ARGENBÜHL, Germany (BRAIN) — Gates Carbon Drive has come a long way from its early days dressing up single-speed mountain bikes with near silent running and hassle-free—i.e., chain lube-free—maintenance.
The company has racked up partnerships with a substantial roster of bike and e-bike brands, including early adopter Spot as well as Kettler, ZEG, Farraday, Reeb Cycles, German pedelec newcomer Flitzbike (making its debut at this year’s Eurobike), OHM, Steppenwolf and German mountain maker Nicolai—the last of which shared booth space with Gates at Eurobike Demo Day and displayed numerous belt-drive models on Tuesday.
Just last week, Gates announced partnerships to provide drivetrain components for e-bike motor brands Bosch, SRAM, MPF, BionX and Höganäs, as well as the Eurobike debut of new OE cranksets compatible with its chainrings that would make spec’ing belt drives more of a “plug and play” move for OEs.
And while Gates is experiencing new heights of interest in particular to fill European e-bike demand, its business in North America continues to mature. In its home market, where consumers have been slower to embrace electrics than the European market has, non-electric city bikes above $1,000 remain Gates’ bread and butter.
However, Frank Scurlock, Gates’ global business development manager, believes the U.S. e-bike market may be on the cusp of breakthrough as young millennials and urbanites embrace a car-free lifestyle. “I think it will come. The infrastructure just isn’t there yet,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gates is working to make its belt drives—once available only on premium-priced bikes—accessible to a broader range of consumers. REI house brand Novara, for example, will offer two models for less than four figures.
Getting down to the $500 level is not outside the realm of possibility as Gates brings down its cost to OEs. But such a move won’t come at the risk of reliability or performance, Scurlock notes.
“We don’t want to make it a race to the bottom. We have to keep understanding what the customer needs and wants,” he said.