Kamran Ali fell in love with bicycling as a child in Pakistan, where he pedaled to nearby towns with friends–and practiced his wheelies. As a young man he rode 400 kilometers from Multan to Lahore. Then higher education and work caused him to set aside bicycling. He moved to Germany to obtain a PhD in computer science and began a career in software development. But the lure of the open road was strong. In 2011, he set out for Pakistan from his new home in Germany by bike. Kamran reached the halfway point in Turkey when he received sad news: his mother had suffered a heart attack. He abandoned the trip and flew home to Pakistan, spending two months with his mother before she died.
In 2015, Kamran decided to complete his journey to Pakistan. He started in Turkey where his previous trip had been interrupted and he completed the final 7,000 kilometers through Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Krgyzstan and China. It was a mission of hope meant to inspire Pakistanis to embark on their own adventures–and shine a positive light on Pakistan, which he believed was in the news for the wrong reasons. Having ridden through 28 countries in Europe and Asia, Kamran decided this year to embark on the most ambitious ride of his life: 25,000 kilometers from South America to Alaska, a journey that should take a year and a half.
We connected with Kamran via email in Chile after being introduced by Carsten Schabacher of Stevens Bikes, which is sponsoring him with a STEVENS P18 Lite touring bike with Gates Carbon Drive and a Pinion gearbox. Kamran, who is a skilled photographer, had been on the road for more than six weeks and was in high spirits.
“My favorite sights and experiences so far have been hiking in the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares Park in Argentina. The sunrise at Mount Fitz Roy as well as seeing Perito Moreno Glacier from very close was an unforgettable experience,” he wrote us. “In Tierra del Fuego and Southern Patagonia, I battled against the strong headwind every day. Patagonian Steppe is a treeless region.
They call Patagonia “Escoba de Dios,” God’s Broom, due to its persistent wind which sweeps everything.
People in Argentina and Chile are very friendly and hospitable. There are no facilities for long stretches of road, so whenever I saw a little house or estancia and asked for a shelter to cook or sleep the locals were ready to help.”
Kamran first learned about Gates Carbon Drive during his previous ride through Tajikistan. “The owner of the bike was German. He gave me positive feedback about the Gates belt. When I started looking for a new bicycle I really wanted to have a Gates belt and a gear hub. I saw the Stevens P18 and knew it was the one. I love the aesthetic and the frame design and the fact that it is lightweight. The 18-gear Pinion gives me plenty of gear ratio to climb steep hills fully loaded, and to cruise fast on long downhills. I carry about 30 kilograms of weight in five panniers. In windy places, I start riding before dawn. The dymano hub and SuperNova light allow me to safely ride in the dark. When I see other cyclists cleaning their chains after a rainy day, or changing their chains, I have a huge smile. The fellow cyclists are envious!” So are we, Kamran. So are we.
Thanks to Kamran Ali for the photographs and for inspiring us all to chase adventure. See more pictures on the Kamran On Bike Facebook page, and check his progress on his website’s route tracker. See more Stevens Bikes with Gates Carbon Drive, and learn about this Hamburg, Germany, brand here.
Germany is at the epicenter of an electric bike boom that is transforming the European bicycle market–and shaping pedelec trends from North America to Asia. In this post we shine a spotlight on two German brands–Grace and Steppenwolf–at the forefront of the eBike movement. Both have launched new 2016 models with Gates Carbon Drive.
Pictured above is the Grace Easy, a sporty urban pedelec kitted out with fenders, rack and lights, a suspension fork and BionX hub motor for fast city riding. Grace is an award-winning electric bike brand that was among the first to integrate batteries into its frames for a seamless style. That intelligent design is shown below on the Urbanic. With its smartly styled step-through frame the Urbanic includes a fast-accelerating GoSwiss Drive rear hub motor and nine-speed Pinion gearbox.
The blue bomber below is the Grace MX II Urban, a supercharged city eBike with a Brose mid-motor drive integrated into the bottom bracket and a NuVinci continuously variable planetary hub for seamless shifting. Gates’ laboratory testing shows that Carbon Drive belts are especially advantageous on mid-drive motor eBikes, which rapidly wear out chains.
Steppenwolf, whose motto is, “The wolf hunts best in town,” is a sister brand of Grace and is owned by the same parent company, Mifa-Bike, headquartered in Sangerhausen, Germany. While Grace makes only eBikes, Steppenwolf is a respected 20-year-old brand that makes both electric and classic pedal-powered bikes with Gates belts. The step-through Talis E 20th Wave below is powered by a Brose mid-drive motor connected to a NuVinci hub via a Gates belt.
The Talis E 20th Men above has a classic eBike aesthetic and is powered by a Brose mid-drive motor with a NuVinci planetary hub shifting system. Steppenwolf also makes multiple non-electric models with Gates Carbon Drive including the 2016 Talis Street 8.5. This practical ride has a Shimano Alfine eight-speed internally geared hub and a full urban kit including fenders and dynamo hub lights for fast and low-maintenance commuting.
Thanks to Steppenwolf, Grace and Mifa-Bike for helping to advance the belt drive revolution by making it easier for people to get out of their cars and into the saddle. Graceful and wolflike: These are the words that describe the clean, quiet, fast and stylish future of advanced pedelecs and commuter bikes.
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