A greased-up roller chain has been the standard power transfer system on bicycles since the late 1800s. And for good reason: it’s simple, and it works. While many might say, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” the good folks over at Gates Corp., have a different view: It ain’t broke, but it sure can be improved upon.
Gates Corp. are the people responsible for the Carbon Drive system, a high-performance chain-replacing technology which consists of two metal sprockets and a high-strength, carbon fiber embedded belt. The Gates Carbon Drive, or “belt drive” as it has come to be known, is a completely grease-free, low-maintenance alternative to a standard roller chain. It’s capable of handling the same or greater maximum load standards as a chain drive, so it can be ridden hard. And since there’s no meeting of metal on metal, a bicycle with a belt drive is virtually silent.
It is lighter than a chain, won’t stretch or break down quickly, and won’t leave that telltale grease mark on the bottom of your pant leg – a particular bonus for riders who bike commute in fancy duds. If the belt gets dirty, simply hose it off.
Attracted to the idea of a drive system which is clean, quiet, and basically maintenance-free, many riders are increasingly turning to the Carbon Drive system. However, it does come with one significant drawback. Since the belt cannot be broken and reattached, the Carbon Drive system requires a purpose-built bicycle.
You could feasibly incorporate the belt into an existing frame by breaking the rear triangle, but doing so would void your frame manufacturer’s warranty and pose a significant threat to the structural integrity of your frame, and thusly your safety.
So in the interest of keeping warranties and collarbones intact, we’ve pulled together a list of a few great commuter and city bicycles with Gates Carbon Drive. As the belt drive system grows in popularity, we expect to continue adding brands to this list for years to come.
Price: $1,415 USD Sizes: One size Colors: Glacial White, Stealth Black, Battleship Grey, Signal Yellow, Coastal Blue, Meteor Magenta
Coast Cycles is a relatively young bike company from Singapore whose flagship model, the Quinn, was designed with urban commuting in mind. Its compact, ergonomic frame was built for zipping around busy city streets. The cargo carrier built into the frame is the perfect size for a laptop bag or briefcase, giving you a good idea of who the bike is designed for. The Quinn features a belt drive, along with disc brakes, wide tires for bumpy city streets, and an optional metal front basket to complement the in-frame cargo carrier.
Price: Starting at $1,950 USD Sizes: XS (for 5′-5’4″, smaller wheel size), SM (for 5’4″-5’9″), MD (for 5’9″-6’4″) Colors: Customizable single color
Chicago-based Legacy Frameworks offers quality hand-built bicycles available in two frame designs: step-through and diamond, and in two versions: Sport (disc brake) and Classic (drum brake). Frames are made of light-weight True Temper double-butted chromoly steel tubing that are powder-coated for durability. The Standard Package includes essentials for daily riding such as full fenders, a rear rack, hub generator lights in front and rear, and hub based brakes for all-weather stopping power. With the addition of the Sport version, Legacy has created a bike that is better suited for a die-hard commuter. Disc brakes, threadless steering and stiffer frame tubing, combined with an elite selection of geared hubs and the same standard features of the Rambler. All Legacy bikes are fully customizable.
Price: Starting at $1619 USD Sizes: S, M, L, XL Colors: Matte Black + Optic Green
The Beltway is Joe Breeze’s lightweight commuter bike. Focusing on simplicity without sacrificing functionality the Beltway comes complete with all of the bells and whistles that make everyday cycling an attractive option while maintaining a lightweight movability that won’t slow you down on long commutes.
Price: $349 USD Sizes: Small (5’2” – 5’7”) and Large (5’8” – 6’3”) for the diamond frame. Small (4’8” – 5’2”) and Large (5’3” – 5’7”) for the step-through. Colors: Matte Black and Gloss Blue for the diamond frame. Matte Black and Gloss White for the step-through.
A relative newcomer on the market, Priority Bicycles are rapidly gaining in popularity for their focus on functional, low-maintenance, and affordable bicycles. Their first model, The Classic, was a Kickstarter success due to its unparalleled simplicity and ease-of-use. It features the belt drive, an upright seated position, coaster brakes, and puncture-resistant tires. Ride-ready for an unbeatable price. Priority Bicycles has since added Gates Carbon Drive to their Classic Plus (which features hand brakes), and their Coast beach cruiser as well.
Price: From $5,450 USD Sizes: Four frame sizes (S-XL) fine tuned with crank & stem lengths, plus handlebar and seat post options to fit individual riders. Colors: Brushed Titanium, Macchiato Gloss, Blue Gloss, Black Matte, Orange Gloss, Red Gloss, Green Pearlescent, Racing Yellow Gloss, Custom
Budnitz is a bicycle-maker from Vermont, USA who builds handcrafted, titanium bicycles – remaining small at only a few hundred bikes per year. While all four Budnitz models use the Carbon Drive system, their Flagship model, the No. 1, was designed specifically with urban commuting in mind. Borrowing inspiration from racing bikes, the No. 1 incorporates the short wheelbase and athletic agility of a performance bike into a sleek urban commuter. Along with the belt drive, this stunner features a Rohloff 14-speed internally geared hub, a 3.5 pound titanium frame, a carbon fiber fork, and a whack of customization options such as frame colour, handlebars, dynamo lighting and other optional accessories.
Price: $2,400 USD Sizes: 49, 52, 55, 57, 60 cm Colors: Gloss Black
The Wazee is a city bike that blends modern aesthetics with a classic road-racing feel. The sleek black finish with the Martini Race Team’s livery gives a nod to the legendary team, while the red belt drive adds a touch of urban flash. An intergrated 11-speed hub and hydraulic disc brakes provide control and ample stopping power. Mounts on the frame and fork allow the rider to customize with fenders, a kickstand, and racks of their own choice.
Price: $1,995 CAD for the Frame with Fork, $2,295 CAD for the build kit Sizes: Semi Custom Colors: Customizable, choice of single color.
Naked Bicycles & Design builds beautiful custom, hand-built bicycles on Quadra Island, BC. All Naked bikes are completely customizable, start with a frame & fork set, choose a build kit, and customize from there. The above bike has a few optional add-ons, including the $350 Gates Carbon Drive upgrade and integrated fenders.
Price: $550 USD Sizes: XS/S, S/M, L/XL Colors: Dark Green
The Arkham is an easy-riding city bike with comfortable geometry, disc brakes, and a 3-speed internal-gear hub for no-fuss shifting and low maintenance over the long haul. The Novara N-Dock mounts can be used to attach an aftermarket Barrow basket to the front of the frame. Schwalbe Marathon tires provide long-rolling durability.
Price: $2,100 USD Sizes: One Size Colors: Matte Black, Gloss White
Long a leader in folding bike technology, Tern has taken a turn (sorry not sorry) towards the simplistic with the S8i, billing the little folder as the world’s most versatile ultra low-maintenance folding bike. Along with the belt drive, the S8i comes with a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internally geared hub, 20” Schwalbe Big Apple tires for the bumps and lumps of the city streets, a dynamo front light, fenders, hydraulic disc brakes, and Tern’s trademark adjustable stem. As with all other Tern models, the S8i promises to fold in under 10 seconds, and fits snugly into even the tightest corner of your office or apartment.
Price: Starting at $1,500 USD Sizes: Wide range for riders from 4’5” to 6’3” Colors: Ink Black, Glacier, Sky Blue, Flag Red, White
Bike Friday is an Oregon-based bicycle company whose work is rooted firmly in the idea that bicycles make the world a better place. They specialize in making high-quality bicycles for a range of needs, for people of all shapes and sizes. The pakiT, their urban folder, is a highly customizable folding bike available with Gates Carbon Drive as a build option. It is lightweight, folds down into a large backpack for ease of travel, and is designed with simplicity in mind. The pakiT comes in a range of sizes designed to fit riders from very short to rather tall, and is available in gear ranges from 1-11.
Montague, an industry high-hitter in full size folding bike technology, offers bikes with full-size wheels, standard components, and familiar geometry that still fold in seconds for the car trunk or train. The Allston is equipped with 700c wheels, a Gates carbon belt drive and a Shimano Alfine 11 speed internal gear hub. Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are also paired with Montague’s RackStand, a rear cargo rack with built in mud guard that rotates under the rear wheel to double as a kickstand and stand for the folded bike.
Price: From €2,126 Sizes: One frame size, choose Small or Large seatpost and stem. Colors: Classic Black, Race Green, Pepper Red, Submarine Yellow, Bluebird, Milk Plus, Clockwork Orange, Lizzardking Green, Ra grey
Danish cargo bike-maker Larry vs. Harry are the builders responsible for the Bullitt system, a highly customizable long john cargo bike based around one high-quality frame and whole range of optional build kits and accessories. The Bullitt is available with a Gates Carbon Drive system in its Alfine 8 and Alfine 11 models which includes, as the name suggests, an internally geared Shimano Alfine 8- or 11-speed hub, hydraulic disc brakes, Schawlbe Marathon Supreme tires, and color and build-out options galore.
Get your FREE copy of our guide: Momentum Mag's Cargo Bike Guide
Discover the wonderful world of cargo bikes! Download this comprehensive guide to learn about different cargo bike models, brands, the history of cargo bikes, buying advice, one family's experience with cargo biking, and more.
Please select your country and provide a valid email address
Thank you for your submission. Please check your inbox to download the guide!