The Case for a Belt

A belt can be a part of one’s attire or in the world of bicycles, a belt can take the place of a chain to transmit the power from the rider and the electrical motor to the rear wheel. In this case, the belt is often referred to as a belt drive.

Conveniently, the Revonte ONE Drive System is a rarity among e-bike drive systems since it can be used with a belt drive! Read further to learn what this means in practical terms.

A Different Tool for the Job

As said previously, a traditional chain can be replaced with a belt. Using a belt to transmit force is not exactly breaking news since you have most certainly sat in a car that has had one or more located in the engine compartment. Besides automotive and industrial applications, belt drives are gaining traction in bikes on an ever-growing basis. 

If this is the first time you hear a belt drive mentioned in the same sentence with bicycles and you’re skeptical about the strength of such a solution, have no doubt. According to Gates – the undisputed leader in the market – their carbon reinforced belts meet the EN 14766 industry standard, and exceed a regular chain when it comes to tensile strength

To summarize, belts are more than capable of transmitting all the power the rider and the drive unit can produce to the rear wheel, and most importantly, it happens in an efficient and reliable fashion – with some added benefits, which we are about to cover next.

(Very) Low-maintenance 

To choose a solution, especially something differing from the tried and true industry standard, it must offer some notable benefits. This is very much the case with belt drives. Not only is it different to chains, but also better in some aspects. 

“No grease, no rust (and no fooling!)”, is the slogan that Gates uses which holds a lot of truth. 

As opposed to chains, there’s no metal on metal contact which means no need for lubrication. Indeed, belt drives thrive on very little maintenance and will keep on ticking from miles to an end with very little care. The absence of regular lubrication also means that the drivetrain will remain very clean with just regular washing. Another neat feature of a belt drive is that the belt does not stretch – a thing that can happen with chains over time. On top of that, the mileage that can be had from a belt can be as much as twice the amount compared to a chain.

First-class ride experience and worry-free riding are what we are all about here at Revonte. Therefore, a belt drive offers a neat option that accompanies and fits the ethos of the Revonte ONE Drive System splendidly. 

Compatibility Considerations

When purchasing and installing a belt, it needs to be of a correct length and tightened to proper tension to provide the desired function. Gates offers comprehensive instructions for this, including a length calculator.

So, my bike is just short of a belt-specific sprocket, rear cog, and the belt itself and I’m ready to rock? 

Well, almost, but let’s not go so fast there. Since a belt can not be cut and joined, the frame – more specifically the drive-side rear triangle – has to meet certain construction requirements. In practical terms this means that the rear triangle has to have a bolted joint or similar feature for installing the belt inside the frame. Another option is to have elevated chainstays, but this is a solution which is way less common.

Our partners have acknowledged this requirement and have proceeded accordingly in their designs.


A Common Goal 

The belt drive is an option that is very well worth considering since it offers some notable benefits in which the maintenance-free nature can not be overstated. The Revonte ONE Drive System and the belt drive serve a common purpose of making riding fun again! In our books that means more time spent on riding, instead of working on your bike. 

The smartest drive system got even smarter when it’s paired with a belt drive. Meet the future of e-bike drive trains with the introduction of the Revonte ONE Drive System paired with Gates carbon drive belt.

When the Whole Is Bigger than the Sum of the Parts

Here at Revonte we’ve wanted to take the big picture view from the beginning. Our goal is to change how ebikes are ridden and thought of which requires more than just building a neat drive unit – although, that certainly is part of the deal. Besides providing a Drive System with unprecedented features, like the automatic & stepless transmission, we wanted to make the whole process of using the ebike easier, more pleasant and seamless, starting from the purchase.  

Let’s call it the Revonte Experience.

Ease of Use Starting from the Registration

Usually, attention is directed only towards the things that can be noted while riding. When it comes to ebikes – or any other product for that matter – the things that happen before that do matter, and often quite a lot. The ebike itself might be a pleasure to ride, but the experience might be dwarfed by a cumbersome process of turning just the power on. 

We’ve put a lot of thought to make the usability of the Revonte ONE Drive System as intuitive and smooth as possible. The process starts with registration, and at the same token claiming the ownership of the ebike. All of this is done via our App in a simple step-by-step manner. All the relevant instructions are clearcut and the amount of needed information is kept to a minimum.

If the registration process requires a PhD in electrical engineering or programming, then something has gone amiss. 

When Ensuing Riding

One of the design drivers of the user-interface and general usability of the Revonte ONE Drive System was that it should be so easy to use that a child could use a Revonte-equipped ebike (and they probably will.) 

Turning the power on and ensuing the ride should not be more complicated than starting a ride on a regular bike. In practical terms, this means that the power switch will be easy to use and no intricate button-pushing sequences are needed. Also, the app connects to the bike without a conscious effort by the user and starts tracking chosen metrics, if chosen from the settings.

Consequently, when the ride has finished or interrupted momentarily (remember, cyclists are big on coffee-breaks), turning the power off or putting the ebike on a stand-by mode should be just as easy as turning the power off. These things should be given but to our experience, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Controls

Making the human-machine interface – HMI for short – as simple as elegant as possible was high on our priority list. The Revonte Controller reflects this thinking in every way.

First, it simplifies the cockpit by replacing existing controls instead of occupying new space. Second, it’s intuitive to use and highly ergonomic. And third, it’s minimalist to the extent that the difference between a traditional shifter paddle can be hard to tell by a glance. Only the colourful LED’s reveal that there’s more hiding beneath the surface.

Going screenless was an easy decision for us since we wanted to keep the cockpit area as simple as possible, and most importantly leave the choice of having a screen to the rider. Any modern smartphone can be used as a screen with the aid of the Revonte App which has all the features one could ask for. And not only that, it’s continuously updated so that users can benefit from the latest developments.

Ride-experience

We’ve said it before that the ride-experience isn’t only about performance metrics. The goal of this article was to drive the point home that ebikes, and most importantly, the usability and the general feeling of using one is a lot more than just watts or newton metres.  

The user-experience starts from the purchase and besides the riding itself, includes registration, servicing, charging and turning the power on and off countless times.

We feel that the ebike industry has a lot of ground to cover in this area. A lot of the controls, HMI’s and complicated button-pushing choreographies are something that would not fly in any other industry. Starting a drive on one of the leading electric cars is simple; hop on to the driver’s seat with the key in your pocket and start moving. Why should it be more difficult when moving from four wheels to two? 

With this line of thinking, the whole is truly bigger than the sum of the parts. Ebikes should be easy and most importantly enjoyable to use. Could your grandma use one? And how would she find the experience?

Weight Matters – Not Only the Amount But Also Where It’s Located

E-bikes are inherently heavier than their oxygen-powered siblings. There’s no going around the fact that the drive unit and the battery which holds the energy stores for propulsion add weight to the bicycle. When it comes to ride-characteristics, total weight does matter, but how it is placed on the bike is at least as important. 

Bicycling and Kilograms

Bicycling has a long and complex tradition with weight. Almost the moment since the first racing bicycle was brazed together, another race began to make the frames and the rest of the components as light as possible. This led to a century-long diet that produced clever designs, pushed the development and use of new materials and also outright contraptions, like bikes made of “drillium“. UCI, the governing body in road racing, put a limit to the tomfoolery by mandating a weight limit of 6.8kg for the bike to be eligible to be raced on.

The obsession with weight – or the lack of it – has had its effects to this day in the bicycle industry. No other single metric can be evaluated as quickly as the number on the scale; the lower the figure, the better. The same simple logic can’t be applied to any other feature or part of the bike, take wheel size or the complex matter bicycle frame geometry for example. Weight has been an easy target that everyone could get a hold of and announce their verdict on.

Make no mistake, the power to weight ratio does matter. In the World Tour level, it is possibly the most accurate factor to predict who is going to stand on the podium. E-bikes are ridden under the same laws of physics, but as one will soon learn there is quite a bit more the matter.

Weight of An E-bike

A regular commuter bike weighs around 13-15kg, depending on the accessories like mudguards, panniers, and so on. A high-end full suspension mountain bike tips the scales at 11-15kg, depending on the riding discipline. A light cross-country racer can be sub 10kg when a gravity-focused rig can weigh as much as 16kg. 

The addition of electric assistance adds approximately 8kg’s to the bike which is divided somewhat equally between the drive unit and the battery. A capacity of 625Wh can be considered as a standard for a high-end battery which usually comes with a weight of just under 4kg. The bigger the battery, the heavier it is. Therefore, batteries with capacities larger than this often weigh more than 4 kg.  

With elementary school level mathematics, the total weight of an e-bike is north of 20kg, with the assumption that a full-sized battery and drive unit are used. Adding a bit of mass to the bike does provide some interesting effects such as a more stable ride behavior and better suspension performance in e-mtb’s to the extent that top times have been ridden with e-bikes in downhill sections which require no pedaling! It goes without saying though, that climbing an uphill is a task which is preferred to be done with the electric assistance turned on.

Weight Distribution

A number on the scale is not all when it comes to weight. How the weight is distributed is a big factor. The mid-drive is the leading solution when it comes to drive unit construction since the weight is placed in the best location possible, low and centered. The Revonte ONE Drive System takes this a big step further by including the gears inside the drive unit as well – a feature no other drive unit on the market currently has.

Derailleur-based gears have been the sole option in performance-focused bicycles for decades. A case can be made that what functions well in traditional bikes might not directly apply to e-bikes. This is especially true when it comes to gears. Derailleurs, cassettes, and the thin chains used to transmit power to the rear wheel are not up to par for the task when an electric drive unit is added to the drivetrain. Premature chain and cog wear is evident in e-bike use, not to even mention the dreaded snapping of a derailleur hanger which can ruin the entire rear wheel; a nightmare scenario which has plagued cyclists of all types since the advent of derailleur. 

The Revonte ONE Drive System removes the derailleur and the heavy cassette from the back and eloquently includes them inside the drive unit, bringing all the weight in the best possible location. The effects can be noticed even by picking the bike up. A back-heavy bike feels as if the rear tire is glued to the ground, no matter how much effort is put into lifting the bike up. The ride-characteristics of such a bike are not much better since it can produce a feeling similar to riding with a trolley. 

A center of gravity which is low and in the middle of the bike produces superior ride characteristics, no matter the type of the bike. Some of the most notable benefits are improved cornering characteristics, even traction on both tires, more stable and even planted feel. A neat side effect is that the suspension qualities are vastly improved in high-end e-mtb’s since part of the designing tuning is minimizing the unsprung mass (the parts that move when suspension moves, e.g. wheels and what is attached to them). Revonte ONE Drive System does just that by eliminating the derailleur and cassette from the rear wheel. 

In Closing

The bicycle industry has been traditionally nearly obsessed with weight. The logic has been that if it is lighter, it surely must be better. The advent of e-bikes has changed this in part by bringing some common sense to the table, but also by changing the nature of how propulsion is produced. 

With e-bikes, the power to weight ratio isn’t nearly as critical as in traditional bikes since there are literally watts to spare. This means that the bike will move swiftly in every situation and terrain and a difference of a couple of kilograms is barely noticeable. The sophisticated control software of the Revonte ONE Drive System further enhances the ride experience with its automatic and stepless operation.

Every type of e-bike will benefit from the supreme weight distribution and robust drivetrain construction of the Revonte ONE Drive System. Our drive system is not only the smartest around when it comes to software, but also in construction and placement of the mechanical parts.