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I am completely new to the concept of belt drives and, when doing some initial research, the Wikipedia article on belt-driven bikes says that they have the disadvantage of

Problems in snowy conditions (up to complete inoperability in some cases).

Has anyone had any experience with snowy commutes on a belt-driven bike supporting or refuting this claim?

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4 Answers 4

It depends

Belt drives require some mechanism to prevent the belt slipping off of the sprockets sideways.

  1. Early generation belt drives have guides on both sides of the sprocket to keep the belt from sliding off. This can definitely lead to snow, mud or other debris getting trapped in the sprockets, getting packed in tighter with every revolution, and eventually rendering it inoperable.
  2. Later designs started compensating by adding mud ports, a guide on only one side of the sprocket (with other guide on the other side) and other mechanisms to allow snow or mud to be squeezed out of the system.
  3. The most recent design has a guide that runs down the center of the belt instead of on either side (so the teeth on the belt have a gap in the middle), which should squeeze snow or mud out the sides of the sprocket and belt. From what I've heard, this is supposed to be the most difficult to clog design.

(doing a little research, number 3 is the "Gates Center Track" that just came out at Interbike 2011 and the bike I saw with it was probably one of the first production bikes of that model off the assembly line)

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I've never ridden one but the Carbon Drive Systems website states that:

The patented sprokets contain Mud ports that shed even the worst type of debris. Not even snow or mud will slow you down.

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In theory, since the sprockets are so wide, and the belt lacks holes, snow/mud that gets between sprocket and belt will be packed into the notches and could build up if conditions are right. This could build up to where it locks the belt (or damages it, if the rider tries to force the thing), in the worst case. In any case, it's not going to make pedaling any easier.

I was just reading where truck off-roaders have a lot of trouble with mud in their serpentine belts, in some cases damaging the belt or the bearings of the generator or idler.

No experience with bicycle belt drive, though, in any conditions.

Added:

I do notice, in the belt tension thread, that the front sprocket has large holes in it and, one would expect, would not have much trouble with snow/mud buildup. The rear sprocket (in the image presented) is not seen well enough to say if it has holes in it, but it looks like not -- at least not as big as the front. Other bikes may be different, of course.

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The belt drive on my Srida gathers lots of wet snow, making it completely useless throughout the entire winter. In addition, if the temperature is around 0 degrees, the bicycle parts are prone to icing, which is the major problem for the belt drive too.

See also another customer review

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