A sensible choice for commuters and recreational riders, belt drive bikes are becoming the weapon of choice for commuters and recreational cyclists alike. With no grease marks, improved durability and incredibly low upkeep – we're left wondering why they aren't more popular.
If you're seeking a set-and-forget city bike and assuming the budget allows, a belt-drive bike won't disappoint. In this article, we give you a rundown of the pros and cons of opting for a belt drive system and go through what we deem some of the best belt drive bikes on offer for 2019.
Chain Versus Belt
A belt drive system carries several benefits over a traditional chain based drivetrain, which makes them an excellent option for those who regularly ride in urban and city areas.
Belt drives are made from carbon fibre, making them durable, lightweight and rust-proof. A carbon belt drive doesn't wear the same way a chain does so it's lifespan can be up to twice as long as a typical chain. Additionally, carbon belts don't need to be oiled or lubricated like a chain, meaning there's no chance of oil and grease patches on your pants. A spray of water is all it needed to be kept running smoothly, making it practically maintenance free, super smooth and virtually silent.
By comparison, a bicycle chain is a series of interlocking metal pieces that articulate. These individual pieces require lubrication to reduce metal on metal friction. Chain performance and reliability suffer when it wears.
As good as a belt drive system sounds, some drawbacks need to be considered.
The first is that carbon belts typically can't be broken and re-installed like a regular chain. Belt drive bikes will feature specially designed frames referred to as a "split frame" so that the belt can be installed.
Belt drives are also limited to single-cog out back to run in a straight line which limits drivetrain options to either single-speed or an internally geared hub. In other words, a belt drive cannot be used with traditional derailleur gear systems.
Additionally, as belt drive bikes are not all that common outside of Europe, finding parts or locations for repair can be a more laborious task than with conventional drivetrain systems. Likewise, economies of scale certainly play a role and as such belt drive bikes are priced at a premium over their chain equipped counterparts more often than not.
What Type of Riding Can You Do?
Belt drive bikes are perfect for commuting, but they can also be found on mountain bikes, e-bikes, stationary and fitness bikes. The design of the belt means that the teeth are efficient in shedding mud, dirt, and other debris, making them functional for mountain biking and riding in the snow.
The most popular belt drive system available is the Gates Carbon Drive System. The system meets and typically exceeds the same maximum load industry standards required by chain drive systems and so are more than capable of being ridden hard.
Our Picks for 2019
Below (in no particular order) are what we deem some of the best belt drive bikes to be had in 2019. We'd typically narrow down the field to a set dollar value, but given the somewhat limited options available outside of Europe, we've picked a variety of popular options for you to consider.
A stylish commuter bike that aims to blend Dutch cycling heritage with Australian culture, the E-Amsterdam is the latest electrically assisted commuter bike from Lekker and is home to an impressive list of features.
The rust-free aluminium frame features a short reach to put riders in an upright position, wide wheelbase for stability, internal cable routing, and mounts for pannier racks to carry bulky items. A Shimano Nexus internal gear hub provides a good range of gears that would rival a traditional 10-12 speed derailleur gear system. The Gates carbon belt drive system is used along with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and 45mm wide puncture proof Kenda tyres.
What elevates this bike beyond others on this list is the pedelec system supplied by Bafang. Providing up to 250watts of assistance, the bike will quickly assist riders up to 25kph, with a full charge claimed to last up to 70km. We've recently taken delivery of an E-Amsterdam so keep your eyes on the BikeExchange Blog for an in-depth review in the coming weeks
Polygon Path i8
Budget focussed Path range of urban bikes from Polygon is designed with city riding in mind, take one look at the feature list and it's easy to see why.
Robust 35c Continental tyres provide ample grip while Shimano hydraulic disc brakes offer consistent braking performance in all weather conditions. The bike comes equipped with mudguards and lights for riding in poor weather conditions and at night, while an almost maintenance-free belt drive system finishes it off. This is one commuter that's sure to tick more than a few boxes on a prospective buyers' list.
As one of the sharpest priced bikes on this list, the Path i8 represents one of the cheapest ways to get into the world of belt-driven commuting.
BMC Alpenchallenge AC01 TWO
The Alpenchallenge AC01 TWO is a sophisticated belt drive bike that features clean lines that are complemented by a sleek phantom grey colourway. From a functional point of view, it ticks all the boxes too, featuring a triple butted aluminium frame and fork, internal cable routing, and hidden fender mounts that BMC says can be installed or removed in less than a minute.
A Gates belt drive system is used in conjunction with a Shimano Alfine 8-speed rear hub to provide a wide spread of gears. Hydraulic disc brakes take care of the slowing, in this case, provided by Shimano while large 28c Continental tyres are sure to deliver confidence inspiring grip in all weather conditions.
Kalkhoff Endeavour P12
Kalkhoff is a German manufacturer specialising in innovative and premium commuter bikes, and so it's no surprise they've paired several stylish steeds with the simplicity of the belt drive system.
The Endeavour P12 is the German outfits flagship commuter option and as such, packs a range of impressive features into its price point. To start, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes have been paired with a centrally mounted 12-speed pinion gearbox. The gearbox works in the same fashion as the transmission in your car, where two sets of six gears sit in a row to provide 12 individual gears. This provides a 600% gear range, almost double that of a traditional road bike and is mostly maintenance free, save for a 5-minute oil change every 15,000 km. The gearbox is actuated via a handlebar mounted grip shifter, while the transmission itself is a fully sealed unit and is said to tip the scales at 2kg.
A powerful LED headlight features on the front of the bike, while a LED taillight can be found out back. Add to this front, and rear fender, a heavy duty rear rack and of course, a Gates belt drive system, and the Endeavour P12 presents all the hallmarks of a super-commuter with a super price tag to match.
Cannondale Bad Boy 1
The Bad Boy range of commuter bikes from American innovators, Cannondale, is one of the better-known family of bikes to appear on this list. Renowned for its in-your-face and blacked-out styling, mixed with its any road capability, the Bad Boy 1 is a trendsetter amongst super commuters.
Featuring eight gears out back courtesy of Shimano's flagship Alfine internal gear hub, and with beefy Magura hydraulic disc brakes, there's no shortage of gear range for going, or stopping power when you need to. A 650b (aka, 27.5in) wheelset wrapped in 40mm wide Schwalbe G-One rubber completes this capable build.
Avanti INC 2
Presenting as one of the best bang for your buck options on this list, the INC 2 from New Zealand outfit Avanti comes loaded with premium components at a not so premium price. Finished with integrated reflective features in its paintwork, the INC 2 serves as a fantastic option for those seeking a little more visibility on their low-light commute.
A Gates carbon belt drive system mated to an internal Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub ensures the INC 2 is as silent as it is low on maintenance. Finished off with mechanical disc brakes, mudguards and grippy Continental rubber, the INC 2 needs nothing more than a capable set of lights, and a willing rider in the saddle.
Marin Presidio 3
All-new for 2019, the Presidio is American outfit, Marin’s dedicated commuter option, replacing the Fairfax we’ve covered on the BikeExchange Blog in the past. The Presidio has an aluminium frame and fork, with mounting points for fenders, rack and kickstand also provided.
The groupset is courtesy of Shimano in the form of its workhorse Nexus 8-speed internal geared hub and is complemented by the Gates carbon belt drive and capable flat-mount hydraulic disc brakes. 32c wide Schwalbe tyres wrapped around sleek looking alloy rims round out this solid commuter build.
Apollo Trace 45
The Trace 45, from Australian outfit Apollo, is designed to provide riders with a faster fitness riding experience while also being adepts at handling commuter duties.
A slick and refined 8-speed Shimano Alfine hub serves up all the gears you need while demanding almost nothing in the way of maintenance. Hydraulic disc brakes provide powerful, easy to control stopping in any weather condition and are aided by 32c wide puncture resistant rubber. A sleek rigid fork rounds out the build that sees the Hyde Pro balancing speed, comfort, convenience, and style.
- Price: AU$1,700
Tern Verge S8i
The Verge S8i is an ultra-versatile, low-maintenance bike courtesy of folding bike specialists Tern.
Constructed from hydroformed aluminium and weighing in at a claimed 14kg, the Verge is said to fold up or fold out in just 10 seconds. Making it a cinch to keep under a desk at work, snuck onto a busy train or kept neatly tucked away when not in use.
Featuring a Gates belt drive system mated with Shimano's 8-speed internal-gear Alfine hub, the Verge is a super-portable, super-commuter with a gear range sure to get riders up any city incline. With lighting front and rear courtesy of Valo, an extra-long wheelbase for stability and 20in wheels wrapped in wide Schwalbe Big Apple tyres, it's sure you to get you to work, or to the cafe quickly, safely, and cleanly.
- Price: AUD$2999
In the market for a new ride and don't know where to start? Check out our guide on How to Choose the Right Bike for more information