MARCH 2019 GBF – RENOLD
This month we look at the history of a two-wheeled
Renold, the international engineering and
power transmission group, famous for the
invention of the bush-roller chain, this year
celebrates its 140th anniversary. The company
had moved to the UK in 1873, but it was in 1879
when its Swiss founder, Hans Renold, bought
the James Slater Company in Salford. It was a
small business, manufacturing textile pin chains.
What he didn’t know, however, was that his newly
merged fi rm, the Hans Renold Company, was set
to revolutionise power transmission engineering
chain manufacturers in history.
In 1880, Hans Renold patented the
bush-roller chain, a precision steel
chain for transmitting mechanical
power that was designed to last
signifi cantly longer than the textile
chains that were the only ones
available at the time.
The basic design of the
bush roller chain comprised of
a series of journal bearings, held in
precise positional relationship to each other by
constraining link plates. Each bearing consists
of a bearing pin and bush on which the steel roller
revolves as the chain moves around steel sprockets
during operation. This was a highly advanced
design for chain at the time, with impressive
wear resistance and load bearing capabilities. It
was so successful that it remains the same basic
design of bush-roller chain to this day.
Just two years before the Hans Renold
Company was founded, John Kemp Starley,
another great innovator, had just formed a
company with William Sutton, in Coventry, to
design and manufacture bicycles that would be
safer and easier to ride than the Penny Farthing.
The Starley & Sutton Company initially began
manufacturing tricycles that by 1883 were being
sold under the Rover brand.
In 1885, Starley launched the Rover Safety
Bicycle – designed with two wheels of a similar size
on a diamond-shaped frame, and a seat that was
low enough for the rider’s feet to touch the ground.
The bicycle was driven with pedals, connected by
gears and chain to the wheel at the back. This was
to keep the pedals, and the rider’s feet, away from
the front wheel for safety reasons and a better ride.
Renold’s bush-roller chain turned out to be the
perfect solution for the Rover Safety Bicycle, as
the simple textile pin chain, previously all that was
remains the basic design of bicycles to this day.
After inventing the bush-roller chain, the Hans
Renold Company grew rapidly, changed its name to
Hans Renold Limited and moved to new premises,
but the philosophy of quality, precision engineering
and innovation continued. In 1885 Renold applied
for a patent for block chains but then gave his
idea to cycle manufacturers to be used freely, a
generous act that won great respect within the
notoriously closed industry.
Renold went on to develop more machinery and
processes to improve manufacturing techniques,
and pioneered many new ideas, such as in 1906
when the company developed a machine for the
centreless grinding of bearing pins. This was long
before centreless grinders became the factor in
machine shop practice that they are today.
So successful was Hans Renold’s bush-roller
chain that he became known not only as the father
of the modern chain industry, but also one of the
fathers of the bicycle industry. After his death in
1943, Professor Dempster Smyth wrote a eulogy in
the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical
Engineers, stating: “Few realise how extensive is
the infl uence of Renold’s inventiveness on both
civil and industrial life throughout the world.”
Underlining his opinion is the fact that the
Starley & Sutton Company, inventors of the
Rover Safety Bicycle, went on to become the Rover
Cycle Company. Shortly after Starley’s death in
1901 the Rover company began manufacturing
motorbikes and later, cars. Without Renold’s
bush-roller chain, the history of modern-day
bicycles, motorbikes and Rover Cars could have
been very diff erent.
Hans Renold’s revolutionary
chain design paved the way
for the Rover Car Company
saw the launch of the
Rover Safety Bicycle
Have you got a factory you think should feature in this column?
pioneer as it celebrates its 140th birthday
and become one of the largest and most innovative
available, would have worn out too quickly
on the bicycle’s gears and sprockets. As a result,
the Rover Safety Bicycle was a huge success and it