Basel is a northern Swiss city of 175,000 people located on the Rhine River near the borders of Germany and France. It is a cultural and artistic hub of Switzerland known for its museums, theaters and symphony orchestra. It is also a cycling city extraordinaire. Biagio Colletto founded HiLite Bikes here in 2010 following a long career in chemical engineering. “I was involved in research and development for my entire career and I wanted to create a project for myself,” Colletto says. “I enjoy being my own boss, helping customers fulfill their desires and pushing technical innovation.”
HiLite offers a line of customize-able aluminum frames and recently launched a carbon frame line, but the brand is best known for its gorgeous titanium builds featuring Gates Carbon Drive belts incorporated with Pinion Gearboxes and internally geared hubs. Colletto recently sent us a link to his titanium photo gallery, which is worth visiting if you appreciate fine bike photography.
“Our goal is to build pure, raw, honest and sustainable titanium bikes,” Colletto says. “Sometimes we don’t take customers if their desires don’t match our philosophy.” Colletto is an avid rider who started racing at age 15. At least once per year he embarks on a three-week lightweight bike tour. In 2014 he cycled from Bangkok, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 15 days. “We managed to keep the luggage weight below five kilograms (11 pounds) and maintained a good average speed.” Colletto compares Basel to Amsterdam or Copenhagen for its bike friendly infrastructure, and he enjoys riding in the nearby Black Forest in Germany, as well as in the French Alsace region famous for its Tour de France hills including Ballon d’Alsace, Grand Ballon and the Planche des Belles Filles.
Colletto has several personal bikes with the Gates Carbon Drive system, including the dropbar randonneur rig below. It has mudguards and a titanium rack, hydraulic disc brakes, an Alfine 11 hub with electronic Di2 shifting, a Gates belt drive and Schmidt SON SL dynamo hub that powers an Edelux II light. Lovely. Colletto says HiLite has many more dazzling belt drive bikes to come. “Hopefully we will have soon an ultralight carbon bike with Gates,” he says. If you’re in Basel, visit the HiLite Concept Store. It’s on our bucket list of bike shops. And make sure to check their photo gallery if you want to see more Basel style bikes. hilite-bikes.com
Biagio’s Di2 bike
Santos Bikes is a Dutch bike brand and belt drive specialist that has introduced what may be the bicycle industry’s most advanced 3D customization app. The Santos 3D Customizer app allows customers to visually preview their virtual bike in three dimensions, zooming in and out and rotating it to scrutinize every detail from all angles. Users can test out a wide variety of frame and decal colors, choose saddle styles and colors, add different types of wheels, add or subtract front and rear racks and carriers and a choose a colored dynamo hub to match. We’ve tried it, and it’s pretty cool. “Every cyclist is unique. That’s why Santos specializes in building custom-built bikes,” says Santos founder Robbert Rutgrink. “Colors are one of the most difficult choices. The 3D app gives people the opportunity to play with all variables and try out many combinations until they find the perfect match.” The 3D Customizer is available for iPad, Windows and Macintosh OS X.
The 3D app is the latest innovation from Santos, which Rutgrink founded in a work shed in 1997. Today, Santos is best known for its premium travel bikes, which are a favorite of global trekkers and adventurers such as the Bicycle Junkies, who have ridden more than 20,000 kilometers through the Americas on their Carbon Drive equipped Santos Travel Lites. In 2009, James Bowthorpe made his record-setting ride around the world on a Santos with a Gates system. Santos has grown considerably since those early days in the shed. In 2014, the company moved into a large new headquarters in Nieuw-Vennep, close to Amsterdam. The new Santos HQ has a large showroom and a Demo Center with a big fleet of belt drive (“riemaandrijving” in Dutch) test bikes. The Demo Center is open every Friday for appointments and test rides, and it has one of the world’s largest fleets of test bikes equipped with the Gates belt system.
Santos offers many bicycle styles in addition to their well-known Travel Master series. The Lite series (including the Race Lite below) consists of fast and light road bikes featuring Rohloff hubs instead of derailleurs and Gates belts for low maintenance. Santos also offers Urban, Mountain, Tandem and eBike lines. Download the 3D app for iPad, Windows or Macintosh OS X, and schedule a demo appointment to test out and build your dream “riemaandrijving” bike. santosbikes.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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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