Belt drives | All facts about this technology

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City bikers, frequent riders and globetrotters should consider getting one: a belt drive. Why? We’ll share our intel in the Simplon Magazine. Learn more!

Belt drives – all facts about the technology

City bikers, frequent riders and globetrotters should consider getting a belt drive. Why is that? If you like to arrive at your destinations clean and without oil stains, and you appreciate low maintenance costs as well as a long service life, it’s a great choice. No wonder the demand for carbon belts is steadily increasing. Nevertheless, the topic of "belt or chain?" keeps being hotly debated among cyclists.

That’s why we focus on belt drives in this article, and we’ll answer the most important questions you might have about the technology. 

Belt drives – how do they work?

Its working principle is the same as that of a standard chain drive. However, instead of a chain with different sprockets, belt drives have a belt with wedge-shaped teeth that run over two cogwheel-shaped pulleys. The belt is made of durable, long-lasting carbon fibres. The teeth of the belt interlock with the teeth of the cogs. 

What are the pros and cons of a belt drive?

Benefits:

  • Low maintenance costs: While a bike with chain drive requires regular maintenance to remove dirt from the chain and apply new oil, the belt drive doesn’t require any of that. Dirt doesn’t stick to a dry belt like it does to an oily chain. And even if it gets significantly dirty, you can simply hose it down or sponge the dirt off. 
  • Long service life: Usually, the mileage of a drive depends on factors like dirt, weather conditions and maintenance. However, the rule of thumb is: Under comparable circumstances, a belt lasts about two to three times longer than a chain. 
  • Less noise: With a belt drive, there is no contact between individual metal parts as there is with traditional bicycle chains. This makes it much quieter and scores points for its extremely smooth running, even when dirt and sand get into the cogs.
  • Lower weight: The belt is reinforced with carbon fibres and therefore not only more durable but also lighter than a standard chain.
  • Cleanliness: With belt drives, lubing your chain is a thing of the past. This also means there is no danger of getting your pants dirty when cycling; rust is also no longer an issue because of the materials used.

Drawbacks:

  • More susceptible to tearing: Belts made of carbon fibres are very durable. But if something like a branch gets caught in them, they might be more sensitive than a chain.
    Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that the belt will tear much faster than a chain if it’s high-quality and if you’re using it correctly. Usually, it only tears after long-ignored wear, wrong assembly or if it’s not under the right tension. 
  • Cost-intensive: Getting a bike with a belt drive is usually a bit more expensive. But if you factor in the costs for new chains, sprockets, chainrings, oil and cleaning products … the overall winner regarding value-for-money ratio is a belt drive. 
  • Special frame required: A belt drive cannot be mounted on any bike. The frame needs to have a special opening for it, and it needs to be stiff enough. In addition, it only works in combination with hub or bottom-bracket shifting systems.

Who can benefit from a belt drive?

Frequent riders: The low maintenance requirements, hardly any wear and tear, and no frequent replacing of the chain and the corresponding sprockets – all these are good arguments that speak for getting a belt drive. 

City bikers and commuters: Arriving in the city or at work with ugly oil stains on your pants – that sounds like a nightmare? Since no chain oil or grease is used on the belt drive, you won’t have to worry about that. 

Globetrotters: The fact that the belt drive is suitable for any kind of weather is a definite advantage – especially for globetrotters. The waterproof materials used make the belt drive immune to rust, so to speak. Even salt water doesn’t affect the belt.

Can you retrofit a belt-drive unit?

On some Simplon e-bikes and trekking bikes, the belt drive is optional. The bikes’ belt-drive technology allows you to open the frame at the right seatstay so you can install the belt. This means you can retrofit the drive if desired. In general, however, there are a few factors that must be taken into account before a bicycle can be retrofitted with a belt drive:

•    Does it have a hub or bottom-bracket shifting system? 
      → A belt cannot be fitted with derailleurs.

•    Can a frame lock be installed in the bicycle frame so that the closed belt can be fitted?
      → While the links of a chain can be taken apart, a belt is a continuous loop that can't be broken. The rear triangle needs to have an opening to accommodate for this, which is why a small frame lock is necessary.

•    Does the bike have vertical or horizontal dropouts? 
      → If the dropouts on the bicycle frame are vertical, it is necessary to install a belt tensioner to achieve the necessary tension. With horizontal dropouts, this isn’t necessary.

Simplon bikes with belt drive

Many Simplon e-bikes and trekking bikes have an opening in the right seatstay which allows for the use of a belt drive.

E-Bike models by Simplon:

E-MTB model by Simplon:

Trekking bike models by Simplon:

Let the experts at Simplon advise you on which drive technology is best suited to your needs, and make an online appointment with them right away!

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