HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The setup: The key to the Gates belt’s performance is a fairly snug fit. Gates offers a free iPhone app for check-
ing the belt tension. The app uses the phone’s microphone
to record the frequency of the belt’s vibration when you
pluck it (like a guitar string). They have a frequency range
depending on rider size and riding style. Our belt worked
trouble-free between 63 and 65 hertz for riders up to 180 pounds. Gates also offers a $52 Belt Tension Meter,
but we did not have the opportunity to evaluate one.
The fork offers RockShox Motion Control, plus a negative air-spring adjustment. Some crewers preferred setting the fork for optimum small-bump compliance and using the external compression
adjustment to firm the fork for climbing. Others set up the fork so it was
super stiff. The point is, the RockShox
Reba RL lets you have it your way.
On the trail: The MonoBelt springs
forward 13.5 feet for every crank revolution (and does it quietly). You never realize how much noise a chain makes until you
don’t have one. The 13.5-foot gearing means it is easy to get moving on flat ground but requires
commitment on a grade. It also means you will spin out quickly when gravity takes over.
Cornering: The MonoBelt is lively and quick for a 29er. Its shortish wheelbase (for a 29er) makes it a switchback
conqueror. The bike has a great counter-steering feel to it
when dropping into fast sweeps. The tires bite nicely, even
under hard braking—though you should avoid hard braking
on any single-speed.
Descending: The MonoBelt’s steel frame has more give
in the rear triangle than most aluminum frames. The rider
needs to stay out of the saddle, keep his arms and legs bent,
and choose his lines carefully. You will be surprised how
fast you can attack a downhill with minimal front suspen-
sion and no rear suspension. You will also be surprised how
quiet this bike is while bumping down the trail. This bike
will sneak up on your friends.
Climbing: The stock gearing reduced us to hike-a-biking
the steepest climbs on our test loops. Longer, gentler climbs
required us to alternate between seated and out-of-the-saddle positions. The key to climbing on any single-speed is
to pick your battles. Break the climb into sections and ride
or hike to the top. Remember, your legs have a limited number of hard efforts in them for a given ride. Use your energy
Braking: The plain Jane Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
with 6-inch rotors are more than up to the job, but you
want to use them sparingly. Momentum is the key to single-speed success.
Efficiency: On the trail, there is no noticeable drag generated from the belt. It feels smooth and is quiet when spinning along. Is it more efficient than a roller bearing
chain? All things being equal—both drivetrains are clean
and the rider is pushing the same gear—a conventional
chain is tough to beat. Still, we are not talking about a