Gates claims their belts do not stretch over their life, so theoretically speaking you should not have to adjust the tension (which appears finicky).

I'm interested in anyone with real world experience. Do you ever have to adjust the tension of the belt, apart from when you have to move the back wheel for another reason, such as to change a tyre?

Gates, who make the belts have a FAQ. I can't get a direct link, but if you go to http://www.carbondrivesystems.com/support.php under the question "What are the benefits to the Carbon Drive systems?" this is part of their answer.

No Stretch – The Carbon Drive belt does not stretch over time like a chain. This means you don’t have to re-tension the belt, or replace the belt due to stretch. This also means no excessive wear on pulleys due to stretch.

Does this claim hold up in practice?

  • Have you had problems with yours? My partner's bike has not required any adjustment at all in about six months of daily commuting.
    – DC_CARR
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 20:30
  • Many car engines use "timing belts" which are fundamentally the same concept. They last 70-100 thousand miles. In much more difficult conditions. Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 11:28
  • 4
    Timing chains in car engines also last many thousands of miles without replacement or adjustment, but it would be wrong to conclude that therefore bike chains can do the same.
    – armb
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 18:57

5 Answers 5


Once the system is set up correctly you will not need to tension it again until it is time to replace the system. There will be a slight drop in tension over the life of the system but it is not enough to require adjusting the tension. When performing a tire change using a bike with sliding vertical drop outs or an eccentric bottom bracket it is not necessary to re-tension the system, just pop the wheel in and out as you would with a chain.


I took delivery of a belt drive and Rohloff titanium bike (Nua Bikes, Barcelona custom design) towards the end of March 2020. I've probably done about 3000 miles on it. I did not adjust the belt, as it always felt much the same as when I got it. Not being heavy or athletic, I was sure that it would never skip over the sprocket.

However, after fixing a puncture with temperature at around 2C on 5 November 2021, I noticed that the belt no longer felt well tensioned. Back home, I was surprised to find that only one turn on the M5 screws that move the sliding dropouts was enough to bring the belt back to specification tension. So, the difference between palpably slack and proper tension was only 0.8mm (the pitch on an M5 thread).

I calculated the thermal expansion of the chain stays, using the distance between centres of 438.5mm from the Gates app and coefficient of expansion of Ti at around 8.6 x 10 to power -6. Even a difference of 30 degrees C would only shrink the distance by 0.113mm. The actual drop from average UK summer temperatures was less than 20C. On an aluminium alloy bike the expansion for 30C at coefficient 23.6 x 10^-6 would be 0.310mm. However, carbon fibre expansion, working in the opposite direction has a coefficient of about 2 x 10^-6. Conceivably, a cyclist with an aluminium bike, riding in a continental climate with very hot summers and sub zero winters might find the chain significantly slack in winter if it had been adjusted on a hot summer day.

In the UK, thermal changes are unlikely to have a significant effect on belt tension. I am hoping that my belt has just taken a long time to settle to its final length and/or that very slight slackening is not detectable by casual observation until a critical point is reached. I will be keeping a close eye on it now.

  • Welcome to the site - excellent first answer, keep it up ! You can read the tour to learn more how the site works.
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 20:38
  • Nice answer. Also consider sprocket expansion or contraction. All my sprockets are an aluminium alloy so I assume they expand and contract a bit like an aluminium alloy frame.
    – Jason S
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 21:50

I have been riding a Gates CDC (not Centertrack) belt drive for almost a year now. Gates claims that tension adjustments are not necessary over the lifetime of the belt drive. My experience does not support this claim.

One of Gates' claims is that the belt does not stretch enough to warrant tension adjustment after a break-in period, as you would on a brake or shifter cable. I found this to be true.

However, I have noticed that the tension of the belt changes significantly with temperature (and possibly humidity, though I don't have enough data to test that hypothesis). I have ridden my bike in various weather conditions and temperatures ranging from over 90℉/32°C to under 0℉/-17°C. I use the Gates iPhone app to check my belt's tension. I have noticed that, if the belt is tensioned properly at about room temperature, then the tension in the belt decreases below the recommended tension range when the ambient temperature drops below about 20℉/-6°C. I have noticed problems with the belt drive when tension is too high or too low, including excessive noise, skipping, and misalignment leading to dropping the belt from the sprockets. Therefore, I found it necessary to retension the belt slightly in the beginning of the winter and again at the end of winter.

I'm not certain yet if the weather-related change in tension is caused by frame shrinkage (I suspect this is the case - my frame is aluminium) or by another factor.

(Update Spring 2022 - after roughly 8 years and somewhere in the range of 15,000 - 20,000 miles [I lost my odometer when my bike computer died several years ago around 10k miles], my belt failed catastrophically - about 25% of the teeth came off in a single pedal stroke. I cannot find a replacement belt anywhere. If anyone still sells bicycles that still use the original CDC drives, I do not recommend, although I suspect the belt would last much longer with occasional use in fair weather instead of daily commuting in all weather conditions like I did. I think I will stick with chain drives from now on, mainly due to the fact that it's easier to source parts and find other resources for chain drives, not due to any inherit benefits or drawbacks with either type.)

  • 1
    This means, as long as you do not winter riding, you do not need to adjust it. Which is a valuable information.
    – user375251
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 9:16
  • Does the belt change in length with varying temperature/humidity, or is it the bike frame, or both?
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 12:34
  • I don't have enough definitive, emperical data to answer your question. My suspicion is that the change in tension is due to the frame growing & shrinking with temperature changes. I live in a dry climate where humidity doesn't change much, so I haven't noticed any changes correlated with humidity, but I suspect humidity would not make a difference.
    – jayhendren
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 21:22

I have a Gates belt drive. After getting tension right (using the iPhone app) initially I did not touch it for a year and was surprised to find it had not changed. For me at least, no stretch.


Aluminium alloys have a large coefficient of expansion (the grow with increase in temperature) and this could explain your summer and winter experiences. Do not own a belt drive but do maintain large aluminium aircraft with control cables. when are cables replaced or are adjusted it is carried out after aircraft temperature has stabilised and cable tension is corrected for temperature ie lower tension if aircraft cool & higher tension. This is due to the length of the aircraft and it's cable runs changing enough to make significant differences in cable tensions.

  • 1
    Do you think the length of a chainstay (about 40 cm) is going to expand enough to change the belt's tension so its outside of recommended tolerances ? Aluminium has a thermal coefficient of about 23 and steel is 11 to 13, but I lack the maths to figure out the difference of 40 cm of aluminum at -20 and +50 degrees C. Want to give it a go ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 11:32
  • 3
    An interesting topic, but needs some hard numbers. E.g. is the expansion linear with regards to temperature and pressure? Aircraft will be subject to much greater temperature and pressure ranges than bicycles. The type of aluminium alloy used may be different. I have a steel frame. In this case we're interested in the change in length of the chainstay - a linear expansion rather than volumetric. Larger sprockets may result in less belt tension change for the same chainstay length change. Sprockets may also expand. From @Criggie, will the change be within tolerance? A lot to consider!
    – Jason S
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 20:36
  • 2
    This should probably be a comment to my answer, rather than an answer in and of itself?
    – jayhendren
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 21:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.