Posts written by Paul Tolme

Lynx-Poland-woman standing with bike

Lynx Bicycles is a Polish brand that wants to elevate the status of bamboo bikes while helping to create jobs in Africa. Lynx sources its bamboo frames from Zambikes, a nonprofit that runs a bike building facility in Zambia. The handmade bamboo frames take up to a month to create. The goal is to use bikes as an economic development tool in rural Africa. “This was one of the most important factors when we chose Zambikes to source our frames,” say the founders of Lynx. Learn more about Lynx, which sells Gates Carbon Drive, at lynxbicycles.com and Zambikes at zambikeszambia.com 

Lynx-Poland-bike on shoulder

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CDX EXP Family 2-compressed

Gates is introducing a new series of high-mileage sprockets for expedition cyclists called CDX:EXP™ that offers extended range and durability in abrasive off-road conditions. CDX:EXP sprockets are for use with Rohloff geared hubs. Rohloff is a close partner of Gates, and its hubs combined with Gates belt drives are an increasingly popular application for trekking cyclists who seek a low-maintenance, strong and clean alternative to chains and derailleurs when riding way off the map.

The extra durability derives from the 25 percent increase in surface area compared to regular CDX™ sprockets. Despite their extra strength, the CDX:EXP sprockets weigh only a few grams more than current CDX sprockets due to a redesign of the sprocket interface.  The CDX:EXP sprockets are currently available in three front sizes (pictured above) and four rear sizes for cyclists who want to upgrade their existing CDX drives. The 39-tooth front sprocket is also designed for use with Pinion gearboxes.

Gates will unveil CDX:EXP at the Eurobike trade show in late August. Europe is the global epicenter of bike trekking. “The CDX:EXP sprockets are an example of how we continue to expand the Carbon Drive product line to meet the needs of the widest range of bicyclists,” says Todd Sellden, global director of Gates Carbon Drive. Read the full Eurobike news release.

CDX EXP 50T Angle-compressed

Other new products shown at Eurobike include the S300 silver crank arm for use with CDX five bolt sprockets, and the new XSE series rear sprockets for use with the CDN belt drive system.

S300 Silver Crank-compressed

CDN rear sprocket-compressed

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Heisenberg-XF1_Fully-lifestyle

Werner Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist and father of quantum mechanics who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932. He is considered one of the great minds of the 20th Century. “What a pity that people today think of a TV series when they hear this name,” says Karlheinz Nicolai, referring to the show “Breaking Bad,” whose main character went by the alias Heisenberg. Nicolai and his business partner Michael Hecken want to pay homage to the brilliant German scientist with their new electric bike brand, HNF Heisenberg.

Hecken and Nicolai (HNF stands for Hecken, Nicolai and Friends) previously collaborated on the development of the Smart eBike for Mercedes and the electric bike brand Grace, which raised the bar for integrated design in the category. With HNF Heisenberg they have upped the ante again. Pictured above is the XF1, a burly 150 millimeter full-suspension machine powered by a Bosch mid-drive motor. The bike received a bonanza of media coverage when launched in July due to its “swing arm” suspension technology developed by BMW. The swing arm allows the drive train to float instead of being firmly attached to the main frame. This enables the use of a Gates belt drive by eliminating the slack caused by typical rear suspensions. The belt length remains constant even when rampaging over roots and rocks. It is an innovative design that advances opportunities for using clean and low-maintenance belts instead of chains on full-suspension rigs.

Heisenberg-suspension closeup

hnf-heisenberg-xf1-belt closeup

Heisenberg-XF1_Fully

Nicolai is himself one of the great innovators in bicycling, founder of Nicolai Bikes and owner of Universal Transmissions, the distributor for Gates Carbon Drive in Europe and a close R&D partner with Gates. Nicolai likes using Gates belts on mid-drive eBikes because they last longer than derailleurs and chains, which wear out quickly due to the heavy loads applied by powerful mid-drives. We spoke with Nicolai to learn more about Heisenberg, his design philosophy and his long love affair with bikes.

Belted Blog: The suspension system on the XF1 is beautiful. Can you explain what makes it unique in terms of performance?

Karl Nicolai: It has a very neutral pedaling feel and great suspension performance. The motor, Gates Carbon Drive system and the Rohloff internal gearhub work together as a suspended drive unit that keeps the design clean and simple without any need of a belt tensioner. This unit is connected to the main frame with a “four-bar-linkage” so the position of the crankarm spindle has no movement in relation to the main-frame while riding.

BMW i, the electric mobility group within BMW, developed the suspension design. Can you describe the process of working with BMW?

I know the engineers from BMW Research Group from other projects. The suspension patent application originates from the first stage of the BMW i group’s market research and early concepts. Since the company had no immediate use for it, BMW i was able to give HNF Heisenberg a licence on it. The XF1 bike itself was designed afterward and engineered by a team of people within and around HNF and Nicolai.

What is the future potential for integrating Gates Carbon Drive onto full suspension bikes, and do you expect to see a day when gearboxes and belts can be a big part of the MTB market ?

There are many possibilities to combine the Gates Carbon Drive onto full suspension bikes and I know that Gates is able to help interested customers to bring these designs to life. Bicycle gearboxes like the Pinion and the Effigear systems are the “early birds” within this movement. We all know they need to be more affordable, but these times will come.

You are involved in many many projects, and many of your ideas for bicycles have been ahead of the curve. What motivates you?

I’m motivated by my curiosity and passion for better solutions. I am very happy to be my own boss and to have a career that allows me to follow my interests. Within the Nicolai factory we have all the equipment necessary to build all types of two-wheelers, from mountain to urban bikes and eBikes to motorcycles. The work is fun, and that is the best motivation.

With Grace and Smart you helped begin the trend of integrating eBike components into the frame. What is your philosophy on design versus function?

Lets be precise: I developed these bikes together with a team of great people from different companies. What can be better than being together with others and creating new products? This has been my passion since I designed my first motorcycle in 1986. First of all the product needs to perform better than existing products. Additionally, the product needs to make people smile when using it. My goal always is to get form and function in harmony and balance, while also remembering basic details like durability, easy maintenance, simplicity and cost.

What is your history of riding bicycles and why did you choose to enter the bike market and create Nicolai? 

In 1988 while studying at the University of Brunswick in Germany I trained on a road bike to be fit for motorcycle racing. Enduro and MX racing was my field and due to a lack of money I learned to modify and engineer frames and suspensions. In 1991 I went to work in California for AMP Research and together with Horst Leitner we created many different mountain bikes for several brands. We designed the “Horst link” and tested the bikes after work and on weekends. It was incredible fun. After returning to Germany I still had good contacts in the United States and I designed a downhill bike for Mongoose that Leigh Donovan rode to a world championship. That’s when I decided to create my own brand, and Nicolai Bikes was born. In 2006, I met with Gates to push forward the idea of commercializing a bicycle belt drive designed and engineered specifically for bicycles. We built some of the first prototype frames incorporating the system. I met Michael Hecken in 2008 and we collaborated on different eBike designs. The bike industry is like a big family and has a great spirit, with lots of nice people with visions for creating better products not just money.

Mongoose

In addition to the XF1, the HNF Heisenberg line includes three urban models with Gates Carbon Drive and Bosch motors: the UD1, HD1 and XD1, below. The company is located in a historic mill in Biesenthal, near Berlin, and located on the Berlin-Usedom cycling route. It is the ideal setting for advancing the eBike revolution and breaking boundaries. We think Werner Heisenberg would be pleased. hnf-heisenberg.com

Heisenberg-UD1_Unisex

 

Heisenberg-MD1_Touring

Heisenberg-XD1_Urban

 

 

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Tout Terrain Xover Gravel with rider

Gravel riding has burst into popularity as a new category over the past several years, though in truth people have been riding gravel roads since the first bicycles were invented. New innovations in bike design, however, have made it easier and more fun than ever to grind gravel. German belt drive specialists Tout Terrain have captured this trend beautifully with their new X.Over.Gravel, pictured above and below. This new model is among the highlights of Tout Terrain’s expanding lineup of Gates belted bikes, which includes the X.Over.Blacktop and several new electric bikes.

Tout Terrain X-over Gravel-grass

X.Over.Gravel

X.Over.Blacktop

Tout Terrain’s new eBikes are powered by its Silent e-Drive system, which consists of the Go SwissDrive plus a Pinion gearbox and Gates belt for clean and quiet propulsion. Tout Terrain says its eBikes are “designed for style-conscious and tech-savvy commuters and cyclists.” Below are the Via Veneto eXpress, Metropolitan eXpress and The City II eXpress.

Via Veneto eXpress

Tout Terrain-Metropolitan eXpress_product profile

Metropolitan eXpress

 tout terrain The City II eXpress

The City II eXpress

Tout Terrain is located in Freiburg, at the edge of the Black Forest, and every bike bears the label “Made in Freiburg” because all are custom built and powder coasted at their facility. “We don’t have a production line or robots,” the company says. “All of our assemblers make bicycles entirely from start to finish.”  Read our previous stories about Tout Terrain, and check their website for all of the cool accessories, trailers, lights and power packs they sell for touring cyclists–and gravel riders. tout-terrain.de

 

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FABike-Massivebikes-Singlespeed-Edition-Peter riding

Budapest is known as the Paris of Eastern Europe, a historic and cosmopolitan city whose art, architecture and culture rival the most beautiful metropolitan areas on the planet. The urban biking scene is growing here every year, which delights Péter Scsaurszki, the founder of Massive Bikes. “The government understands that it must create more bike lanes, bike parking and better cycling infrastructure. When that happens there will be a big wave of growth.”

Massive Bikes is the Gates Carbon Drive distributor for Hungary and the epicenter of the urban belt drive scene. The company specializes in modifying frames to accommodate the Gates belt drive, such as this retro Schwinn cruiser, and Massive also sells belt-ready frames and complete bikes from Schindelhauer, Tout Terrain, Mi-Tech and FABike. “We only sell products that we believe in, and we ride and test everything we sell,” Scsaurszki says.

His favorite recent build uses the carbon FABike frame and fork, paired with an aero aluminum wheelset, 35 mm tires and a Gates belt drive that utilizes a 60 x 20 sprocket combo. “I climbed up the hill to Dobogókő on it and this bike amazed me. The chainstay design on the FABike is really stiff and perfect for the Gates belt drive. I have never used a bike frame that is as stiff from the bottom bracket to the rear axle. It provides a super responsive ride quality.”

FABike-Massivebikes-Singlespeed-Edition-frontwindow

FABike-Massivebikes-Singlespeed-Edition-dropout

The FABike has vertical dropouts with a horizontal slider mechanism so that belt tension can be set perfectly and, in case of a flat tire, the rear wheel can be removed and re-installed without having to re-set the belt tension. The FaBike also has exchangeable rear dropouts that accomodate 120 mm track and 130 mm road hubs, as well as 135 mm geared hubs. Total weight of the frameset: 1.9 kg.

Fabike-Massivebikes-Singlespeed-Edition-2

Fabike-Massivebikes-Singlespeed-Edition-12

Scsaurszki is a busy man. He is completing his thesis in structural engineering and plans to specialize in bridge construction. His passion, however, is bicycles. Scaurszki has ridden across Europe, including 1,960 kilometers in nine days from Berlin to Toulouse, and as we conducted this interview he was touring in the Alps on his belt drive Mi-Tech. One day he hopes to create his own brand of urban bikes that use the new CDN system and internal hubs. “This could be a really big seller in Hungary,” he says. One more big thing we expect to see in Hungary in the future: more bridges with bike lanes. massivebikes.com

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