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Anyone tour with a Gates belt drive?

Old 06-13-19, 11:28 AM
  #1  
Rob_E
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Anyone tour with a Gates belt drive?

I have a low mileage, credit card tour coming up later this summer, and I thought I might skip some bike fees by bringing the folding bike. The folding bike has a belt drive that has been pretty much maintenance-free for the 3 years I've had it. But then I saw someone selling replacement belts and it touted that a Gates belt "lasts twice as long as a chain." That's not actually that long, especially since a spare belt costs four times as much as a chain. I know because I ordered a spare, thinking I'd fold it up and put it in my tool bag for the eventual day that it did need replaced. I figure the odds of stumbling on a shop that can help with belt drive issues is pretty rare, so I should come prepared. Then the belt shows up in a larger-than-expected box with all kinds of handling warning about not folding it, kinking it, looking at it out of the corner of your eye, or doing anything to it that would make it a size that could be stashed in a small pannier.

So now I'm weighing my options:
  • Just assume it's a pretty reliable system that's had hundreds of trouble-free miles and will surely have a couple hundred more.
  • Put the new belt so I can at least start fresh.
  • Convert to chain.
I kind of like how clean the belt drive is compared to a chain. That would make for better packing, too. But it's one more non-user-serviceable part, like my gear hub, that won't be an easy fix any bike shop I wonder past. At least the gear hub is unlikely to fail in away that I couldn't single-speed it the rest of the way. A broken belt would be a show stopper. Not sure if there are enough people using these to get any idea of reliability, and I'm guessing their not a popular touring choice for that replacement issue.
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Old 06-13-19, 11:36 AM
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we see some occasionally on the pacific coast route, but it's rare..

had a cracked crank cogwheel as a trophy for a while ... special orders do take a few days ..

But breaking Campagnolo stuff meets same delays..

Eating in the several restaurants and drinking in any the many brewpub cafes
is not that tough to cope with, here.. for those few days..






...

Last edited by fietsbob; 06-13-19 at 11:40 AM.
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Old 06-13-19, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Eating in the several restaurants and drinking in any the many brewpub cafes
is not that tough to cope with, here.. for those few days..
.
If I were biking cross country, that'd be an acceptable diversion. I'd just wait for special orders or make sure spare items were left with someone who could overnight them two me. I've actually thought about that with my spare wheelset. If my hub gear failed, I'm one overnight delivery away from having a replacement. But this is a week long trip with all stops booked in advance along with return flights. There's no "sit around and wait for specialty parts" option. There's only a "find another way forward" option.
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Old 06-13-19, 01:19 PM
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Which bike do you have ? Sounds like a Bike Friday NWT Silk .
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Old 06-13-19, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by pakeboi View Post
Which bike do you have ? Sounds like a Bike Friday NWT Silk .
It's an 8-speed Downtube.
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Old 06-13-19, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
A broken belt would be a show stopper. Not sure if there are enough people using these to get any idea of reliability, and I'm guessing their not a popular touring choice for that replacement issue.
I find it hard to believe it is humanly possible to "break the belt". It would take super human strength.

I regularly use Gates belts like these on 3 hp motors (single belt drive) for my job. They are amazingly tough.
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Old 06-13-19, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
I find it hard to believe it is humanly possible to "break the belt". It would take super human strength.

I regularly use Gates belts like these on 3 hp motors (single belt drive) for my job. They are amazingly tough.
That was the impression I had when I got this bike. I just thought it odd to find it advertised as lasting twice as long as a chain. I replace my chain once or twice a year. The Gates Drive bike gets ridden far, far less, but three years in and there are no signs of wear.
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Old 06-13-19, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
I have...
Why not ask CoMotion - they probably sell as many belted touring bikes as anyone. Darren Alff has been touring a lot on a belted Co-Motion for two years now, you could ask him too, darrenalff@darrenalff.com . His new CoMo bike review here:

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Old 06-13-19, 05:17 PM
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FWIW, I have 23,000km on my belt and it shows almost zero wear. I biked from the US, into Canada, back to the US, and then through Central and South America on it. No snow, but plenty of rain, sun, dust, sand, salt, etc. I carried a spare belt in the back of a rear pannier. I saw a video online showing a guy replacing his belt. It was missing sections of 'teeth' and was on a lot fewer miles than mine. Not sure how he managed to mangle it so badly, but mine looks like it will just keep going. I'm actually quite curious how it will actually die when its time comes. Perhaps just splitting from getting brittle with age?

If yours looks fine, with no cracks in the material indicating some failure of the composition of the thing, I'd just ride it and not worry about it.

Last edited by DanBell; 06-13-19 at 05:18 PM. Reason: Typos
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Old 06-13-19, 05:45 PM
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I have zero experience with these, but it sounds like the triple loop trick used with bandsaw blades also works with these:

https://www.cyclingabout.com/carbon-...-need-to-know/

That said if yours is in great shape; or if you put on the new one and do a number of shakedown rides to rule out defects, it might not be the component most likely to fail?
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Old 06-13-19, 08:05 PM
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^ Good tip! From above linked page:

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Old 06-14-19, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by seeker333 View Post
^ Good tip! From above linked page:
If that's an option, it might be the way to go. I was just looking at the 2 foot+ box with all the warnings and thinking it was not very touring-friendly to carry a spare.



Gates drive spare belt


Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball


Do not mutilate, spindle, or chew.
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Old 06-14-19, 08:56 AM
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We have a Gates CDX on our tandem. Never had a problem with it in many thousands of miles. The rings will get worn before the belt. I expect at least 20,000 miles out of the setup, judging by ring wear so far. Of course in our case a bike shop could fix us up with regular rings and chain if it came to that.

Of course there's always the chance of an accident or picking up debris in the drivetrain. However that's never happened to me in decades of riding with chains and a belt. In any case, no show-stopper. Overnight shipping is pretty quick. Don't worry about it, don't bring a spare belt.
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Old 06-14-19, 09:44 AM
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I have a gates belt drive on my Jones Plus rohloff and I used it on the southern 1/3 of the Great Divide. It was fine, no problems.
I did carry a spare belt , because I'm paranoid about things like that, and yes you have to be careful about coiling it -if that is the correct word. I folowed the directions and put it in a ziplock and forgot about it.
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Old 06-14-19, 10:34 AM
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I had long ago thought best application was inside an enclosure like a chain case ..

case would keep debris out and only the small bit of dust would get in..

Utility bikes with chains in chain cases rarely get enough oil applied over time..

so I thought a good pairing.


Not the market they were aiming at... so belts are exposed for admirers to see your purchase ..








...
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Old 06-14-19, 07:09 PM
  #16  
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Belt case might be a fun DIY project for folks handy with metalwork? Belts require less maintenance than chains but if they get muddy/gritty etc one is still supposed to rinse them off, right? Also, one of the few belt drawbacks I've read about is snow; perhaps a case could help there.
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Old 06-20-19, 06:23 PM
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Gates even has a video on packing the belt
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Old 06-20-19, 07:10 PM
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I have a Co-Motion Pangea Rohloff. I have had it over 5 years. It is the only bicycle I currently ride. The belt looks like new. For your belt to miss teeth. I believe you would have to ride it in the woods and trap sticks and grind some rocks with it. I say just ride the thing and don't worry about it. You did say you have a spare belt. I never replaced chains until they broke multiple times on one bicycle ride.
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Old 08-01-19, 07:30 AM
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I haven't gone on my trip yet. I decided that I was worrying unnecessarily, and I would take the belt-drive bike and leave the spare at home. It's not the bike I usually ride, so I wanted to intentionally get out on it a few times before the trip and make sure everything was in good shape. To that end, I commuted on it yesterday. Or tried to. At one point I gave a good push on the pedals and found them spinning without moving the bike forward. I thought my Nexus 8 had given up, and I'd finally get my wish to replace it with an Alfine, but when I got home, I found the rear Gates track cog was quite destroyed at the point where it interfaces with the hub.




A replacement is around 80USD, which would be fine if it was a dependable part. I just replaced a chain cog on my main bike that has worn out after 4 years of heavy riding, whereas this bike has had 3 years of light riding. The cog I replaced didn't fail. It just started skipping. I was still able to finish the last 100 miles or so of my tour before replacing it. Whereas the Gates cog showed no signs up trouble until suddenly the bike was unrideable. I just went ahead and ordered the parts I need to convert the bike to a chain. New chainring, new cog, two new chains came in under the cost of one, new Gates cog, and I expect the set-up to last longer. Maybe this break is just a fluke, but it came right as I was planning a trip, and I don't want to deal with "maybe it will be okay" when heading out for a week of riding.
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Old 08-01-19, 10:06 AM
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Was that sprocket only suppose to rotate one direction?
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Old 08-01-19, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
Was that sprocket only suppose to rotate one direction?
It's on a gear hub that freewheels in reverse. I can't see where pedaling in reverse would have put under stress on it, not that I spend a lot of time pedaling backwards. Unless you are suggesting that it was installed backwards, which might be possible, I suppose. I didn't notice when I was removing it it had a designated direction or if it was possible to install it the other way around, and the bike came with Gates drive already set-up and installed.
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Old 08-01-19, 04:34 PM
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I have never used a belt. I saw two belt drive Rohloff bikes when I was in Iceland, I talked to both owners and asked them about the belt drive. One of them said that since you could not buy a belt anywhere in Iceland, they were carrying a spare.

If it was me, I would be tempted to put the new belt on, then fold the old one into three loops the way Seeker333 suggested above in post 11. And bring that as a spare.

When I got a new fan belt on my truck about 12 years ago, I kept the old belt so I had an emergency one in case I needed a belt some day. This reminds me, maybe my truck is overdue for a new belt.
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Old 08-01-19, 06:10 PM
  #23  
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Rob, I am speculating here, but I cant imagine that a cog like that would have a metal failure like that, I wonder if the bolts that attached it to the hub had become loose, and the back and forth loose movement did this (although one would think you would feel a strange "delay" if they were really loose--who knows, but wow, what a weird failure.

how many bolts held this cog onto the hub?
and what a curious design of the shaped parts swirly shaped that lead to the missing inner part with the attachment bolt or bolts. (doesnt look structurally strong to this non engineers eyes)
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Old 08-01-19, 06:15 PM
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Yeah, that's a wild break. Makes me think it was on backwards and just fatigued over time. To be fair, I don't actually know if they can be put on backwards though.
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Old 08-01-19, 06:18 PM
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ps, lucky as heck you had this happen now and not on your trip.......this certainly is a weird one, but it also certainly supports the old adage of not going on a trip on a bike that you dont ride regularly, or have had any big repairs done--that sufficient shake down rides show that all is good, and or stuff hasnt been tightened enough or whatever.

this does remind me of riding with a friend many years ago, when suddenly he couldnt pedal forward anymore. We stopped and saw that he had at some point taken off his chainrings to clean everything (dumb move in my opinion, no need, but hey) and he had obviously not tightened the bolts properly, and some were loose and one had come out and sort of jammed things up.

so this is why I wonder about it not being attached properly and hence getting weird forces going into it from being loose....thats where I would put my money if I were a betting man.
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