By Zack Vestal
With so many exhibitors combining to bring unlimited creativity to NAHBS this year, the stories and photos are far from exhausted. Among the myriad of bicycle configurations on display in Indianapolis, those with only a single cog and chainring represented a majority. Many were track bikes, urban fixed gear bikes, commuters, town bikes, and even a cyclocross bike or two.
Not to be left out, singlespeed mountain bikes also remain popular with handmade builders, both for the pure simplicity and the many forms this category can assume. Singlespeed mountain bikes are ideally suited to alternative drivetrains, and the Carbon Drive Systems belt drive appears to be gaining traction. The belt (and the dedicated cogs and chainring) has been on the market for a few years now, but has only gradually been adopted as builders choose their method of getting the belt into the rear triangle
Here is just a small cross-section of some of the belt-driven singlespeed mountain bikes on display. And be sure to look for more stories from the show in the coming days.
As a music fan, I always love to see tribute pieces, whether they are tattoos, T-shirts, posters, or full-on shrines. John Caletti of Santa Cruz, California, took his appreciation of guitarist Buckethead and created a really cool tribute singlespeed. For those that are unfamiliar with the musician, he’s famous for eccentric, artistic metal guitar work, and his signature persona on stage includes a white mask and an inverted Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket worn as a hat.
In business since 2005, Caletti builds each bike to order, 100 percent custom. The Buckethead bike is a belt-driven 29er, TIG welded from a blend of Columbus Niobium and Zona tubes. Powdercoating by Spectrum in KFC red and white stripes is covered in a matte clearcoat for a muted finish. Caletti made his own drawings of the artist, converted them to vector graphics, and Spectrum was then able to include the graphic in the paint scheme. Red anodized parts, including a King headset and Magura brakes, highlight the color scheme. Caletti uses a split rear dropout to pass the belt into the rear triangle.
Caletti also had a handbuilt front rack on display in his booth, with a musical reference of its own. According to Caletti, guitar maker Jeff Traugott (also of Santa Cruz, and a cyclist) was building a guitar for artist John Mayer. Traugott had scraps of Brazilian rosewood left over that were destined for the wastebasket, so Caletti scooped them up and used them as slats to complete his TIG welded, stainless steel cargo rack. It’s not often that a bicycle part shares lineage with a John Mayer guitar, but Caletti can now add it to his repertoire of creative construction.
Rody Walter of Groovy Cycleworks takes pride in his status as a one-man shop, ushering the build process from raw tubing to painted, finished frames. In addition to complete bike frames, he does restorations, paint jobs, forks, and a line of handlebars called “Luv Handles.” With a 14-month wait time for a new bike, it’s clear he keeps plenty busy.
On show in his booth was a belt-driven, 650-B singlespeed with a Luv Handle bar and Marzocchi fork painted to match. Walter uses an S & S coupler in the chainstay to pass the belt into the rear triangle. His feeling is that this retains the best strength and stiffness, compared to a split dropout or other method. To tension the belt, he’s created his own eccentric bottom bracket, designed to be creak-free. It employs a one-piece machined aluminum cylinder with BB threads cut, and a pair of pinch bolts underneath the BB shell in the frame to hold it in place. A small cutout in the BB cylinder on the drive side serves as a tool slot, so the user can wedge a tool through the crank spider and use the crankarms to rotate the BB and tension the belt.
The Luv Handles were created in collaboration with exercise physiologist Bill Grove. Walter consulted Grove to determine a backsweep that would avoid pinching nerves in the wrist. They settled on 21.5 degrees of backsweep and 4 degrees of upsweep as the optimum shape for ergonomically neutral hand and wrist position. Offset mitering allows subtle changes in position by rotating the bar in the stem clamp, and forward sweep in the midsection of the bar maintains rider grip position with the stem clamp centerline.
Long-time purveyor of titanium frames Dean Bicycles also showed a belt-driven singlespeed. Builder Aaron Barcheck created the bike specifically for the show, and brought a beach-cruiser style to the modern material. This marks the first belt bike that Dean has built.
Barcheck came up with his own pass-through for the belt. He interrupted the seat stay, just above the dropout, with a two-bolt, machined and offset coupler. Flex in the stays is enough to pass the belt into the rear triangle, and the coupler has a clean look.
The package is completed with a straight blade titanium 29er fork that uses a White Industries aluminum crown. A Dean bar and stem, made by Barcheck, compose the cockpit. Media etching, rather than paint or decals, creates subtle logos on the down and head tubes.