to belt drive or not to belt drive?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    to belt drive or not to belt drive?

    So I have been riding a FS 26" xc race bike for a while and never thought that having a single speed or 29er was in my future, yet here I am wanting one. I spent the past winter and most of this spring training on a steel fixed gear and have really come to love the ride.

    So after much research I thought I had decided on the Jamis Dragon One as the bike of choice. However there is something very intriguing about the Spot Brand Longboard 9 with a belt drive.

    I understand that the bike has been updated to have sliders instead of horizontal drop outs for 2010 and I have a set of stylo cranks I could replace the stock crank arms with should they give me any trouble. However living in Canada means that if something does go wrong I am on my own to fix it.

    so the question is if I should go with the Jamis dragon one, or if the new Spot brand longboard 9 is a viable choice?

  2. #2
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    I'm really intrigued with the belt drive system. Sometime in the next several months, I hope to begin building an urban bike with Shimano's new 11 speed Alfine internally geared hub. I think this system would be outstanding for greenway and urban commuting use. However, I'm not ready just yet to consider this system for off-road use. I just don't see mud and belts working well together in harsh riding environments. I don't know of another application where belts are subjected to mud, grit, rocks, etc? If someone on this forum has off-road belt experience please report your findings.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by speare
    So I have been riding a FS 26" xc race bike for a while and never thought that having a single speed or 29er was in my future, yet here I am wanting one. I spent the past winter and most of this spring training on a steel fixed gear and have really come to love the ride.

    So after much research I thought I had decided on the Jamis Dragon One as the bike of choice. However there is something very intriguing about the Spot Brand Longboard 9 with a belt drive.

    I understand that the bike has been updated to have sliders instead of horizontal drop outs for 2010 and I have a set of stylo cranks I could replace the stock crank arms with should they give me any trouble. However living in Canada means that if something does go wrong I am on my own to fix it.

    so the question is if I should go with the Jamis dragon one, or if the new Spot brand longboard 9 is a viable choice?
    Okay, so the reason(s) you need to even bother to consider a belt drive are ..... ? If you weren't blabbing away about all it's great points that you just sooooo needed to have then i'd say the choice is clear. (Jamis)
    I ..... need ..... DIRT!!!!!

    ... and cookies. :D

  4. #4
    ONE WORD: GRAVITY
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    SPOT BRAND!! gotta rep the hometown bike.

  5. #5
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    So the reason I'm interested by the belt drive is because of it's claimed efficiency and some of the storys told about it's ability to excel in adverse conditions. The other thing that I really like about the spot brand is simply that the bike is unique, it looks and functions in a cool way.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by speare
    So the reason I'm interested by the belt drive is because of it's claimed efficiency and some of the storys told about it's ability to excel in adverse conditions. The other thing that I really like about the spot brand is simply that the bike is unique, it looks and functions in a cool way.
    according to some studies, the chain drive is >98% efficient. even if the belt drive is 99% efficient (which it is not, and will never be...but even if) it still wouldn't be worth the potential hassle if something went wrong, and the cost of parts if necessary.

    the belt drive is cool, it's exotic and definitely unique (especially up here in Canada)...but that's all it is.
    what would rainbow unicorn do?

  7. #7
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    I had one on my MM/Rohloff, and although it was cool, worked fine, and I had no real problems (although it started to squeak at one point), I took it off.

    I really gained nothing by using it except the novelty of having one. I definitely wanted it, I'm glad I got it and was able to use it otherwise I'd still want one. But having had it, I like the user friendliness of a chain a lot better.

    If you've got a straight chainline and proper tension (and a SS or internal gear setup), there's no way a belt is more efficient in bad weather than a chain.

    Plus if you're on a SS gear changes can be more of a pain with a belt as you've got to have a couple of belts on hand if you change more than a few teeth.

    Final thing is tension...you have to be a lot more cognizant of tension with the belt.

    Bottom line, belts are nice, but IMO not value added enough to ditch the chain. Get a good 1/8" fat smooth cog/chainring and a good chain (spend a little more and get an Izumi track chain) and keep it properly lubed...it's like buttah.

  8. #8
    Harmonius Wrench
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    I am not convinced that a belt drive is a good thing for off roading.

    I have personally been able to get a belt drive to ratchet, (skip), during a test ride

    I have seen belt drives make that awful noise when they get dusty

    I have witnessed a belt drive in wet, muddy conditions that had to be walked up hills because it would ratchet, then it had to be changed out for the rider to continue.

    Belt drive systems have limited cog combination choices.

    For urban riders, yeah. I get it. Off road? Not so much.
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  9. #9
    I'm just messing with you
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    Quote Originally Posted by speare
    So the reason I'm interested by the belt drive is because of it's claimed efficiency
    I'd love to hear someone explain how a chain is inefficient. How is energy lost in the system? Inquiring minds want to know.
    Chasing bears through the woods drunk with a dull hatchet is strongly not advised

  10. #10
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    Take a look at the Norco Judan Belt

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by wv_bob
    I'd love to hear someone explain how a chain is inefficient. How is energy lost in the system? Inquiring minds want to know.
    Energy is lost mostly in heat because of friction, but that also applies to everything else on your bike too.

  12. #12
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    Ted Guitar summed it all up.

    I'll buttress his claims: it can skip (even in urban settings, when applying some serious torque) and they squeak when contaminated.

    Go chain.

  13. #13
    Hybrid Leftys aren't real Moderator
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    I have one on my Milk Money, and really can't say anything bad about it at this point. Got my issues worked out now, it just works, but it's not as though it's rewriting the rules of the game, it's just cool, and super stealthy

    Skipping due to improper (not enough) tension? Yep, seen it, now fixed.

    Adverse conditions? Seems to like them just fine. Fine powdery really cold snow makes it sound freaky, but it worked without incident.

    Belts last longer than chains, so that's a plus.

    My one anecdote on efficiency? I'd been using the same crank with a chain on a previous build. Once in use with a belt? I could feel the cranks flex on steep climbs, never could with a chain. Does it help my power? Doubt it, but I sure did feel the difference in that sense.
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  14. #14
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    I like mt belt drive, runs fine in all conditions, is quiet, and I dont worry about the chain breaking or comming off the ring while ridding steep hills. It saves alot of weight, 5.5 oz.
    The tension is simple with the new slidding dropouts. First time out I hit the steep hill on chutes and ladders and the belt racheted, one turn on each D.O. screw and no more problems.
    That being said, I wish there were more cog choises, it is expensive, and is not that much better than a chain.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails to belt drive or not to belt drive?-p4080027.jpg  


  15. #15
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    Weight savings are nigh-nonexistent

    Just FYI, the *system* weight is basically the same as an 8/9 speed chain and decent quality chainring and cog. The belt itself is WAY lighter than a chain, but the sprockets are WAY heavier than the cog/ring they replace, plus you pretty much have to run some form of chain tensioning screws/tugs to get sufficient tension.

    So the bottom line is that there are some good reasons to use a belt, but the weight isn't one of them. Gates has, as far as I know, stopped making any claims about efficiency as well. I would assume it's a little bit worse than a chain, or at best, the same.

    More details: http://waltworks.blogspot.com/2008/0...-thoughts.html

    -Walt

  16. #16
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    Callin' B.S. On Walt

    I weighed my bike with the chain drive 32 tooth Boone ti chain ring and a 20 tooth surly cog with a sram pc 8 chain. I road it for two weeks waiting for my belt drive to get to me. It weighed 22.33. Switched to the belt drive 39x25, it weighed 21.93
    thats 5.8 oz. 165 grams lighter. I think that is substancial. No offence Walt, I love your frames, but you are wrong about the weight savings.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails to belt drive or not to belt drive?-p3300002.jpg  

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    to belt drive or not to belt drive?-p4080026.jpg  


  17. #17
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    I have been running the belt drive for about a month now and here are my observations so far.
    Pros
    Nice and quiet, especially in muddy conditions, I never have to worry about lubing or cleaning my drive train. Belt is way lighter than my chain. Belt will last longer than a chain (that is what i was told)

    Cons
    Initial belt drive setup is expensive
    Cogs are expensive too! I can run a 39 front and a 20,22 and 24 without getting a new belt. Someone earlier claimed you need a new belt and that is not true.
    Last edited by cbrock450; 05-21-2010 at 09:51 AM.

  18. #18
    Frame Building Moderator
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    Well, I weighed all the parts too.

    As compared to my PC951/34t Rennen DH ring/20t King Cog, the belt/46t sprocket/28t sprocket was exactly 82g lighter. System weight of 338g for the chain drive, 256g for the belt (with no chain tensioners, chainring bolts, etc, for either setup).

    There are pictures on the blog of the belt weights, I'm not going to bother pulling off and weighing the chain stuff again. You'll just have to take my word for it.

    I'm guessing that your bike got 165g lighter because the cog and ring you were running are actually pretty heavy. An aluminum ring and better quality cog than the Surly would result in a much lighter setup than what you were running.

    You could also make an argument that you should add 20 or 30g to the belt system weight for the various frame-opening solutions needed to install it, I suppose, if you were building everything from scratch. And FWIW, I never have to run a chain tensioner of any kind with my chain drive, just good bolts in the sliders, so you could add another 20-30g for that.

    Hence my argument that it's sort of a wash.

    I have no particular axe to grind here - I think the belt is neat, and I'm planning to put one on a townie at some point. Not interested offroad, but that's just me.

    -Walt

  19. #19
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    so essentially a belt drive is pretty much the same as a chain except:
    - its quiter
    - works better in poor conditions
    - potentially lasts longer
    but:
    - its very hard to set up
    - expensive

    as for the spot brand longboard 9 i would take it that its a good 29er regardless of what drive train I put on it?

  20. #20
    Keep on Rockin...
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    If there is one thing on a SS bike that leaves virtually no room for improvement is the chain. Belt drives are a fix to a problem that does not exist. I can't believe this is still being discussed.

  21. #21
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    Wow, you gotta figure a titanium boone chainring is light, but the chain and the surly stainless steel cog are not. That said, Walt also has proof in the numbers. It is a wash, fine.

    I was just debating this exact topic of CHAIN vs BELT DRIVE a few months ago in the winter rain season as I ride daily rain or shine for commutes. I lubed the chain heavily but didn't so much have a problem with getting my jeans/pants dirty from the chain (White Lightning wax!).

    I called around to a few custom frame builders (titanium) and the Paragon chainstay split option added $1000 to the build!!! I think it's like $40 at most in parts from Paragon. On top of that, $400 for the Gates proprietary hardware since you cant use your old chainring, cog, chain. But you can use your old 104 bcd crankset.

    Anyways, I saw two pros and decided it wasn't worth it. 1) No lube 2) quiet. The third doesn't count and that's "wow/cool/swoon" factor.

    Plus I took a test ride at the local bike shop. The TREK DISTRICT comes in belt drive if you want to test the sensation to see if its worth it. Seeing the belt drive on the boutique Spot's was sweet. Wet my appetite. Seeing the belt drive on a mainstream commuter was like the experience of something cool getting into the hands of all the dorks, just made it uncool.

    Hope this adds some insight, either way, a lot of the previous posters added plenty of insight.
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  22. #22
    One of the Many
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    I have gone back to a chain after a month of experimenting with tension and alignments. I couldn't get the belt to stop ratcheting under loads so the chain went on so I could enjoy riding my new bike rather than fiddling with it on the side of the trail. Reading these posts and a similar topic in the SS forum made the decision easier, thanks very much gents.

  23. #23
    Hybrid Leftys aren't real Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbrock450
    i skip the belt like crazy on steep climbs
    Me too, till I finally got enough tension. I simply could not believe it was that, tried multiple hub rebuilds, blaming my I9 wheel, tried different wheels, then I said, okay, it's gotta be the tension, and yep, it was. It's freaky how tight it has to be, but once there? I have been silent on every climb to date.
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  24. #24
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    Everything said here (pros and cons) about the belt drive is a valid comment, but there is no better feeling than coming back from a wet muddy or dry dusty ride and just hanging your bike up for the next ride without having to do anything to it.
    Once the tension and alignment problems have been sorted out, a belt drive is ZERO maintenance in any conditions I have thrown at it.
    Match that with good quality hubs, BB, Headset and a carbon fork, and you will spend more time riding and less time tinkering.

  25. #25
    I'm just messing with you
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    Quote Originally Posted by speare
    as for the spot brand longboard 9 i would take it that its a good 29er regardless of what drive train I put on it?
    Longboard 9 is not belt-adaptable, it's geared. You need the plain old Longboard, no 9.
    Chasing bears through the woods drunk with a dull hatchet is strongly not advised

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