Rail Road: MILLYARD BRINGS A NEW FRONT DAMPER TO HIS REVOLUTIONARY DOWNHILL BIKE
Words and photos: Steve Jones
Eight years ago Allen Millyard invented a mountainbike. In doing so he tackled one of cycling’s age old problems by installing an internal gear changing hub within a hermetically sealed drive system. The system resulted in unparalleled shifting lightness, silence and the possibility of dropping into any gear without having to make your way through unnecessary shifts.
It was a system that took away maintenance, brought a degree of reliability that was unheard of and resulted in a bike so silent you could hear the worms breaking the surface. The bike wasn’t without fault, it came with dated angles and being one size meant it was unsuitable for shorter or taller riders. Still, I managed to put in one of my fastest times on the then Dirt test track, the old 1:04.
But even if it could be improved both in angles and in damping, up front a standard fork meant the bike was far from balanced with Millyard’s own ‘hydro gas system’ on the rear. Within weeks Allen had not only updated the angles but had made the bike into a singlesided swingarm, this was now marching deep into unknown territory. The manufacturers looked on, knowing, but not responding. After all such a bike would put component suppliers out of business. Still, he needed that fork. The lack of parity between the hydro gas system on the rear and the conventional damping up front held the bike back, it was also a very different bike to ride than most and Millyard was only beginning to get to grips with the need of a rider to put down power through the cranks.
The Millyard bike simply made a priority to power through the biggest nastiest terrain possible and not pedalling. It was only many years later that found out that I had broken my 1:04 track record on what was ultimately a 150mm rear travel bike, but everything went quiet from Millyard as he set about his other inventions – his recent Pratt and Whitney motorcycle being the most notable (Google it). The phone rang. Allen was excited about a new gas cartridge he had made for the bike. I didn’t take convincing and was equally enthusiastic to get some runs done. It didn’t disappoint, the bike is now more balanced and rather than rely on the rear because of its superior traction, steering and less arm fatigue, you can now charge anywhere, anytime. It’s all pretty crazy. The exact detail he prefers not to show, but from what I know it’s frighteningly simple, but like all classic systems it all depends on the size of the holes! The cartridge has simply been custom fitted to a Fox 40 and for pressure Allen now relies on the simpler, cheaper and easier to transport Argon gas to pressurize. As mentioned, riding the Millyard bike is a very different experience to a conventionally damped bike, it requires a much diff erent style of riding and also requires trust in the system. The reaction time is acute, it simply knows when and how to absorb, so rather than pick and placing the bike (avoiding obstacles), this bike will charge on through. He has the chassis built to take this as well. What would be its commercial value? Huge. For riders wanting trouble free, silent runs down big Alpine terrain it is impressive. It simply railroads big country. Pedalling remains slightly unchartered territory but to focus on that would be massively missing the point.