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Gates Carbon Drive Review

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Mike's been using the Gates Carbon Drive CenterTrack drivetrain with his Rohloff Speedhub for exactly one year now and completed 15,100 km on a daily commute and a cycle tour through Europe. The drive train continues to meet expectations (which are considerably high). The belt and rear pulley were replaced at 8,190 km as a precaution prior to leaving on the 4,800 km European cycle tour. This was only done as we didn't want problems while on tour, and these components will eventually find their way back on to the bike. The new belt and pulley have done 6,900 km and the entire drive-train continues to perform flawlessly even after being exposed to extremely wet, muddy, dry, dusty, hot and cold conditions which would have seriously affected chain drives.

The only maintenance carried out so far on the new components, is that once again the belt needed tightening at about 3,200 km, again only as a precautionary measure. No loss of efficiency was felt and the drive train was operating like the day it was installed; super quiet and smooth. It's been an absolute pleasure to not have to worry about lubricating the belt, particularly with the weather that it has been exposed to.

For consistency of spares, Judith's drive train was converted from the Mudport to the CenterTrack drivetrain just prior to the European cycle tour. The Mudport drive train had completed just over 4,500 km and was still operating flawlessly. Since then Judith has completed 6,400 km on the CenterTrack drivetrain and although a slight squeak did develop after about 500 km and for a short period of time, it is once again operating flawlessly. It seems that the squeak was a result of dust on the belt as brushing the belt made it disappear for a few days, but it would then return. It no longer occurs, so it seems that there was a period when the belt had to bed itself in.

Mike's been using the Gates Carbon Drive CenterTrack drivetrain with his Rohloff Speedhub for six months now and completed 6,300 km, and although the cost is considerably more than a chain-drive system, so far it has proved well worth it. You can check out the bike build HERE.

During the review period, the bike has been used daily for commuting, and being in Perth WA the weather has been generally hot and dry, although there has been the odd wet day. As we are going into winter now, the next review should give an indication of its performance in wet weather.

The belt was setup to operate at about 40 lbs as recommended by Gates (for internal hubs), with readjustment occuring when the tension dropped to about 30 - 35 lbs. Most literature/forums state that the belt tension doesn't need adjusting, but I've found that I've had to increase the tension slightly every 2,000 km or so. This is not as a result of the EBB shifting, but rather seems to be as a result of belt/sprocket wear. I can see that the belt has a bit of wear, but comparing the sprocket to a new one shows very little wear there. What is different to a chain system is that you don't feel or notice the tension loss; it was only realised as a result of a routine check with the Krikit tension gauge. Previously, my chain drive required retensioning at least every 1,500 km (and sometimes sooner), or I'd risk throwing the chain off the sprocket. This was a critical piece of maintenance which doesn't seem to be the case with the belt setup.

Retensioning the belt is simple as one just needs to rotate the EBB by about a millimetre at its circumference to regain the required tension. The best part about the belt setup though is the avoidance of having to oil the belt. It runs smoothly in all conditions and remains super clean and super quiet.

Before chainging to a belt drive setup I was a bit concerned about the perceived difficulty in removing and replacing the rear wheel. This has proved to be unwarranted as I find it even easier than with a chain drive setup. The biggest reason being that I found that you had to sync the chain with the sprocket after about 3,000 km else it would really not run smoothly i.e. that is that while running a 42/16 chain setup (even no/even no.), an outer chain link would have to remain on the same even-numbered tooth on the sprocket. This made removing the rear wheel a pain as I had to track which tooth on the sprocket meshed with a particular link (inner or outer). Of course this could be avoided by running an odd-numbered sprocket with an even numbered chainring, but I never tried it.

Judith's been using the Gates Carbon Drive Mudport drivetrain with her Rohloff Speedhub also for six months now, and although she will eventually "upgrade" to the CenterTrack system more for convenience/spares consistency between the bikes, she has had the same experience as that mentioned above. She has however always been easier on her chains as Mike has been, generally getting twice as many kilometres out of a chain than him (10,000 km vs 5,000 km). You can read more about this HERE.