Low Maintenance

Low Maintenance

I gave the new bike it’s first wash today. The fact that there was no chain or derailleur to lube after three weeks of riding and a wash job was a real treat. It was also cool to dry the bike and come away with zero grease on the towel. Lovin’ the belt drive…

27 Responses to “Low Maintenance”

  • Bob Bryant says:

    Alan, Have you ridden in any rain or did the belt get dirty? How often do you need to tension the belt?

  • Brian C says:

    Alan:
    I am jealous. I cleaned my wife’s soma bike last weekend before returning it to her. Then I had to clean my Rocky Mountain bike. I was covered in grease by the time I had that one looking usable. Definitely like the internal hub on my wife’s, and would love to give the Bryant a shot – particularly with an 11-speed hub.

    Maybe I will see if I can find one in Portland if I go down for the bridge pedal this year…

  • Alan says:

    @Bob

    Yes, I rode in the rain and the belt picked up a little dirt, but no more than the frame or other non-lubed parts.

    The belt doesn’t stretch so it doesn’t require tension adjustment after the initial set-up (assuming your bottom bracket is in good shape). From Gates:

    “The Carbon Drive belt does not stretch over time like a chain. This means you don’t have to re-tension the belt, or replace the belt due to stretch. This also means no excessive wear on pulleys due to stretch.”

    Alan

  • Matt says:

    Strange, I have a Trek Soho belt drive and I find every time I take off and put back on the rear wheel (factory tire was punctured in multiple places with glass) there is a secondary adjustment to be made with regards to belt tension after the initial tensioning. I don’t think this necessarily means the belt is stretching though. I think it is more likely that since I am measuring the tension by feel it takes a couple times to get it right. Alan, have you had any reason to remove the rear wheel by chance?

  • Doug Robertson says:

    Today I took the studded tires off the Surly Belt Check and replaced the chain drive with the Gates belt drive I originally planned to use on this bicycle. I had disastrous results trying to ride in snow with the Gates Belt Drive. It required a switch back to chain drive until Spring. Now I’m looking forward to using the belt combined with an 8 speed Nexus IGH.

  • Alan says:

    @Matt

    I’ve removed the rear wheel a number of times. I use a Gates tension gauge to set the tension and haven’t found the need for the secondary adjustment you’re describing.

    Alan

  • Jay Epstein says:

    No grease on the towel – sounds pretty nice.
    Is this the bike you’d chose for a long commute, say 15 miles each direction?

    Thanks.

  • Alan says:

    @Jay

    “Is this the bike you’d chose for a long commute, say 15 miles each direction?”

    Yes, absolutely.

  • Rick says:

    Doug,

    Is that Surly Belt Check a stock item or did you have the frame modified for the break and horizontal drop outs? I have not seen it in any of the literature or web sites?

  • Jay (Epstein) in Tel Aviv says:

    Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator shows a range of 29.6-90.8 gear inches with this setup.

    How easy would it be to change the cog or the chainring if you wanted lower (or high) gearing?

    Is it just a matter of buying and installing the replacement or is there more involved due to the belt drive?

    Thanks.

  • RI Swamp Yankee says:

    Friday, I spent a good hour tinkering with my FD while sitting on a park bench halfway home. Cheap topswing design + weird mounting (it has it’s own tube welded to the top of the BB) + warped chainrings = unhappy shifting, chain rub, chain falling off, and general unpleasantness.

    It was assembled with the derailleur at the wrong angle, which has been giving me fits since I bought the bike – I’ve been thru two shifters and was thinking of swapping out the FD when I finally figured it out, after losing the chain yet again.

    Belt drive is looking mighty nice. Just wish the IGH’s had a bit more range – there are times when I need the granny gear and the 34t cog, and could use more. I don’t need 11 speeds, just 5 and a lot of range between ‘em.

  • David Bolles says:

    I feel like the belt drive would be great. How would it handle steep hills though? I have one at the end of each direction of my commute.
    Though I may not be able to get set up with this belt drive, it does make having a single chain ring in the front very appealing…

  • Velouria says:

    Wow, you wash *and* dry your bikes! : )

  • Derek says:

    Alan and others with belt drives,
    I’m in my second year with my Trek Soho and I find that the belt gets squeaky once it dries out after a rain/snow storm. I’m in New England so the bike picks up a LOT of grit and grime from wet roads at this time of year. Have others with belt drives noticed this problem?

  • Alan says:

    @Jay

    With the Alfine hub, you’re limited to the 24T rear pulley. There are other front pulleys and belts available, the limiting factor being frame clearance at the chainstay. You can see the full list of available parts here:

    http://www.gatescarbondrive.com/forbikemakers.php?lang=us

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @David

    In general, IGH drivetrains are not as low or as wide as triple derailleur drivetrains (other than the Rohloff). You might want to determine the low gear you require on your current bike, then compare that number to the gearing on the belt drive bikes you’re considering.

    Alan

  • Micheal Blue says:

    Low maintenance sounds really great. The question I have is how the belt drive performs in winter when there is slush/snow. Could it possibly prevent the belt from engaging the pulleys? I need to use my bike in all seasons. Perhaps having a full belt cover would really help.

  • Alan says:

    @Derek

    It sounds as if your conditions are more demanding than mine. So far, I haven’t noticed a squeak caused by dirt, though I did have to adjust out a squeak caused by mis-alignment. Belt alignment is fairly critical to quiet operation, so you may want to play with your belt alignment. Ideally you want the belt to run just the tiniest bit off of the inner flange on the rear pulley. The procedure is to pull back the non-drive side axle until the belt starts to walk toward the outside of the rear pulley, then back off a little at a time to the point at which the belt runs just slightly off of the flange (approx. 0.5mm).

    If you have any questions, contact the folks at Gates – they’re super helpful.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Velouria

    Yeah, I know… ;-)

  • Derek says:

    @ Michael Blue,
    I’ve ridden through 2 Maine winters with my belt drive (including a couple of snow storms) and have had no problems. I’ve heard of others have problems with ice build-up in the cogs but I’ve never experienced that (knock on wood).
    @Alan,
    Thanks. The LBS where I purchased the bike did not have any helpful feedback for me so I’ll check with Gates.

  • Alan says:

    I too have heard mixed reports on ice build up, with some people claiming no issues, and others having trouble with clogging. The new CenterTrack coming out later this year is said to address this issue.

    Alan

  • joe bike portland says:

    Nice review. A couple of notes. To improve hill climbing, smaller Gates beltrings are available though as a mod, not out of the box. Secondly, I think Norco should have used the Axiom Streamline rack. It doesn’t look as good but is light and super stiff. Joe Bike offers the 11-speed upgrade as a roughly $400 upgrade, by the way.

  • Stephen D. says:

    @ Jay Epstein (Tel Aviv)

    I’ll leave out all the gory details, but I’ve tried on two separate occasions to change the stock gearing on my IGH belt drive commuter, both without success. So I’m back to the factory 55 x 24 gearing which is too high for the hills on my commute. I’ve even recruited the help from three different bike shops, but the belt alignment problems were still not solved.

    It’s an expensive change, almost $300 for a new belt an chainring. Fortunately, both shops gave me a full refund when I returned the parts.

    The Gates website says that a 5-bolt 130BCD 46T front ring will be available this year. This will give one full gear range lower than the current gearing and will solve my alignment issues, but Gates still hasn’t answered my email regarding when it might be available.

    Trying to be a belt-drive fan, but still not there…

  • Doug Robertson says:

    @ Rick

    My Surly Belt Check is a modified Cross Check that I re-named myself. Dave Wages of Ellis Cycles added a drive side seat stay splitter to enable me to use a belt.

    I had troubles in the snow. Any snow build-up on the rear hub caused the belt to come right off the rear cog. Others had this problem. Gates is putting into production a rear cog for the Nexus that uses the upcoming Center Track design but uses the same width belt that I am currently using so that I don’t have to swap out the front sprocket for a new narrower Center Track sprocket. The people at Gates (who I haven’t found to be very friendly or helpful when there is a design problem like this) have told me the new rear cog is going into production later this month. QBP will be carrying it.

    The people at Old Spokes Home, a bicycle shop in VT, acquired a prototype of this new cog for a customer with the same issues as me. They wrote about it and have pictures of it on their blog. Google ‘em.

  • John Ferguson says:

    One more question for Alan – this is all pretty new so I don’t have many people to bounce ideas off of..

    I’ve been noticing that the Bryant dropout design is different from some other belt drive bikes such as the recently reviewed Norco Ceres and the Spot bikes. The Ceres and the others I’ve seen have a vertical dropout that is attached to horizontal sliders, which seems to make sense in that the hub itself is unlikely to slip in the dropouts. The Bryant has a different dropout design – with the horizontal dropouts it makes the hub attachment torque a relevant issue because if the hub is attached with insufficient torque it will slip in the drive side under heavy load. Over torqueing might be a concern as well.

    Alan, you’ve said that you have removed the rear wheel a couple of times. When you put it back in, did you pay particular attention to the torque on the hub attaching nuts, and have you run into any slipping issues?

    Thanks..

  • Alan says:

    Hi John,

    I prefer the sliding vertical dropout design on the Norco and Spot bikes to the horizontal dropout design on my Bryant. On those bikes, it’s easier to dial-in tension and alignment, and removing the wheel doesn’t mess up your prior adjustments; the wheel just drops straight down and goes straight back in.

    Slippage is not an issue on the Civia. They’re using a BMX-style tensioner on the drive side:

    http://bit.ly/en1HPI

    This keeps the axle from slipping forward. On the non-drive side they’re using a conventional axle nut combined with a Shimano anti-rotation washer for the IGH.

    Civia is currently developing a tensioner specifically for the Bryant that has a built-in anti-rotation tab. Those are supposed to be available by summer. When those come out, I’ll retrofit my bike with one on each side. It won’t be a 100% perfect set-up, but it should at least partially mitigate the above mentioned adjustment issue (the plan is to loosen the tensioners by 1/2 turn, remove the wheel, replace the wheel and tighten by 1/2 turn to get back to the original position).

    Alan

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