Monthly Archives: November 2014

Unclear on the concept: “Who needs a belt when there’s a full metal chaincase?”

We’ve been confronted with this question and have decided to answer it publicly. The question was, “Really, who needs a belt when there’s a full metal chaincase” on my shiny, expensive new bike?

Translation: why would I want belt drive when I can enclose my steel chain in an assembly of several metal pieces that are bolted together and that must be at least partially removed to do most drivetrain maintenance or just to fix a flat?

Steel chaincase in all its pieces. (Screws not shown.)

Steel chaincase in all its pieces. (Screws not shown.)

We laughed, we sighed, we wanted to cry but the tears just wouldn’t come out.

Here’s what to consider.

First: ever try changing a rear flat tire for a bike that has a full chaincase? If yes, then you understand how much longer it takes to complete the task, and what a pain in the ass it is. What should normally take no more than 10 or 15 minutes will take maybe 45. Even (or especially) mechanics gripe about this. In fact, we added a $30 surcharge, on top of our usual $8 flat repair, for bikes with full chaincases.

It’s true, the chaincase will keep the chain cleaner for longer, seeing as how it’s protected inside a suit of armor, but nonetheless moisture will collect there, oiling is still necessary, and maintenance remains key.

ajax nice

A Tout Terrain Via Veneto with Gates Carbon Drive. No chainguard because no chain. No belt guard because no need for one.

With a belt, you don’t need a suit of armor because the belt can’t rust, doesn’t get greasy, and won’t eat your pants*. Lighter, cleaner, quieter than a chain, with basically no maintenance and at least twice the life of a chain. In modest city riding (as opposed to racing), that belt will last tens of thousands of miles. Flat changes are gunk-free, quick, and clean. With most belt-drive bikes now, there’s no need to retension the belt when reinstalling the wheel.

*Some manufacturers do include a minimal, one-piece guard for the belt ring, which is more psychological than functional.

belt drive

Smoother cleaner lighter more durable easier to work with and no appetite for clothing.

The downside? The belt costs more, as does a belt-specific drivetrain in general. But in the long run you earn your money back in time and maintenance costs. The only other downside is that bike frames need to be designed to accept a belt. This adds a whopping $30 or so to the cost of a frame, and a belt-specific drivetrain will add typically about $200 to the cost of the complete bike. The fact is, most manufacturers haven’t taken that step. Yet.

So. That steel chaincase? Recycling bin. Belt drive is a smarter choice.





clubman touring

We review the new Raleigh Clubman Disc

Under new Dutch ownership, the resurgent Raleigh has redesigned one of its classics, the Clubman light tourer, to include disc brakes, making it that much better for Portland riders while upsetting a few crusties who like 1970s brake technology just the way it was*.

Raleigh has preserved the old, genteel aesthetic that is the heart and soul of the Clubman. Sporty but not twitchy, comfy but not slow, the Clubman is the road bike for those who appreciate (and revel in) the difference between competitive road racing and spirited road riding. Century rides, solo or in a group? Absolutely. McKenzie Pass? Do it. Light touring? Check! Multnomah Falls? Wait, we’ll join you. Commute? Heck yeah. Keep it mostly to the pavement, and this bike will rock your world.

clubman disc touring 3It’s the thoughtful details that really make the Clubman a treasure. Of course it has a built-in peg under the top tube for your Zefal frame pump. It also has an integrated, lugged seatpost collar and cowled Ritchey-style rear dropouts. The fork is slender and yet robust, with an elegantly brazed crown. All the bits and pieces are silver, and mostly polished silver, evoking a bygone era of hand-selected and hand-polished components, craftsman assembly, and personal attention to detail. Even the saddle is special: it’s riveted and covered in a deep-blue suede. The metal fenders are even painted to match the accent stripes, which is almost unheard of these days.

The drivetrain takes advantage of trickle-down technology: Shimano’s Hollowtech II two-piece crankset now exists in the affordable and high bang-to-buck ratio Tiagra groupset. Two-piece cranks use large-diameter bearings outside the shell of the frame to improve bearing life and durability, as well as stiffness under load. Shimano’s integrated STI brake/shift levers have great ergonomics and quick, crisp shifting. The newer Tiagra road rear derailleur has a wider accessible gear range than in the past, and is paired with a new 12-30 10-speed cassette that bridges the road and mountain gearing worlds. Even the front derailleur is seeing improvements from its more expensive counterparts in the form of a wider, stiffer linkage, resulting in superior shifts with less clattering or hesitation. Shimano’s mechanical road disc brakes have independent pad adjustments for each disc pad, and an improved, beefier actuation arm for less flex under strong braking forces.

In short, this bike has all the class and style of a high-end road touriste from the 1970s, and all the functionality and quality of modern components and manufacturing. Customize it with a dynamo hub and lights, or outfit it with a handlebar bag and panniers, or class it up with a leather saddle and leather bar tape.

$1100, in stock. Butted cromoly frame, cromoly fork. Shimano BR-R317 mechanical disc brakes, Tiagra 2 x 10 drivetrain. Sizes: 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62. We regret to inform you that 52cm is the smallest size, most likely because of toe vs tire interference while turning , sometimes an issue with very small frames.

Clubman Disc set up for light touring. Shown with Portland-made North St. bags on an Axiom Streamliner Disc DLX rack. Front bag: Axiom Joliet DLX 8.8L. Portland-made wooden bottle cage from Sykes Wood Fenders.

Clubman Disc set up for light touring. Shown with Portland-made North St. bags on an Axiom Streamliner Disc DLX rack. Front bag: Axiom Joliet DLX 8.8L. Portland-made wooden bottle cage from Sykes Wood Fenders. Frame pump: Axiom BlastAir HVL.


Specs and sizing information.

clubman disc 2*You probably already know this, but all the bikes we sell have disc brakes. We’re still asked why, too. Disc brakes stop you better especially in the rain and require a lot less maintenance. This can be discussed for hours, but that’s it, distilled into a single drop.