Thursday, October 04, 2012

Update On "The Belt"

As many regular readers of this blog know, I have chronicled the development of "The Belt" for single speed mountain biking here for quite some time. (Want to see the past reports? Put "The Belt" in the search box on the upper left of the header and hit the magnifying glass icon.)

Here's the latest update I have on this technology and my take in relation to how The Chain performs.

2013 Raleigh XXIX
At Interbike, I rode a 2013 Raleigh XXIX with the Gates Carbon Drive Center Track belt. The XXIX has benefited from the Center Track version in three key ways:

  • Better "belt line" due to the Center Track has enabled Raleigh to return to the past XXIX geometry that was ahead of its time. 
  • Better (lower) belt tension has made for less stress on bottom bracket and free hub bearings. 
  • The Center Track is light years better than the older Carbon Drive versions. 
I really like the new XXIX. It handles and rides like the older XXIX's, except that it has a nice Fox suspension fork, of course! However; this is about The Belt.

The Center Track design has really been a boon to belt drive fans and designers wanting to employ a belt into their bicycles designs.  It definitely works better, but can you really put all of your confidence in The Belt? Can you "stand and mash" with impunity without fear of snapping that high tech blackened strand?

This was always in the back of my mind as I rode the Sawyer. Sure, I'd stomped and pushed The Belt pretty hard, but I'd never had a ride where I felt I had put it to a severe test, not ever worrying about the chainless drive train, and had a good outcome. 

Back in '07, I rode the first edition of the Carbon Drive on a Spot Brand single speed. The demo loop went fine until towards the end, I hit a steep embankment up with a sharp right turn at the top, with a further climb up and to the left after that.

On the first blast on the pedals going up the initial steep, I heard a loud "pop". I expected that I would be catapulted off the bike, but I wasn't. The Belt held, but what had happened?

It had "slipped", or in Belt Terminology- it had ratcheted. That is not a good thing either. I wasn't very impressed, or trusting of The Belt after that.

Fast forward to this past Interbike where I rode that XXIX. I hit the same steep up, but now, after five years of erosion and riders, it was way tougher and cobby going up than ever. I knew that if The Belt was going to fail- this was it. I hammered the pedals, slipped, lost traction, timed a few good hard strokes, mashed, mashed, and mashed, then I made it all the way up.

No issues.

So The Belt has my trust back, but that isn't the end of the story. My partner, Grannygear was impressed by my story, but he has had "squeaky" issues with The Belt in dry, dusty conditions. I had never experienced that, but I had no reason to doubt his story.

Yesterday I rode the Sawyer and after a bit of time into the ride, I began to hear a "squeak......squeak....squeak" that was timed with the pedal stroke. It went away with coasting. I began to go into "diagnoses mode", as I suppose any bicycle mechanic does when they are riding a bike that doesn't work right, or makes odd noises.

Well, I would have to say that the dreaded "dry squeak" made a brief and intermittent appearance yesterday on the Sawyer. And you all know one of the selling points on The Belt is that it is dead quiet and doesn't need maintenance in the form of lubrication, etc.

In the dry, which it has been here for most of the year, it seems that The Belt can squeak. Kinda bums ya out, if yer a Belt fan, I know. Grannygear says he quiets his down with silicone spray. By the way, I've heard The Belt does this in really wet conditions as well. I have no basis to know whether or not that is true, but I have seen that reported.

We'll have to wait for some really wet weather to see about that. For now- it's one big plus and one minus for The Belt this time around.


dicky said...

Ever have to take the cog of a high-end, aluminum bodied freewheel? My cog was so narrow it dug in to the aluminum like an old Shimano stamped steel cog. Garbage, I say.

Why would they not realize that all high end cogs have wide bases for a reason?

Guitar Ted said...

@dicky: I haven't messed with my Center Track cog on my Bonty Race X Lite hub for awhile now, but last I did, it was fine. Actually, the previous generation of Carbon Drive used a composite carrier for the cog on the rear, and the free hub body would chew that up! At least they have a metal carrier now.

And you can always get a Phil cog, which has a wider base. But yeah....The Chain is cheaper and those issues don't exist with The Chain cogs.