Belt drivetrains have long been a niche product in the cycling world.
While the performance of belts is known to be great, there are three things that prevent their widespread adoption:
(1) They are incompatible with derailleur drivetrains, which means you’re limited to an internal gear hub or gearbox
(2) They require a specially-designed belt drive frame in order to fit the one-piece carbon belts, and
(3) Spare belt drive components are rarely found in shops.
But with e-bikes making up over 50% of bicycle sales in Europe, and e-Bikes using more internal gear hubs and gearbox drivetrains than ever before – belt drive product development is in overdrive.
Gates is the market leader by a huge margin. Their belt drivetrains are clean, low-maintenance, reliable, long-lasting, and can be used in all kinds of crazy weather conditions.
I can personally vouch for the quality of the Gates CDX product, as I have cycled over 135,000km using these drivetrains – with very few issues along the way. Actually, why not read about why I think belts are better than chain drivetrains HERE.
In this article, I’m going to show you three promising new belt drivetrains that I found at Eurobike, the world’s biggest bicycle trade show. After speaking to the product managers and engineers behind each belt drivetrain, here’s what I found…
Advanced Belt Drive
Advanced claims that their belts will last as long as Gates, are suited to all weather conditions, can be used on e-Bikes, and can run just as quietly and efficiently. They are compatible with all the usual internal gear hub manufacturers (eg. Shimano, Rohloff) as well as the typical HG cassette bodies.
This was my first opportunity to actually test the Advanced belts, and they rode great. They honestly felt identical to my usual Gates belt drivetrains.
According to Advanced, their biggest advantage over Gates is that you can run their belts at a lower tension, as their system will tolerate more side-to-side frame flex while cycling. This means rear frame triangles do not have to be engineered to be super stiff, which will allow the belt drivetrain to suit a broader variety of bikes.
I asked why there are so few Advanced belt drivetrains in use, and the representative essentially said their business is very small and they pour most marketing resources into their Schlumpf Drive two-speed planetary cranksets instead.
If their belt drivetrain is as good as they say, this is certainly a missed opportunity for Advanced, especially as more and more bikes are shifting to internal gear hubs and gearboxes.
Optibelt Twin Track Belt Drive
Optibelt Twin Track is a new belt drive system ready to compete with Gates.
This German company similarly uses eight carbon fibre tensile cords for strength, along with a centre track on the sprocket to keep the belt on. With this design, the sprocket teeth actually penetrate right into the belt, and the teeth are a bit deeper than Gates as well.
There are currently 17 belt lengths, and sprockets for 4-bolt, 5-bolt, and Pinion up front, as well as Shimano internal gear hub and HG 9-spline cassette bodies.
Time will tell whether it’s as durable as Gates CDX.
Veer Belt Drive
And lastly, Veer, who is best known for its split belt design. These belts have been available for four or five years now, and are unlike any other belt because the belt itself can ‘break’ in half and be retrofitted to any bike.
However, with so many bicycle frames now accommodating one-piece belts (thanks to Gates), Veer has seen an opportunity to release some non-splittable drivetrains too.
There is the Veer Super Belt Pro for high-power electric motors and off-road mountain bike use. Veer claims this is the most durable belt on the market, especially for high-power motors.
Then there is the Veer Xpert Drive, which balances performance and value and is approved for low-power e-Bikes and urban use.
Veer was also showing a small belt tensioner, and a super crazy two-speed sprocket concept (it’s worth seeing it change gears on my Instagram).
With e-bikes using more internal gear hubs and gearbox drivetrains than ever before, belt drivetrain development is currently moving quickly. In fact, there were many more belt drivetrains at Eurobike than I’ve shown here.
Advanced, Optibelt, and Veer look to have some products that could potentially keep up with Gates in the coming years. But time will tell whether they are truly comparable, or better yet – superior belt products.
Gates has been on the top of the belt drive roost for over a decade now, and I think their CDX product is great. But I’m excited that new players are moving into this space, as it will encourage Gates to continue to innovate.