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.