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.