Cycling Around the World

Why go with a chain instead of a belt?


Take the picture above, you can see on the left I had the belt to the hub and really I quite liked it in a lot of ways. It looked great and any mud that I got on the sprockets was squeezed out to the sides of the sprocket. It didn't require any oil, but would still collect oil and grime from the roads of course which would still get on your legs but nothing like with a chain. They have been known to squeak in certain conditions too but I'm told a little spray of silica spray is all that's needed.

At the time of writing my review there was still a problem between the marriage of the belt and carrier/components which Rohloff and Gates are working on a solution to. The absolute correct belt tension and alignment is crucial, and there is even a phone app that you can use to get the right tension by placing the app near the belt as you twang it. The app hears the twang and gives you the result. Such is the importance of perfect tension. A chain can have a little slack without causing any problems.

Another issue with the belt I found was that it still gets oil and grime from the road and there is no way to cover up the belt so it's always on show. Being always on show turned out to have my nerves gone, because although the belt is unbelievably strong, you must keep it inline and in good condition. No sharp bends, twists or harsh twanging, as the fibres have no give in them and can be damaged if roughly handled. Catching the belt on brambles or objects that might put a cut in the belt would obviously not be good, whereas a chain can take all kinds of rough treatment. 

I took a spare belt with me and created a video on how to coil a belt. Now you do this at your own risk because I'm not 100% sure it should be coiled at all, but as a joiner I am used to coiling band saw blades so they don't damage, and have used this same trick to coil the belt for packing in my panniers. A belt needs a frame able to split in order to get the belt on. With a chain you can just break a link, but a belt is in one continuous loop.

I'm told by my KOGA dealership that if I wanted to turn my bike to derailleur gearing, it would not be possible with this bike as the frame is not designed to handle derailleur gearing, which means it's a hub only frame. So if you're planning on a bike that you can convert to derailleur or hub, you will need to get that straight with your dealer.

The thing that had my nerves gone, was that whenever someone wanted a closer look at the bike, they would go straight for the belt in amazement and start pulling and tugging at it, twisting it and giving it some real rough treatment, because they just didn't know they couldn't. Leaving it chained up outside a shop or place where I had to leave it for a while was asking for trouble, as all I could think about was people yanking at the belt or someone being nasty and even cutting it.

If the chain snaps I can add a link and repair it, the sprockets are reversible to add life and won't lose teeth easily, a good chain costs around £20 instead of £120 the spare belt cost me. I have a Chain-Glider cover over the chain so the chain stays nice and clean and makes for really low maintenance, and the oil and grease stays off my legs and clothing too. The chain feel just as smooth as the belt, and another benefit of the chain is that I now have sprockets that give me lower gearing for those big hills. I really needed some lower gearing and now after testing, feel I have. 

It still looks great on the bike and I still get to keep my Rohloff hub. I think if I were to do shorter trips of a few weeks or months, I would not worry using a belt but because of the length of tour I'm on, and not being so far away for too long I could just cut my trip short and return home no problem. But to continue on my world tour I'm going with the tried and tested chain to Rohloff hub.