After enjoying niche success with the Gates Carbon Drive belt system for singlespeed mountain and cyclocross bikes, Spot is moving into high-end city bikes. With an internal 11-speed hub mated to a belt drive under a guard, the Wazee is a low-maintenance, high-performance machine for cruising the city streets — or wherever your fancy might take you.
The Wazee is a fun and easy bike to ride. The swept-back mustache handlebar sets your torso fairly upright, but those who want get lower can flip the bars and drop the stem. We preferred to sit up and enjoy the view, moving easily through the gears with the right-hand shifter.
Pedaling down the road, the Wazee is remarkably quiet, thanks to the belt drive that will never, ever need to be lubed, no matter how many times you leave the bike out in the rain and snow. Cost aside, a belt is the ideal commuter/city bike solution.
In addition to the clean outward appearance, the internal drivetrain also provides the very welcome ability to shift when the bike is stopped. When you coast downhill to stop in a big gear, for example, you can shift into an easy gear while sitting at a stoplight, then resume pedaling without a hiccup. With a standard derailleur-equipped bike, by contrast, you have to pedal to shift as the chain moves up or down the gears; in the above situation, you’d start in a monster gear after the stoplight. With the Wazee, you can shift with one hand at a stop while sipping coffee with the other, then pedal off like a civilised commuter.
Using a 46-tooth front ring, the Shimano Alfine has an effective range of 10-45t in the rear. Compare that to the 11-42t range of SRAM’s XX1 mountain bike system. The Alfine hub has an oil port to keep things running smoothly without having to do any complex dismantling. The gear range is adequate for city riding, although we might go a touch smaller on the front ring to take the edge off sharp hills.
Hydraulic disc brakes add to the civilised feel; braking is easy, well-modulated and powerful. A good thing, too, as the bike weighs a hefty 27.27lb/12.37kg.
The Wazee’s high price will limit its mass appeal; outright cost aside, high-value bikes can be a liability for many city riders who lock their bikes outside in downtown areas. Spot has taken some measures to deter the unfortunately common theft of wheels from a bike by foregoing quick-releases for bolt-on wheels.
For fair-weather riders, the Wazee could be ideal as is; for others, the lack of fenders is a miss. Our first ride, for example, was preceded by installing an SKS rear fenders to ward off splashes. A city bike at this price should have matching fenders installed. There are mounts for fenders and racks. Spot says bike shops will outfit the bike as local conditions warrant or the rider prefers — but we'd prefer not to be upcharged for this.
Our other nit to pick is how high the bike sits. The bottom-bracket sits about an inch above that of a standard road bike (BB drop is 6.1cm). On a mountain bike, this gives you move clearance for obstacles, but on this type of bike we’d prefer a much lower bottom bracket for ease putting a foot down for stops and starts.
Some testers weren’t crazy about the paintjob. We leave that judgment to you.
There is some cool technology going on at the back end. Spot’s Kobe dropout allows the belt to be slid into the frame without an obvious coupling in the bike. This design also allows you to remove and reinstall the rear wheel without re-tensioning the belt (as you would when you remove the wheel on a fixed-gear bike, for example).
Should you need to check tension, Spot has a nifty smartphone app that detects vibration frequency when you pluck the belt like a guitar string.
But for most riders, it is the simplicity of the experience that will be most appealing, having the clean look and feel of a singlespeed with the function of a geared bike, and wrapped up in a mostly sensible city package save the absence of fenders.