Joe Bike has perhaps the widest and deepest lineup of Gates Carbon Drive bikes in the world, from manufacturers such as British Columbia’s Norco Performance Bikes, Portland’s own Stop Cycles, Joe Bike’s own handmade ShuttleBug, Abio folding bikes and, most recently, Spot Bikes out of Golden, Colorado. Matched with an internally geared hub and disc brakes, these bikes are clean, quiet, buttery smooth, almost maintenance-free, weatherproof, and totally down with fenders, racks, bags, and other utilitarian necessities. All of which makes them perfect next-generation city bikes.
Today we add to our lineup with an 11-speed version ($1899) of the normally 8-speed ($1499) Spot Ajax.
The Ajax is built on the game-changing Acme frameset. It has the same custom Spot Brand aluminum frame, the same carbon fork, and the same patent-pending Kobe dropouts found on the Acme, but with the Shimano Alfine 8-sp internal hub and Shimano mechanical disc brakes instead of the Acme’s 11-speed hub and hydraulic disc brakes.
And now the 11-speed Ajax is available with a handspun rear wheel built in the shop. This basically gives you an Acme with mechanical rather than hydraulic disc brakes and flat-black rather than glossy grey paint.
This conversion presents a great opportunity to add a sexy black matching Alfine dyno hub to your front wheel, a $200 upgrade that will let you run powerful front and rear dyno lights with capacitors and never worry about replacing batteries again. This hub can power your iPhone and similar devices too. (Please allow us about a week to make all of this happen.)
The Ajax shares, with the Acme, such revolutionary design details as the first post-mount carbon fiber fork with dropouts that recognize and compensate for directional braking force of the disc calipers. Simple and elegant, they take secure front wheel engagement up another notch. Post mount brakes reduce the weight, bulk and additional hardware of ISO mount brakes. That means your brakes are directly engaged to the fork, without any bulky hardware. All the dozens of thoughtful engineering details add up to the exceptional ride, performance, comfort and safety that is purpose-built into every bike. All set up for racks, fenders, and water bottle cages.
Note: We currently stock the belt-drive Ajax and not the chain-drive Ajax, but we’re happy to special-order the latter for you.
Here is the complete Wired magazine review of the Ajax:
Wired.com – Spot’s Stealth Commuter Breaks the Chain May 1, 2011
Transcribed from Wired.com
By John Bradley
The Spot Ajax is the quietest bike I’ve ever been on. During one test ride, I found myself cutting through a deserted parking lot away from traffic. The only sound the bike made — and this was while pedaling — was the squeak of the tires against the asphalt. If the matte-black Ajax looks stealthy, it’s even more so once you ride it.
Though materials and build play a part in the Ajax’s silent operation, the main reasons are the 8-speed internal hub and belt drive at the heart of the bike’s derailleur-free drivetrain. Single-speed elitists are easy to dismiss. But their off-putting hipsterism is rooted in one undeniable truth: Taking derailleurs out of the picture makes things a whole lot simpler and more reliable.
Of course, taking gears out of the picture can make riding a lot less fun, if not downright miserable for those in hilly areas. Multigeared internal hubs like the Shimano Alfine 8 featured on the Ajax hit the best of both worlds.
All gearing is internal, meaning no derailleurs to break, bend, or fall out of tune. Internal hubs even let you shift gears without pedaling — a godsend for urban commuters who forget to downshift before stopping at red lights.
With the Ajax, Spot takes the simplicity and dependability further by replacing the chain with a belt, like the ones found on automotive engines. In fact, Gates, the maker of Spot’s belt-drive system, is primarily a parts supplier for the auto industry.
The durable belts, made from layers of polyurethane, rubber and carbon-fiber strands, don’t need lubrication, either. So there’s no risk of showing up for work with grease stains on your chinos.
The Ajax’s belt drive uses the new CenterTrack design from Gates. A retaining ridge down the center eliminates any side-to-side slipping.
The Ajax’s distinctive, swoopy looks and great handling are thanks to Spot product manager Sky Yaeger, a veteran bike designer who previously worked for Swobo and Bianchi and created their best-known urban bikes.
Though the Ajax comes spec’d with backswept mustache bars, Yeager gave it a nimble geometry more in line with cyclocross bikes — all the better for darting in and out of traffic. The mustache bars are plenty stable and comfortable, but more aggressive urban riders will want to swap in a road-bike-style drop bar, which would probably be more in line with the frame’s aesthetics, anyway.
The molded aluminum frame is married to a carbon-fiber fork, which mutes a bit of road vibration and helps quiet the rattling typical of most aluminum frames. Stopping power comes from Shimano mechanical disk brakes, which are not as pleasantly plush and modulated as hydraulic discs but they are simpler and less expensive. For city riding, they were all the brake I needed, even on the 28-percent-grade descent that is part of my morning commute.
Tabs and bolt holes molded into the fork allow for direct mounting of the front brake caliper, rather than relying on extra bolts and hardware. Touches like this, plus the butted aluminum frame, keep weight for the entire bike down to a very respectable 26 pounds.
The Ajax comes with mounts for fenders and panniers, both things I would likely add, though they would mar the bike’s stripped-down look.
Not included with the Ajax, however, are reflectors. Not exactly, anyway. Instead of bolting slabs of cheap, unsightly plastic to the wheels, Spot has spec’d the Ajax with WTB tires that have reflective whitewalls. They pop in headlights as well as any standard reflector but disappear in the daylight.
But the most ingenious feature of the bike has to be the rear dropout. Belt drives require precise tension to work correctly. Change a flat on your rear wheel, and you might need to go to a shop familiar with belt drives to get everything working again.
To remedy this, Spot created a new dropout that attaches to the bike on a small pivot. There are two other bolts on the dropout, one for adjusting belt tension and another for locking everything into place. Tension is set at the factory, and the vertical dropout allows the user to remove the rear wheel without ever changing the tension setting.
It might seem like a small thing, but it helps keep the Ajax running smoothly without frequent visits to the bike shop. It’s those small things that make the Ajax such a pleasure to ride.
WIRED Distinctive, urban-inspired looks with anodized, matte-black finish. Almost as quiet in motion as it is standing still. No-lube drive train means no grease on your pants. Carbon belt should outlast a standard chain. Built-in reflectivity on the tires, so no dorky reflectors on the spokes.
TIRED Mustache bars are not for everyone. Relatively narrow platform on the pedals increases risk of foot shooting off the side; most riders, especially those with a wider stance, will want bigger ones. The parts and tech may justify the price, but this is still a lot to pay for a city bike.