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Hey, what happened to the Belt Drive?

Posted Jan 05 2011 8:13pm
To answer this question for those that have been wondering....the belt drive is on hold until spring. I've switched to a chain drive for the remainder of winter.

And winter it is.....a quick moving system dropped about an inch of snow on us this morning right during my morning commute. I love riding while it's snowing. It always feels so peaceful when everything is covered in snow and the sounds of the city are muffled by the falling snow.
Above you can see my Surly Belt Check, minus the belt, during my evening commute home.

I'll try to explain my reasoning. But first I want to say I feel that belt drive bicycles are here to stay despite my inability to make it work for me in some extreme conditions. I recently read that Gates Carbon Belt Drives are currently on 90 different bicycle models from 24 different brands. There is even a website devoted to belt drive bicycles . A belt drive is a no-brainer for the urban cyclist market.
Even Phil Wood is getting on the band wagon with some fine looking components to upgrade your Gates pulleys with.
I renamed my Surly Cross Check . I call it my Surly Belt Check. Can I still call it a Belt Check if I'm running a chain drive? Yes I can. Because the frame is still modified to accept a belt any time I wish to switch it back.
Here it is with the belt drive installed back in November.
So what happened to make me decide to drop the belt drive for awhile? I wrote about my last experience with the belt here . I'm kind of calling it a perfect storm. Several things happened all at once that day to cause a major hiccup in the performance of my belt drive. It resulted in a four mile walk-a-bike to get home that day.

1) I set the tension of my belt using Gates guidelines and a Gates Tension Tester . But I have to admit the tension was set on the lighter side of correct tension. However I was in the green zone......but just barely.

2) That day we had slushy snow and temps around freezing for my morning commute. When I parked the bike outside my work place I knocked off as much slush as I could. While at work the temperature nose dived. Any remaining slush on the belt froze to the belt in several places. When I got on the bike, that frozen slush did not break off. It was almost like it was fused to the belt.

3) Additional snow had fallen and was on the roadway. Anyone that has ridden in these conditions with fenders has experienced this
(picture taken with the chain drive installed at a later date)
Snow gets caught up inside the fender. It then starts to collect at the seat stays and brake bridge. Much of the snow is pushed out of the fenders and falls down directly onto the chain and rear hub. This was happening that last day with the belt drive. With the belt frozen in several places, it wasn't seating completely onto the rear belt pulley on the rear hub. Where it wasn't seating completely, the falling snow from the fenders was working it's way in between the belt and the pulley. This caused the belt to come off the pulley. Four roadside attempts to re-tension the belt failed. It was nearly impossible to get the tension tight enough with the frozen ice on the belt.

I let it sit for a week and a half while I mulled over what had happened. I also considered many of the good tips and suggestions my readers had put in the comments.

Unfortunately it all boiled down to the fact that my winter commuter bike needs to be my most reliable bike I ride. I can't afford for this to happen on my way to work and be an hour late because I had to walk.

I took this new to me belt drive out into some extreme conditions with only two weeks experience with it. I need to back up, not think about it for awhile and then try it again in more friendly weather. Maybe once I gain more experience riding with the belt drive I can tackle some more severe weather and see how it handles then.

For now, it's all chain, all the time.
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