If you know a cyclist, you’ve likely heard complaints about that persnickety front bicycle derailleur. Well, to take those derailleur woes away, a father and his three sons have come up with a simple device which could redefine cycling as we know it – a 3-speed front gearbox.
The Efneo Gearbox is the only 3-speed system that fits the standard bike frame without a fuss. It has instant engagement, no noise, no effect on speed and is beautifully designed. We caught up with Franciszek Migaszewski, his father Stefan, and siblings Wiktor and Fryderyk to learn more about how the design came about and their current Indigogo Campaign.
SolidSmack: How did this project come about?
Franciszek: The inspiration came from my father. He is a “natural born inventor” and he was trying to build a stepper (like for fitness) for himself, just for fun. He decided he needed some kind of a gearbox to do this (to change the resistance). He purchased a popular Shimano bicycle gearbox and opened it to check how it worked inside. It came to his mind “well, maybe I can do it in a simpler way?” That is how he began his adventure with bicycle gearboxes.
SolidSmack: What lead you to pursue development?
Franciszek: After some time my father showed his very raw gearbox prototype to me and I said ‘Hmm, the interesting thing about it is that it is very slim and can be put not only in a rear wheel, but also in a bottom bracket (it is this place where cranks are installed).’ My professional background is in strategy planning, marketing and sales so after some time I decided we could try to do business out of my father’s unexpected hobby. We took deeper insight into the bicycle market and found there was a niche for this kind of stuff. We invested some own money and after some time we raised additional capital to make it a more professional venture, to go the industry fairs, to do the prototypes and so on. And that is how we came to this point where we are now. It all started from my father’s hobby.
SolidSmack: What is so innovative about this gearbox?
Franciszek: The key innovation is in putting 3 gears into a very slim plate that seemed to be enough for only 2 gears. There are some 2-speed systems similar to ours, but for most people 2 gears are just not enough. We also talked to product managers from various bicycle manufacturing companies and they confirmed the same – 2-speed systems were not suitable for them and nobody had any idea how to put 3 gears into a box slim and light enough for a bicycle.
SolidSmack: What challenges did you have along the way?
Franciszek: The biggest challenge was professional prototyping. We had a very limited experience in working with steel or aluminum and we had to get quite new knowledge. Now we are cooperating with professional prototyping companies that have CNC machines and other stuff necessary for this kind of work. The other challenge is the patent protection of our innovation. We have two international patent submissions and a couple of so called utility design submissions. It is very important to protect against simple copying of our product by other companies.
SolidSmack: Can you tell us more about the prototyping process?
Franciszek: The prototyping was made partly in our own small workshop and partly (or rather mostly) at our outsourcing partners on CNC machines. A lot of additional industry know-how was added by our Asian partners with whom we are going to launch the production. They are experienced in manufacturing bicycle parts.
SolidSmack: Can you share details regarding the software, machining/prototyping tools, what kinds of sketches/prototypes/mockups were made, what kinds of challenges you faced?
Franciszek: We are working on SolidWorks software. Prototyping is made mostly on CNC machines in steel and aluminum. Some parts (like bearings or sealings) are purchased from third-party suppliers. There are a lot of challenges:
1) The bicycle gearbox is working under huge load and it must be very robust and reliable
2) On the other hand – it must be light and slim
3) It must be well sealed and protected against dust, sand, water, snow, mud etc.
4) There are many construction standards in the bicycle industry to which we must be compatible
SolidSmack: Can you share a little bit of back story on your family business? How did you start creating products together, who does what?
Franciszek: Five people from our family are involved. Our father is the inventor – he created the idea of a product. Wiktor and Fryderyk (middle and youngest sons) are working with him on the construction and product development. Wiktor, who is a marketing management school graduate, had to learn working with design software like SolidWorks from scratch to make professional drawings and sketches. Franek (the oldest son) has managerial experience and it was up to him to identify the market chance, to do the marketing planning, to talk to potential customers to verify the idea on the market. Our father’s sister is a family investor. After some time we raised additional capital from a seed-fund and it was up to Franek to do this job.
You can learn more about Efneo products, including their hub design, on their website. The Indiegogo campaign is the early stages with over a month left to go and early adopter options still available. After the campaign, the gearbox will retail above US$300 and include: 1) gearbox, 2) left crank, 3) shifter, 4) cable, 5) bottom bracket.