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Belt curious...

Wuffles

Monkey
Feb 24, 2016
157
98
Looking at getting some sort of long-travel gearbox setup for the next rig, probably with a Pinion. Big question with those is do you go with belt drive, or chain drive? The default choice seems to be a belt, and while Gates swears up and down that their belts are much more reliable and lower maintenance in the mud than a chain would be, I remain skeptical. First off, in the moto world the conventional wisdom is the exact opposite- belt drives are for choppers that will never leave pavement, and even a lot of water is iffy. Dirt bikes are exclusively chain driven (afaik, if anyone knows otherwise please let me know) due to the apparent universal knowledge that chains are better in the dust and mud, and belts are susceptable to slipping or jumping off their sprockets entirely.

The other reason I am drawn to chains is that I have recently discovered the benefits of waxing your chain instead of lubing it, which I cannot recommend enough, and frankly the performance of a waxed chain in mud is so hilariously good compared with lube (zero fucks given with no noise or gritty shifting, just clean and rewax after a muddy ride) that I cannot imagine a belt somehow being better.

All in all, I am leaning towards a chain drive since i know it will work, but wondering if any monkeys can attest to belt drives being the bees knees in mud that their marketing promises they are. Thoughts? Experiences? Recommendations?
 

slyfink

Turbo Monkey
Sep 16, 2008
9,425
5,168
Ottawa, Canada
I can't offer any insight on your question, but I'm curious what brand of wax-lube you're running. I've been happy with RockNRoll wet for years and years and years, but find it tends to wear off relatively quick. Always looking for new data points...
 

Wuffles

Monkey
Feb 24, 2016
157
98
I can't offer any insight on your question, but I'm curious what brand of wax-lube you're running. I've been happy with RockNRoll wet for years and years and years, but find it tends to wear off relatively quick. Always looking for new data points...
Not lube, full wax. I use Molten Speed Wax, applied by melting a couple of pucks in a 2 qt crock pot and then swishing the chain around for a bit. In clean conditions, it's good for about 200-300km before needing a re-do, and I usually do a re-wax after each muddy ride. Two pucks/1 lb of wax last about 30 applications, which for me is roughly 4-6 months. Only downside is needing to break the chain each time, but if you use YBN chains their quick links are officially good for 5 cycles and can realistically do about 10 before they get sloppy, and a full card of 6 of them is like 10 bucks. Overall I have found it to be much quicker than having to extensively clean the chain after each dirty ride, you just pop off the chain, rinse everything off with boiling water, dry, and rewax. Zero Friction Cycling has a whole guide on it that goes into possibly more detail than you would care to know, but it's actually very easy and quick once you get the hang of it. I do carry a small bottle of Squirt in case I need an emergency lube on the trail, but have never once used it.

Pros of waxing:
Clean drivetrain. No, not like a nicely scrubbed down drivetrain, but CLEAN. I can grab my chain with my hands and then just brush off any dust that's accumulated. No grease that gets everywhere and needs a nail brush to scrape off. Clean drivetrain also leads to a cleaner bike overall.
Power savings. I don't really count the watts on my mtb, but there is a very, very noticable difference between a fresh waxed chain and your average gunky-lubed mtb chain. On a road bike, I think there's like 3-5 watts difference, on mtb this might be more like 10-15 given the state of the average mtb drivetrain.
Shit lasts longer. I'm still on my first waxed chain on my mtb, with negligable chain wear after a year. Cassettes and chainrings still look mint. Usually I'm replacing chains 3-4 x a year, and cassettes and chainrings once a year.

Cons of waxing:
Initial setup takes longer. You need to start with a fresh chain, and a very clean drivetrain. First melt of the wax takes a few hours since there's little contact with the crockpot walls.
It's a little awkward to lug a crockpot around on trips, instead of a little bottle of lube.
Upfront cost is a bit higher, but you rapidly make it back if you ride with any regular frequency.
 

Wuffles

Monkey
Feb 24, 2016
157
98
wax based drip products are only slightly less efficient but easier to apply
True, but they have one critical drawback- while cleaner than oil based lubes, they still pick up dirt and grime far more than a pure wax application does. The problem is paraffin wax is not really soluable in anything you could sell over the counter, and doesn't melt until 60 degrees C or so. So all the wax lubes still need something extra (seems like "hydrocarbon wax" according to my bottle of Squirt, or morpholine according to the MSDS) to help the paraffin adhere to the steel of the chain, and that adhesive picks up gunk. Definitely the way to go for drip lubes, but still not as clean as a hot wax, and now I can't go back.
 

Gary

"S" is for "neo-luddite"
Aug 27, 2002
7,811
5,723
UK
Thoughts? Experiences?
The tension from the belt can (and often will) prematurely destroy hub/freehub and BB bearings. infact it's the main problem I see with belt drive commuters bought for their "claimed" low maintenance.
 

ianjenn

Turbo Monkey
Sep 12, 2006
3,002
705
SLO
I have never ridden a Belt Zerode so no real experience with em. My issue that I presented ROB with when he was talking about this Belt BS is that for a potentially marginally longer life if belt via chain you have no easy swap at a shop if the belt gets messed up. I also explained that IMBA would kill you if caught riding in mud so that whole argument is null and void.

Also, the chainline is totally straight there are no weird angles as I run that 60 tooth rear sprocket or 21 tooth so that sort of eliminates that as an option as well. Why are you thinking of a gearbox bike? Is this for DH or trail?
 

Happymtb.fr

Turbo Monkey
Feb 9, 2016
1,944
1,295
SWE
The tension from the belt can (and often will) prematurely destroy hub/freehub and BB bearings. infact it's the main problem I see with belt drive commuters bought for their "claimed" low maintenance.
a colleague of mine commutes on a cargo ebike with a belt, Rolhoff hub and full suspension. He has already gone through 2 belts in relatively little time. I don't recall exactly how long but it was far less than the few 10 000 kms that belt drives are advertised to last.
 

Happymtb.fr

Turbo Monkey
Feb 9, 2016
1,944
1,295
SWE
@Wuffles Gamux runs belts on their DH bikes, so it surely works as their sponsored athletes can attest :busted:
Everything used at world cup is legit, ask @kidwoo , he knows

Zerode did not chose a belt for their first Pinion bikes arguing that the belt costs more energy to bend around than a chain. There is now a belt on their latest G3 and on all their bikes. I don't know what made them change their mind...
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
38,613
7,919
My belt drive acoustic commuter has about 2,500 miles on it or so, I reckon. Belt is fine. Needs a new BB, though, but that's a $25 part.
 

canadmos

Cake Tease
May 29, 2011
20,842
19,942
Canaderp
I've admitedly watched/followed a few people who do super long trekking type gravel rides on bikes with belts and they seem to do fine. The one dude I watched, had to ride his bike through absolutely crud soaking mud and snow. They both commented on how the belt just takes zero maintenance, so no need to carry lube or worry about water or anything like that.

Granted, in a later video the belt snapped on one guy and that was the one time he didn't bring a spare, so had to walk to the next town. I forget why he said it snapped, but perhaps there was something wrong with it at the start?
 

4xBoy

Turbo Monkey
Jun 20, 2006
7,085
2,975
Minneapolis
A proper belt "tension" is where most people f-- up.

They should be loose, I never had a problem with a hub bottom bracket or broken belt.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
38,613
7,919
A proper belt "tension" is where most people f-- up.

They should be loose, I never had a problem with a hub bottom bracket or broken belt.
iirc when I set mine up there was a Gates app that actually assessed tension based off of the pitch of the "ping" when the belt was flicked.

 

jonKranked

Detective Dookie
Nov 10, 2005
86,321
24,815
media blackout
iirc when I set mine up there was a Gates app that actually assessed tension based off of the pitch of the "ping" when the belt was flicked.

1695131512858.png
 

Gary

"S" is for "neo-luddite"
Aug 27, 2002
7,811
5,723
UK
An FS E cargo bike?
TBF that's any drivetrain's worst nightmare.
Dunno what cycling infrastructure is like where you are (it's pretty terrible here) but everytime I see them here laden with a little kid (or two) in rush hour city traffic it makes me cringe for their safety. Although they do seem far safer than kids bouncing around in rear mounted child seats mounted to shit old rarely ever maintained at all bikes.
 

norbar

KESSLER PROBLEM. Just cause
Jun 7, 2007
11,439
1,671
Warsaw :/
What real benefits do you expect from the belt drive? Chains are easy to work with. Easy to get so a belt would have to be a massive fucking improvement to be worth the hassle. I don't really see the reward for the extra risk unless you only ride near a car where you will cary spares.
 

Happymtb.fr

Turbo Monkey
Feb 9, 2016
1,944
1,295
SWE
An FS E cargo bike?
TBF that's any drivetrain's worst nightmare.
Dunno what cycling infrastructure is like where you are (it's pretty terrible here) but everytime I see them here laden with a little kid (or two) in rush hour city traffic it makes me cringe for their safety. Although they do seem far safer than kids bouncing around in rear mounted child seats mounted to shit old rarely ever maintained at all bikes.
yes! Why FS? I don't know... his bike is something similar to that:
1695134440520.png

The infrastructure here is somewhere between Holland/Danemark and France. There is a fair network of bike lanes with most of the time specific crossing or even bridges. Bike lanes are shared with pedestrians which can be challenging! :pleasantry:
 

bullcrew

3 Dude Approved
Looking at getting some sort of long-travel gearbox setup for the next rig, probably with a Pinion. Big question with those is do you go with belt drive, or chain drive? The default choice seems to be a belt, and while Gates swears up and down that their belts are much more reliable and lower maintenance in the mud than a chain would be, I remain skeptical. First off, in the moto world the conventional wisdom is the exact opposite- belt drives are for choppers that will never leave pavement, and even a lot of water is iffy. Dirt bikes are exclusively chain driven (afaik, if anyone knows otherwise please let me know) due to the apparent universal knowledge that chains are better in the dust and mud, and belts are susceptable to slipping or jumping off their sprockets entirely.

The other reason I am drawn to chains is that I have recently discovered the benefits of waxing your chain instead of lubing it, which I cannot recommend enough, and frankly the performance of a waxed chain in mud is so hilariously good compared with lube (zero fucks given with no noise or gritty shifting, just clean and rewax after a muddy ride) that I cannot imagine a belt somehow being better.

All in all, I am leaning towards a chain drive since i know it will work, but wondering if any monkeys can attest to belt drives being the bees knees in mud that their marketing promises they are. Thoughts? Experiences? Recommendations?
Amsoil chain wax, been using it for desert and MX for YEARS..
I think belt would be compromised with cold, wet or debris between it and small lugs .chain has tooth and groove it's metal yes it wears but it handles worlds of shit..grew up in Seattle plenty of MX and shit bike looked like a rolling mud chunk..chains never gave up...
 

Wuffles

Monkey
Feb 24, 2016
157
98
I have never ridden a Belt Zerode so no real experience with em. My issue that I presented ROB with when he was talking about this Belt BS is that for a potentially marginally longer life if belt via chain you have no easy swap at a shop if the belt gets messed up. I also explained that IMBA would kill you if caught riding in mud so that whole argument is null and void.

Also, the chainline is totally straight there are no weird angles as I run that 60 tooth rear sprocket or 21 tooth so that sort of eliminates that as an option as well. Why are you thinking of a gearbox bike? Is this for DH or trail?
Trailish- to DH. I don't ride enough park to justify a full DH rig, so I just pretend any bike 140-170mm travel is sufficient, even if it isn't. Mostly riding my hardtail these days since it's capable of handling 100% of my local trails without getting too sketch. The bikes I'm specifically looking at are the Zerode Tany-whatsit or the Viral Optimist (when it comes out, I can be patient).

@Wuffles Gamux runs belts on their DH bikes, so it surely works as their sponsored athletes can attest :busted:
Everything used at world cup is legit, ask @kidwoo , he knows

Zerode did not chose a belt for their first Pinion bikes arguing that the belt costs more energy to bend around than a chain. There is now a belt on their latest G3 and on all their bikes. I don't know what made them change their mind...
Yeah, that's one of the things that drove me to make the post- they probably sell more FS gearbox bikes than anyone else, why are they using belts and what do they know that the forums don't? Or is it just marketing BS?

What real benefits do you expect from the belt drive? Chains are easy to work with. Easy to get so a belt would have to be a massive fucking improvement to be worth the hassle. I don't really see the reward for the extra risk unless you only ride near a car where you will cary spares.
I don't expect any benefits, to me a chain looks like the clear winner, but I am open to the possibility that I am a moron in general or shortsighted in this particular instance, and hoping someone smarter could educate me on what I missed.

Amsoil chain wax, been using it for desert and MX for YEARS..
I think belt would be compromised with cold, wet or debris between it and small lugs .chain has tooth and groove it's metal yes it wears but it handles worlds of shit..grew up in Seattle plenty of MX and shit bike looked like a rolling mud chunk..chains never gave up...
There seem to be quite a lot of posts on bikepackers forums lamenting this particular aspect of belts, that despite what is claimed they don't actually shed debris that well and are prone to jamming, which matches with what the moto crowd Knows To Be True.
 

4xBoy

Turbo Monkey
Jun 20, 2006
7,085
2,975
Minneapolis
Ratio changes are da suck with belts, and in MX pulling a swingarm to swap a belt would really be lame.

Anything smaller than 26t is also getting past the happy point for bending a belt.

If I had a pinion, I would consider a belt again, but currently I am not going to run belts in any near future.