Gallery: Doug’s Custom Belt Drive Surly Cross Check

Doug's Belt Drive Surly Cross Check
Doug's Belt Drive Surly Cross Check
Doug's Belt Drive Surly Cross Check

[Doug sent us these photos of his custom, belt drive Surly Cross Check. —ed.]

When I decided to convert a bike to belt drive, something I’ve been thinking about since I first learned about the Gates Carbon Drive back in 2007, a Cross Check retrofit was my first choice. I bought a new 2010 Surly Cross Check frame from Ben’s Cycle in Milwaukee. It originally came in a Beef Gravy Brown color. Dave Wages from Ellis Cycles picked up the frame for me and took it to be dipped and stripped. He then cut the right rear seat stay and installed a Paragon Machine Works stainless steel tube splitter to accommodate the belt installation. This was a challenge as the seat stays taper quite a bit. He had to locate the splitter just below the brake mount. Even then he had to remove some material from the splitter on a lathe to make it fit into the seat stay tubing on the lower side. While he had it, I also had him braze on some low rider rack mounts on the forks (these now come standard on Cross Check’s). After Dave was done, I asked him to ship it to a painter in the Twin Cities area to have the orange powder coat applied. I also used this painter for my Xtracycle conversion back in 2007. I changed the model name from Cross Check to Belt Check. It’s not an official Surly model. Note that I voided any warranty on the frame as soon as Dave cut into it.

I had hoped it would be the perfect winter commuter bicycle with the Gates Belt Drive. I learned the hard way during the first real snowstorm I rode in that the rear sprocket made for the Nexus and Alfine internally geared hubs does not shed snow as advertised. Snow quickly built up on the sprocket and quickly discharged the belt right off. Other winter riders have experienced the same issue when riding in snow with the Gates Carbon Drive. Gates upcoming new Centertrack design should solve this issue. I rode with a chain drive the rest of the winter. Now that it is Spring, the belt drive is back on and I’m looking forward to riding with it.

Some component highlights for this build include:

  • Gates 118 tooth belt
  • Rear sprocket 24 tooth
  • Front sprocket 50 Tooth
  • Crank: Sugino double JIS square taper
  • Pedals: Shimano PD-A530
  • Brakes: Paul Component Touring Canti
  • Saddle: WTB SST
  • Handle Bars: Nitto Noodle
  • Brake Levers: Cane Creek SCR-5
  • Stem & seat post: from the parts bin
  • Front Hub: Shimano Deore XT
  • Rear Hub: 8-spd Shimano Nexus IGH
  • Rims: Salsa Delgado
  • Fenders: VO Zeppelin 52mm
  • Tires Winter: Schwalbe Winter Marathon 700 x 40
  • Tires Summer: Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700 x 35
  • DT shifter boss covers: Problem Solvers Shifter Boss Covers
  • Rear Rack: Civia Hyland

Doug Robertson

12 Responses to “Gallery: Doug’s Custom Belt Drive Surly Cross Check”

  • Sunil says:

    Wow. Beautiful. Want.

  • John Ferguson says:

    Nice bike – although I have to admit to being a bit confused as to why you didn’t just get a Kingfield frame if you wanted a QBP sourced belt drive commuter with canti mounts. Why go custom when you didn’t have to? Is there something special about the Cross Check that you had to keep that the Kingfield doesn’t have?

  • Doug Robertson says:

    @John Ferguson

    To be honest, this is the first time I’ve heard of a Kingfield. I didn’t shop around for a belt drive bike. I wanted to one of my current bikes to have the option to go belt drive. That’s kind of the thought process I was going through. Initially, I always intended to convert my Cross Check that I had been riding for many years. That was the plan right up until I went ahead and did it. Then at the last minute I decided to go with a new Cross Check frame because the semi-horizontal drop-outs were longer on the newer Cross Checks. Thsi gives more room for tension adjustment whether it’s a belt drive or SS, fixed or IGH.

    Looking at the Kingfield now, I’m sure I wouldn’t have considered it for one major reason. When I run fenders I like to have forward facing drop-outs for ease of wheel removal. It’s a personal preference. Also my Cross Check easily fit 700 x 40 studded tires with fenders and room to spare. Couldn’t run those with the Kingfield.


  • Aaron C says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t go with a Jtek bar-end shifter. I don’t think I could stand having a franken-shifter stuck on the bar like that.

  • Doug Robertson says:

    @ Aaron

    I bought my first Nexus hub prior to the J-tek coming out. So I already had the Hubbub adaptor and twist shifter. I’ve grown to really like it. The big twist shifter is specially nice during the winter months when I’m wearing big insulated lobster mitts. It’s very easy to grab onto and shift.

    The J-tek also lacks a fine tuning cable adjustment barrel. In cold weather I find I have to tweak the cable adjustment at least once a month. I’m not sure how you’d do that without an adjusting barrel on the J-tek shifter?


  • Aaron C says:

    Why not use an inline cable adjuster?

  • Carter says:

    Very nice, and an interesting read.

    @ Aron

    I can back Doug up on the ease of use of the grip shift on drop bars. I was suspicious at first, but have grown to like it. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll upgrade to the jtek+inline adjuster, but for now the grip one suites me.


    I’m glad to hear about the upcoming centertrack design. I’ve been closely following Alan’s experiences with the Bryant, and have been considering a belt drive for some time now… but those reports of snow dislodging the belt have so far kept me from going all in.

  • Doug Robertson says:

    Aaron C,

    That’s a great idea. But no need for me to find out if it works. I’m happy with the Hubbub mounted twist shifter.

  • Stephen D. says:


    Nice bike! Just curious…how did you get the “beltline” to line up so accurately? Would you let me know the Sugino crankset model you used and the bottom bracket make, model, and width? Also, do you know the bottom bracket shell width?

    Gates calls for a 45.35mm beltline in their technical manuals. Did you use that measurement to determine the exact placement of the front sprocket?


  • Doug Robertson says:

    @ Stephen D

    There wasn’t any pre-planning. I didn’t realize how important the belt alignment was until I assembled the bike and discovered the belt wouldn’t stay on the front sprocket. That’s when I got help from my LBS. It required a different BB axle length and a whole new crankset. I don’t know all the measurements. I can let you know all the specs later when I’m home. What I do know is the BB is a Shimano UN54….I think it’s a 103mm axle. I don’t recall the exact model for the Sugino crank. It was a double crank QBP listed and came without any chainrings. It was much cheaper than buying a crankset with chainrings. I’ll see if I can come up with a model number. Eventually we nailed the belt alignment, but it was a lot of guessing.


  • Doug Robertson says:

    @ Stephen

    Ok, here’s the info you requested:

    Sugino Crankset model: the drive side crank is stamped RD2R TL. It’s a double crank, the Gates Sprocket is mounted on the outside of the spider.

    BB: Shimano UN54 103mm

    Shell width: 68mm

    I measured the chain(belt) line to the center of the front sprocket. It falls in right around 45mm. I guess I did nail it. I’m lucky the back cog is lining up with the front.


  • Stephen D. says:

    @ Doug,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to get me this detailed information!

    I’ve made two attempts are re-gearing an existing IGH belt drive bike, and have never been able to get the belt aligned so it doesn’t slip off the front.

    I’m now inspired to give it a go, again.

    Thank you for your help!

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