Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bicycle Affair

Photo via Trek

Alright fellow bicycle enthusiasts, I have a confession to make. As my beloved Specialized sits just one room away, I've been drooling over photos of the latest additions to the Trek urban cycle line. Now I am not usually one to be caught lusting after the latest gear - I am a monogamous rider, after all, and the allure of a freshly painted frame or the scent of carbon fiber in the air does not tempt me... generally. But lately my curiosity around belt driven cycles has gotten the best of me and I can't seem to get them off of my mind. 

Belt driven? You say. If you have not seen the latest technology, you are in for a treat. Take a look at the photo below and you will quickly see what sets the newest Trek models apart from the pack - the traditional chain which connects the pedal crank to the back wheel has been replaced with a carbon fiber composite belt. The reported benefits? A super quiet, zero maintenance piece of equipment that will not stretch or wear. 

Photo via Trek

I had seen the belt-driven bikes online and while they seemed cool I was not instantly sold. Sure, it they were novel, but (like most things on the internet) I viewed the new cycles with a guarded heart; knowing things are not usually as shiny and fun as they seem when viewed on on the web. But a few weeks ago I was at my local bike shop waiting for my trusty silver steed to undergo some maintenance when I had the chance to meet the Trek belt-drivens in person. As I gave the commuter-worthy Soho and the pared-down District a once-over, the prospects of a no maintenance system (no lube, no grease, no more dirty right pant legs) made my heart flutter. The simplicity of the design is beautiful, but would the belt really be so different? 

As if he'd heard my inner debate, one of the shop wrench-wielders stopped to ask me what I thought of the new products. He'd ridden the bikes and had great things to say about the performance. In addition to touting the silent and clean properties of the belt-driven system, he cited the efficient energy transfer (due to zero slack in the belt versus the extra room and stretch inherent in your typical chain) as the most noticeable difference in the ride. 

Now there are some drawbacks to the belt, namely when it comes to gear options. The belt-driven cycles use an internal rear gear system which limits the number of gears available and makes repair more difficult and costly. Also, there are not too many bikes using the belt system yet - though that number is expected to grow. A Golden, Colorado company, Spot Brand Bikes, also sells belt-driven beauties of both the road and mountain variety. 

Want to learn more about the specifics behind this technology? Check out this website which includes details on how to upgrade your current ride to utilize the belt drive system as well as discover other makes with the CDS (carbon drive system) already installed. While I haven't made a belt-driven purchase yet, you can bet that a new CDS cycle is on the top of my wish list. 

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