We caught up with Holger and Recep from Fixie Inc at the show, and they were keen to show us two things. The first was their prototype belt drive fixed gear. It's based on their Peacemaker frame (with an SKS coupling to split the seatstay in order to fit the belt) and uses a new Gates Carbon belt which is claimed to be as efficient as, and last three times as long as, a roller chain. It's also up to 300g lighter than a standard eighth-inch fixed setup. The second was that they're not just about fixed - they were also showing a 953 race machine and a cyclo-cross bike on their stand.
The Fixie guys have put together three belt drive prototypes, one of which, in polished steel, won a Eurobike award. While that certainly isn't any guarantee of quality (the StashKit folding helmet won one last year, for crying out loud) the belt drive fixed was certainly an interesting machine.
The Fixie guys were at pains to point out that it's just a testbed, not a finished design - they want to see what all the fuss is about. We've seen belt drives before of course (every year) but the Gates carbon belt promsises to build into an efficient and durable drivetrain.
It's impossible to draw conclusions from a spin round the car park, but initial impressions were of good power transfer and minimum drag from the moving parts. The SKS coupling certainly wouldn't be the weapon of choice for splitting the frame in a production model: it looks lovely but isn't really designed for the job, you need to apply some serious force to the frame to split it far enough to slip the belt through.
Other belt drive bikes on show (from Trek) used a removeable dropout that allowed the belt to be inserted between the chain and seatstays. Fixie had two of the belt bikes on show - one with a natural rust finish ('we wanted to see how long it would last') which was treated only with olive oil, and the other with a more traditional finish. Both sported lovely wooden bars from Fast Boy Fenders
General concerns about belts remain: they need more tension, which means replacing the wheel after a puncture is harder; they need millimetre-perfect alignment in order to work properly; you can't repair them if they break on a ride; and they're more expensive. We'll catch up with Holger and Recep in a few months to find out what they learnt from their experiment...
The award winning stainless steel version of the belt fixer
An S&S coupling lets you get the belt in... just
Gates' Carbon-reinforced belt is purported to last three times as long as a chain
The wooden bars are laminated, and made from nine pieces of wood cut from a single source. They look and feel fantastic...
The Chiprace 953 is a balls-out race iron
The Pure Blood Cyclo-x looks so lovely you'd be loath to get it muddy