October 2010 Archive

Clean, Quiet, Light, Strong: Gates new CenterTrack system weighs just 190 grams

New York Times tech writer Anne Eisenberg has written a great explainer story about belt drive bikes and the Gates Carbon Drive. Our favorite quote: “They last much longer than chains, and are quiet and clean,” says a Manhattan bike shop owner. “In a perfect world, everyone would probably use them because they require less maintenance.” Clean, quiet, light and strong, they make riding easier and more fun. Click here to read the story.

Popular Mechanics editor Tyghe Trimble has also just posted a great online story that features two popular belt-drive bikes: the Trek Soho and Globe Live 3. Writes Trimble: “The combination of the Carbon Drive and internal hub that both of these bikes carry make these the smoothest rides we’ve ever experienced on classic commuter bikes.”  Click here for the story.

The number of bike models specing Carbon Drive will double in 2011. Check  out Trek’s latest belt drive beauty, the Dublin, which will be available in Europe.

Trek's newest bike model featuring Carbon Drive

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Ben Ollett, sporting a sweet wig, runs the PBR gauntlet. Photo: Peter DiAntoni

Team Gates Carbon Drive riders roared into Seattle last weekend, dominating their qualifying heats and then putting Mitch Westall on the podium at the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships! Remaining home in Colorado, Carlos Casali took another win on Saturday and a hard-fought fourth-place on Sunday to extend his lead in the Colorado Cross Cup Individual and Team standings.

Derek charges past a competitor. Photo: Peter DiAntoni

Five members of Colorado-based Team Gates Carbon Drive, packed up their belt drive Spot Brand bikes and made a pilgrimage to the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships .  There was no question, even from early in the week that this was going to be an epic test for the Carbon Drive System, as the forecast was calling for monsoon conditions. 

This event gets more popular every year, and SSCXWC organizers were forced to hold qualifying heats on Saturday to see who would win entry into the championship event. Garrett Davis, Ben Ollett, Derek Strong, Mitch Westall and I met up at the start outside Schooner Exact Brewery to discuss our race strategies for the qualifiers.

Mitch warms up on the rollers before hammering the competition in the evening roller sprints

 Everyone agreed that this was going to be the most stressful part of the weekend, and the pre-race jitters were high. After coming all this way, nobody wanted to go home without qualifying for Sunday’s championships. In a straight-up cross race, we’d have no problem qualifying. But the qualifiers were an alley cat-style event on rain-slickened streets, bike trails and staircases that wound through the parks and industrial areas of downtown Seattle. Armed only with a vague map of the “course,” little knowledge of the city or where the three checkpoints were going to be, the plan was simple: Find the fastest local in your group and grab his wheel.

Mitch cornering hard in the slop. Photo: Glenn Bunselmeyer

All our team members were in separate heats so we couldn’t work together, but each rider provided intel to those in later heats. When my group started, I hammered with a couple other guys to cause a split, then c0nvinced them I would work to maintain the gap in exchange for local knowledge and guidance.

Ben uses his glasses for a mud guard. Photo: Glenn Bunselmeyer

The on-course challenges were quite curious, to say the least. First up was 30-seconds with Shake Weights, then 30-seconds of thigh-sculpting on a Thigh Master while chugging a can of the official “recovery drink” sponsor, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and finally a Dizzy Bat challenge including carrying your bike over two obstacles.

Ben Ollett and I won our heats, and Derek Strong and Garrett Davis were among the first riders in theirs. But some timing issues with the organizers meant Mitch missed his start time. He roared out onto the course alone in hot pursuit and managed to claw back nearly a minute to catch his group. The guy can hammer. That is, until a slippery transition from city street to singletrack caused a crash and then a flat.

Garrett charges. Photo: Glenn Bunselmeyer

He struggled back on his rim but had missed the cut. Luckily there was a Last-Chance-Qualifier consisting of roller-sprints that night at one of the sponsoring bars. Determined to make the cut, Mitch crushed the competition in the 30-second power sprint as the rowdy crowd cheered. 

The championships on Sunday were held at a raceway 30 miles from Seattle. Due to the heavy rains, the course was a quagmire of mud, slop and puddles. Everyone was in a great mood though, committed to the fact that the course was in truly epic conditions and buoyed by a last minute burst of sunshine as the field staged.

A sloppy downhill slide. Photo: Glenn Bunselmeyer

The starting area was a colorful combination of 170 racers, varying from the serious hammerheads to serious partiers in costumes and masks. When the gun went off, the field sprinted up a steep grassy hill before jumping on their bikes for the first lap. The large crowd cheered and there were loud battle cries from the competitors as we charged up the 50-foot hill. The racers and spectators (many of them fueled up on PBR, which they sprayed liberally on the racers) were all pumped.

Brian, Garrett and Ben looking clean before the race. Photo: Glenn Bunselmeyer

The next 45 minutes of racing was mayhem, a muddy, beer-soaked, laughing, anaerobic good time. Positioning at the start was key, and Mitch had a perfect start, getting up the hill quickly and dodging the barrage of water balloons that pelted the first racers up the hill. He settled into a group of six that quickly opened a gap. The rest of us smashed through the mud, over the rollers and worked our way up through the massive field.

Look ma, no cavities! Derek was spitting mud for days afterward. Photo: Peter DiAntoni

The course consisted of a two steep drops, countless switchbacks across a saturated “marsh”, a BMX-style rhythm-section, a fly-over obstacle and a steep run-up that led into eight barriers. Winning this race is secondary to just completing it and having fun. I grabbed a bacon hand-up, got soaked with beer splashes and began stealing beers out of the hands of spectators. Ben’s wig was seducing the spectators and racers alike into falling in love with him, and Garrett was pulling “X-Ups” and getting mad air through the BMX section. Derek stopped to get down on the ground and pull a cash prime from a pile of empty beer cans at one point.

Up ahead, Mitch was battling the riders around him and a deterorating course. Mitch traded back and forth in the lead, until the loss of his rear brake caused him to miss a turn, forcing him to chase again. But with a huge effort, he made it back up into third to snag the last podium spot. Way to go old man!

Mitch gets a Pabst shower courtesy of the fans. Photo: Peter DiAntoni

Behind, Ben and Garrett finished somewhere around the top 15, and then it was myself and Derek, not far behind in the twenties. Race results were unclear and the organizers didn’t log results for anyone past the initial finishers. But judging from the smiles and war storries afterward, everyone had an incredible time.

Hutch, all smiles afterward

And the Carbon Drive System? Spectacular. It handled the grit and grime and slop with ease. The same can’t be said for other competitors. I pedaled harder every time I passed someone with a chain drive who had to stop along the course to tend to their drivetrain. I’m telling you, you’ve never ridden anything like this in the mud and slop! And lest we forget, a big shout to our other team sponsors: Easton and FSA . 

Feeling dirty, but running clean

So prepare yourself, you have one year to get your new belt-drive and get to San Francisco, host city for the SSCXWC in 2011. Who knows, maybe we’ll compete to steal the race and bring it to Colorado in 2012 where it rightfully belongs. After all that mud, I’ll never complain about sandy, rocky, sketchy Colorado cross courses again.

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Brian Hutchison, Garrett Davis and Ben "Big Hair" Ollett enjoy a sunburst before the race. Photo: Glenn Bunselmeyer

No place does mud quite like Seattle, and Sunday’s Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships exemplify why the city is a hotbed of down and dirty CX action. The rain fell in sheets, turning the course into a quagmire. Our man Mitch Westall nevertheless powered to a third place finish, with all five riders placing near the top of the field of 150 riders. Ace rider/writer Brian Hutchison will file a full report soon (once he gets home and picks the grit out of his ears, nose and eyes). Meantime, enjoy these post-race photos.

Muddy Buddies! Garrett, Derek, Ben and Brian afterward

Garrett tastes the sweet flavor of success

Get a haircut son! Ben "Sarge" Ollett going rogue with his wig.

Gates podium boy Mitch, glad it's over

Get this man a beer. Derek getting mouthy after the race

The slop was no match for the Carbon Drive System

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Carlos Casali hammers at Cross Vegas

Team Gates Carbon Drive raced at Cross Vegas for the first time. Since then the squad is off to a roaring start in the singlespeed cyclocross category, with multiple podium sweeps in Colorado’s ACA league. Check out this new video of the team racing at Cross Vegas and experience the sights, sounds, excitement (and disco music) of a night under the lights in Vegas, Baby. It’s money.

Singlespeeding gives you big guns!

The team flies to Seattle this weekend (Oct. 23-24) for the Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships. Check back here for updates as Brian Hutchison, Derek Strong, Garrett Davis and Ben Ollett face off against top singlespeeders from around the universe. Meantime, Carlos “the Big Brazilian” Casali will stay behind to defend his  first-place standings in the Colorado Cup and Boulder CX series. Spectators swear they felt the ground shake when Carlos crashed last weekend, so stay out of his way. And don’t forget to watch the stylish Cross Vegas video from our ace videographer Mat Barlow. It’s so good you’ll want to watch it twice.

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It was another great weekend in Colorado for Team Gates Carbon Drive as the singlespeed cyclocross squad swept the podium on Saturday and followed that with a first-place finish on Sunday. Congratulations to Mitch Westall and Derek Strong for their impressive wins. The team is now leading the Colorado Cup team competition, and Carlos Casali is tied for first in the Colorado Cup rider competition and leading the Boulder Series standings.

Team Gates Carbon Drive sweeps Saturday's podium at On The Cross Cyclocross

Saturday’s course in Denver at On the Cross Cyclocross was relatively flat and featured a mix of grass, sand, pavement and lots of tight turns.  Carlos Casali attacked hard right from the gun in an effort to break the field and he couldn’t have asked for better results.  Turning around after the first lap, his effort had caused a split, pulling just Strong and Westall with him and dropping the field. Westall’s smooth and consistent riding let him gap his teammates with about ten seconds in hand, allowing him to take a decisive win.  Behind, Casali crashed in one of the many tight turns. But the big strong Brazilian joined forces with Strong and the two worked together for the rest of the race, holding off challengers and taking second and third behind Westall.

Sunday’s race at Aspen Lodge near Estes Park was even more challenging, and the team put their belt drives to the test on the technical course at a lung-searing 9,000 feet.  Eyeing the course, I knew it would be a tough day in the saddle. Casali made another screaming start, taking the hole shot from a Moots rider as Garrett Davis and I slotted in behind him.  Right away, I knew the decision to bring lower gearing for this course was going to help, as I was able to churn up the tight and technical sections that left most riders struggling. 

Then, mayhem broke loose as we quickly caught the back of the Cat 3  field, making a difficult course that much more of a nightmare as we fought our way through the quagmire of riders. I remained patient and followed the leaders, waiting for the right moment to pounce. Davis tangled with another rider and went down, then the Moots rider and I sneaked past Carlos in the gobs of traffic. On the next lap, I saw my chance as the rider in front of me hit a barrier while cutting a corner tightly, allowing me to pass and take the lead. Feeling strong, I was planning when to put in my attack when, suddenly, my rear tire flatted! Casali came past as I yelled for him to go for it, and I assessed the situation.  Unfortunately, in running my lower gearing, it meant that I didn’t have a spare rear wheel in the pit this one day. Race over. 

Thankfully, Derek Strong was feeling strong and he surged on the final lap to open a huge gap and take win. Casali managed to retain 4th place, though we’re not sure how much he remembers of the second half of his race due to a crash that bloodied his face and required stitches. Davis fought to finish 5th and Ben Ollett rounded out the team standings in 14th, battling through illness that sapped some of his strength.

The Gates Carbon Belt doesn't mind dirt, mud, or rocks... but Carlos Casali's face isn't quite as tough.

Stay tuned for next week’s team update, which should be a colorful one!  While Casali will remain in Colorado to represent the team at a duo of great local races, the rest of the squad will head to the mud and rain of Seattle for the 2010 Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships! The SSCXWC are a colorful and crazy weekend of racing. Many competitors wear costumes and the course features an urban, alley cat style qualifier in downtown Seattle on Saturday followed by the championships on Sunday on a course that will be thronged with spectators.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta head off and pick out a proper “race costume.”

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