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  1. #1
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    Gates belt drive, opinions?

    I'm in the process of considering whether to start deciding if I should buy a new Co-Motion. (Which means I'm definitely getting one, the question is when ) I want a Periscope, so that my stoker can have the option to be captain, and either of us can ride with a stokid selected from stoker's extensive collection of grandchildren and other small relatives. The question I have is, should I get the Gates belt-drive sync "chain". I like the idea of it, because it's all high-tech and stuff, but I've never even seen a belt-drive bike before, and it its an extra several hundred bucks. I don't care about the few ounces of weight saving, but if it really does work better than a chain, with less maintenance, that seems like a big plus. So, does anyone have one? If so, how is it?

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    We got it very recently (this week) so I can't speak to long term effects, but right now we're loving that belt.

    Once you get the chainline straight, and then shim the spiders so that the rings are exactly parallel (turns out most crank spiders just aren't that perfectly made) it's completely worry-free. We get great power transfer (and I can put in a LOT of force) , it's dead silent, no grease marks on anything, and all in all it looks really sweet (yea, so the engineer finally admits that aesthetics do matter). Also, due to the high tension, there's the ability to, without any dead-zone, move the rear cranks forward or back ( I don't know about tandems but on my motorcycle the nature of chains leads o a bit of 'play' between clockwise and ccw torque)

  3. #3
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Belt drive . . .
    NO chain tattoo with belt drive?! We use the hot wax method to lubricate our chains and . . . suprise! . . . NO chain tattoo!
    Weight savings? Have a tandem built without an eccentric (why not?) and you can save 4+ ounces of weight.
    An eccentric is not really a necessity . . . as chain 'stretches' you can replace part of the old chain to take care of 'stretch' . . . repeat as needed.
    Eventually, even with an eccentric, you will replace that cross-over chain.
    Yes, Gates belt drive has the latest 'bling' effect.
    Have ridden a prototype tandem with belt cross over drive several years ago (before Co-Mo did it). However the co$t of the custom chainrings/belt outweighed any advantages for us.
    Just our input/opinion . . .
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
    Belt drive . . .
    NO chain tattoo with belt drive?! We use the hot wax method to lubricate our chains and . . . suprise! . . . NO chain tattoo!
    Weight savings? Have a tandem built without an eccentric (why not?) and you can save 4+ ounces of weight.
    An eccentric is not really a necessity . . . as chain 'stretches' you can replace part of the old chain to take care of 'stretch' . . . repeat as needed.
    Eventually, even with an eccentric, you will replace that cross-over chain.
    Yes, Gates belt drive has the latest 'bling' effect.
    Have ridden a prototype tandem with belt cross over drive several years ago (before Co-Mo did it). However the co$t of the custom chainrings/belt outweighed any advantages for us.
    Just our input/opinion . . .
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
    How well has the hot wax lubrication worked for you? I've heard (sheldon brown probably the main original source) that the wax just doesn't do quite as well and so chains wear quicker. If you've had good luck with it I may have to try it on our rear chain.

  5. #5
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Just about any question you'd have about the Gates was answered in the epic thread:

    Carbon Timing Belt System


    Efficiency, weight, advantages, disadvantages, cost-analysis, its all there.

    I've got a Gates on my new tandem, and I will say it is nice not having to worry about chain grease from a long section of the bike. If you like discussing your tandem with interested cyclists, it is a boon, because it will be the first thing half-bike cyclists will notice and comment upon.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    Just about any question you'd have about the Gates was answered in the epic thread:

    Carbon Timing Belt System


    Efficiency, weight, advantages, disadvantages, cost-analysis, its all there.

    I've got a Gates on my new tandem, and I will say it is nice not having to worry about chain grease from a long section of the bike. If you like discussing your tandem with interested cyclists, it is a boon, because it will be the first thing half-bike cyclists will notice and comment upon.
    I will search before posting... I will search before posting... I will search before posting...

    Thanks for the link, I'll give that thread a read over.

  7. #7
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have been using the 'hot wax' method since the mid-1970s.
    Works great for us; asides from the 'no mess' on the hands/leg tattoo, it actually gives longer chain life.
    Used hot wax when we lived in Michigan and still use it here in Arizona.
    Chain is quiet and the wax gets in by the chain pins, where lubrication is actually needed.
    In wet weather conditions you may have to re-wax a bit more frequently. Here in AZ we easily get several thousand miles in between re-waxings.
    With the outside chain plates surfaces dry, dirt does not stick to 'em like with wet lubes.
    When I hear the slightest squeak of the chain, then I know its time to get out the wax!
    It works well for us, is very economical and the wax can be re-used several times.
    Just our experience . . .
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

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    I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this. When I was putting together my new tandem I carefully considered the belt drive. In the end I decided to go without it because of the cost ($525), and you can only buy the belts and chain rings from one company which did not make me feel comfortable. The cost is high because it is proprietary and made in small volumes. Also the cost of a replacement belt is $145 which was much higher than I originally thought. Gates also changed the number of teeth I think from 71 to 69 so you have to make sure you get the one that fits your bike. If you end up the 71 you may not be able to get a replacement part down the road because Gates stopped making them.
    A chain and conventional chain ring is very common and there many companies making them. They work very well when properly maintained and are reliable.
    I don't hear any noise from my timing chain that is objectionable. Certainly there are benefits to the belt drive and people who have them seem to be happy.
    If the upgrade is only several hundred and not the $525 it costs to buy it outright that might sway your decision. Bottom line is you will be happy with the bike either way, I don't see it as a major factor.

  9. #9
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    One thing to think about with the Gates belt drive is how and where you ride your tandem. If your rides are close to home and the tandem can be down for repairs then the belt is fine. But if you do out of town weekend or longer rides then the belt might be a problem if their are repair issues. Last fall, my wife and I had to end a ride across Missouri on the Katy Trail because of a cracked rim and there were no replacement rims available in Jefferson City Mo. Chains are available in bike shops but the correct Gates belt would be difficult to find.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oosbahnd&Weefay View Post
    Once you get the chainline straight, and then shim the spiders so that the rings are exactly parallel (turns out most crank spiders just aren't that perfectly made) it's completely worry-free.
    How many of mm of shims did you have to use for your setup?

  11. #11
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tandem rider View Post
    One thing to think about with the Gates belt drive is how and where you ride your tandem. If your rides are close to home and the tandem can be down for repairs then the belt is fine. But if you do out of town weekend or longer rides then the belt might be a problem if their are repair issues. Last fall, my wife and I had to end a ride across Missouri on the Katy Trail because of a cracked rim and there were no replacement rims available in Jefferson City Mo. Chains are available in bike shops but the correct Gates belt would be difficult to find.
    I don't think this scenario is a reason to eschew the Gates. If your epic ride was at stake, it would be easy enough to purchase two el cheapo chainrings and chains from any bike shop, complete the ride with a synch chain, and reinstall the Gates when you get home.

  12. #12
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    We upgraded from chain to belt. Stoker really likes it, perhaps because pedal communication is better and smoother. I wish I'd measured rotational drag before upgrading, as it seems to me there might be a an ounce or two more drag with the belt. We're staying with it, in any case. It is nice. The whole bike feels smoother. However, I wouldn't make a decision on the basis of belt/no-belt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mburchard View Post
    How many of mm of shims did you have to use for your setup?
    Probably 2mm at most. The spider on the FSA cranks just isn't exactly aligned with the BB as it came

  14. #14
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    The local bike shop here in Austin, TX has this bike for $5400
    http://www.co-motion.com/tandem_bikes/hammerhead.html
    We just looked at a couple of weeks ago. It has all the nice stuff. I think the one we looked at had double disk brakes. About 35-36 pounds. Nice.

  15. #15
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    Just about any question you'd have about the Gates was answered in the epic thread:

    Carbon Timing Belt System


    Efficiency, weight, advantages, disadvantages, cost-analysis, its all there.
    Other than the failure issue, which is captured in this thread: http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/in.../t-555505.html
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  16. #16
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tandem rider View Post
    One thing to think about with the Gates belt drive is how and where you ride your tandem. If your rides are close to home and the tandem can be down for repairs then the belt is fine. But if you do out of town weekend or longer rides then the belt might be a problem if their are repair issues.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    I don't think this scenario is a reason to eschew the Gates. If your epic ride was at stake, it would be easy enough to purchase two el cheapo chainrings and chains from any bike shop, complete the ride with a synch chain, and reinstall the Gates when you get home.
    We've taken the bike on 2 trips since we installed the belt, Oregon, including the Co-Motion Classic Tandem Stage race, and a weekend in North Georgia for the Six Gap Century.

    Both times we simply packed the original timing rings, and a timiing chain. Admittedly if the belt failed you couldn't fix it in the field, but with a 5 minute repair you'd be good to go as soon as you got back to the hotel.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  17. #17
    Unobtanium-Based Lifeform calamarichris's Avatar
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    Been commuting my Globe Live 3 to work for the last 2.5 years and it's been mostly great.
    The pros & cons IMO so far:

    Pros:
    ~Clean. (Perfect if you sometimes wear beige slacks to work.)
    ~Mostly maintenance-free. (Needs to be tightened slightly once or twice a year.)

    Cons:
    ~Gear changes a major undertaking. Between the clearance difficulties for (limited) alternate beltrings, getting the belt length correct, ack.
    ~The available beltring sizes are limited. My two available choices are 46T (spinning out in the IGH's highest gear, and never using the bottom two gears; or a 50T (kiss the beltguard goodbye)
    ~The belt requires periodic adjustment. You're either going to have to buy a crikit (which costs about as much as a high-quality replacement chain), or take it back to the dealer to be sure. I tried the weight/defection method, but was still getting the occasional tooth-skip.
    ~Worst of all, lack of LBS experience with this new medium. They had no idea if the gear change would fit (it didn't) and they sold me a belt that was much too large.

    Wasted 3 hours tonight learning some of the disadvantages; but I've enjoyed almost 3 years of mostly maintenance free use. YMMV.
    Quote Originally Posted by EvilWeasel View Post
    Well, if you are gonna carry a snapped frame all the way home. It might as well be light weight carbon fiber.

  18. #18
    Gear Combo Guru Chris_W's Avatar
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    Why did you decide to post your review of a Gates drive for the drive on a single bike on a 3-year-old thread about timing belts on tandems? With almost 5,000 posts, I would expect you to know better. Half of your cons don't even apply to tandem sync chains.

  19. #19
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    Our CoMo Macchiato had a belt drive when we bought it used. After over 2000 miles with it, I can find no "cons" and agree with all the "pros" previously mentioned. We have not had to adjust the tension, whereas with a chain I would have had to by this time. The belt should last a lot longer than a chain. After all, it's the same material as used in car timing belts which are good for about 100,000 miles and under harsher conditions.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Krenovian's Avatar
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    [QUOTE
    If the upgrade is only several hundred and not the $525 it costs to buy it outright that might sway your decision. Bottom line is you will be happy with the bike either way, I don't see it as a major factor.[/QUOTE]

    I purchased the Center Track version three months ago. Cost for rings and belt with shipping was $253. The parts for the earlier version can be found on Ebay for about $175 or less.

  21. #21
    Unobtanium-Based Lifeform calamarichris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_W View Post
    Why did you decide to post your review of a Gates drive for the drive on a single bike on a 3-year-old thread about timing belts on tandems? With almost 5,000 posts, I would expect you to know better. Half of your cons don't even apply to tandem sync chains.
    Sorry. Wanted to share my experience, did a search, and failed to realize it was in the tandem forum.
    Peace & safe riding!
    Quote Originally Posted by EvilWeasel View Post
    Well, if you are gonna carry a snapped frame all the way home. It might as well be light weight carbon fiber.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    We upgraded from chain to belt. Stoker really likes it, perhaps because pedal communication is better and smoother. I wish I'd measured rotational drag before upgrading, as it seems to me there might be a an ounce or two more drag with the belt. We're staying with it, in any case. It is nice. The whole bike feels smoother. However, I wouldn't make a decision on the basis of belt/no-belt.
    This is a really interesting point. We thought our new Calfee had way more internal losses than our 12 year old co-motion. Although the ride was extremely comfortable, we just seemed to have to work really hard. After kicking around thoughts that the rear hub might be too tight, the brakes might rub a lttle, and any other speed robbing things I could think of, I remembered having a timing chain way too tight many years ago. I could barely spin the cranks with the bike on the stand. So I loosened off the timing belt tension on the Calfee a little bit. The difference was amazing. Now I understand how fast Calfees can be.

  23. #23
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfarwell View Post
    This is a really interesting point. We thought our new Calfee had way more internal losses than our 12 year old co-motion. Although the ride was extremely comfortable, we just seemed to have to work really hard. After kicking around thoughts that the rear hub might be too tight, the brakes might rub a lttle, and any other speed robbing things I could think of, I remembered having a timing chain way too tight many years ago. I could barely spin the cranks with the bike on the stand. So I loosened off the timing belt tension on the Calfee a little bit. The difference was amazing. Now I understand how fast Calfees can be.
    It appears to me that the principle benefit of belt is cleanliness. Since I went to the TaneGeek/Zona tandem side and wax my chains that is less of an issue for us. Plus I like the look of a shinny silver sync chain better than a black belt.

    The difference in immediate power transfer between a chain and belt seems to me to be the preload on the belt and not the belt itself. I doubt any human can actually stretch the chain more than the belt. Unfortunately that preload also seems to be the culprit that robs some power. This was mentioned in another belt vs chain thread.

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    I missed the part where having a chain tattoo on your calf is a problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    We upgraded from chain to belt. Stoker really likes it, perhaps because pedal communication is better and smoother. I wish I'd measured rotational drag before upgrading, as it seems to me there might be a an ounce or two more drag with the belt. We're staying with it, in any case. It is nice. The whole bike feels smoother. However, I wouldn't make a decision on the basis of belt/no-belt.
    Friction facts tested a Gates Carbon Drive and found that it consumes 34.6% more power when compared to a traditional single speed chain drive.

    I've asked them to re-test this at equally high tensions to see if the result is the same as I know some tandem riders need to run very high timing chain tension to keep it on and that might make a difference to the results.

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