Posts Tagged belt drive

Happy Rider

Forward-thinking Speedhound rider Stephen Y. built out his 61 cm ONLY ONE with the disc brake option, Gates CenterTrack belt drive and a NuVinci hub.  With its New Black paint and all black components, it’s very stealthy, especially with that smooth and quiet belt drive.  Stephen wrote “Went out for the maiden voyage yesterday.  Wow, this drivetrain is smooth.”

Stephen Y's Speedhound 61 cm ONLY ONE in New Black

SRAM crankset with GXP external bottom bracket and a 55 tooth Gates sprocket. The Gates belt is carbon fiber reinforced polyurethane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The  55 tooth front and 24 tooth rear sprockets give the NuVinci hub a very usable range of ratios for the road.  Low gear is 30.7 gear inches (equivalent to a 39 X 34) with a top gear of 110.5 gear inches (equivalent to a 53 X 13).  The hub is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), so it provides an infinite number of ratios between low and high.  “Bottom line – this whole belt drive, IGH, and disc brake setup is fantastic” Stephen told us in an e-mail.

The NuVinci N360 hub and our SDS slider dropout. The bolt at the nose of the dropout allows you to dial in the belt tension very precisely.

On the flip side, an Avid mechanical disc brake provides super stopping power in the wet. The caliper always stays aligned with the rotor, regardless of belt or chain length.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The brake caliper mount, fork tip and fender/rack eyelets are water-jet cut from a single piece of high-strength steel alloy.

Sometimes we get writer’s block at Speedhound HQ, so it’s great to have a Speedhound rider help us out.  “I could not be happier with the new bike, and I would heartily recommend SpeedHound Bikes to anyone who asks. I am equally impressed with the quality of your frame and your post sale support.  Count me as a fan.”

Thanks for the shout out and pix, Stephen!

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Notes from NAHBS 2013

The 2013 North American Handmade Bicycle Show drew to a close on Sunday, March 24. At least some things in our world are getting better:  the quality and creativity of handmade bikes! Can it be topped in Charlotte next year? Just take a look at some of the incredible machines on display — here are hundreds of photos for your viewing pleasure: manypix (Speedhound and yours truly appear on page 8 of the photoset). Coverage of the show is appearing daily — here’s some we found this afternoon: mtbr . Denver is hometown to Gates, maker of CarbonDrive belt components, but even so, we were amazed at the number of bikes running belt drive. I’d guess at least three dozen. Speaking of which, here’s the official NAHBS website feature on Speedhound: NAHBS . Yup, there are a few typos, and no, we don’t provide a front hub with the disc option, but we like the attention!  Hope to see you next year!

Speedhound ONLY ONE "Gun Metal" at NAHBS. The headlamp is an antique Luxor from France, rewired to run from a Shimano Alfine generator hub.

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Speedhound vs. Big Brand

We recently received an e-mail from a rider interested in a single-speed belt-drive bike.  He had seen a Speedhound ONLY ONE frameset at a dealer and was stoked that it was made in Minneapolis.  Still, he was wondering why he should buy a Speedhound over a Big Brand factory bike.  He asked “What more am I getting if I spend double on a Speedhound?”  Here’s my word-for-word reply:

Hi XXXX,

Thanks for your interest in Speedhound Bikes.  You ask a great question, and we’re delighted to compare the Speedhound ONLY ONE to the Big Brand.  Here’s why we think the ONLY ONE is a great value compared to the Big Brand:

1.  We chose True Temper OX Platinum and Verus steel for our frame and fork for its resilient ride and toughness.  The Big Brand has an aluminum frame and fork.  Aluminum frames, and especially forks, are generally rigid and harsh.  The Speedhound has that steel “twang.”

2.  The ONLY ONE has the Speedhound Dropout System, which gives you the choice of track-style or vertical derailleur dropouts.  (You get both sets, so you can switch out anytime.)  Our design also lets you vary the spacing of the dropouts for different rear axle lengths.  The Big Brand has fixed vertical dropouts spaced at 130 mm.  It uses a concentric bottom bracket to adjust belt tension.

3.  The ONLY ONE is a really flexible platform.  You can set it up with derailleur gearing if you want.  The Big Brand doesn’t give you that option.  The ONLY ONE lets you run 700X32 tires with fenders.

4.  Because the ONLY ONE is sold as a frameset, you get to choose exactly the components you want.  (That’s a lot of fun right there.)  You get to pick crank and stem length, and your favorite saddle and style of handlebars. You’re not buying a cheap saddle and pedals you’ll want to replace. The bike will be uniquely yours.

5.  The Big Brand comes with the first generation Gates belt and cogs.  Your ONLY ONE could be built out with the new CenterTrack system, and you’d get exactly the ratio you want, not a stock ratio.

6.  The ONLY ONE gives you the option to use caliper brakes, cantilever brakes or V-brakes.  The Big Brand allows only calipers.

7.  You have eight color choices with the ONLY ONE.  The Big Brand comes in one color.

8.  The ONLY ONE is handmade in Mpls!  Most Big Brands are from China or Taiwan (not sure about the Big Brand you’re looking at, they don’t say on their website).

9.  With a Speedhound, you get the cachet of a boutique bike, not a mass-produced product out of a box.

Let me know if you’d like more info on the Speedhound ONLY ONE.  It’s a great riding bike.

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The Case of the Missing Bolts

Or, Don’t Try This At Home!

If you’ve checked out the Speedhound Dropout System, you probably know that the interchangeable dropouts are attached to the frame receivers with standard steel chainring bolts.  These fasteners have the benefit of a large surface area to contact the chainrings and crank spider, or in the case of the SDS, the dropouts and the receivers.  The threads on the bolts don’t come into contact with any of the mating surfaces, and the bolts do a good job of handling shear forces.

Think of a crank spider and chainring as the blades of a pair of scissors, trying to cut through the bolts.  As you jump on the pedals, your power is transmitted from the crank spider to the chainring, which pulls the chain forward.  A large, powerful rider could generate 500 pounds of pulling force at the chain, especially on a small chainring and long cranks.

Once in a while I like to do some sprints to rev up my heart and keep my legs sharp.  I’ll do hill sprints, on the bike or on foot.  Other weeks I’ll just make sure to include some focused accelerations during my rides.  During the winter, I get it done indoors on a trainer, rotating through five spinning CDs.  I aim to average 10 minutes of actual sprinting every week (not counting warm-ups and rest periods).

I rarely get on the “nowhere bike” during the summer, but last week a heat wave hit, and I was feeling short on sprints, so I went down to the cool of the basement to catch up.  I’ve got a fixed-gear Speedhound that I use on a variable-resistance fluid trainer.  It’s got a Gates Carbon Drive belt and 50X20 sprockets and it’s very smooth.

We’re finishing up the development of the production version of a slider-style dropout for the SDS (more on that in a future post).  I needed three chainring bolts for a meeting at the machine shop that’s helping us with the project.  I didn’t have time to go to Speedhound HQ, so I pulled the bolts from the Sugino RD-2 cranks on my Speedhound fixie.

The other day, a panicked thought crossed my mind – had I done my last 40 minute spinning session with only two chainring bolts in the crankset?   Yikes.  I ran down to the basement to look.  Here’s what I saw:

Missing Chain Ring Bolts

The two bolts were next to each other, leaving 288 degrees of the sprocket unsupported. But the sprocket ran true and there were no clicks or any other signs that parts were missing, other than three empty holes.  Nothing bad happened, no sprocket tacos, no noises, nothing different at all.  Why did it work?  Spot-on alignment between the front and rear sprockets, the lateral stiffness of the Gates Carbon Drive belt, the meshing of the teeth and sprockets, and the location of the sprocket centerline to the inside of the shoulders on the spider.  Oh, and the ability of those two chainring bolts to resist the shearing forces as I pedaled.  I’m back to five bolts now.  And please, don’t try this at home!

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Do You Like Messing Around with Bikes?

As a kid, I was always fascinated by how things worked.  A broken toaster was an invitation to explore:  I had to take it apart to figure out what made it pop.  Discarded TV sets, clocks, lawn mowers, electric mixers, and tape recorders were some of the subjects of my screwdriver autopsies.  With my knack for mechanical things, bikes were a breeze.  When I was 12, I assembled my new 3-speed right from the box.

Yes, I got my driver’s license when I was 16, and anything with an internal combustion engine had a certain allure.  But cars were too big, dirty and expensive to mess around with.  Now, a bike – I could store that in the kitchen or carry it into the basement.  I could clean the chain, disassemble and repack the bearings, or adjust the derailleurs just about anywhere.

My first real racing bike was a Gitane Tour de France, orange with chromed fork tips and stays and gaudy Mylar stickers.  That bike taught me what it means for a bike to be alive (especially compared to the Schwinn Varsity that I took on my first century ride).  Turns out those old European racing bikes from the 1970s were great all-around rides, which is partly why you see so many of them resurrected for duty around town today.

I was constantly experimenting with my gear, trading one bike for another, always searching for the “magic ride.”  I worked for awhile brazing frames at Trek, when all of their bikes were lugged steel, made in Wisconsin.  I made my way through school wrenching in bike shops, because I had a passion for bikes and a talent for fixing them.   I also loved to ride bikes, and working around them gave me the opportunity to try hundreds.  Later, when I could afford it, I began collecting lightweight racing bikes, many from the 1950s.

One thing I always wanted was a bike frame that could do just about anything on the road or a light trail.  A kind of universal bike.  About 10 years ago, I noticed that people started buying cyclo-cross bikes, but not for racing.  The extra clearance in the frames for muddy knobbies also made them suitable for fenders and puffy road tires.  Like the old racing bikes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  Although a C-X bike is a lot better than a contemporary road racing bike for the riding that 99% of us do 99% of the time, it still involves some compromises.  There must be a better way, I thought.   How might a bike frame be made to work for every rider in a variety of situations?  I decided to design a frame that could be a flexible platform for any type of drivetrain and a wide variety of riding styles.  A frame that would expand a rider’s choices now or in the future.  I thought, “What if we made it modular?”  I began experimenting and made a prototype of an interchangeable dropout system that would meet the particular demands of belt drive, but could also be used with derailleur gears.

All those years of experimenting inspired me to create Speedhound Bikes.  Our patent-pending Speedhound Dropout System is a unique departure from conventional thinking.  With this system, the ONLY ONE offers a degree of flexibility not found in any other bike frame.  Now, you no longer have to settle for one type of drivetrain or brake system.  You aren’t stuck with a track frame when you decide you want gears.  Want to go low maintenance, ditch the chain and go belt drive?  Be our guest.  You pick the drivetrain you want and build your Speedhound in any configuration you like.  Cantilever brakes or calipers?  We don’t make any decisions for you.  And if you want to repurpose your Speedhound to do something completely different, the choice is yours.  If you like tinkering with bikes, you get it.  “Go Your Own Speed” is our motto and the principle we live by.  The quest for the magic ride never ends.

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What Length of Belt Should My Bike Wear?

A lot of well-dressed bicycles are wearing belts these days.  They make a clean, crisp fashion statement on the runway, the road and the bike path.  Unlike a chain (or the belt on your pants), though, the length of a bike’s drive belt can’t be adjusted.  The length of the belt depends on the size of the front and rear sprockets, and the distance between them.

Gates Carbon Drive Belt Drive Belt Length CalculatorSo how does the well-heeled bicycle owner decide what is the right belt length for his or her bike?  Fortunately, our friends at Gates have created a handy belt length calculator.  It’s an easy to use Excel spreadsheet you can download to your computer.  You can find it here. Once you arrive at the Tech Info Page, select “Belt and Sprocket Size Calculator” under the heading “Technical Manual.”  (Skip the Carbon Drive Systems Calculator also appearing on that page – it’s not nearly as useful.)

If you are setting up a single speed, calculate which combination of front and rear sprockets will give the ratio you want.  In general, a smaller front sprocket will give better clearance with the chainstay.

For internal gear hubs, consult the manufacturer’s data on ratios.  Select a combination of front and rear sprockets so that you will have the low gear you want.

Make sure your combination of sprockets and belt length work for your bike’s chainstay length.  The calculator will give you the required range of adjustment to take up belt slack.

With the right belt length, your bike will be well-appointed and give you years of carefree riding.

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News Flash: Belts Are Now As Efficient As Chains!

The diamond-framed “safety” bicycle replaced the high-wheeled “ordinary” by the end of the 1800s.  Apart from a few shaft-driven bikes, chains have ruled since those early days.  Although belts have been used to transmit power since at least the 1870s, when flat leather belts linked steam engines to farm equipment and industrial machines, it’s taken over 100 years since then for belts to be successfully adapted to bikes.  The reason has to do with efficiency.

The human engine doesn’t develop much power, and when we jump on a bike, we want our pedaling effort to translate into maximum forward motion.  Until the development of modern cogged belts, nothing could compete with the transmission efficiency of roller chains.

Often called timing belts or synchronous belts, cogged belts are popular in applications that require precision, durability and efficiency.  Many cars use a timing belt to drive the camshafts that control the opening and closing of the engine’s valves.  In 1962, the German Glas 1004 became the first mass-produced vehicle to use a cogged timing belt in place of a chain.

CenterTrack on the OUR Blue Speedhound

CenterTrack on the OUR Blue Speedhound

Our two-wheeled friends in the motorcycle world are also fans of cogged belts.  In 1980, Harley-Davidson introduced a Gates Kevlar reinforced belt as a replacement for its chain drives.  That year, they debuted the FXB Sturgis model featuring the belt drive in honor of the iconic motorcycle rally.  Other motorcycles, including BMW and Victory, use final drive belts.  Snowmobiles are almost all driven by belt transmissions.

In about 1985, Bridgestone introduced a belt-drive folding bike for the Japanese market.  The STRiDA folding bike was designed around the same time and also uses a cogged belt drive.  But despite all this cogged belt history, high performance belt drive for bikes only became available in 1997, with the Gates Carbon Drive system.  http://www.carbondrivesystems.com

According the U.S. Department of Energy, cogged belts are about 98% efficient.  http://www1.eere.energy.gov/manufacturing/tech_deployment/pdfs/replace_vbelts_motor_systemts5.pdf This means that 2% of the input power is lost, which is about the same efficiency as a roller chain.   Kidd, Matt D.; N. E. Loch, R. L. Reuben (1998). “Bicycle Chain Efficiency”. The Engineering of Sport conference. Heriot Watt University.

Belt drives have been used for decades to drive vehicles much heavier and more powerful than Speedhounds.  Now that belt technology has finally caught up with bicycles, we think belts are a perfect choice for getting you up those hills and through the rain and snow you might encounter on your rides.

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Mary Queen of Scots Had a Speedhound!

Speedhound fans know that our mascot is an Italian Greyhound (IG) named Cooper.  His ancestors have been a popular breed for millennia.  Evidence has been found of IGs at Pompeii! Mary Queen of Scots was a big fan of the little speedsters too.

Speedhound BadgeIGs are light, quick and nimble.  They’re a perfect mascot for Speedhound bikes.  In fact, Cooper, who weighs in at only 10.4 lbs (4.7 kg), is still over twice as heavy as an ONLY ONE frame!  That’s what we call light and nimble!

Our inspiration from IGs goes beyond our need for speed, though.  IGs are agile sporting dogs – our “running dog” graphic is inspired by an IG competing in a lure coursing event.  And since we insist on making our own forks that match the frame geometry, both parts of a Speedhound frameset have matching serial numbers starting with the letters “IG” for Italian Greyhound.  You can find the serial numbers stamped in the bottom bracket and on the fork steering tube.

Speedhound Serial Number

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Wearing a Belt in the Cold

We’ve been wishing for some old-fashioned, sub-zero Minnesota winter weather lately.  The kind where your bike tires squeak on the hard-packed snow and there’s no point to carrying a water bottle, because it’ll be frozen just about the time you want a drink.  The kind where the biggest challenge is keeping your feet warm, so you ditch the clipless pedals and bike shoes and wear your roomiest boots with extra socks.  The kind where your face mask freezes stiff with your own breath and you hope you don’t get a flat, because your hands will be too cold for a roadside repair.

Speedhound with Belt Drive

Our beloved Speedhounds out for some winter fun

So why would we want that?  To test the cold weather performance of a belt drive Speedhound!  Gates says that “the technology behind the Carbon Drive belt has a published temperature range of -65 to +185.  If you’re riding somewhere colder or hotter, we’d love to hear your story.”  Well, so far in 2012, we’ve had exactly ONE sub-zero day in Minneapolis, with a low of -11F (-24C) and a windchill at a balmy -23F (-30C).  It was perfect, so I wheeled out our original Speedhound test mule, with a single speed 50X22 belt drive.  I let the bike sit outside for several hours and bundled up for a ride around town.

Belt Drive Speedhound on a winter ride

One of these Speedhounds loves the cold. The other, not so much.

So how did it go?  After a brief warmup, I jumped on the pedals at varying speeds and ground up the steepest hill in the neighborhood.  I spun as fast as I could with my stiff legs.  Underway, the belt felt – normal.  I thought I detected a slight clacking sound from the belt engaging the cogs, but maybe it was my teeth chattering.  Off the bike, I rotated the pedals backward by hand.  The drivetrain was stiffer than in warm weather, but it was difficult to say how much of the drag was from the grease in the bearings and how much was the belt.  I didn’t perceive any added resistance when riding.    With the bright sun, I could almost imagine it was a July day, except by the time I got back to Speedhound HQ, my toes felt like frozen peas.

Check out the full photo set on Flickr.

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Speedhound Bike Owner Review

Fixie, Belt-Drive Commuter SpeedhoundRecently, we sat down with Speedhound owner John Barron to get his impressions on his first year+ of riding with the new wheels.  We’re extremely proud that John chose a Speedhound.  He’s an avid collector and dealer in vintage bikes and bike parts, so he knows his bikes.  Check out some of John’s goodies at www.velostuf.com.

John’s TRO Orange Speedhound was built by Hiawatha Cyclery with a fixed gear, belt drive system.  He chose the Gates Carbon Drive System for his drivetrain.  He added some elegant fenders to complete the ensemble.  John’s rig is an all-season commuter bike and he uses it regularly for late fall, winter and early spring rides.  He noted, “The belt drive’s clean, maintenance free simplicity eliminates grease marks on my legs, rust-damaged chains and the need to lubricate the drive train.”

John’s passion for bikes includes a number of custom-made steel road machines.  He told Speedhound, “The ride and handling of the Speedhound is remarkably similar to those handmade bikes.  The soft, smooth ride is one of my favorite things about the Speedhound.”

Gates Carbon Drive SystemA desire for simplicity drove the selection of the components for this machine.  John is a former track racer, so a fixed gear bike was a natural choice.  Adding the belt drive removed more complexity from system.  John also mentioned that the stability of the belt drive eliminates “chain slop” – a big deal during track stands!

John has been pleased with the performance of the belt drive system.  He told us, “I was worried about belt jump before I bought the system, but that’s never happened to me.  Even on cold, snowy rides, the belt has run like a champ.  And best of all, in more than 15 months of riding my Speedhound, the only work I’ve done on it was tightening the belt tension a little.”

We asked John what one word describes the way he feels on his Speedhound.  He said, “Unencumbered.”  His most memorable ride was on the mountain bike trails near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.  Seems like the reliability and smooth ride let John go anywhere.

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