Belt Drive

This is the new Trek Soho commuter with an Alfine 8-speed belt drive transmission. Traditionally, belt drives on bicycles have had problems with slippage and jamming, but I’ve heard good things about the latest generation from Gates. Is anyone out there riding a current generation belt drive? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Gates Carbon Drive

12 Responses to “Belt Drive”

  • Greg says:

    I’ve always been hopeful about shaft drive for year-round commuters. Some people complain about the energy loss, but it’s a commute, not a race, and therefore not a big concern IMO. One thing I like about shaft drive is the prospect of integrating it into the frame. Integrated shaft drive + hub gear = winter, wet weather bliss. Or as much as it can be on a bike. ;)

  • Joel says:

    Maybe it’s my inherent retro-grouchiness, but I’ve never understood the need to go away from chains. With an internal hub there’s not a lot of chain gunk, and I rode mine through mud, rain, what have you without issues. Seems like technology for its own sake, but like I said, retro-grouch.

  • Roland Smith says:


    You can find shaft drive bikes around and they are still being made (just Google). But you need two sets of bevel gears for a shaft drive on a bike, which are quite expensive to make and need to be fully enclosed, well lubricated and kept at the right distance. So the the driveshaft mechanism needs to be completely enclosed. Also the high torque at relatively low speeds necessitates a sturdy driveshaft (which is a torsion spring) and gears.


    Toothed belts have one great advantage. They do not need lubrication. Therefore the belt will not attract dirt like a chain. Toothed belts don’t slip like e.g. v-belts and are therefore efficient (98%, IIRC). Harleys use a toothed belt as final drive. It works very well and doesn’t need much maintenance.

    A disadvantage is that they have to be made to size. And for the same power output a belt will be wider then a chain.

  • Charlie says:

    I wish they’d used disk brakes. I have a roller brake in the rear on one of my bikes, and it doesn’t quite cut it for quick stops in traffic. Other than that, great bike and I’d be tempted to buy on.

  • Ahmad says:

    I like these for two reasons:
    1. I break a chain every second season and this is really dangerous (endo). I know how to prevent this, but me and thousands of others will continue to abuse our chains anyway. We need to remember that most people will never maintain their bikes, but for social and environmental reasons, I want these people to have a good ride anyway – Thus, simple low-maintenance bikes are really needed.
    2. I ride all winter in real winter, ice and snow, avg temp -15 + wind, and loads of salt and sand on the roads which just eats your drive train.
    Ride on.

  • Geoff says:

    Will be interested to try one. Trek just opened a brand new store about 5 miles away from my house here in NC.

  • Vik says:

    An IGH + chaindrive + a full chain case gets you all the benefits of a belt drive:

    – low maintenance
    – clean
    – efficient

    …with none of the negatives:

    – special frame req’d
    – higher cost
    – poor parts availability
    – unproven long term service record



  • Roland Smith says:

    Toothed belts do have a long term service record. A lot of car engines use them as camshaft drives, with replacements intervals in the tens of thousands of miles. Same goes for the belt final drive on harleys.

    Parts availability is an issue for every technology that’s new in a market segment. And if the belt lasts long enough, it’s not much of an issue.

    I’d love to have a toothed belt on my ‘bent, but I don’t think they make them long enough. :-(

  • Ken Pendergrass says:

    Hey all,
    I have about 750 miles ridden on my Soho V which I bought in June. What a fantastic bike, fast! The Alfine just works. I read about the new belt drive several weeks ago, it’s on the Trek site, and am very excited about it. These are not the same belts which were on my mom’s Chevy Nova, very high tech, very light weight. Reason 2; belts have no moving parts to wear out. Pro belts reason 3; Schlumph is making a crank to fit these belts. I am glad to see these belts move so fast from the bike show to the mainstream. Trek is embracing commuting. The kids at my lbs did not even bother to condescend. They were excited to see how much I liked it and told me it would be fast.

  • David Hembrow says:

    There is a recumbent with a (partial) belt drive. The Brompton fitted with Julianne Neuss’ recumbent conversion kit. Seems to work pretty well, but it’s no longer in production.

  • reed says:

    I own a 1999 Schwinn cruiser belt-drive. This bike was manufactured but never distributed after Schwinn was bought out by GT.

    You can check it out online if you go to

    The belt is 15 mm wide, made of polyurethane, and has Kevlar cording. A triangular belt-tensioning device is attched to the “chain” stay and pinches the belt slightly while pivoting up and down depending on the force you apply to the pedals.

    I have ridden the bike exclusively on a local bike/pedestrian path. The ride is very smmoth and quiet and often I have startled some walkers because they did not hear me as I approached. I have not ever had to lubricate the belt in almost 10 years. I have never had to retension the belt in the drop-outs, so I assume the belt has not stretched during that 10 year period either.

    I have never gotten my pants leg caught in the belt. The belt has not ever popped off the sprockets (pulleys?). The belt has never rusted or developed any kinks. The belt has never slipped. The belt has never broken. The belt tensioning device constantly balances tension between the upper and lower sections of the belt, so there is no “chain” rattle when I go over a bump.

    I have put about 1500 miles on the bike over the last 10 years. This model was listed at $349.00 retail back in ’99, and a comparably-equipped ’99 single-speed chain-drive Schwinn cruiser was priced at $219.00.

    Hope this info is helpful.

  • Bill says:

    Reed, I’m not sure whether I spoke with you years ago regarding the Schwinn Whisperdrives. I managed to get in touch with a lot of folks, including the designer of the drivetrain. Gathered a lot of interesting information about those bikes, which I’d be glad to share. You have a 1-speed? If I may ask, where did you get it? I’ve got one which I may sell and based on my research, it sounds like there are less than 5 of them in existence.
    I can be reached at

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