Here a Columbia Chainless crests a hill, leaving the other riders far behind. Note that they’re walking their bicycles, too, while this wool-clad fellow easily spins over the top. The reason chainless bicycles caught on for a while was that the chain drive had not yet been perfected. Pedaling a chain drivetrain was rough and noisy. So, though significantly more expensive than the chain drive, the chainless drivetrain was an improvement. Of course, once chains and sprockets were perfected, chainless bicycles went out of favor. Though elegantly simple-looking, the chainless was heavier, more prone to wear, and less efficient to pedal than the chain drive. Still, I’d love to own one.

1898 Columbia Chainless bicycle ad


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