Bikes are breaking the chain Ease of use could help industry's popularity surge If you've ever been riding down the street and had your pants cuff ripped asunder, there may be a revolution at hand. Trek Bicycle is part of a movement to bury the finger-pinching, pants-munching, rust-prone sprocket and chain, and usher in an era of belt-driven bikes that might have the inventors of the self-propelled transportation Schwinning in their graves.
Wisconsin-based Trek is introducing two models this holiday season that are chainless, instead using technology most often found in things like motorcycles and snowmobiles. While some smaller custom bike makers have used them before, Trek is the first to use the technology for mass-produced bicycles.
"People are really finding bicycles to be a very simple solution to some very complex problems that they face every day," said Eric Bjorling, Trek's lifestyle brand manager. "Anything we can do in our design to really help them and help them live that lifestyle is probably better for both the consumers and us."
Bjorling said the new belts are a low-maintenance solution to a chain, which has roughly 3,000 parts including all the links and connectors. Aside from the whisper-quiet ride, the lighter and longer-lasting carbon-fiber composite belts won't rust, can't be cut, won't stretch or slip and won't leave grease marks around your ankles. A guard over the belt-drive and the construction of the system makes getting your pants stuck unlikely, Bjorling said.(Read more.)
The appeal of bicycle commuting should continue to attract new riders in 2009, regardless of the fluctuating trends of gas prices. Among other things--such as new bicycle commuting books--there will likely be a flurry of technical tweaks as the bicycle industry appeals to the novice bicyclist. One very exciting possibility is the belt drive.
Trek Bicycles is the first major bicycle brand to introduce a chainless, belt driven bike. The chain has been a proven feature of bicycle propulsion for more than 130 years, with some modest issues with lubrication and replacement. Chains aren't going away anytime soon. But the new belt drive is an appealing upgrade. Trek's carbon fiber composite belt is reinforced to prevent stretch, and is supposedly lighter, quieter, and require no lubrication and minimal maintenance.
This belt drive development is another exciting indication that the bicycle industry is starting to wake up to the profit potential of the commuting market. For the past two decades, bicycle makers' R&D efforts targeted the competitive cyclist market, leading to such marvels as 10 speed cassettes and carbon fiber cranksets. Technological advances that offered absolutely nothing to the commuting bicyclist. Maybe the industry is finally starting to come around.