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
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.”
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.
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
Spot Brand has launched several new city bikes and updated its singlespeed cyclocross bike with bold colors and red belts. The Five Points Open and the Five Points (below) are two new value-oriented city bikes that feature round alloy tubes, fat 40c tires, three-speed SRAM shifters and Gates Carbon Drive. They are named for a revitalized Denver neighborhood–a nod to Spot’s home just outside of the Mile High City.
The Champa, named for a prominent Denver Street, features a streamlined steel frame with a graphite finish. Pictured below, it features Gates Carbon Drive’s CDX system and an Alfine 8-speed hub. Spot compares the Champa to a classic gray suit–stylish, reliable, never flashy and good for any occasion. The Wazee (pictured below the Champa) features a Carbon Drive Red belt paired with an Alfine 11. It’s a city bike “for cyclists who desire the classic road-feel and confident handling of a refined steel frame, combined with the ultimate urban drivetrain.” The Wazee’s gloss black frame features a color splash inspired by the legendary Martini Race Team of 1970s Grand Prix Porsches.
Spot calls the Rallye SS cyclocross bike its two-wheeled answer to the rally car, a rugged speed machine that excels in all conditions: mud, grass, gravel, pavement. Curved seat stays and a Time Trial cutout provide vertical compliance and a confident ride feel. And those colors epitomize the phrase “eye candy.” spotbrand.com
photo credits: Tim Lucking
Meet the 2015 Team Gates Carbon Drive in its natural habitat–the trails and foothills of Denver. Colorado is one of the best places in the world to ride, and the Gates team is once again ripping up the Rocky Mountain singletrack. Mitch Westall, Jesse Swift, Carlos Vulgamott, Derek Strong, Tim Lucking and Ryan McFarling are riding belt drive Spot Brand Honey Badger and Cream frames, equipped with TRP’s new Slate T4 brakes. Other sponsors include Lazer (helmets and glasses), Crank Brothers (pedals) and Primal (team kits).
The team will compete in the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series, the Winter Park Series and races throughout Colorado virtually every weekend all summer. The goal is to win races–and also show how tough the Gates Carbon Drive belts are. The squad had 35 podium finishes last year. Swift won the SS class at the Dakota Five-O. Vulgamott (aka the Vegan Singlespeeder) will race his third straight Breck Epic this season, shooting for a podium finish again. Vulgamott won the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series overall SS last year. Westall won the Winter Park Series overall SS, and McFarling and Strong won the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde duo. Get updates, race results and info on the team Facebook page, and on Twitter @teamcarbondrive.
Carlos “the Vegan Singlespeeder” Vulgamott
Tim Lucking, looking belt drive tough!