Posts Tagged singlespeed

Speedhounds Are Chameleons

The ChameleonMs. Speedhound recently announced that she had offered the use of her bike to a friend who is training for a triathalon.  Ms. Speedhound rides a 54 cm frame, which, it turned out, would be too tall for her friend.  We did have a 51 cm Nut Green ONLY ONE that we had shown at NAHBS 2012 and the MIA Bike Night.  It was set up as a fixed-gear with antique track components, including wooden rims, tubular tires, a one-inch pitch chain and no brakes.  A thing of beauty, worthy of much gazing, but a disaster as a trainer.  So what to do?  Switch it over to a road bike, pronto, ready to ride the next day.

I started at 11:00 a.m., stripping the bike of all the retro parts and removing the track-style dropouts.  The split in the drive-side receiver, which allows the use of a belt, is also a great shortcut for removing a chain.  There’s no need to pop the master link or break the chain with a tool.  The next step was to install the vertical derailleur dropouts.  Now the frame was ready to accept all of the racy bits Susan needed to whip herself into shape for the triathlon.  Other than the seatpost, I would be using new components, so there was some prep time to mount the tires and install the cassette, cut cables and housing, set up the brake levers and wrap the bars.  I took a lunch break (chicken and broccoli) and got back to business.  By 5:00 p.m., the transformation from show bike to go bike was complete, and I went out for a test ride.  The wheels felt fast and the bike had that “riding on rails” all-day stability that we designed into the ONLY ONE.  Ms. Speedhound’s friend is going to love it.

Check out the complete image album on Facebook.

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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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Speedhound Dealer Profile: Hiawatha Cyclery

Hiawatha Cyclery is a small shop in Minneapolis, MN, specializing in products for the cyclist who uses his/her bike for serious transportation, as well as for recreation. They pride themselves on their selection of distinctive, high quality bicycles and accessories for the cyclist who doesn’t accept the widely held notion that the latest technology is necessarily the best choice. Their catalog is full of items that fly under the radar of most of the bike industry because they don’t generally meet volume or price targets.

Fixie, Belt-Drive Commuter SpeedhoundHiawatha is a perfect fit for Speedhound.  Their loyal clientele appreciates unique bikes and bike accessories.  Jim and Mark have built and sold several Speedhounds, including geared and single-speed versions, internal and external geared styles, commuters and touring rigs.  One of our favorites is this belt-driven fixie

Hiawatha Cyclery has been serving the commuters and touring riders of South Minneapolis since 2006.  Their unique showroom features steel steeds of all varieties, but there’s not a carbon or aluminum bike in the place!  They appreciate the comfortable, reliable ride that only steel can offer.

Jim Thill, the owner of Hiawatha Cyclery likes the Speedhound because it’s a high-end, but approachable bike.  It doesn’t demand “celebrity parts” to justify its existence.  It’s durable and versatile – just the thing for the all-season conditions facing Minneapolis cyclists.  Jim notes, “If I were doing a long ride, I’d definitely choose the Speedhound.”

We’re proud of our relationship with Hiawatha Cyclery.  Stop by and say hello to Jim and check out the Speedhounds on the show floor.  Learn more about Hiawatha Cyclery on their website.

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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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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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The New CenterTrack Belt System from Gates

We designed the Speedhound Only One to be compatible with belt drives from the very beginning, and we’ve been experimenting with the Gates Carbon Drive system for over three years.  So it’s only natural that we’d be taking a hard look at the new CenterTrack design that Gates rolled out a few months ago.  We’ll be blogging about how CenterTrack performs after we do some more road testing into the winter, but for now, here are some comparisons between CenterTrack and the first generation belt system (Gen 1).

The Sprockets

CenterTrack and Gen 1 front sprockets

CenterTrack and Gen 1 front sprockets

The CenterTrack sprocket has a central spine that meshes with a corresponding groove in the belt to keep the belt centered.  The Gen 1 system relies on a single flange (inboard on the rear sprocket and outboard on the front) to help guide the belt.  However, with one side of each sprocket open, Gen 1 is very intolerant of any misalignment between front and rear sprockets.  With CenterTrack, your “chainline” can be off a few millimeters without a risk of the belt falling off.  We think it’s still best to aim for perfection when aligning the front and rear CenterTrack spockets, though, to minimize friction between the spine and belt groove.  For now, CenterTrack appears to be a very inspired solution to the main weakness of the Gen 1 system.  The CenterTrack sprockets also have a wicked cool look.

 

The Belts

CenterTrack (left) and Gen 1 (right) belts

CenterTrack (left) and Gen 1 (right) belts

The CenterTrack belt is 12 mm wide.  Gen 1 comes in 10 mm and 12 mm widths, with the wider belt recommended especially for mountain bike and fixed-gear setups.  The pitch and tooth profile appear to be the same, and we were able to run a CenterTrack belt on Gen 1 sprockets.  Lacking a groove, a Gen 1 belt is incompatible with CenterTrack sprockets.

Materials

The CenterTrack front sprocket is hard anodized aluminum alloy, like the Gen 1, but lacks the ceramic coating of the Gen 1 sprocket.  Will it wear as well?  Time will tell.  The rear CenterTrack sprockets are stainless steel, whereas the Gen 1 are hard anodized aluminum alloy with ceramic coating.  Gates tells us that the Gen 1 rear sprockets wear out before the belts.  (The belts have a projected life of 10,000 miles, depending on riding conditions.)  Will the stainless steel CenterTrack rear sprockets come closer to that?

Weight

CenterTrack on the OUR Blue Speedhound

CenterTrack on the OUR Blue Speedhound

We weighed comparable CenterTrack and Gen 1 components on our Soehnle digital gram scale (accurate to the nearest gram) and here’s what we found:

  • 118 tooth belt, 12 mm wide – CenterTrack 79 grams, Gen 1 97 grams.
  • 50 tooth front sprocket, 5 arm 130 BCD – CenterTrack 98 grams, Gen 1 72 grams.
  • 24 tooth rear sprocket, 9 spline – CenterTrack 72 grams, Gen 1 53 grams.

We think the promised benefits of the CenterTrack system far outweigh the added 27 grams over the Gen 1 components.  Look for our foul-weather ride reports — Speedhound is looking forward to some slushy snow this year!

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Heartland Velo Show Pics

Thanks to the talented Dennis Bean-Larson of Fixed Gear Gallery, we’ve got some great photos from the Heartland Velo Show in Madison, Wisconsin.  Click here to see the Speedhounds we brought to Madison.

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Why belt drive?

Why Belt Drive?  It’s like a human-powered motorcycle!

Belt Drive CranksetThe unique Speedhound Dropout System takes the fuss and muss of chains, derailleurs and chain lube out of the daily commute by accommodating a belt drive.  The unique slot in the dropout receiver makes installation and removal of drive belts a snap.

Why would someone want a belt-driven bike?  There are good reasons, especially for commuters.

  • Low maintenance  - Belts do not rust and are more resistant to debris than chain drives.
  • No grease! – Lubrication is not required, making the bike ideal for commuters – no more pants straps!
  • Light weight
  • Durability
  • Smoother, quieter operation. A belt’s teeth completely engage into the system for decreased friction.

History of the Belt Drive

Bridgestone PicnicaThe Bridgestone Picnica belt-drive bicycle was introduced in the early 1980s. It used a tooth-belt drive like auto timing belts and Harley-Davidson drive belts, along with a novel two-part chainring that increased belt tension with increasing load. The Picnica was a folding bicycle, and part of the appeal of the belt drive was cleanliness. The Picnica was a small wheel bicycle, so belt tension may have been less than on a bicycle with standard-size wheels. The Picnica was apparently successful, but was offered mainly in Japan.

In 1984 and 1985, Mark Sanders, a designer who had earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College, London, designed a folding bicycle as part of his graduate studies in an Industrial Design Engineering program.  He collaborated with a design engineer from Gates Corporation to outfit his bicycle with a belt, rather than a chain.

Possibilities for belt-driven bicycles have widened as hub gears inside the rear hub, were applied. In lieu of a derailleur, the hub gear allows riders of belt-driven bicycles to shift easily. Major internal hub makers include Shimano (Nexus), SRAM and Rohloff.

Suggested belt drive build kit:

The late, great Sheldon Brown posted an excellent summary of belt drive systems on his site.  It’s worth a read.  Check it out here.

Belt drives recently “dropped” with some mainstream press in the NY Times, too.  Read the article here.

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