Just as the cold temps of late fall and the ever darkening dawn have crept up on us over the last few months we finally put a – somewhat – reliable group together for early morning mountain bike rides on the local wooded trails. It’s usually a small group, 3 or 4 of us, with one or two no-shows on any given day. Lately we’ve had about enough light for about 60 minutes of trail time before it’s time to head home for a toe thawing shower and then off to work. It’s always a good idea, if you want to keep on riding through the onset of the dark and cold time, to incorporate a new source of inspiration into your cycling arsenal. This past spring I was able to stoke my own enthusiasm by building up a custom Sola SL 650b single speed. Neil drew up the design and incorporated the future compatibility of a belt drive system. We knew that Gates had its new CenterTrack in the works, so I figured I’d run a chain for the time being and set up the strap once the new system was available. This bike is a purpose-built shredder designed for the rocky, twisty rolling hills of metro-west Boston’s various town forests and preservation lands. I opted for fat, tubeless tires and 120mm of travel up front to make bouncing through the rocky terrain as much fun as possible.
Nine months after my Sola’s maiden chain-driven voyage, I finally stepped up and got my hands on the CenterTrack parts. Gates recommended that I use a 46:28 setup with a 115 belt. It’s close, but a bit lower than my 32:18 chain configuration. Thanks to Neil’s design precision, and the Eccentric BB on my Sola SL, I’ll be able to run a 26t sprocket with the same belt, and will have a nearly identical match to my chain drive ratio.
Now that I have a few good belt-driven rides behind me, I struggle to find the words to describe why I feel that this is a very worthwhile upgrade. The feel at the pedals is very direct, there is less resistance than in a chain system, and it just runs quiet and smooth. The best part about it, though, is that even though the daylight hours are shrinking more each day, and every morning seems to be forecasted a degree or two cooler, I can’t wait to down a hot cup of coffee and head out on the next ride. At some point, and this will happen soon, someone will interrupt my otherwise peaceful ride through the woods, looking to talk for too long about my belt drive, and as a result I’ll have to cut my ride short or show up late to work. Other than those possibilities, I foresee no down side. I can’t wait to test it out on ice and in snow, and through whatever else Mother Nature has to offer in the next few months. See you on the trails!