In 1987, British engineer and designer Mark Sanders introduced the Strida, an A-shaped collapsible bike with small wheels and a Gates belt drive.
Now, Denver-based Gates is expanding its belt-driven technology with the help of bike industry veteran Frank Scurlock, who introduced an updated singlespeed mountain bike version on his Spot Brand line at Interbike in 2007.
Scurlock, who’s been involved with what he calls ‘revolutionary’ bike companies over the years (RockShox, Maverick), has been a key liaison with bike manufacturers big and small to bring the Gates Carbon Drive System to the masses in the form of urban and transportation bikes the past two years.
Trek and Specialized are speccing the belt on several models for 2010, as are Civia, Seven Cycles, Co-Motion, Norco, Raleigh and nearly 65 independent frambuilders in the US.
According to Scurlock, lab tests have shown the Gates Carbon Belt Drive to outlast standard chains by twice the life, and doesn’t stretch like a chain. Gates has been supplying its polyrethane belts for use in motorcycles, combines and automobiles since 1917, when John Gates invented the rubber and fabric V-belt for agricultural and automotive use.
A Specialized Globe model uses the Gates belt drive
Because the Gates Carbon Drive System is designed with ultra violet (U.V.) and weather resistance, the belt doesn’t have problems with direct sunlight. Manufacturers must design a rear triangle that separates at the read drive-side dropout or stays to use the belt.
Trek has notched it up with its carbon road belt drive model for 2010
While the Gates Carbon Drive System works well (and quietly) on singlespeed mountain bikes, its best potential lies in powering internally-geared bikes with the popular Shimano Alfine and Rohloff Speedhub. Weight for a typical Gates drivetrain — including belt, cog and chainring — is 280g, less than that of a standard 9-speed chain.
Trek’s Travis Brown raced a Gates belt-driven custom cyclo-cross bike at CrossVegas in 2008.
For BikeRadar‘s complete Interbike 2009 reports, click here.