My History with Belt Drive Bikes

Norco Ceres

Going back to Novemeber of 2009, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time riding a number of belt drive bikes including a Raleigh Alley Way, a Civia Bryant, a ThorUSA Dahon Mu XL Sport, and now a Norco Ceres (shown above – more on this bike later). It had been a while since I’d been on a Gates/Alfine drivetrain, but the recent arrival of the Norco reminded me how much I love this drivetrain (it also sealed the deal when deciding to add the Civia Bryant to my stable). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Gates/Alfine combo is the smoothest multi-gear drivetrain I’ve encountered.

13 Responses to “My History with Belt Drive Bikes”

  • John Brewer says:

    I’m curious as to your reasoning for choosing the Civia Bryant over this Norco Ceres. They both appear to be quality bikes with similar specs. Was it simply an aesthetics issue, as I could see where the darker tones of the Norco might not appeal to everyone… although it is my hands-down favorite of the two.

  • Derek Pelletier says:

    I’ve definitely been a fan of the belt drive/IGH on my Trek Soho for my daily commute in the sandy/salty/wet northeast. The one “problem” that I’ve had with it is (really, it’s more of a minor annoyance) its tendency to squeak once it dries after a wet commute. I’ve been adding a couple of drops of my old chain lube when that starts to happen and it goes away until the next rainy commute. It seems like something I shouldn’t have to do. Have you any experience with this?

  • Garth Madison says:

    I like the look of the Norco Ceres. Are you going to provide us with a mini review? :) I agree with John – the dark green and brown leather combination is sharp. Too bad they don’t have the Alfine 11 or Nuvinci yet.

    Anyone know anything about the Stop Cycles Proletariat? That’s supposedly another Alfine/Gates drive train bike.

    And of course, there’s always the Tout Terrain Metropolitan, but that gets pretty pricey.

    Choices choices.


  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi John,

    The Norco’s an excellent bike, but the Civia more closely matched the criteria I laid out when looking for a bike to be used as my daily commuter and test bed. That’s not at all saying the Norco wouldn’t be a better fit for someone else. You can read more about what went into my decision here:


  • Sam Joslin says:

    I went back to read your belt-drive Dahon review. You mentioned that the gearing of that one-off machine was low. Any idea whether the low-gear problem for small-wheel bicycles is unsolvable?

    In other words, do belt-drive manufacturers simply need to start making cogs and chainrings in sizes more appropriate to 16-inch and 20-inch bicycles? Or is the problem that appropriately sized cog-chainring combinations would lead to inadequate “belt wrap” of the rear cog?

  • Richard Masoner says:

    If you want something a little smoother, try Gates with NuVinci’s 360 CVT hub. I spent a day mountain biking on an Ellsworth setup this way and it’s sweet.

  • Richard Masoner says:

    @Sam – I have a Strida which is a belt drive folding bike. The belt isn’t a Gates but the idea’s the same. The “chainring” is very large (forget how big) so it’s certainly a solvable problem. I’ve also tried a belt drive Strida equipped with a Schlumpf Speed Drive. Speed Drive is a planetary gear system to gear up your crankset.

  • Constance Winters says:

    Off topic, but could you please remind me what that green pannier is?

  • Alan Barnard says:


    Thats’ the Arkel Shopper:


  • Alan Barnard says:


    That Ellsworth sounds sweet. I have a Breezer Infinity on the way, but it’ll be chain drive. I hope to have an opportunity to try the NuVinci/Gates combo at some point.


  • Alan Barnard says:


    Bike Friday recently brought to market a belt drive Tikit:

    Apparently, the issue isn’t sprocket size as much as clearance at the crank. BF was able to make it work, but on many bikes there is simply not enough clearance for the required large chainring.


  • Andrew Leinonen says:

    I imagine on most folding bikes it would be even more difficult to size an appropriate Gates sprocket simply because you have to compensate for such tiny rear wheels.

    One of my goofy side projects is a prone bike, wherein the cranks are behind the rear wheel, so it needs to be small enough that you can straddle it clearance to spare, so I’m going with a 20 incher. Just to get the gearing in the right ballpark, I need to use a massive 56T triathlon chainring, and even so I imagine I’ll be spinning out.

  • Constance Winters says:

    Thanks! That shopper almost looks like a classic pannier, especially on your pictures. Might give this one a try.

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