Remember the Belgian man attempting to reinvent the wheel? Well, that man is Jan Deckx and Cycling Weekly managed to catch-up with him at the London Bike Show to talk about his innovative free hub system and see it for ourselves.
Deckx, from Antwerp, likes to design, invent and build things in his workshop to fit with his passion for cycling. He’s invented and patented the ‘D-Fix’ rear hub system, an innovation which attaches the cassette to the wheel and means that the wheel can be removed separately, leaving the cassette behind.
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The inventor highlights several advantages that he believes his free hub design provides over current systems, though he continues to tweak and improve it.
- You can remove the wheel very quickly, without touching the chain or cassette.
- The chain is not left dragging against the frame.
- You can remove the wheel but still turn and maintain the drive train. Useful for cleaning.
- You wouldn’t need to change cassettes between different wheels.
- No need to adjust gears when a different rear wheel is put in place.
In addition to being a convenient and quick system for amateur cyclists to use, Deckx believes that professionals can benefit from the D-Fix system for racing, particularly for wheel changes from neutral service mechanics.
“In a race situation,” he told CW, “neutral service wheel replacement would not affect your gear indexing and also, you would have the same cassette.
“This has been a problem for pros in the past when they have an 11-28t cassette, get a puncture ahead of a crucial climb in a race such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège and neutral service gives them a 12-24t. The gears are misaligned and they don’t have the gears they need.”
It’s not been a smooth road for Deckx to get to this point though, having to overcome a number of major challenges with the design.
“The biggest challenge was to solve the weakness in the axle,” he said. “I came up with an idea which is in this system and I have a Belgian patent on that.
“There are existing designs that have been looked at in the past, but none of the existing patents address the weakness in the axle and have a solution like this. I have solved it by making this split through axle.”
For anyone who might doubt the strength of the system, the Deckx is confident that having compared the axle to other manufacturers, his is robust enough to pass performance tests.
“I have tested it against a DT Swiss through axle, applying force and measuring with a macro metre,” he said.
“On my axle I can go much further, applying more force to make it move and that is because I effectively have a double axle. I am confident it will withstand all testing.”
Moreover, Deckx has put the system through its paces on a variety of terrain.
“You name it cobbles, short steep climbs, it’s done it all,” he said.
Deckx explained that he intentionally made testing more difficult in order to prove that the axle is so strong, there would be no flex whilst riding.
“Normally the distance between your spokes and final sprocket is 1mm,” he explained.
“In my prototype I deliberately built it with 3/10ths of a mm clearance. It meant that if my axle were to bend even 1/10th of a mm my spokes would touch the sprockets. It never happens. After every ride I would remeasure everything and check nothing had moved or bent.”
The search for investment
Deckx produced his original video in the hope of attracting investment to help back the idea, but it continues to be a race against time to get the project up and running and the search for investment continues to be a struggle.
Having approached Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo, each of the component manufacturers told him that they are sitting on patents for similar ideas, but as of yet, are unwilling to move on them.
“My current Belgian patent has bought me a year to get this going and get some into production,” he said.
“With my first idea I had contact with SRAM. I told them about my idea and they sent me a PDF file with about 10 different patents for a similar design. They told me they were not putting it into production because there was no interest in the biking world.”
It’s clear though, that Deckx disagrees strongly with this assessment. Since Cycling Weekly posted his video online, it has received a lot of positive attention and likewise, the inventor insists that feedback he’s received on the system from cyclists has been nothing but encouraging.
“I have spoken to lots of amateur and professional cyclists in Belgium,” he said, “and they all said to me if this is on the market, I want to have it on my bike immediately.”
According to Deckx there are currently parties interested in the product and he hopes to sort some solid investment soon.
As a result of D-Fix, Deckx hopes to redesign the rear derailleur, changing the way a conventional rear mech needs to be able to spring backwards to accommodate wheel removal.
This is not necessary with D-Fix, so Deckx believes that the rear derailleur can be redesigned to be lighter and simpler.
Currently the cassette is held in place with a bolt on the rear drop out. A potential problem is getting the cassette to sit properly inside the dropout.
With a normal bike you can tap it into place by dropping the bike onto the rear wheel, to ensure it slots properly into place. To counter this, Deckx is planning to design a dropout that just contains a hole, rather than a slot. This will hopefully ensure perfect alignment every time.
On top of that, he’s currently working on a bayonet design of his axle, to allow for quicker removal and installation which he also believes can be stronger.
Jan Deckx is at the London Bike Show between February 12 – 15, so if you’re heading down, go and take a look at D-Fix for yourself or alternatively, you can contact the man himself here.