Trek belt drive bicycle on CNN

Trek’s belt drive bikes that were unveiled last August at Trek World are getting quite a bit of press this week in an AP story. The Trek Soho and District city bikes come in a belt drive version that’s getting a lot of interest from consumers and the story is now at CNN:

Trek Bicycle is part of a movement to bury the finger-pinching, pants-munching, rust-prone sprocket and chain, and usher in an era of belt-driven bikes that might have the inventors of the self-propelled transportation Schwinning in their graves.

Wisconsin-based Trek is introducing two models this holiday season that are chainless, instead using technology most often found in things like motorcycles and snowmobiles. While some smaller custom bike makers have used them before, Trek is the first to use the technology for mass-produced bicycles.

I’m a big fan of belt drive bicycles — no mess, and little fuss. What are your thoughts? Better than chains? Do they work well for fast riding, or should they be limited to slower, urban and utility riding or even for folding bikes like this Abio?

Another method that’s sometimes used to reduce maintenance and mess is the use of a shaft drive. What about shaft drive bikes like this Biria Newport? Is a shaft drive a realistic way to get the wheels moving on a bicycle?

48 Comments

  • nickhacks
    November 19, 2008 - 2:28 pm | Permalink

    These are all different ways of doing the same thing and each has its own advantages/disadvantages for different uses.

    I don't think belt drives will take over fast riding anytime soon, since (current) geared hubs can't really compete with derailleur systems when it comes to gears, weight, and cost.

    For someone like my dad, who owns a hybrid for exercise, getting rid of the messy chain that requires regular maintenance would be a good move. He can't even keep his tires properly inflated.

    Shaft drives are cool too, but still rely on geared hubs plus they have an efficiency loss compared to chains.

    I'd buy a bike with any of the three, provided that the drive-system was matched with how I intend use the bike.

  • nickhacks
    November 19, 2008 - 9:28 pm | Permalink

    These are all different ways of doing the same thing and each has its own advantages/disadvantages for different uses.I don't think belt drives will take over fast riding anytime soon, since (current) geared hubs can't really compete with derailleur systems when it comes to gears, weight, and cost.For someone like my dad, who owns a hybrid for exercise, getting rid of the messy chain that requires regular maintenance would be a good move. He can't even keep his tires properly inflated.Shaft drives are cool too, but still rely on geared hubs plus they have an efficiency loss compared to chains.I'd buy a bike with any of the three, provided that the drive-system was matched with how I intend use the bike.

  • Cafn8
    November 19, 2008 - 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I'm hesitant to jump on the belt-drive bandwagon. I'm a clydesdale with gear mashing tendencies. That means I'm pretty tough on drive train parts. Maybe I'd consider a belt drive in a few years if they seem to be working out for others, but chains are just too well proven for me to give up on.

    As far as taking it easy on a bike goes, though, I've never been able to do it for more than a couple of minutes, regardless of how relaxed my intentions are. If I'm physically able to skip the thing I probably would every time I see a green light in the distance, or find a gap in traffic.

  • Cafn8
    November 19, 2008 - 11:09 pm | Permalink

    I'm hesitant to jump on the belt-drive bandwagon. I'm a clydesdale with gear mashing tendencies. That means I'm pretty tough on drive train parts. Maybe I'd consider a belt drive in a few years if they seem to be working out for others, but chains are just too well proven for me to give up on.As far as taking it easy on a bike goes, though, I've never been able to do it for more than a couple of minutes, regardless of how relaxed my intentions are. If I'm physically able to skip the thing I probably would every time I see a green light in the distance, or find a gap in traffic.

  • GhostRider
    November 19, 2008 - 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I've seen comparisons between this belt-drive system and the belt drives on Harley-Davidson and Buell motorcycles…the comparison being that if those high-powered motorcycles can use a slip-free belt, it will probably be PLENTY strong enough for us mere meat-powered mortals.

    I'd love to try one…coupled with an IGH like an Alfine or i9 or Speedhub, we might really have something practical, clean and low-maintenance for commuters and other urban cyclists.

  • GhostRider
    November 19, 2008 - 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I've seen comparisons between this belt-drive system and the belt drives on Harley-Davidson and Buell motorcycles…the comparison being that if those high-powered motorcycles can use a slip-free belt, it will probably be PLENTY strong enough for us mere meat-powered mortals.I'd love to try one…coupled with an IGH like an Alfine or i9 or Speedhub, we might really have something practical, clean and low-maintenance for commuters and other urban cyclists.

  • GhostRider
    November 19, 2008 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and shaft drives: I've spent some time on one (Dynamic Crosstown 7) and was really surpised/pleased by the experience, but on the other hand I've heard lots of assorted horror stories from other users.

  • GhostRider
    November 19, 2008 - 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and shaft drives: I've spent some time on one (Dynamic Crosstown 7) and was really surpised/pleased by the experience, but on the other hand I've heard lots of assorted horror stories from other users.

  • Anonymous
    November 19, 2008 - 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Has no one in America heard of the Mercedes Benz bicycle? About 2 decades ago they were selling belt-driven bicycles in Europe, complete with disc brakes and cables running inside the frames. They were retailing for about $1,800 then. The owners I talked with swore they were the greatest.

  • Anonymous
    November 20, 2008 - 1:46 am | Permalink

    Has no one in America heard of the Mercedes Benz bicycle? About 2 decades ago they were selling belt-driven bicycles in Europe, complete with disc brakes and cables running inside the frames. They were retailing for about $1,800 then. The owners I talked with swore they were the greatest.

  • Anonymous
    November 19, 2008 - 7:20 pm | Permalink

    There must an efficiency loss in going from chain to belt, so this is an engineering step back. Still, it may find its niche in the market on considerations other than efficiency – personally I doubt it will take off in volume.

  • Anonymous
    November 20, 2008 - 2:20 am | Permalink

    There must an efficiency loss in going from chain to belt, so this is an engineering step back. Still, it may find its niche in the market on considerations other than efficiency – personally I doubt it will take off in volume.

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 19, 2008 - 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Anon 6:46 – I just know about this style of Mercedes bicycle; I didn't know about the style you mention. Sounds interesting.

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 20, 2008 - 2:27 am | Permalink

    Anon 6:46 – I just know about this style of Mercedes bicycle; I didn't know about the style you mention. Sounds interesting.

  • Anonymous
    November 20, 2008 - 6:24 am | Permalink

    Trek is just a marketing company. They do this bike to draw attention, not because it works or is better.
    1.The belts break. Saw it my own eyes @ Interbike.
    2.They have very high drag. The frictional loss is big!
    3.To install or replace the continuous belt, the frame must come apart, usually at the dropout. This means a new frame, not a retro fit.
    4.The bike industry invented the chain the way we know it, a hundred years ago.And it is still the most efficient energy transfer method known.

    Paul

  • Anonymous
    November 20, 2008 - 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Trek is just a marketing company. They do this bike to draw attention, not because it works or is better.1.The belts break. Saw it my own eyes @ Interbike.2.They have very high drag. The frictional loss is big!3.To install or replace the continuous belt, the frame must come apart, usually at the dropout. This means a new frame, not a retro fit.4.The bike industry invented the chain the way we know it, a hundred years ago.And it is still the most efficient energy transfer method known.Paul

  • Hayduke
    November 20, 2008 - 9:21 am | Permalink

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  • Hayduke
    November 20, 2008 - 4:21 pm | Permalink

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 20, 2008 - 11:33 am | Permalink

    Paul, I hadn't heard about the belt break @ Interbike. Can you tell me more about it? Was this on one of Spot's bikes?

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 20, 2008 - 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Paul, I hadn't heard about the belt break @ Interbike. Can you tell me more about it? Was this on one of Spot's bikes?

  • Anonymous
    November 21, 2008 - 10:26 am | Permalink

    Try a belt in 20 degree weather in Boston on a consistent basis in the winter. It's a loser.

  • Anonymous
    November 21, 2008 - 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Try a belt in 20 degree weather in Boston on a consistent basis in the winter. It's a loser.

  • Anonymous
    November 22, 2008 - 7:12 am | Permalink

    When you change a chain, you use a tool to remove a pin, and the chain is no longer a loop. However, with belt drives, the belt is a loop…unbroken. Therefore, the bicycle frame must have a slot to insert the belt. You cannot replace a chain (and modest components) with a belt drive system. The use of a belt requires a unique frame.

  • Anonymous
    November 22, 2008 - 2:12 pm | Permalink

    When you change a chain, you use a tool to remove a pin, and the chain is no longer a loop. However, with belt drives, the belt is a loop…unbroken. Therefore, the bicycle frame must have a slot to insert the belt. You cannot replace a chain (and modest components) with a belt drive system. The use of a belt requires a unique frame.

  • Anonymous
    November 22, 2008 - 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Why couldn't you remove the belt by removing the bottom bracket on the crank side? What's this slot-in-the-frame-thing?

  • Anonymous
    November 23, 2008 - 12:53 am | Permalink

    Why couldn't you remove the belt by removing the bottom bracket on the crank side? What's this slot-in-the-frame-thing?

  • Anonymous
    November 23, 2008 - 8:52 pm | Permalink

    to the previous poster:

    You need a slot in the frame because the chain or belt passes through the chain stay, downtube, seat stay triangle.

    I think the picture on trek's site shows that if you remove the rear bracket on the drive side, the seat and chain stays are not connected.

  • Anonymous
    November 24, 2008 - 3:52 am | Permalink

    to the previous poster:You need a slot in the frame because the chain or belt passes through the chain stay, downtube, seat stay triangle.I think the picture on trek's site shows that if you remove the rear bracket on the drive side, the seat and chain stays are not connected.

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 25, 2008 - 10:19 am | Permalink

    Anon 5:53 (and others) — special break apart rear triangles are indeed required. Here's a Moots equipped with belt drive and modified rear triangle. And this kind of shows how Lynskey does it.

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 25, 2008 - 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Anon 5:53 (and others) — special break apart rear triangles are indeed required. Here's a Moots equipped with belt drive and modified rear triangle. And this kind of shows how Lynskey does it.

  • Anonymous
    November 29, 2008 - 9:17 am | Permalink

    Matt Raymer, if you're out there don't let Trek get away with stealing your idea and using your patent!

  • Anonymous
    November 29, 2008 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Matt Raymer, if you're out there don't let Trek get away with stealing your idea and using your patent!

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 29, 2008 - 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Matt Raymer was an amazing BMX cyclist, but the patent I know about from him is for a belt tensioner for use on belt driven bikes. Are there other patents he's filed?

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 30, 2008 - 4:48 am | Permalink

    Matt Raymer was an amazing BMX cyclist, but the patent I know about from him is for a belt tensioner for use on belt driven bikes. Are there other patents he's filed?

  • Anonymous
    November 30, 2008 - 7:40 am | Permalink

    hi, im new here.
    im doing my GCSE resistant materials coursework and i need to label the mechanisms of a mountain bike chain. can anyone help me out?
    thx.

  • Anonymous
    November 30, 2008 - 2:40 pm | Permalink

    hi, im new here.im doing my GCSE resistant materials coursework and i need to label the mechanisms of a mountain bike chain. can anyone help me out?thx.

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 30, 2008 - 11:44 am | Permalink

    Anon 7:40 – watch this bicycle anatomy video then come back if you have further questions.

  • Yokota Fritz
    November 30, 2008 - 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Anon 7:40 – watch this bicycle anatomy video then come back if you have further questions.

  • matt raymer
    December 13, 2008 - 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Trek's belt-drive bike does not infringe on my patent in any way. But thanks for the heads-up.

    I hope it is a great success for them – I can't wait to purchase my own Trek District in March 2009!

  • matt raymer
    December 14, 2008 - 3:28 am | Permalink

    Trek's belt-drive bike does not infringe on my patent in any way. But thanks for the heads-up.I hope it is a great success for them – I can't wait to purchase my own Trek District in March 2009!

  • Yokota Fritz
    December 14, 2008 - 1:07 am | Permalink

    Matt, thanks so much for stopping by. Much respect from me for your BMX work back in the day.

  • Yokota Fritz
    December 14, 2008 - 8:07 am | Permalink

    Matt, thanks so much for stopping by. Much respect from me for your BMX work back in the day.

  • Christopher
    June 20, 2009 - 8:01 am | Permalink

    Trek is not the first company to offer a belt drive system on a mass produced bicycle. Bridgestone, the famous tire company also happens to make bicycles and they offered a belt driven bike that was mass produced way back in the early 80's. I took a couple of pictures of my 1983 Picnica folding bike incase your curious what I'm talking about;)http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3550/3642674455_defd70b29b_b.jpghttp://farm4.static.flickr.com/3629/3643482394_586f09f352_b.jpghttp://farm3.static.flickr.com/2474/3642674743_62e1c12c65_b.jpg

  • Christopher
    June 20, 2009 - 1:01 am | Permalink

    Trek is not the first company to offer a belt drive system on a mass produced bicycle. Bridgestone, the famous tire company also happens to make bicycles and they offered a belt driven bike that was mass produced way back in the early 80's. I took a couple of pictures of my 1983 Picnica folding bike incase your curious what I'm talking about;)

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3550/3642674455_defd70b29b_b.jpg

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3629/3643482394_586f09f352_b.jpg

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2474/3642674743_62e1c12c65_b.jpg

  • Yokota Fritz
    June 20, 2009 - 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Very cool, Chris — I didn't know a about those Bridgestone belt drive bikes.Do you have a link to the Flick page instead of those direct links to the JPEGs?

  • Yokota Fritz
    June 20, 2009 - 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Very cool, Chris — I didn't know a about those Bridgestone belt drive bikes.

    Do you have a link to the Flick page instead of those direct links to the JPEGs?

  • Christopher
    June 21, 2009 - 7:23 am | Permalink

    Hi Yokota Fritz, I used my own flickr page to host those 3 pics so the rest of the page is just filled with my own personal pics. It's a bit difficult to find info on the belt drive Bridgestone Picnica because I believe it was only sold in the Japanese market. My father purchased this particular one in Japan back in 82 or 83. I'm pretty sure they sold the chain driven Picnica in the states though. If you would like more pics or have any questions about the Picnica, let me know. PS, that sounds sort of like a Japanese/German sounding handle you got there, is there a meaning if you don't mind me asking? Cheers! Chris.Oh yeah, I forgot to mention what the naysayers feel about the the belt drives durability. Being that it's manufactured by an automotive timing belt company, I would think it's pretty durable. Think of the extremes in temperature as well as the speed that a timing belt has to endure.

  • Christopher
    June 21, 2009 - 12:23 am | Permalink

    Hi Yokota Fritz, I used my own flickr page to host those 3 pics so the rest of the page is just filled with my own personal pics.

    It's a bit difficult to find info on the belt drive Bridgestone Picnica because I believe it was only sold in the Japanese market. My father purchased this particular one in Japan back in 82 or 83. I'm pretty sure they sold the chain driven Picnica in the states though.

    If you would like more pics or have any questions about the Picnica, let me know. PS, that sounds sort of like a Japanese/German sounding handle you got there, is there a meaning if you don't mind me asking? Cheers! Chris.

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention what the naysayers feel about the the belt drives durability. Being that it's manufactured by an automotive timing belt company, I would think it's pretty durable.

    Think of the extremes in temperature as well as the speed that a timing belt has to endure.

  • Leave a Reply