One Street Components' Bike Shift Lever is a basic gear shifter made from scrap aluminium, a bottle cap, a hose clamp, and a common bolt and nut. It's designed to offer simple, cheap and reliable shifting to those who cannot afford, or don't have access to high-end gear.
One Street is an international bicycling advocacy non-profit and the Bike Shift Lever, designed by One Street's executive director, Sue Knaup, started its public life as a Kickstarter campaign more than a year ago. However, the idea for the design stretches back three years.
Knaup's simple design came about as a response to countless complaints from One Street's bicycle programme partners around the world regarding the lack of availability of basic, durable bike components, especially shift levers. These programmes provide bicycles to people who ride daily – to work, for work, and hauling their families and mobile businesses by bike.
Knaup said: “A bike shift lever only has to pull a cable. Everyday cyclists should not have to choose between junk shifters made from plastic and pot metal or race-designed shifters that cost a month’s wages. Both types wear out within months of daily use and cannot be repaired.”
The resulting Bike Shift Lever design works with both front and rear derailleurs through all gear ranges, but crucially, has a simple production method that ensures they can be produced in even the world's most remote locations.
Knaup began the design process by talking with metal casters and mould makers. A permanent mould along with a charcoal furnace to melt scrap aluminium offered the easiest production method, even in areas without electricity. The first moulds were funded through a Kickstarter campaign in October 2013.
As a former bike shop owner and welder, Knaup understood metallurgy basics, but not the intricacies of casting. After working with local casters and reading many volumes, she built her first charcoal furnace using a flower pot and a hand pump to ensure anyone could build one with common items. This furnace produced the first Bike Shift Levers. She has since upgraded to a brick furnace that uses a hairdryer for its air supply. With future licence partners in mind, she captured every step in One Street’s new book, Backyard Aluminum Casting.
One Street is now seeking licence partners to produce the shifters in other parts of the United States and other regions of the world. Any non-profit that focuses on bicycle programmes can apply. After qualifying and paying a one-time fee, licensees receive a casting mould, casting training, a finishing jig, network marketing, and One Street support. They keep all proceeds from the shift levers they produce and sell.
Find out more about the Bike Shift Lever at OneStreet.org.