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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

‘Cross Dispatch: Single Speed Rocket Ships

Posted by Alex | October 10th, 2011 | Filed under Bikes, Design, Outdoor Sport

[Here at Nau, we like people who are challenging paradigms, trying out new technology and pushing their chosen area forward. We also really love bikes. So when the River City Cyclocross guys asked us to sponsor their team, it was a no-brainer. The Gates Center Track/ River City Bicycles Cyclocross Team has been formed to show the cycling world that single speed and belt drive are both more than viable options for riding and racing. Based in the Pacific Northwest, with exposure to the largest body of cyclocross racers in the country, they're poised to showcase and advocate for the virtues of belt drive single speed bicycles. Here, in the first of a series of dispatches from the team, John Walrod introduces the single speed rocket ships bikes they ride.]

Giving the Carbon Belt Drive some gas is where these bikes shine!

Giving the Carbon Belt Drive some gas is where these bikes shine!

“Single speed – really? Belt? Why would you do that?” Those are the questions that precede the inevitable – “Can I try it?” That’s followed by “Holy @)#(!, that thing is a rocket!”

This summer I was invited by my good friend Dave Guettler to join Alex Criss, Seth Patla, and Ryan Weaver on a cyclocross team co-sponsored by his shop – River City Bicycles (super shop of the country and shining star of Portland, OR). I have raced for Dave for about 10 years but this idea was different, we’d be teaming with Gates Carbon Belt Drive to do the drivetrains on our bikes. Long story short – we recently took delivery of 4 Carbon Fiber Raleigh Hodala frames and built them up with the Gates Carbon Center Track belts.

Warm and dry—two things that don’t go together with 'Cross!

Warm and dry—two things that don’t go together with 'Cross!

Cyclocross Magazine did a review of this very bike earlier this year. The bikes are flashy and really light (belts/pulleys end up a fair bit lighter than a chain) and they garner tons of attention. Riding in the first few races we dialed in the fit and waited for a true test to come. That came a week ago in the form of unexpected rain at the CrossCrusade season opener. Thank you Nau for the super dope trench coats – they are gonna get some high mileage this year!

Single speed bikes are counter-intuitive: Gears are supposed to make you more efficient, right? Not always. On many cross courses, as well as mountain bike tracks and urban adventures (just ask any messenger), some of the best riders sport one gear. Why? Because there are no derailleurs to fail, there’s much less friction in the drive train—a big efficiency savings—plus much less weight. A reliable bike that weighs a lot less and is more efficient sounds good huh? Yeah, it’s really good.

Uh oh, no more excuses.....

Uh oh, no more excuses.....

In the mud, which we got in spades last week, single speeds shine: no parts to argue with, and nothing to fail you when you need it most. Just one gear, and you, both agreeable to the task at hand.

Single speeds are better in the mud than gears and the Gates Carbon Center Track makes my old chain single speed feel like a donkey. Chains, even single speed chain bikes, clog up. I won’t bore you with more words – look at this: I couldn’t get into my pedals, and somehow my drivetrain was as clean as the day it was installed!

- John Walrod

3 Responses to “‘Cross Dispatch: Single Speed Rocket Ships”

  • October 25, 2011 at 3:47 am | Jack Maxwell says

    Hi John,
    What about chain (or belt, actually) slip? I’ve read and heard a few comments from carbon belt users that they can slip under high pedaling stress. Did you guys have any problems with that? Also, do you know if Gates is the primary supplier of these belts, or if there are other companies doing them too? That might account for the problems I’ve heard about (a different maker than Gates). I’ve been ogling a Trek District with the belt but haven’t tried it out yet.

    ‘cross looks like fun. Too bad I’m so out of shape I’d die on the first lap!

    Thanks for the post.

  • [...] option every day of the week. Our friends at River City Bicycles think so too. In the second of our series of dispatches from the River City/Gates Center Track Cyclocross team, John Walrod and his crew show the cycling [...]

  • [...] duo to the world of cyclocross racing. And they did it with style. Here, in the third and final in a series of dispatches from the team, John Walrod takes the Succinct Trench for an unexpected [...]

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