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  1. #1
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    Timing Belt versus Chain

    Hi, I am getting ready to start a new Calfee tandem build this spring and I'm wondering how people feel about belts over a chain. Our team hasn't been fitted yet some I'm not sure we can run a belt since my stoker is very long and may need a custom boom tube length

    Thoughts ?

    Regards,
    Plowhorse

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    Half Fast mwandaw's Avatar
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    Not slow, not fast, but Half Fast!

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    In contrast to just about every other component on our tandem, the timing chain has been entirely troublefree, running for tens of thousands of miles with only occasional drops of lubricant. Unless you're trying to save every possible gram or have a pressing need to keep one side of the bike free of oil/grease, I'd spend the extra money elsewhere than on a belt.

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    Our new (August 13) Paketa D2R is outfitted with the right-side timing belt. Our previous bike was a custom Erickson that had a very long stoker cockpit and we worried some about how she would fit on the new bike. She (5'10") is totally happy/comfortable with the dimensions. Note that we did use the smallest available belt rings, giving her an inch or so of additional top tube over the standard 28.5" (IIRC).

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Hi, I am getting ready to start a new Calfee tandem build this spring
    and I'm wondering how people feel about belts over a chain.
    Get 2, Rohloff hubs work fine in Tandems . so final drive can be a belt also ..

  6. #6
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    here's the summary of my take:

    And I think you have a fair point. With 5 years experience with Gates Belt drive, I'm a bit on the fence whether I'd spec it on a new tandem.

    I'd summarize the pros and cons like this:

    Cons:

    1)Cost, more expensive than a timing chain set up, however, the difference has gone down a lot, and is pretty small compared to using very light chains, but is still significant if you use cheaper chains.

    2) lack of field serviceability. Properly handled, I don't think the belt is more likely to fail than a chain, but a chain is easy to repair. Unless, you're touring with panniers, carrying a backup belt really isn't practical.

    3) friction loss. My bet, based on looking at the limited data, and our experience running the belt at a lower tension than spec'd, is that the Belt tensioned just high enough not to skip has slightly more drag than a chain but not as much as the reported data indicates.

    4)Wear. While durability is touted as an advantag for the belt, in our experience, the pulleys wear out much faster, than timing rings. Caveot hear would be that this conclusion comes from the original system. We don't have enough miles on the center drive system to reach a conclusion regarding the center drive system.

    Pros:

    1) weight: 4-10 ounces lighter depending on what chains and rings you compare it to,

    2) maintainence. No cleaning, no oiling. Not sure how big of advantage that is when you have to clean and oil the drive train anyway.

    3) cleanliness. it is nice to have one side oil free, particularly if you're putting the bike in a car.

    4) "connectedness" between stoker and captain. We definitely feel like we have more immediated feedback through the pedals with the belt.
    Running a chain at higher tension, might mitigate some of this advantage.

    5) Bling factor. People always comment of the carbon fiber belt.

    On balance, for us, it's a close call. So far, the "connectedness" element has kept us favoring the belt.
    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.

  7. #7
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Just another data point, we just did a Santana Tandem Tour in Hawaii, with 28 tandem teams. Most of the bikes were pretty high end with a number of Calfees, Santana Beyonds, and higher end Co-Motions.

    About 20% of the teams were using the Gates Belt drive, fwiw. Nobody had a belt issue during the week.

    One team did break a chain.
    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.

  8. #8
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Very nice to have one side clean.
    +1 on communication with belt.
    Belt rings wear fast if ridden in wet/dirty conditions.
    There's no fix if something goes wrong with the belt.
    We run the same timing chain as drive chain now. We carry quick links.

  9. #9
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have tandemed with belt drive. Was not hugely impressed but it works fine.
    Price is a bit of an issue as is repairability.
    As for cleanliness, we do not have problem as we do not oil/grease our chains. Utilized the 'hot wax' method for 38+ years.
    If you are a weight weenie, run smaller crossover chainrings; back in the '70s we used TA 28T chainrings for crossovers on our custom Assenmacher tandem that weighed in at a then incredible 34 pounds (including pedals). Old photo of Assenmacher racing tandem attached.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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  10. #10
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    here's the summary of my take:

    3) cleanliness. it is nice to have one side oil free, particularly if you're putting the bike in a car.
    That's it for me, right there. The difference between a tandem with a belt and a chain is like the inside dog vs. the outside dog. The sync chain is very long and exposed. It is a menace to anything the tandem gets near. A tandem with a belt you can take anywhere. Into your house, car, hotel, etc.

    Since you are getting a Calfee, it promises to be lightweight. You'll think a lot differently about a light and clean tandem vs. a heavy and dirty one.

    It will be easy to move and in out wherever you go. As Karen Carpenter might say, this tandem will be a dream come true, and you'll long that it be close to you.

  11. #11
    Senior Member chojn1's Avatar
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    Get the belt. Make sure it is the CDX center drive version.
    The expense is trivial compare to the cost of the bike and the numerous upgrades you will be adding later.
    Of course, you can always switch between chain and belt or vice versa later.
    CJ

  12. #12
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    The best bike in the world is not worth riding if it does not fit. To me the belt should only be considered if the stoker can live with the space limitation. Most stokers should be able to work with it but you are right to make that the most important concern. Unfortunately the stoker compartment size on your custom frame cannot be changed later.

    It sounds like this might be your first tandem. Since this is a big decision on an expensive frame, maybe a trial period riding a standard sized loaner or cheaper bike is a good idea before building that custom Calfee. Testing is good.

    Since you are looking at a custom frame I would also consider specifying enough room in the frame to use a standard vertical cage on the stoker's seat tube. Little details like that are not available on stock bikes and can make nice feature on a custom bike.
    Good luck.
    Last edited by waynesulak; 02-20-14 at 08:04 AM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member
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    get the belt have had both on our Calfee. 1 broken timing chain, zero issues with the belt in well over 10,000 miles. We have had it on and off many times to put it in the cases. We run it with a much lower tension then the specs and have done many major climbs without any skipping. Love the cleanliness.

  14. #14
    Pic
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    Agree 100% w/ Wayne. First and foremost, the bike needs to fit the stoker.

    Second, I would not disagree with the cons noted above. You have to weigh what's important to you. I am a maintenance free person, so the belt drive is great at lessening maintenance. Not to mention when you wash the bike your not smearing oil all over the bike from the timing chain.
    It's been said the belt drive is smooth I wouldn't disagree. I described it as riding on rough pavement then suddenly fresh asphalt. It's smoother and it just feels faster because the belt is smoother than chain.

    We have only been riding the CDX for 3,000 miles and NEVER a problem.
    We like it so much we are looking at a triplet with the belt timing also. I'm not too sure I would like it as much without one.

  15. #15
    Senior Member
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    Here is what I posted a few weeks back.

    CDX update


    We have up to today put right at 7,200 miles on the Gates CDX system. I did replace the first belt at around 2,900 miles after we picked up some debris that caused the belt to come untracked. Gates suggested that I replace it as the carbon strands could have been stretched and if so the failure mode is catastrophic. The new belt has right at 4,300 miles on it and still looks great, the sprockets (belt rings) also still look great.


    At this time I am happy with the system, it is clean, light and quiet and the belt is lasting as long as the chain. I hope that this second belt continues to perform for several thousand more miles. I have "0" plans of ever going back to a chain for the cross over drive.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pic View Post
    Agree 100% w/ Wayne. First and foremost, the bike needs to fit the stoker.
    Sigh. As a 6'2" stoker, a belt drive may never be in my future. Fortunately, I'm happy using chains all around.

  17. #17
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    I couldn't agree more. This will actually be our 4th tandem and each stock frame has gotten closer to the right fit, but we are ready for a new tandem and the perfect fit.. These replies have really helped me decide to go with the belt if the sizing works out, but we will not sacrifice fit for the belt.

    I am new to this forum but I really appreciate the great feedback. I hope you all are okay helping me build my new tandem, I am going to start a new thread on fork options.. Thanks Plowhorse

  18. #18
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    We have 5600 miles on our Calfee. We have the old style belt and have had zero problems. I love not having to clean and lube the long timing chain.

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