When Fallbrook Technologies came out with the N170 CVP bicycle hub in 2007, I wanted to try it. My opportunity never came. They up-dated that model with the N360. With many improvements, I was more anxious than ever to spin the wheels on a bike outfitted with this bike transmission. Now, thanks to Paul at Bodhi Bikes, my wishes have come true.
You may have seen my write-up on Bodhi Bikes new E-bike. If you did, then you already know a little about how great I felt this hub feels and shifts. I was completely impressed with the operation and smoothness it offers a bike rider. It is perfectly suited for a electric-assist bike, and would seem, any bike. The ease of shifting and the natural way you use it where so obvious to me.
CVP (continuously variable planetary) type transmissions have been on the market in many different products for years. My first exposure was on some Malibu Gran Prix type race cars we ran at slalom races in the early 80’s. It was a relatively simple set-up with a wide belt between two pulleys that got wider and narrower as the speed of the motor and axle changed. It was power-robbing, but allowed the snow-mobile motor to wind up to full speed and stay there as the axle speed increased.
These types of transmissions are advertised on cars nowadays. Fallbrook Technologies has come up with new ideas that are changing the ways a transmission works. You will be seeing their products in more and more things in the market place. This N360 CVP hub is on several bikes and continues to gain popularity with the riding public. They have a new addition to this hub I will touch on near the end of this write-up.
You can go to their website to get a feel how this hub operates. (Also a full listing of its features and benefits is posted). What you will see is a set of balls that ride on moving drive plates. As the plates move (via the shifter), the balls ride on different places of the drive plates to effect the ratio change. There are no gears. This allows seamless shifting with no gear cluster, derailleur, or extra chain rings. That means no missed shifts, no working the front and rear shifter to find the correct ratio, and less chain wear and flex.
This N360 has many differences than the N170. It is much lighter, has a wider range of ratios, and it is smaller. It is a fully sealed unit that has improved protection for the external shifter unit at the hub. The shifter itself has less rotation and a great graphic to show your gear ratio. It uses a twist-grip shifter that has a window with a bike on a flexible terrain line. As you twist, the terrain line changes from flat to a hill to give you an indication of the hub’s ratio. I liked it.
Externally, the N360 looks like any other geared rear hub. It’s what’s on the inside that sets it apart from the others. From what I’ve seen, the price is about the same as the Japanese geared hubs. And it works like no other hub either. The shifter is easy to move, with just a nudge. The hub responds instantly and quietly. There is no jump or hesitation. If you didn’t find the right spot, just nudge it again. The ratios are very wide. Everything from a super-low hill climbing one, to a flat out high one. The overall ratio can be set with a different sized front chain ring.
I had heard from several people that didn’t like this transmission. Such things as it had high rolling resistance. Also, that it felt rubbery, robbing your power like you had thick rubber pads on the pedals. These are serious bikers who made these claims, and they might have tried the N170, not the improved N360. I didn’t notice either one of these things. I felt all my power was going to the rear tire and the bike was rolling free. I was totally happy with the performance it was giving me.
This hub felt great on an E-bike. With the motor-assist doing some of the work anyway, a little resistance or power used isn’t noticeable to me. The ease it gives you is a natural feeling you don’t get with a drive train with gears. It was truly dreamlike in the way it integrated my power to the needs of the bike. Once again, you probably are getting the feeling of how much I liked this drive train.
I would like to see this product mated with the new Gates CenterTrack Belt drive. It too has been talked down by some, but toothed belt drives are everywhere. They’re in car motors, electronic devices and even sewing machines. If the two together work as well as I’ve heard and think they would, they should be together on many bikes soon. I am not much for new things, but I could see myself riding an E-bike with the NuVinci Drivetrain and a Gates CenterTrack belt drive.
So by all means try out this new drivetrain on a bike at a bike shop near you. You might be just as enthralled as me by the easy, intuitive way it operates. It does seem to be the transmission of the future. I can see the possibility of it being speced by more and more bike companies as they start to realize how well it works.
Speaking of the future, Fallbrook Technologies has a announced their new Harmony system. It will mate up to the N360 and add automatic shifting for E-bikes. What it will do is allow you to set the pedal cadence you like, and it will shift to match that automatically. It will have an advanced and basic mode, with the ability to shift manually too. It will use electric power from the bike’s battery to operate it. It should be on future E-bikes by next year. I have got to be sure it will be on the Bodhi E-bike. If Paul and Kirby (at Bodhi Bikes) give me a chance to try it, I will write up a report on my findings.
Embrace the future? Sometimes. Make my shift automatic, Turbo Bob.
“After a time, habituated to spending so many hours a day on my bike, I became less and less interested in my friends. My wheel had now become my one and only friend. I could rely on it, which is more than I could say about my buddies. It’s too bad no one ever photographed me with my friend. I would give anything now to know what we looked like.”—Henry Miller, My Bike and Other Friends.
A link to Falbrook Technologies