It rained a lot at Eurobike, torrentially, for around 30 hours straight at one point. One of us took a belt drive commuter bike with a geared hub and full mudguards to ride around between the show and the camp site. One of us took a jump bike with wide tyres, and a seat only slightly higher than the bottom bracket. Guess which one of us was incredibly smug? The answer was none of us, when we all got back and found our tents were leaking. That said though, the commuter bike hasn’t had any maintenance done in the past year, and has been through all kinds of rain and filth without a single hiccup (and it didn’t soak anyone’s entire back and bum through in Friedrichshafen either).
Gates Carbon Drive have been supplying chainrings, sprockets and belts for a decade now. Between Gates and various frame manufacturers such as Nicolai and Cavalerie, they’ve made a small ecosystem (relative to the rest of the bike industry) and kept it running. It may be a niche, but it seems to be a healthy one. To celebrate that, Gates have launched some special edition white belts. In itself not so newsworthy, but there was a Nicolai on their stand that very much caught our eye.
The ION-G13 is a 130mm, 29er with Nicolai’s GeoMetron geometry, four bar linkage suspension, and a Pinion gearbox. We couldn’t quite see through the mud, but the gearbox is either a Pinion 1.12, or a 1.18 (you can probably guess how many speeds each of those has), respectively giving gear ranges of 600% or 636% – which is a wider range than most 2x or 3x setups. Gearing on the belt is 1:1, with a 39t sprocket at each end. Unlike most belt drive bikes, it also has a little idler wheel behind the gearbox. Of course, the suspension is designed to have no chain growth whatsoever, as the belt has to run at the correct tension. Nicolai say they’ve tuned the frame to work specifically with Fox suspension, but also do it with a Rockshox option too.
One of the ways of testing that is with the sound the belt makes when you twang it, so Gates have launched an app that uses the microphone on your smartphone.
What do you think? Would you buy a belt driven mountain bike? Is not being able to fix a broken drivetrain with a quicklink a worthwhile tradeoff for almost maintenance free performance in bad weather and rarely if ever having to clean it?