Just in: Trek District Carbon

Is this the ultimate belt drive bike? If you can think of more ultimate one… let us know

by Tony Farrelly   April 2, 2010  

Belt drive bikes eh? You wait for months for one and then two turn up almost simultaneously and not just any old belt drives either, after the sharp looking, sharp handling cool steel Fixie Inc Peacemaker comes the supremely understated and yet quite fantastical Trek District Carbon.

The burning question in these parts is what is this thing of beauty for? Being cool would seem to be the answer and this is a very cool bike indeed. We've seen a lot of black carbon over the years but none has exerted anything like the pulling power of the District carbon – and it hasn't even left our office yet.

Not only can the District Carbon lay claim to being the ultimate belt drive bike it's got to be the ultimate road-going singlespeed too. What your £2800 buys you is a handmade OCLV Trek carbon frame – make that a limited edition frame, because Trek won't be knocking these babies out in any numbers. From what we we can see, by comparing the geometries (oh, and then we also noticed it says “Pro” on the spec sheet), Trek have based the frame on the Madone 5 series Pro geometry – basically the frame Alberto Contador won the 2007 Tour on – and given it a new back end the spacing between the rear dropouts needing to be wider to accommodate that belt and, of course, the frame needing to separate for when/if you need to change that Gates carbon belt. One thing you don't get though is the option of switching to fixed – doable we're sure, but you will need a fixed sprocket which doesn't come as standard.

For the District Carbon Trek have opted for a completely different approach to separating the frame than that devised by the chaps at Fixie Inc partly of course that is going to be down to the fact that working in carbon splitting the seatstay is going to be less of an option, but also from conversations we had had with Trek product guys when metal District belt drive was launched it's because they think that separating at the dropout makes more sense.

Certainly the method they've come up with is both ingenious and user-friendly – an eccentric rear dropout which is undone via three Allen bolts on each side, that would also seem to take care of any issues regarding getting the belt straight and to the required tension – the Trek belt appears to be held at a higher tension than the Fixie Peacemaker's.

Last year, Trek showed off a flat bar Madone put together by one of their engineers, Ray Waxham, who also devised and patented the method for separating the carbon frame. Waxham's bike was claimed to weigh 12lb (5.4Kg) a few months back we featured a similar bike, it might even have been the same one, given to Lance Armstrong also a flat bar and with lots of pimped componentry. It was inevitable that a production model would follow ours tips the scales at 6.96Kg (15.3lb) but you could easily drop weight of it: lighter wheels and bars – we're intrigued that Trek went for drops rather than flats which would seem to slightly limit the bike's urban appeal plus add weight with those levers – Lance went for a flat bar.

The Bontrager Race Lite fork has a carbon steerer, but then so do the Madone 5 series machines, it's also SpeedTrap compatible so you can run a digital sensor in the fork leg. The fork matches up with a Cane Creek integrated headset. Brakes are Bontrager's very swish looking Speed Limit design, which in appearnce at least remind us of the Revl carbon brakeset, these are matched up to Tektro road levers.

Being a singlspeed there isn't that much more spec to tell you about, all the finishing kit is Trek's own brand Bontrager line and none the worse for that. You get Bontrager Race Lite Aero rims with Bontrager Race All Weather 23mm tyres, handlebars are Bontrager Race Vrs with a comfortable bend and wrapped in black leather bar tape, the stem Bontrager Race X Lite with 7° of rise, saddle… Bontrager Race Lite… you get the picture. The drivetrain isn't Bontrager though – that's the Gates Carbon Belt matched up to an FSA Energy 55T sprocket pulling a 22T rear sprocket. Gearing for the Trek is lower than on the Fixie – the ratios giving something closer to a 67.t in gear whereas the Peacemaker is nearer 75in – so it should go up hills easier, being a nudge over 15lb shouldn't do it any harm in that department either.

The District Carbon is certainly the most stroked bike we've ever had in our possession people just can't seem to keep their hands off of it. It really is a thing of beauty so much so that in the couple weeks since it popped out of the box we haven't taken it outside… because it's been raining. We just couldn't bear to. Bizzare really because the belt and the lack of oils should it shrugs off the wet – muck should just drop off it and there's no lubrication to wash away. No bike has ever had that level of special privilige in these parts and sadly for it.

We can't help wondering though whether this is a bike with a bit of an identity problem: the frame, the fork, and basically everything about the way the District Carbon is set up says (this bike is way too cool to scream) performance road machine but the singlespeed belt drive would seem to be all about urban riding – in which case Trek could have ditched the bars and levers and shed some weight and cost in the process… Hmm, Trek aren't giving us any clues on this either, according to the blurb on their website the District Carbon is about becoming “the envy of all” which undoubtedly you would be if you owned one if only for the fact that you could afford it.

Time to go outside then and answer the riddle oh and find out whether cool looks equal cool performance too…

6 user comments

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This is missing one advantage of single speed or fixed, which is that you have a stronger, dishless rear wheel. This is like a single speed conversion, which is disappointing.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1300 posts]
3rd April 2010 - 15:39

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£2,800. Smug or Mug? My Raleigh fixed shopper broke at the drop out, solution, another dreadnought Raleigh frame at a mind blowing £10.00. a simple swap over of parts, this is the simplicity of fixies, and my shopping couldn't care less how it gets home, I'm feeling pretty smug. Antonio.

antonio

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posted by antonio [896 posts]
6th April 2010 - 19:21

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I have had my Carbon District since about Mid January, I live in Chicago. The weather has not been that spring life but I have had the bike in question out and it rides great, very smooth, makes little if any noise et al.

I removed the stock bars and put on cut-down XXX riser bars and Paul levers to make commuting around Chicago easier – smaller/narrower bars work a lot better for urban riding.

The only issues I’ve had so far are very small, mostly user error on part for not reading the directions on how to remove the wheel, then aligning the belt again/tensioning it properly – FYI…read what Gates says about this and you will be just fine.

I think the bike is great!!!

I work for a shop so I did not pay retail for it and got a great deal – well worth it if you have the opportunity and can justify the $1800 employee purchase price…

posted by Airic [3 posts]
6th April 2010 - 21:13

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Early days yet, but if it was mine I'd definitely stick on a set of narrow riser bars. In fact we might try that anyway just to see what it would be like. I might be tempted to swap the tyres too for a wider profile 23mm - something with a but more cush for round town. How do you find the gearing on yours Airic? Seems to me that at around 15lb out of the box it is a tad undergeared for the weight - floats up hills mind.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4110 posts]
6th April 2010 - 23:01

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Yum. That's sex on wheels. Sadly, living where I live and with a shocking state of fitness I couldn't countenance a single speed bike - especially for £2,800 - but, as our friend Airic in Chicago says, if you're in a flattish area and want to get somewhere fast it's a very appealing bike. The ultimate urban speed machine for city boys who have had to review their Lamborghini budget this year?

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posted by NickInBath [41 posts]
7th April 2010 - 12:57

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If I could, I would!!

However, £2,800 for a third bike, is just WAAAAAY too much.

Agree with the dishless wheel comment as well....

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posted by i_want_one_of_those [10 posts]
7th April 2010 - 14:46

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