photo: Eddie Clark
When Carlos Vulgamott won the singlespeed division of the 2015 Breck Epic stage race, he not only did it on a Gates belt drive–he was also 100 percent plant powered. Carlos has been meat, egg and dairy-free for four years, and he credits his vegan diet with making him lighter and faster. His speed and endurance were on full display this summer at the Breck Epic, a monster race with six stages of between 30 and 50 miles, 40,000 feet of grueling climbs into the thin air of Colorado’s high alpine, and lots of fast and rocky descents. He first raced the Epic in 2013 and vowed to return and win it. “I was instantly enamored by this event and the international feel, plus I found joy in being around a group of individuals who are ambitious enough to take on a six day stage race of this magnitude.”
A member of Team Gates Carbon Drive, Carlos hoped to win in 2014 and took several stage victories, but he suffered two tire slashes that cost him major amounts of time. This year luck was on his side. He also made winning the Epic his top priority. “In 2015 I focused all my training and racing around the Epic and didn’t stray from that goal.” It all paid off on Stage 5 this year, when he turned a 40-second deficit after Stage 4 into a 12-minute-and-16-second lead. “Going into Stage Six I couldn’t have been more stoked. I was in the leader’s jersey and my wife and daughter were there to cheer me on for the win.” Overall, Carlos had three stage wins and finished on the podium all six days. Scroll down to read our Q&A with Carlos, who discusses singlespeeding, the advantages of racing on a belt, and giving up meat following a family cancer scare.
Belted Blog: When did you start racing bikes, and when did you take up singlespeeding?
Vegan Singlespeeder: I started out racing BMX as a kid and went for my first mountain bike ride in 1984 in my hometown of Buena Vista, Colorado. I didn’t actually begin racing bikes until 1997 when I finally started making enough money to buy a bike and pay for entry fees. I started racing singlespeed in 2003 when I decided to spice up my riding adventures.
Belted: What do you like about singlespeeding versus geared riding?
Vegan: Singlespeeding is a simplistic and primal experience for me. At this point I have been riding singlespeed mountain bikes for so many years I am actually slower on a geared bike because I find myself fussing around with the gears.
Belted: You’re known as the Vegan Singlespeeder. Why did you become a vegan and do you think it helps your racing?
Vegan: My wife, Erica, and I have been vegans for four years. We moved to a plant-based diet after she went through breast cancer. After all her treatments, the doctors had her on a list of medications, oral chemotherapy, anti-depressants, and more. At that point we decided to take control of our lives and get off of the prescriptions and begin a completely plant-based diet. Today my wife is cancer free. I have lost weight, I recover faster, and I just feel healthier overall.
Belted: You’ve been racing a titanium Spot Cream SS with Gates Carbon Drive for several seasons As a racer, what are your impressions of the Gates drive?
Vegan: When I first heard of the belt drive concept I was intrigued but also apprehensive. But after I started riding and racing the Gates Carbon Drive system I was blown away by the level of engagement. You can feel every ounce of energy you apply to the pedals go into your forward momentum, which is key for singlespeeding. I also like the “set it and forget it” aspect of the Gates drive. All you need to do is apply the proper belt tension, make sure it is aligned and then get on your bike and go. The low-maintenance aspect is key during stage racing because after a stage I can rest and recover rather than work on my bike. After every stage all I did was wash my bike and belt. It’s also incredibly strong and gave me the confidence to really hammer the climbs.
photo: Eddie Clark
What a nice guy! Did we mention that Carlos also won the 2014 Breck 100 and the 2014 Rocky Mountain Endurance Series overall in the singlespeed category? Carlos is now beginning the fall cyclocross season, racing on his Gates Carbon Drive equipped Sycip singlespeed CX bike. If you’re inspired by his story and want more information on veganism, his bike and racing results, check Carlos’s Vegan Singlespeeder Twitter feed, and watch the video interview by Spot Brand where he shows off his 21-pound Cream SS.
In the garden
Velonia Bicycles is based in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, a small northern European country on the Baltic Sea beneath Finland. Unlike some former Soviet Republics, Estonia has a high standard of living and a thriving bike culture, as exemplified by the annual Tallinn Bicycle Week. “Cycling as a sport and urban cycling are both booming here,” says Kristo Riimaa, co-founder of Velonia. “More people are riding bikes for commuting purposes and they are more visible on the streets of Tallinn and other cities. It is very encouraging.” The 2015 Tallinn Bicycle Week already occurred, but organizers are now planning the 2016 event, which, based on this video, looks fun.
Velonia Bicycles is best known for its Viks bike model. Created by Riimaa’s business partner and Velonia’s head designer Indrek Narusk, the Viks frame is made of two parallel sets of tubing. It has a minimalist and airy look that evokes classic cafe racers but with a modern twist. Pictured here is the new Viks Carbon with Aerospoke wheels, the Gates Carbon Drive system and carbon tubes connected with segments of stainless tubing. The Viks Carbon weighs 10 kilograms (22 pounds). The carbon tubes were made by Berk Composites, a Slovenian company that also collaborates with Team Sky. Viks means classy in Estonian. This bike, with its gleaming carbon and steel, is in a class unto itself. viks.cc
Steve McCulley served in the British military for 17 years and raced bikes for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines before sustaining career-ending injuries in Afghanistan . “That was when I decided to follow my passion,” he says. McCulley was inspired to create a super-light full-carbon folding bike after meeting the founder of UK folding bike brand Brompton. After much R&D, the Nano was born. With its carbon frame and carbon fork, wheels, handlebar, seatpost and saddle, plus its lightweight Gates Carbon Drive system, the Nano weighs about 8 kilograms (17 pounds).
McCulley named the company after his children, Lily and Oscar–appropriate for a man whose love of bikes originated with his father. “I built my first bike with my dad when I was eight years old and started racing bikes in Devon when I was thirteen. During my teenage years I repaired broken bikes and sold them for a profit.” The Nano may be tiny, but for one lifelong bicycling entrepreneur it is a Mega dream come true. liosfoldingbike.com
Stevens Bikes is a German brand based in Hamburg, a cosmopolitan port town where all of the company’s bikes are designed and engineered. Stevens is best known for its high-performance race bikes and its close connection to competitive cycling. The Belted Blog previously featured an experimental Stevens race bike project in the post “Future Shift.”
But Stevens is also a lifestyle brand that offers a large range of innovative and stylish transportation bikes. Pictured above is an experimental eBike created with Pinion that features the Stevens P-Carpo equipped with a rear hub drive. That one is not for sale, but the P-Carpo
below is. With its sporty frame, fat slicks and low-maintenance belt paired with the Pinion gearbox, the P-Carpo is one of our favorite new 2016 urban bikes–and one of the many models in Stevens’ “AllRound” line equipped with the Gates Carbon Drive system.
The 2016 Stevens line also includes the new E-Carpo electric bike, below, a souped-up urban commuter with a Bosch electric drive, plus a rack, fenders and lights for year-round commuting.
Also new for 2016 is the Courier Luxe
Gent, below, and the Courier Luxe Lady, second down. These lightweight city bikes have an anthracite finish, disc brakes, a Nexus eight-speed hub and all the essentials for fast urban commuting.
Below is the Sovereign SX R14
, a premium trekking bike that pairs the Gates belt drive with a Rohloff hub and a suspension fork–ideal for crossing town, or touring across the country.
Above is the P18 Lite. Like the P-Carpo, this premium transportation bike also pairs the Pinion gearbox with the Gates belt drive. Thanks to its low-maintenance, grease-free drivetrain, this bike leaves you with plenty of time to stop, enjoy the day and relax on a bench, like the dude below. Life is good. Thanks to Stevens Bikes/Marc Autenrieth for the photographs. stevensbikes.de
Gates Carbon Drive will be in Las Vegas next week for Interbike, and as usual we will belt Sin City good. At Outdoor Demo on Monday and Tuesday Gates has partnered with Rohloff and Cycle Monkey to present a “Belt Drive Boutique” featuring bikes from small builders including REEB, Shand and Lenz Sport. We will have bikes from these boutique brands in multiple sizes, all featuring Gates drives and Rohloff hubs, for testing on the trails of Bootleg Canyon. Pictured above is the Donkadonk fat bike from REEB. Below is the full suspension Milk Money (pictured here as a singlespeed, but with a Rohloff for Demo) from Lenz Sport, and below that is Bahookie from UK brand Shand Cycles. Steven Shand and Devin Lenz will be there to answer questions. Booth No. D4604
Once the show moves indoors to Mandalay Bay Casino, there will be an interesting assortment of Gates Carbon Drive equipped bikes to check out. Here are some of our picks.
Coast Cycles from Singapore will show its unique bikes including their 20-inch-wheel Juggernaut (below) and Goliath Rohloff (second down), as well as their other belted models the Quinn, Coastliner and Coastliner Fixed. Booth No. 2089
Berlin-based urban brand Schindelhauer will show its new Jacob “smart bike.” This stylish singlespeed red-light-racer is equipped with a smartphone interface that allows riders to access GPS navigation, phone calls, music, weather forecasts and other functions on the fly. Forget your charger? No worries, mate. Your phone charges while you ride thanks to the dynamo hub. The Jacob also comes with lights that automatically turn on after dark. Watch the video of the COBI-equipped Jacob in action. Booth No. 13145
Marin, which last year debuted its first belt drive commuter bike, the Fairfax SC6, which Bicycling called “a head-turning townie,” will unveil its new Fairfax SC4 Belt in Vegas. This bike features Gates new CDN belt system as well as an eight-speed hub, a light alloy frame, reflective sidewalls and hydraulic disc brakes. Booth No. 6202
Miir is a Seattle brand that donates a portion of its bike sales to providing bikes for people in the developing world. It makes the Burke, below in the Seattle fog, a low-maintenance eight-speed city bike perfect for commuting on Seattle’s Burke-Gilman trail. The Burke is sold through REI.
Danish belt drive specialists Biomega will show their new NYC Lady step-through (below), made for cruising Manhattan and sporting a mod brushed aluminum frame–and some Copenhagen styling. Booth No. 4067
Breezer will show it’s Beltway Elite, which caused one Bicycling Magazine editor to lament that her commute was too short. Booth No. 6131
Scott will show its SUB Speed 10. This bike has been part of the Scott line for many years, a super-stylish and highly utilitarian all-weather commuter. Booth No. 11176
Other brands exhibiting with Gates Carbon Drive bikes include Tempo eBikes, Raleigh and Co-Motion, and more. See you there.