Features that I look for in a good commuting bike:
1) Aluminium bike frame to prevent rusting.
2) Hydraulic disc brakes to avoid dirty brake pads and rims. Works well in the wet too.
3) Internal hub gear to avoid cleaning the RD and cassette. Single speed is not for me, as I like to pedal at a comfortable and optimum cadence, which cannot be achieved if there is undulating terrain.
4) Belt drive system, to avoid chain cleaning, chain lubrication and rusty chains.
5) Frame mounts for fenders and rear rack.
There are many bikes out there that can fulfill most of the criteria, except for the one about the belt drive. It is rare to see a belt drive bike in Singapore. Nevertheless, I asked around to see if anyone has any idea where to find a bike with these features in Singapore.
With the info gathered, I narrowed down my choices to 3:
Scott Sub 10
Focus Planet TR 1.0
Avanti Inc 2 or 3
These 3 bikes has all the required features, the problem now is whether they are available locally? I heard that the Focus Planet TR 1.0 is currently not in stock and that means one option down. The Scott Sub 10 can be found at Kian Hong Cycle at Vertex, and I went there to check out the bike.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had a new model in store! The 2013 Scott Sub 10 with Alfine 8 and a Gates belt drive system. The price was SGD 1599, which was a reasonable price. The new colour was outstanding too. However, I was unable to test out the bike as the road was wet after rain.
Orange coloured 2013 Scott Sub 10 in KH Cycles
Keeping the Scott Sub 10 in mind, I went to check out the next bike: The Avanti Inc 2 or 3 (unsure at this point) was available at BikePlus, Midview City.
When I reached BikePlus, I immediately asked about the Avanti Inc and found that the only one left in store is the Avanti Inc 3. As such, it was available for a good deal at SGD 1799 (Original 2399). This bike is equipped with Alfine 11 and the latest Gates CDX CenterTrack belt drive system. It also comes with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and hubs.
After riding two rounds around the car park, I decided to get the bike! Yusri from BikePlus was also very kind to send the bike to my place at no additional cost.
With that, let me introduce the latest addition to my bike stable, the Avanti Inc 3! Refer to the link for the full specifications.
This bike ticks all the boxes in my feature list for an ideal commuter bike:
1) Aluminium frame - Yes
2) Hydraulic disc brakes - Yes. Shimano BL-M445 and BR-M446.
3) Internal hub gear - Yes. Shimano Alfine 11
4) Belt drive system - Yes! Gates CDX CenterTrack belt drive system
5) Fender and rear rack mounting - Yes
Bike is full matte black for stealth commuting! Hides dirt well too.
Comes with Alfine 11 shifters (Two-way release, Multi-release) which have a similar top normal design as MTB Rapidfire shifters. Mid-range Shimano hydraulic brake levers BL-M445.
Shimano Alfine 11 internal gear hub!
Yup it is 11 speeds. More than enough for commuting.
Yet another view of the Alfine 11 internal gear hub. Note the oil port for easy oil replacement.
Gates CDX CenterTrack Carbon Belt Drive system! Shown here is the front pulley of 50 teeth.
Rear pulley of 24 teeth. The yellow markings should be aligned at Gear 6.
Also note the split in the rear triangle, at the seatstay area.
2 bolts at the bottom of the seatstay split allows the joint to be opened or closed for belt installation.
Small sized frame. According to the Avanti website I am in-between Small and Medium for this frame. The 57 cm refers to the horizontal top tube length (distance from stem to seatpost).
Subtle graphics on the bike
Even the brand logo is placed subtly near the bottom of the downtube, instead of being splashed across the frame. Love the stealthy look!
Eccentric bottom bracket for chain tensioning. Have not figured out how to adjust this eccentric BB yet.
OK quality FSA Vero crankset. But I find that the crankarms flex too easily, and I will change them out soon. Same for the cheap plastic pedals.
Shimano hydraulic brake calipers BR-M446, with Shimano hub, QR and Centrelock rotors.
View of the rear brake caliper. Neatly hidden inside the rear triangle, which means that normal rear racks can be used, instead of needing disc brake specific rear racks.
Mounting on the front fork for fenders. Good clearance to fit in the fenders.
Clearance between rear tire and the rear seatstay bridge. Also note the mounting point for the rear rack.
Continental SportContact tires. 700x37C (37-622) tire size.
Rim dimensions. Recommended tire width is between 28 to 38mm.
With a belt drive system, I no longer have to clean and lubricate the chain regularly, even after wet rides! The belt performs best when washed clean, so it actually cleans itself automatically when you ride through a puddle. What is really nice is that this is the newest CDX belt system, instead of the older and more problem-prone CDC. No more rusty chains!
The internal gear hub is also quite impervious to wet conditions, as long as I don't submerge the whole bike in water. The only maintenance I need is probably to adjust the shifter cable tension occasionally, or to replace it if it rusts. Might need to replace the oil in the internal hub after 1000km. No more rusty/dirty RD, FD or cassette!
I also like the hydraulic brake system, which retains its braking performance even in wet weather. No more cleaning of brake pads and rims!
Of course, this internal gear hub + belt drive is not all advantages and no disadvantages. The major disadvantage (and probably the only significant one) is the additional weight over a standard mechanical drivetrain.
Comparing the weight of an Alfine 11 speed setup with a Ultegra 2x10 setup:
Alfine 11 + Belt Drive
Alfine 11 speed internal hub gear - 1665g
118T CDX belt - 92g
Front pulley 50T - 97g
Rear pulley 24T - 76g
Alfine 11 speed shifter - 130g
Alfine Crankset (no chainring) + BB - About 600g
Ultegra 2x10 (Flat Handlebar setup)
Rear hub - 354g
Chain - 267g
Cassette - 230g
Rear Derailleur - 190g
Front Derailleur - 90g
SL-R780 Shifter (left + right) - 260g
Crankset (double chainrings) + BB = 790g
The actual weight will differ based on your actual setup, but this is the estimated weight of these 2 different setups. In summary, the internal hub gear system will be heavier than an equivalent 2x10 speed system by about 500 grams.
Why do I say equivalent? This is because I am comparing these two setups based on equivalent gear range. You may be surprised, but the Alfine 11 gear range is actually comparable to a 2x10 drivetrain on a road bike. Although there are 20 speeds in a 2x10 speed system, there are actually many overlapping gears, which reduces the actual number of unique gears available. On the other hand, the Alfine 11 has 11 different gear ratios that don't overlap.
Let's take a look at the gearing comparison between an Alfine 11 and a 2x10 system:
Gearing comparison between Alfine 11 and compact 2x10 road system.
For the Alfine 11 system, I used the gear ratios as found on my Avanti Inc 3. As for the 2x10 road bike, I used a compact crankset (50/34T) as it is more realistic. A top gear of 53/11T on a standard crankset is normally only used by the professional cyclists while going downhill. As such, I used a compact crank of 50/34 and a cassette of 11-28T for comparison.
Notice that the gear range for these two systems are actually very similar. The Alfine 11 is pretty impressive as it can match the lowest and highest gears of a compact 2x10 road bike drivetrain!
As for the gears in the middle, just match the colours to find the matching gears between the two systems. You can see that the Alfine 11 gearing pretty much covers the gearing provided by the 10 speed cassette, save for a couple of bigger jumps at the higher end of the gear range.
I am now waiting for the add-on accessories (fenders, rear rack, lights, etc) to go on the bike, before it is put into proper service. Will report on the ride quality and other riding feedback in the next few blog posts!