Belt Drive Singlespeed – BOODA Bike Pilot [REVIEW]
Belt Drive vs. Chain
To start this review of, let’s first consider the pros and cons of a belt drive bike system compared to the OG chain set-up. Since I’m a big single-speed fan (read: balls not big enough to ride a fixie in the Amsterdam bike traffic), I’ll focus on advantages and disadvantages when it comes to single geared bicycles.
This is my first belt-driven bike and what lured me into the world of belt drives is mainly the promise of a low maintenance and quiet riding. Since belts have no moving parts, there is less friction, thus less sound & more power. Moreover, they are lighter compared to a regular chain and do not require any lubrication (wink).
When it comes to cons, they do raise the price of the bike and require the frame to be split since they are made of one continuous loop of carbon. The split frame can become dangerous in high speed, especially after a lot of wear, however with a quality manufacturer, this concern should be basically mitigated.
So to summarize, belt system is lighter, faster, quieter, less maintenance heavy but also requires a split frame and falls into the Supreme price category (for geared bicycles it also requires internal gearing).
Weak Market Offering
Even though it seems like belt drives are the perfect fit for single-speed/fixed gear bicycles, the market offering is thus far quite low. I’ve been searching for several weeks till I found a single-speed belt-driven bike that has high enough gear ratio for flat commute, costs reasonably OK money and doesn’t look like it comes from a sci-fi movie (example).
The official Gates Carbon Drive website lists all brands and manufacturers that use their system, however the list doesn’t offer sophisticated enough filtering options (yet). Therefore, it’s lot of clicking and browsing through different small manufactures until you find something that fits your design and performance preferences. Nevertheless, it’s most probably the best resource I encountered when it comes to finding your belt-driven bike online.
My Booda Bike Specs
Okay, now to the ‘meat’ of this blog post. Why Booda Bike? Well, for me it was because of their minimalist design, high specs and favorable price-to-quality ratio.
The model I chose is Booda Bike Pilot: The Urban Cruiser featuring belt-drive (duh…), hydraulic disc brakes and carbon fork. Moreover, it weights only impressive 8.73 kgs and offers an aggressive geometry perfect for when you are late to school, work or a date. On top of this, it comes with Challenge Paris-Roubaix 27 VCL tires which seem to grab the pavement by their teeth and hold very nicely in turns.
As for the price, the basic set-up (no lights or fenders) comes to be a quite steep 1,240€. This might seem like a lot for a single-speed, however, with this level of quality, it is a totally reasonable figure. Plus, I’m hoping to ride it for at least 3 years (basically daily) and so I treat it as a long-term investment into my commuting comfort and enjoyment. The time will tell whether it was a worthy investment.
Okay, sounds like a sleek bike, does it also deliver though? In my opinion (after about 2 weeks worth of daily commuting) it certainly does! It’s extremely light compared to my previous bike (~11.5kg) and the difference in the weight is stunning. As it is lighter, it seems to be much more reactive even to subtle turns of handlebars and the weight also helps with faster acceleration. The belt, obviously, plays its role in acceleration and power as well. Extremely low friction and high belt tension make one feel like Vettel in F1 when overcoming grandmas on their Oma Bikes.
What’s even better is no oily parts and no dirty hands when the bike needs a quick clean after the usual rainy commute in Amsterdam. The hydraulic brakes also brake wonders and thus far seem to be superior to usual rim brakes. Again, time will tell how spongy/soft they’ll get and what maintenance will they require.
Lastly, geometry. The aggressive front lean certainly gives you power, however, with a backpack full of stuff, it also puts quite some strain on my elbows. I often find myself re-adjusting my riding position due to a perceived discomfort in my elbows after couple of kilometers. Looking at it retrospectively, I would maybe reconsider purchasing the Booda Bike Player (940€), which features the same components, however, promises a little more laid back geometry of the frame.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Belt-driven bikes are epic,
Get Booda Bike too!