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Derailleur vs belt driven system?

Old 03-31-20, 12:51 AM
  #1  
Designmindz
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Derailleur vs belt driven system?

Hi All,

I'm new to the forum and looking at getting back on a bike in the next few weeks.

I've got my eye on a few bikes, specifically the Marin range (previous post), but I'm interested to read what people think of the Gates Carbon Belt Drive system.

Is anyone using this setup as a daily driver for commuting? Or are most people firmly in the derailleur and chain camp?
Also, do most people clean and lube after each ride, or is this something that can be done once a week, with perhaps a more thorough clean once a month?

Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Cheers.
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Old 03-31-20, 01:54 AM
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TiHabanero
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I know you specified users of belt drive to respond, and although I do not use belt drive, I do work on them at the shop, and for the most part they are quite nice and maintenance free. The only negative is that they are either single speed or coupled to an internal hub. Single speed is super simple and near zero maintenance, but has serious disadvantages in hill country. Internal hubs are mostly free of maintenance depending upon the hub and amount of use. They do weigh quite a bit and make rear wheel removal more time and consuming and complicated than a derailleur alternative.

Overall, if you want to avoid messing around with maintenance of a chain and derailleur, the associated filth and component replacement that comes with it, then a belt drive setup is the way to go. If you want to go as light as possible, then a derailleur setup is the better choice, unless you single speed the belt drive.

My personal preference is obviously derailleur systems. I don't mind the maintenance and chain/cassette replacement schedule, prefer the overall "feel" of a chain drive, and I dislike the weight penalty at the rear of the bike.
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Old 03-31-20, 02:06 AM
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Designmindz
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Thanks for this...weight was not something I considered as was focused on the maintenance, which is a concern, ie commuting in all weather conditions, having to deal with it after a wet weather ride on a long day does not appeal.

The alternative I'm looking at is a chromoly deraileur set up. How would the weight compare on an 8 speed belt drive aluminium bike to chromoly 27 speed deraileur?

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Old 03-31-20, 06:26 AM
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Unless your commute has some wildly varying terrain (Hills!), then I think you'll be quite happy with any of the 1X systems. I know that's a minority view here and 2X and 3X's are much more common, but I prefer the 1X AND I have hills to contend with too. I have a conventional 1x10; I have a belt driven bike with a Nuvinci; and I have a bike with a Nexus 8. The 1x10 is definitely the most efficient (read: fastest), and I do have a few hills that I can only tackle with the 1X too.
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Old 03-31-20, 07:03 AM
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Generally speaking, an aluminum bike should be lighter than a CrMo-framed bike. I have seen some low-end Al bikes that were way overbuilt, so YMMV.

Will you notice the difference? Maybe.
Will it matter? Probably not.

Unless your route has a lot of hills, or you ride really, really fast, the Belt/IGH setup will make a bigger difference in the ride than a marginal weight difference.
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Old 03-31-20, 12:31 PM
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Thanks guys, for reference, I live in an area which is very flat with no hills...I think I would need to "look for a hill' to ride.

I like the look of the Marin Muirwoods, and the chromoly frame appeals as I've it read it's 'smoother' to ride than aluminium. The 27 gears and maintenance, not so much. The Presidio appeals for belt drive, but it's also $500 more. I guess I'll know when I get to test ride as I'll probably go by feel of the bike.
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Old 03-31-20, 01:19 PM
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I can't imagine the need to clean the bike every day. When I lived in an area where it rained and snowed (Wisc.) and used my bike every day to commute from home to college I didn't clean it every day. Yes, you will need to clean the bike more often if you ride it in the rain but it wasn't even something I did weekly. No experience with belt drive except on a motorcycle. The beauty of the standard gear setup is being able to get parts readily and not very expensive to replace.

I would also opt for using a bike with multiple gears. You eventually run out of gears when trying to go fast with a one speed. Save your knees.
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Old 03-31-20, 03:23 PM
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I wouldn’t worry so much about the frame material. For a commuter/recreational bike, it makes far less difference than things like geometry and tire width, and touch points. I’d put it a distant 3rd, at best.

Looking at the two Marin’s, the Muirwoods is a little more relaxed ‘29er’ with a 40mm tire, might be a little nicer for curb-hopping and unpaved trails.
The Presidio has a 32mm, which is a really versatile tire size, and with the slight weight benefit of an aluminum frame, may feel faster and more responsive going down the road.

Definitely would be worth testing them back-to-back to see.
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Old 04-01-20, 04:17 AM
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I agree, frame material is not much of a concern, especially for commuting, although aluminum weathers salty roads better than steel. I only use steel frames now, but have had aluminum, carbon and titanium as well and ridden in in all weather conditions. Never have had a steel frame rust out, and I do not treat them internally.

Let me clarify my previous comment about weight. An internally geared hub, say 8 speed or more, adds a noticeable heft to the rear of the bike. When riding it is not noticeable unless the need to jump a pot hole, curb or other obstacle. When lifting the bike, it is very noticeable as well.

To add to all this, I commuted on a single speed for a year, and along with that it was a fixie. In the commute there was two large hills, one up out of a river valley, and another up to the house I lived in. Back then I was racing and strong enough to muscle the thing up the hills. Today there is no way I could do it. If in flat land and not in a real hurry, single speed is really nice. Belt drive single speed is deluxe!
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Old 04-01-20, 10:06 AM
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I normally ride with a derailleur system on a CF bike. I also have a Priority 8 belt driven with an 8 speed IH setup with Al frame. The difference between the two bikes is 2-3 mph average over 30 miles with ~800' of climbing. I prefer the CF bike, it climbs way better and it's funner to go faster .

I use the Priority for rainy weather exclusively, and from a maintenance standpoint there is a big advantage - just put it away and it's ready for the next sloppy commute.

I tend to clean / lube my chain every few weeks of dry weather riding. Only you can decide if that's problematic or not.
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Old 04-01-20, 03:31 PM
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Not a belt user myself, but a friend at work bought a bike with one to try it for winter commuting - he went back to a chain, the belt wouldn't stay on when snow got under it. Made it about 3km of his 30km commute 3 times before he completely gave up on the thing.

I do use a Sturmey Archer 3 speed on my commuter, an 80's road bike frame, but in the winter I use a derailleur bike - works fine. I don't even use full-length cable housing, just bar end shifters and 7 speed, 35mm studded tires. A 9 speed cluster should be fine for you.

I wouldn't use weight as a consideration for a commuting bike - I always have lots of stuff with me, most of it in bags on the bike. It far more than doubles the weight of the bike most times, the difference between a derailleur drivetrain and my SA anchor isn't even noticable.
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Old 04-01-20, 04:13 PM
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I'm a bike commuter and I don't have a lot of time. I lube my chain maybe once every month / 2 months. I clean the chain / gears even less. I lube it more if the bike is ridden in the rain all week I will put it away still wet and if the morning chain rust does not go after half a km then I'll lube the chain and make sure the rollers are not seized because this usually means that all the lube has been washed off.

I'll check the jockey wheels now and again and get rid of excess gunk, verify they are not seized. I use a teflon based lube for the chain. Less is more in my opinion. My cassette survives over 6k km just doing this and I accept I'm going to shred the chain and the cassette eventually. But I'm just riding 'normal' roads without too much mud or sand around where you might want to clean the chain and gears more.

I love the gleaming grime free cassette and chain, but invariably after a week of riding it's back to black and I simply don't have the time to spend even 10 to 20 minutes after work cleaning it.

I've never used an internal gear hub with a gates carbon belt, but they can be super expensive to buy and difficult to fix. However, if you get one in a good batch they'll last for ages and only need an oil change at intervals with no need to worry about the elements getting to the gears and the belt is way quieter than a chain.

Normal gears are simple, proven technology, but can be a bit messy and cables stretch over time and require adjustment over time.

In the end it comes down to your budget and what you're prepared to spend. I've seriously considered a gearhub or a bicycle with a gearbox mounted in the frame, but I'll probably spec my next bike with 2x10 gear or even 1x12 and spend the money saved on a different component of the bike.
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Old 04-01-20, 11:59 PM
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Hey Guys, thank you for the informative replies, you have given me quite a bit to think about. I started my new job today (where I plan to commute on the bike), and I paid careful attention to the roads where I would be riding.

It seems that there would be quite a bit of curb jumping and some possibly rough terrain as the journey consists of some road, some broken pavement and possibly cutting through a park. So I'm now leaning towards the Marin Muirwoods with 27 speed derailleur and chain.

This is for initial purchase cost, and ease of removing rear wheel. I'm a bit of a fuss pot with my new gear so will probably be over maintaining when I initially buy if I go that way. I will ride both before deciding, but looking at the commute I'm now liking steel frame to 'chuck about' a bit with 40mm tyres.

Last edited by Designmindz; 04-02-20 at 12:01 AM. Reason: Typos
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Old 04-03-20, 12:42 AM
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Good move. Der. systems are considerably less expensive than IGH and will work well for many years to come, especially if maintained well. I am a maintenance nut and can't handle a dirty drive train, so I understand where you are coming from. The last mountain bike I had was cleaned from top to bottom after every ride which was twice a week on average. The chain and cassette went 3 seasons before reaching 75% stretch. My buddies were replacing their chains twice a year. When I sold the bike the guy asked me if I ever rode it. I just like things to work well all the time, and a high level of maintenance ensures that it does. Have fun on your commute!
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Old 04-03-20, 02:02 AM
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Guess I'll be the first belt-rider to chime in. I've got twin bikes, both with Alfine-11 internal gear hubs; one has the Gates carbon drive, the other a standard chain.

~The Gates belt is not always quieter. When there is a little bit of dew, fog, or moisture, it will creak slightly.
~The Gates drive is not as efficient as a well lubed and adjusted chain. I give up a little bit of power when keeping up with the cf packs.
~The Gates means much, much less frequent maintenance, but the maintenance you do have to do is more complex. Tensioning the belt correctly involves eccentric bottom brackets, which are a lot more finicky than your average wrench-twirler is qualified to do. Also, if you change the number of teeth (for gearing), it will require replacing the belt as well, since you cannot simply remove a chain link.

Globe Live 3, with Gates drive:



Globe Live 2, with standard chain:



All of my other road and mountainbikes are standard 10-speed derailleurs and I consider them at least as robust as the Alfine-11 IGH, and much, much easier to tune and repair.

You made a great choice. Ride safe and maintain that chain. (I like to clean and lube my chain every 1-2 weeks, and disassemble & clean the cassette 1-2 months.)

Last edited by calamarichris; 04-03-20 at 02:10 AM.
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Old 04-05-20, 01:36 PM
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A couple of thoughts... If you look around the world at the places where a lot of people ride bicycles for daily transportation you'll see IGH with an enclosed chain case as the overwhelming choice of drive/transmission, probably 9:1 or higher. Derailleurs are too unreliable, susceptible to damage and require too much maintenance, especially where there is any inclimate environment (rain, mud, snow, dust, dirt, etc.). For people who love to fiddle with stuff and maintain it and can deal with issues a derailleur system is fine but for the other 99% of the population IGH rules. FWIW, I love working on stuff and still ride an IGH for my daily transport and reserve my derailleur bikes for training rides and races.

More: City Bikes | LocalMile

A good upright IGH bike allows you to ride in any clothes, carry stuff easier, and below about 18 MPH requires less effort and sweat than other bikes.

As to belt drive, I've not found an advantage on a typical enclosed drive IGH. The drive system on these is very smooth, quiet and will generally go 5-20 years with no maintenance and then the maintenance is only minimal.
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Old 04-06-20, 12:22 AM
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You've put me back on the fence... still need to see bikes in person, but now I'm thinking the Marin Presidio 2 could be an option. The bike has IGH and chain.
Does anyone use this combo, or is it mostly IGH and belt drive?
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Old 04-06-20, 12:52 AM
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Old 04-06-20, 12:53 AM
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Old 04-06-20, 12:53 AM
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Old 04-06-20, 12:57 AM
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Just for fun (and to help me) if you had to choose one of these two bikes, which would you choose and why?

2020 Marin Muirwoods - Assume the bike in this video is the 2020 model


2020 Marin Presidio 2


To me from the videos, the Presidio 2 appears like a more delicate bike which may not take so well to curb hopping, chucking around in the city and going through parks.

It is a refind looking bike and beautifully crafted, however, I'm not loving the colour scheme or twist shifter. Muirwoods looks better (to me) and from what I understand is a stronger bike, albeit more likely to need maintenance due to derailleur.

Thoughts on the two bikes, if you had to choose one to ride?


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Old 04-06-20, 05:40 AM
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For general riding a belt drive with an internally-geared hub would work quite well. My only complaints are the limited gear range, and shifting under power, which is less precise than with derailleur-equipped bikes. Belts have good longevity, minimal cleanup, and internally-geared hubs can be shifted down when the bike is standing still.
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Old 04-06-20, 05:59 AM
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Old school chain- chain tool remove/install by pushing chain pins in/out. New school- quick links, though you do need a tool to size a new clean chain. Cost of a decent new chain is $13-$25US. I’d call chain-derailer system a winner. Leaves you extra cash for fenders, rack, new tires down the road.
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Old 04-06-20, 06:59 AM
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I've never found that a chain/derailleur drivetrain to be problematic or difficult to maintain.

I do think the belt drive systems are cool, however removing the rear wheel on any internally geared hub is a bit of a processes; if you have to fix a flat rear tire on the side of the road, the chain/derailleur equipped bike wins.
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