With plenty of rides now logged in on the Gates Carbon Drive Center Track set up on the Trek Fisher Collection Sawyer, I am ready to finalize this review. If you want a refresher on my previous thoughts, you can check out the First Impressions here . This post will be focused primarily on the performance of the Center Track system since I have been riding it.

Belt Drive Aug11 002

The Set Up: The Fisher Collection Sawyer, (see review here, was a perfect test bed for the Center Track system, since it came with a belt drive compatible drive side drop out. This drop out design is very well done and caused no issues with regard to the ride quality of the Sawyer, and no issues with the looks as well. In fact, a lot of folks are surprised when they look at the frame, since the slot is so well hidden amongst the sliding drop out mechanism.

The Center Track cogs caused no issues with regard to belt line up, nor did they force me into any funky shifting over of the crank set, spacer use, nor did the cogs have to be run in an odd way to make things work. As it should be. I should say that we have had to do all of the above with Gates older Carbon Drive belt system.

There was the one issue with being able to fit the bike with the shortest chain stay set up possible. That is something a belt driven system will have a hard time getting you. In a practical sense, it would be nearly impossible to accomplish this shortest chain stay set up unless every manufacturer designs around belt drive parameters. A chain set up is much easier to tweak in this regard, considering half links and all. Obviously, not everyone will care to have that dimension be as short as possible, but for those that do, a Center Track set up might be a limiting factor.

However; it has come to my attention that once Gates gets more options out and available, this will be addressed. (Latest word is that several more belt lengths will be out in October.) The difference in two belt teeth is slightly less than two chain links. (22mm vs 25.4mm) So, given that the availability becomes as Gates has promised, your Carbon Drive set up might end up becoming more precisely adjustable. (You’ll still need extra belts to accomplish this, where with a chain you’ll only be required to purchase one chain and a few quick links, a half link, or a chain tool.)

Belt Drive Aug11 004

Ride Performance: Obviously, Gates has a long list of benefits of running Center Track for you to consider. There are only a few that really matter though. Here are the benefits that Center Track does provide a single speed rider.

Lighter Weight: For maximum weight savings on a single speed racing bike, Center Track does shave grams with the belt itself, and the cogs a wash in regards to chain drive cogs, ( Considering that a cassette free hub wheel must be used as a carrier for the belt cog, we are not comparing to a free wheel/cog set up). It is especially a closer difference now that the rear cog for a Center Track set up is CNC’ed stainless steel. Essentially, the biggest weight savings now is between that of the chain and the belt. (And that is significant, by the way.)

Durability and Reliability: Finally, I can say without hesitation that this version of Carbon Drive, Center Track, is totally worth my trust. It hasn’t caused me any concerns when riding trail. The tension necessary for the belt to stay put is not as high as it needs to be on former Carbon Drive iterations, and therefore the component life should remain normal, not affected by excessive tension. The belt is said to be a much longer lasting component than a chain, so as time rolls on, we shall see how this pans out, but I have no reason to doubt this claim at this time.

Only an unfortunate accident, or perhaps an ill timed rock might cause an issue. Damage to the belt is a concern, so I will be watching this as time goes on as well.

Efficiency: In the cases where a chain may be affected by moisture, grit, and grime, the Center Track should be a system that retains efficiency and has less problems with severe conditions. I’ve yet to get this one I have into those situations, but that will be tested. Obviously, if the Center Track doesn’t have anything to attract dirt, or places for it to hide, one would assume it will perform with better efficiency and better results than a chain would. Our contributor, c_g, seems to feel that Carbon Drive is well suited to tackling these situations, so I feel confident Center Track will perform well in this regard.

Belt Slant 6 aug 002

Just Getting Started: In some ways, this Final Review is really another new beginning. As mentioned above, there are a few things I’d like to tackle with Carbon Drive that I haven’t had a chance to…..yet! 🙂 That will come later. However; there is the issue of how it works now, and in that regard, I only have one complaint. That is the lack of currently available choices for ratios, and the necessary belt/cog combos I would have to accumulate to satisfy my set ups.

Once Gates gets enough options produced, the choices should be covered. (Latest word is by Christmas 2011 this should happen) The thing that gets to be a bit of a hindrance is that with some combos, I will need to have not just a cog, but a belt to fit the choice. With a chain, adjustability and flexibility is much better in regard to changing ratios, but it isn’t impossible with a belt set up. It’s just going to cost more. There, I said it! Carbon Belt Drive is a premium product that will not come cheaply. If the benefits make sense, (and you have an appropriate frame 😉 ), the system may be worth it to you to check out.

Conclusions: I like this version of Carbon Drive. It addresses all the issues of the past, and renders all previous editions of Carbon Drive as sub-standard in my opinion. This may sound harsh to those already invested into Carbon Drive systems, but Gates has raised the bar on performance, fit, and function with Center Track. Period. It surpasses anything else they have made that I have tried hands down.

Once Gates gets a good selection of ratio combinations readily available, this system should be high on the list for those seeking a premium performing single speed bike set up. There still are a few “prerequisites” to owning a belt set up, and primarily that is having a frame compatible with Carbon Drive. Fortunately, there are several good choices in 29″ers that will accommodate you here.

I wouldn’t recommend this to folks converting a geared bike, converting a non-carbon drive frame to belt drive, or to folks who adhere to the roots of single speed philosophy 😉 . It might appeal to you from a weight savings stand point, and from a durability/longevity stand point. Whatever it does to appeal to a particular individual, one thing can now be said that couldn’t be said before with certainty: That is, Center Track is a viable, high performance system you can rely on without any “negative baggage” that came along with previous versions of the belt drive.