Belt Drive Bicycles - Trek District vs. Spot Brand Dualie

For some reason, I spent a few hours yesterday completely enamored with the idea of owning a belt drive bicycle. I don't often indulge such fantasies as I'm more than happy with what I already have, but I decided to slip a bit and endeavor to see what I could find. After a good amount of searching, I found a pair that really spoke to me, for a variety of reasons.

First of all, I don't have much of a problem with chains; they seem to last quite a while and work pretty well. I even kind of look forward to the zen of routine drive maintenance, spending a few hours a morning every other week to keep everything in great condition. However, the Gates carbon belt drive promises smooth, silent operation and grease-free maintenance that should last the lifetime of 3 chains. As someone who notices the instant a chain roller starts squeaking, and who seems to perpetually have the darkened imprint of a big ring on his right calf, that just sounds incredible. The lifetime of 3 chains? I'm not even sure how long one lifetime is supposed to be, but for the purposes I have in mind, I'm sure it would last a ridiculous amount of time. So, if a belt drive is so great, maybe it's worth looking into? Let's take a look at what I've found.

The first belt driven bike I came across was the Trek District:
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Trek District
Featuring a Gates carbon belt drive (as cool as that sounds) with a freewheel hub on an aluminum frame, the District gets off to a good start. At first glance, perhaps the District doesn't have the most exciting color scheme. There are some subtle orange highlights that add a bit of flair, but overall, I'm not a fan of the slivery-grey ("smoke" according to the web site) paint job. Other models in the District line include a greenish color and a darker grey. It's alright, I guess, but not that exciting, to me.

One unique standout is the eccentric bottom bracket and over-center dropout, allowing the bike to be converted to a geared drivetrain. I wonder, though, what's the logic, here? A concession that belt drives might just be a passing phase, or a selling point for customers who are wary of abandoning tradition? Perhaps it speaks more to the "everyperson" consumer, who wants the ultimate in versatility -- a bike that can fill multiple roles.

At an MSRP of $1099.99, there's a lot to like about this bike, but there could be more.

Next, a very interesting bike, the Dualie by Spot Brand.
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Spot Brand Dualie
Now this bike is a little more my speed. As above, it features a Gates carbon belt drive, but with an added twist at the hub. You see, "Dualie" isn't just a clever name, it's a part of the bike's featureset. It's got 2 gears!

The rear hub is a Sturmey Archer S2 Duomatic Kick Shift with freewheel. Simply reverse pedal to shift into high gear. Too much stress? Reverse pedal again to down shift. Easy peasey.

The Dualie comes in one color combination, but this is actually a combination that I like. It looks fantastic. I'm already sold on the belt drive, and the addition of an extra gear means I'm better equipped to tackle the hills around North East Pennsylvania.

One caveat is the steel frame construction, which tells me this bike probably weighs a bit more than the District. Then again, the steel frame might just handle bumps a lot better, and if there's one thing we've got around here, it's plenty of bumps.

At an MSRP of $1,199, I'd be saving my nickels and dimes a little longer, but the difference seems worth it, to me.

So, which would I choose? I think it's an interesting race. The Dualie seems like it would weigh more, but the dual-geared hub adds some versatility. On the other hand, if it's versatility you're after, the District wins due to that eccentric bottom bracket and the ability to convert to a geared drive -- it's almost like getting two bikes for the price of one! Aesthetically speaking, the Dualie looks a lot more appealing to me. I'd hate for this to come down to looks, but that's just how I'm leaning in this particular case.

Were this strictly about function, the District would win, hands down. It seems to me that it can do a lot more than the Dualie and would probably be the logical choice for a more practical person. But in this race, I'm not that guy. I'm not looking for a practical, versatile bike, I'm looking for an urban explorer.

In the end, however you look at it, the money is going towards the belt drive, and that's the whole point of this exercise -- finding a lower maintenance, quieter, simpler bike. Getting one with great looks and personality, however, couldn't hurt. Now, if I could just convince either of these companies to send me a demo model for a proper review, I'd be more than happy to tell everyone all about it. *hint, hint*


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