Just a random thought which is running through my mind...thought by sharing it, I might receive some feedback to its practical application.
A bicycle drivetrain runs simply. A chain runs over two chain rings, through different sizes in the chain rings, the number of pedal revolutions determine the number of times the wheel spins. The closer the size of the two opposing chain rings, a lower level of power output is needed to turn the rear wheel. Unfortunatley, the wheel turns much slower if the gears are at a 1x1 ratio opposed to a 2x1 system, yet it requires less power. Although a lower gear ratio requires less power, more pedal revolutions are required to achieve the same distance (or number of wheel revolutions) of a higher ratio.
Now, with that in mind, I'm going to bring rock climbing into the equation. When climbing big walls, multiple days are spent on a rock face and all the required supplies must be hauled up the wall one rope length at a time. The method used to make the chore of pulling 100 or more pounds up a sheer face by a rope is accomplished with a pulley system. Essentially it is the same way different gear sizes are used to vary the power needed to turn the rear wheel on a bike, yet the difference is, when hauling on a big wall, if you pull 1 foot of rope through the system, the haul bag moves one foot closer to you. A bicycles low gear ratio will create a lower output of power needed to turn the wheel but will not mimic the efficiency of the pulley systems distance which is achieved.
Bikes have been standarized to use the drivetrain system they use now, a chain running over two rings or pulleys. As we've seen, the stadardized wheel size has changed to a more efficient system...so why not wonder? Is it feasible to think that incorporating a pulley system in the crankset along with various gear ratios into a bicycle which may in turn create a more efficient system of pedaling? What if the chain ran through four chain rings instead of two, could a drastic decrease of power output needed to push an identical gear ratio w/ only two chainrings result? In a C-130 engine, the gearbox, which utilizes power output from the jet engine attached to it, uses a planetary gear system (many smaller gears turning one larger gear) to achieve insane amounts of torque raising the gear ratio yet using the same power output.. Could this somehow be applied to a bicycle to create an even more efficient pedaling system than what we've been told is the best?
I don't know all the physics behind this idea (for instance i the friction from multiple chain rings is more substatial than the benefit) and maybe someone will say something to make me say..."oops, yeah, there is no sense in that", but to me right now I see logic in it. There is always a better way, if that weren't true we would still be riding fixed gears or wooden wheels, or maybe solid iron framesets. Innovation drives everything, although I'm sure my concept can be shut down quickly, there is a lot that can be improved, as long as the desire to create something better is there... it will happen.
As i said before...just a thought, give me your feedback, you cant offend me.
PS...I had to pull a tick from my leg yesterday!! I hope I dont get lyme disease.