Back in 1999, Shimano was granted a US patent for “Multiple Sprocket Assembly for Bicycle,” and in the patent summary they wrote,
The present invention is directed to a bicycle drive mechanism which includes a large number of freewheel sprockets, for example, ten or more and preferably fourteen freewheel sprockets.
Emphasis added. Even the sketches in the patent document show a cassette with 14 sprockets. The largest sprockets seem to float over the spokes, giving the back of the cassette a reverse conical shape seemingly to account for the need for additional clearance. The patent conceives of a special chain to make this possible as well, so it’s not exactly a simple solution.
The patent is set to expire in September of 2019, so could Shimano be working on a drivetrain that jumps 2 gears past SRAM Eagle? Or have they already given up on trying to make this system work?
I’m happy with the gear spacing on my bike at 10-50 with the SRAM Eagle so I can’t actually see how having two more sprockets inside those parameters would be of any help to me. Maybe a 52 tooth in a few years to keep me off one of those electric mopeds everybody keeps talking about.
You know what they should do? Put a 10 speed cassette on the back and 2 or 3 chain rings of various sizes on the crank and then have a “front derailleur” type thingy to move the chain from one ring to the other. This would give you a huge range of gears…..right?