Gareth’s Ritte Blue Ribbon SSCX Belt Drive

Single speed cross in SoCal is big, with 30-40 racers in the A field each weekend. A lot of the elite-class racers have found a new love for the single speed A’s, which is where Gareth races his US-built Ritte Blue Ribbon Steel CX belt drive. Belt drive cross bikes are still in their infancy, but this one looked great getting in the SoCal mud (yes, mud exists in SoCal). Before the race, I gave this beauty some lens love…

  • holy hell. this thing is hot fire! love the color scheme.

    that said, can someone explain to me the benefits of using a belt drive for cx? because from where I am sitting (granted I have never owned or wrenched on a belt drive bike) it seems that the belt drive tooth interface would be more susceptible to dropped belts due to the buildup of mud/grass/dirt/etc on the wider belt-ring’s tooth surface. this is like another language to me.

    i guess what i am getting at is that the pointy nature of a chainring/chain interface clears mud rather effectively where-as this seems like it would do the opposite.


    • the “Center Track” version (little tooth in the middle of the cog & ring) was supposed to help with this. seems to have worked for some that built winter commuters with belt drives, don’t know how it’s fared with mud. either way, i still think it’s unnecessary.

    • Dropped belts are a non-issue.  You’re way less likely to drop a belt than you are a chain.  Chains need to have a bit of slack in them – if you pull them too tight, you’ll get binding spots in your crank rotation.  That slack can derail a chained SS setup.  Belts actually need to be tensioned (anywhere from ~30-80  lbf, per Gates) so there’s no slack for them to bounce off.  Furthermore, the center track raised guide won’t allow the belt to drift off center.

      Mud clearing ability is a big advantage on belt setups too.  The teeth on the front and rear pulleys come outwards from the raised centertrack and have nothing between/under them to clog up (reference pic).  It’s all open for mud/debris to get pushed through. 

      As far as weight is concerned, the belt + front and rear pulleys all together weigh about the same as just the chain for a similar SS setup.  Oh, and a belt will last 2-3X as long as a chain, not stretch, never needs lube, doesn’t lose efficiency like a chain accumulating sand and mud in the bushings, and can be washed with water.

      -Coming from an owner/racer of a belt driven SSCX bike.

      • I noticed a lot of racers having slippage issues in the SSCXWC – dunno why that was.

        • If it’s teeth jumping, then the belt tension is too low.  A good chain tensioner can give you more than enough pull.  I’m not sure how people with EBBs do it though (never had an EBB myself).  If they’re running the CDC system instead of CenterTrack, then alignment is much more critical and belts can walk off the pulleys.

          • Absolutely correct.Also there is an Apple app for tention ajustment I have no idea how it works but I it’s there. 

      • thanks for the explanation rich! i have never really looked too hard at belt drive-trains so pardon my ignorance, i didn’t know about the shape of the pulleys and the “center track,” which makes a lot of sense now that I look at it. does the rear pulley thread onto a SS hub the same as a freewheel would? or do you need a belt specific hub?

        • Glad it helped :).  I was new to it all just a few months ago.  Gates cogs slide onto Shimano/SRAM free hub bodies and are positioned with cassette spacers – so you can use any road wheelset.  They also work with many IGH brands too (Alfine, Nexus, Rohloff..).

  • Adie Mitchell

    What can people tell me about that double seatpost clamp?

    • probably just a place holder for saddle height. if you race a lot and have a larger frame, you inevitably end up taking out the post to fit your bike into people cars. its handy to have a mark of some kinda to make for easily assembly when its time to ride. thats my best guess.

      • Cody T

         thats why i took a scriber and made a line around my seatpost just above the collar. i slam my seat for tricks and raise it when i travel. why over complicate shit?

        •  ^^ This is a generally-used technique, but I stay away from it because of multiple manufacturers (Thomson included) recommending against it because of the possibility that said scribe line/mark/etching will create a stress riser right where any seatpost is most likely to snap right off: at frame insertion. Food for thought.

          •  solution: sharpie

          • Harry Shaud

            I think the additional collar looks neat. Only a ~10gr. weight penalty and probably something most people have in their spares box.

          • not on a black post…

    • Matt Reeve

      Double protection against seat post slippage.

  • Damn those wheels just set it off. Also love the grass / wood in the photos, good set dude.

  • Hot and fucking spicy!

  • b_drum88

    So I have to ask since I’ve been wondering about this for a while now. I know Rotor is a fairly established company, but it seems that recently they’ve gained an impressive amount of widespread support/appreciation. Have they become a more “mainstream” option or is it just that the blogosphere happens to be paying attention to bikes with Rotors?

    • They’re definitely more readily available now then they were two years ago.

      • dgmtc

        A bit off-topic but how do you rate your rotor cranks? Am thinking of replacing Chorus 11 cranks with rotors…

        • I like them a lot. Already tryin to hunt more for my bikes.

  • How do you open the rear triangle to install and remove the belt?

    • Ryan McAnulty

      There are two bolts about half way down the drive-side seat stay. I’m guessing that is where the frame breaks to adjust/install the belt.

    • See the bolt on the seat stay?

      • I realize this is total internet hair-splitting, but does that mean that belt-driven bikes are making some sort of (negligible) trade-off in frame stiffness or minimal weight for the option of a belt drive?

        • In many cases, adding in that seat stay frame splitter may add stiffness.  If you think about it, you’re subbing out a section of thin-walled tube for something with a lot more material.  It’s like how S&S Machine has shown through their testing that tubes with their couplers are now stiffer/stronger.  Adding weight though?  Yes, although I’d file both these stiffness/weight changes in the negligible department ;).

        • I use to sell the German brand Cycles for Heroes Gates belt line,so here are my 2 cents;BB area has to be stiffer to compensate for belt ,BB facing has to be more precise and if you look at Gates site and service memos you will see some mention about rear wheel centering in the frame, Gates says that the rim/wheel can be slightly off center . I had a discussion with them on the subject and don’t think much of it.     

  • Are those just Rotor crankarms with someone else’s spider and ring? Couldn’t find the specific setup at their site.

    • It’s a belt-drive ring on Rotor cranks.

  • Great bike and great scenery for the shoot!

  • Timothy Bradford

    why run drops if you’re not gonna run them to your full “positioning potential”… looks as if these have been hacked off???

    • Perhaps knee clearance and shaved weight outweighs the number of hand positions that the owner has for his 60 minute race!

  • Thorsten Bastian

    What sprocket is used at the front and rear?