc in France which has exactly that drivetrain. An image of it is attached. As they say, there is nothing new …

1000000333.jpg
Matt
Matt
8 days ago

I expect they’ll be courting a large donation from 2Chainz.

Though in seriousness, I do wonder if it will be difficult to keep both chains correctly tensioned, especially as they begin to wear unevenly.

TypeVertigo
8 days ago
Reply to  Matt

Good eye. Valid concern on the chain tension.

There may be something to address this that we haven’t noticed? Maybe some close-up shots of the rear dropout might give a clue.

Craig
Craig
8 days ago
Reply to  Matt

Keeping with inexpensive easy solutions a simple spring tensioner for the chain would limit loose chain issues

J B
J B
6 days ago
Reply to  Matt

The gear ratios were likely deliberately chosen such that the tension in both chains is as close to the same as possible, thereby eliminating the need for a chain tensioning mechanism. Keep in mind the goal is extremely durable and dirt cheap.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
8 days ago

Wow, I’m really surprised the big gear is that high and the low gear isn’t very low for a bike that is going to often be carrying a whole lotta stuff and potentially extra passengers

Chris White
8 days ago
Reply to  Veganpotter

Don’t forget that the 26″ wheels will lower the gear by about 10% compared to 700c.

Raul D
Raul D
8 days ago

The bent seatpost and big toe overlap are too hard for me to not see.

Tom Wenzel
4 days ago

“F**k it, we’re doing 10 blades.” – Gillette CEO

JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS
JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS
4 days ago

First?! My son built and uses one like this for the last three years.

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