Last November we first heard about the radical Supre Drive mountain bike drivetrain, invented by Canadian mechanical engineer Cedric Eveleigh. Now, just eight months later, it’s found its way onto Nicolai Bicycles’ commercially available Nucleon 16 high-pivot enduro bike.
Developed by Eveleigh’s company Lal Bikes, Supre Drive addresses one of the main shortcoming of traditional derailleurs: they frequently get bent or jammed with trail debris, due to the fact that they hang down close to the ground and are only supported at the top. While it still incorporates a derailleur, Cedric’s system essentially moves the device up, and divides its functions between two locations.
To recap our previous coverage, the Supre Drive’s single-pulley derailleur body is mounted on a system-specific rear swingarm (it can also be used on hardtail bikes), where it sits to one side of the cassette – not beneath it. There, it performs its usual task of moving the chain back and forth between the sprockets. It’s rigidly mounted at two points, however, plus it’s protected against side impacts by the overlying swingarm assembly. This means the bike can be laid down on its drive side without any risk of bending the derailleur.
Of course, along with moving the chain sideways, conventional rear derailleurs also keep it tensioned. In the case of Supre Drive, that function is performed by a separate hydraulic-damped tensioner arm which pivots around the bottom bracket axis. This arrangement allows a consistent amount of tension to be applied throughout the gear range – with regular derailleurs, the tension increases as the gears get lower.
And while the prototype version of the system was reportedly 100 to 200 grams heavier than a regular Shimano XT drivetrain, it was considerably lighter than internal gearbox-based drivetrains, which are another alternative to rear derailleurs.
On German bicycle manufacturer Nicolai Bicycles’ Nucleon 16 – which is the first production bike to utilize the technology – the latest-and-greatest incarnation of Supre Drive is set up as 1 x 12 drivetrain with a 510-percent total gear ratio. The company states, “With the Supre Drive, Nicolai can now for the first time optimally use the performance advantages of a high-pivot suspension in a long-travel enduro bike.”
One of the Nucleon 16’s other unusual features is its ability to be set up either as a full 29er or as a “mullet bike,” with a 29-inch wheel in front and a 27.5-inch wheel in the rear. The latter configuration – which is not unique to Nicolai – is claimed to result in optimal rolling speed and obstacle roll-over at the front, along with sharper handling and less rotating weight in the back.
The weight of the size-medium preproduction bike shown in this article – with a 7020-T6 aluminum frame – is a claimed 16.6 kg (36.6 lb) without pedals. That figure could change for the production model.
Should you be interested, the Nicolai Nucleon 16 is now available for a December delivery in five frame sizes. Buyers can choose between components from companies such as Fox, Hope, Magura, Continental, Schwalbe, Shimano and LevelNine. Prices for complete bikes start at €7,499 (about US$7,559).