Written by Jim Karanas28th February 2013
My indoor-cycling background revolves around the chain. My coach used to say, “The chain is sacred.” It vibrates, and that’s precisely what gives the bike its feeling of life.
If you had asked me back then about building a bike with a belt, I would have said without hesitating, “Don’t mess with the chain.”
I can argue for the chain better than almost anyone. Those arguments, though, are philosophical, not focused on moving the industry of Indoor Cycling forward.
From my new perspective, working for a company that makes a spectacular line of bikes with belts, the conclusion is clear. The belt requires less maintenance, has fewer breakdowns, improves pedaling technique, prevents momentum-based recovery, makes the rider work more efficiently, and is quieter, as well as safer for new riders. It will save the club owner money, decrease liability, train participants more effectively, and make less noise. No one on the management side of the club business would need to hear more to choose a belt. For economic reasons alone, the industry will go this way. But here's another thing to consider: 95% of the people who get on an indoor cycle will only notice that the belt is quieter and smoother than a chain. Although I tried to find people who understood why I insisted that the chain is sacred, few people felt it.
Instructors whose jobs depend on the Indoor Cycling industry should not need more convincing. Convincing chain junkies, like I used to be, may take a bit more work, however. First, indoor cycling is quite different from riding outdoors: no need to balance, different movements, different hand positions, fixed gear, and more. The many differences are far more noticeable than the drive train. Second, a bike is a bike. You’re not a consummate rider if you fixate on what you think a bike should be. Ask a cyclist if he/she knows which bike is the best in the world. It’s the one you’re on. Cycling is sacred, not the chain. I like the vibrations and the sound of all the chains in a peloton as much as any roadie. But chains are secondary to the circular motion of the pedal stroke. The continuity of the circle is what creates the sense of peace that allows you to get outside your mind. The chain or belt simply permits the transfer of power to the forward motion. It’s the motion that makes you feel like you’re flying.
Respect all bikes. Find peace in a smooth circle with a belt, and satisfaction in the increased work it puts your legs through without the free-spin of a chain.
With good instruction, a belt won’t detract from the class experience - and may very well add to it.