Recently, I was in the market for a new bike. I wanted something for around town that would be good for trips in the two- to eight-mile range that I typically ride. Ideally, I wanted a bike that I could simply grab and go without much worry but that would still be fun to ride.
After some research and thought, I decided to join a few others in our office and purchase a belt-driven, rather than chain-driven, bicycle. The belt system is made by Gates Carbon Drive, who has been a financial supporter of Bicycle Colorado for a number of years. Thank you Gates!
What is Carbon Drive?
The heart of the drive system is the CenterTrack belt. According to Gates, this custom-made carbon fiber belt is stronger than, and as efficient as, a traditional bike chain. The belts are created with stretch-free carbon fiber tensile cords and polyurethane technology, which allows the belt to be weather-resistant, flexible and durable.
The Gates Carbon Drive system has some great aspects that encouraged me to buy a belt-driven bike. First, it doesn’t require any grease. Since it’s not metal, it doesn’t rust. It requires very little maintenance. The belt weighs less than a chain, doesn’t stretch over time as chains do and lasts twice as long as the average chain. And perhaps most importantly, it’s smooth and remarkably quiet. The promise of smooth, quiet, clean, low-maintenance riding ultimately won me over.
The one negative (if you consider having to buy a new bike a negative!)
The one main drawback of the belt drive is that, since it can’t be taken apart and reattached like a chain can, it requires a belt-compatible frame. Replacing the chain-drive system with a belt system on a bike you already have isn’t practical or recommended (even though after riding one you may want to).
When belt drives first came out, bike manufacturers only used the system on high-end bikes, but recently companies have been integrating them into commuter bikes like the one I bought, a welcome development, I think, since the low-maintenance belt-drive system lends itself well to commuting in various kinds of weather.
So far, I’ve found the Carbon Drive to be exceptionally quiet and smooth. The bike seems to almost glide. I look forward to putting many miles on it.
Who else out there has tried a belt drive? How has your experience been? Please share it in the comments!