South Downs Way is a historic 100-mile bridle path and recreation trail in southeastern England. Riding the way in one day is a rite of passage for many British bicyclists. For Steven Olsen, it turned into a quest to build the ultimate low-maintenance mountain bikes. First he created the Lamb, a stainless steel singlespeed with Gates Carbon Drive that features distinctive double down-tubes, pictured below in blue. Now his brand, Olsen Belt Drive Bicycles, is launching two new models created to handle year-round riding in mud, rain and what he calls “Great British Weather.”
His new models, this time featuring carbon frames and Pinion gearboxes–are called the Ram and the Swan (all his bikes are named for pubs along the South Downs Way). “I commute thirty-plus miles per day off-road, so the design had to be an all-terrain bicycle for riding in Great British weather and mucky trail conditions year-round.” The Ram uses 27.5-plus size tires for extra traction and comfort; the Swan is a 29er. Both feature elevated stays. “This design allows me to sling the Pinion under the chassis and also tension the belt,” says Olsen. “I can alter the bottom bracket drop to accommodate different ‘swing plate’ designs, so the geometry can be fine-tuned to the rider.”
Note the beefy stays and stout, reinforced dropouts on the Ram, pictured above. Olsen added a 30.9 mm seat tube for dropper posts, and the bikes can be run with a 120mm or rigid fork. The prototypes of both bikes are now in testing, and the final production versions will have internal cable routing. Below is the Swan. Olsen will speak and present the bikes at a Bicycle Film Festival exposition on July 20 at the ONCA gallery in Brighton. “I want these bikes to be as versatile as possible. Everything from muddy forest trails to adventure bikepacking.” With a few Great British pub stops along the way. olsenbicycles.com
Bike industry veteran Steve Domahidy hopes his new brand will go viral. Domahidy, one of the founders of Niner, has launched Viral Bikes. His first Viral model is the “Skeptic,” a titanium all-mountain hardtail frame featuring a drivetrain kit with a Pinion gearbox and Gates Carbon Drive system. Popular in Europe, the Pinion-Gates combination produces an incredibly low-maintenance drive. The Pinion P1.12 has a gear range of 600 percent and can be shifted while coasting or stopped. The Skeptic frame features 148mm Boost rear hub spacing for tire widths of up to three inches. “This bike is going to appeal to the rider who is not very good with maintaining a full suspension bike, someone who wants to shred and not worry about derailleurs and chain slap and chain maintenance,” says Domahidy, whose resume includes design work for multiple brands including Faraday and Budnitz.
Outside Magazine writer Aaron Gulley called it “one of the most forward-looking bikes we’ve ridden in a while.” Buyers who pre-order the Skeptic will get a free set of Backcountry 27.5+ or 29-inch Trail wheels from Industry Nine, with an option to choose spoke and hub colors. Every Viral frame purchase will also come with a one-year membership to IMBA, the International Mountain Biking Association. www.viral.bike
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!
“Rides like a dream.” That’s how Daniel Levin describes his new eleven-speed, electronic shifting belt-drive Buena Vista. Bilenky Cycle Works added a split on the Soma Fabrications frame to allow the Gates Carbon Drive to be installed. “They put the frame splitter on the lowest tube in an artful manner that blends in seamlessly,” Levin says. The battery pack for the Alfine Di2 electronic shifter was placed on the down tube in a manner that preserves the water bottle cage mounts. An Acorn saddlebag, Brooks Swallow saddle and Tubus titanium rack complete the build. “The only noise when riding is the slight hum of the Gatorskin tires on the pavement. And of course there is never any grease to worry about,” says Levin, who complimented Bilenky’s skillful work.
For Soma Fabrications fans who want an easier solution without having to install a frame splitter, the San Francisco area brand recently announced that it now offers three Gates Carbon Drive compatible frames: The B-Side, Juice and Wolverine. You can also find other bikes and frames with the Gates Carbon Drive system on the Gates bike finder page. All three Soma frames are available with a split Tange Sliding Dropout. The Wolverine was initially designed to be a “monster cross” bike, but its stable geometry makes it ideal for off-road touring. Australian Mountain Bike Magazine recently reviewed the Wolverine, calling it “an absolute winner.” The Juice is a 29er hardtail, the B-Side (pictured below) a 27.5 hardtail. somafab.com
The Sea Otter Classic bike show this week (April 16-19 in Monterey, California) will offer bike lovers the chance to see a range of new bicycles featuring the Gates Carbon Drive system including the STEPS Child from Ti Cycles, above. This high-concept pedal-assist eBike features the Shimano STEPS mid-drive for fast touring and commuting.
California-based eBike brand Tempo Bikes is launching its new Carmel hybrid electric bike at Sea Otter.
Tempo will also show its Santa Barbara step-through model, below. tempobicycles.com
Breezer will show the Beltway Elite, a fully equipped and award-winning commuter bike. Read Bicycling Magazine’s review, in which the editor wishes her commute to work was actually longer. breezerbikes.com
Touring cyclists and readers of Adventure Cyclist magazine will want to check out the Siskiyou Rohloff, the new 27.5 wheel trekking bike from Co-Motion.
Marin will have its Fairfax SC6 DLX at the Otter. Read Outside Magazine’s review, in which writer Aaron Gulley says: “Out of the box, this is one of the cleanest, best functioning, and seductive utility bikes I’ve come across.”
Legendary mountain bike brand Ibis will display it Tranny Unchained, a full-carbon race rig for singlespeeders who want fast and light performance. Read the reviews about the bike and belt on MTBR.com and Bike Magazine and Dirt Rag.
See you in Monterey!