For singlespeed racers and hard tail mountain bikers, the Tranny from Ibis Cycles is a legend. Ibis has now launched its new Tranny, updating it with 29-inch wheels and selling it geared or singlespeed with a Gates Carbon Drive belt system. They call the Gates belt drive version the Tranny “Unchained.” It’s a fast and light machine. The Carbon Drive system shaves hundreds of grams over a comparable chain drive, making the Unchained a speedy race rig for one-speeders seeking the podium. The carbon frame is certainly one of the most travel-ready mountain bikes. The rear end unbolts for packing into a suitcase. A device called the Slot Machine behind the bottom bracket allows for easy belt tensioning. Gates will display a Tranny Unchained at Eurobike in Germany next month.
Last month, we had the pleasure of riding one for several days around Lake Tahoe with Ibis founder Scot Nicol. We charged down the rocky Tahoe Rim Trail and hammered across the Flume Trail, descending to Chimney Beach, then hit the Powerline and Corral trails, carving berms and launching tabletops. The bike flies uphill. We dropped our companions and passed other riders with ease on long climbs, stopping at the top for a snack while waiting for them. The bike’s rear end is so light and flickable that you can–with a little burst of speed–bunny hop rocks going uphill. When Ibis discontinued its former Tranny 26er a year ago, Ibis fans waited with great expectation. They will not be disappointed. Ibis has unchained a beast. Go to the Ibis page to see the Unchained build kit. Journalists, dealers and mountain bikers attending Eurobike can check it out in the Gates Carbon Drive booth.
Beautiful landscapes are one of the great joys of mountain biking. Lake Tahoe is one of these beautiful places best viewed from a mountain bike. Three trillion gallons of crystal clear blue waters. More than 1,600 feet (500 meters) deep. It’s crazy beautiful. Last weekend we got the chance to ride a new unchained mountain bike on the Flume Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail on the lake’s eastern shore. Incredible bike. Stunning views. This is what mountain biking is all about.
As we look back at 2013, the Gates Carbon Drive singlespeed mountain bike team would like to thank all its sponsors for creating some amazing bikes and contributing to a highly successful season. The team hit 30 races in three states and landed on the podium 24 times. Team captain and bearded pedal pusher Tim Lucking took first place in the 18 Hours of Fruita as part of a two-man team that raced on singlespeeds against geared competition. Says Tim:
“Mitch Westall had a banner year, winning three of the biggest series in Colorado–the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series, the Winter Park Race Series, and the Highlands Ranch Backcountry Mountain Bike Series. Jesse Swift, Derek Strong, and Taylor Nye took third place in the team relay category of the grueling Breckenridge 100.”
In 2012, journalist Ryan Stuart and several buddies undertook one of Canada’s most extreme cycling expeditions. The Canol Heritage Trail extends about 220 miles from Macmillian Pass at the border of the Yukon and Northwest Territories and heads northeast to Mackenzie River and the town of Norman Wells. The trail follows an abandoned oil pipeline that has lapsed into decay. A group of mountain bikers had completed the route in the 1990s, but it had become overgrown with vegetation during the intervening years, making passage difficult for Stuart and his colleagues.
Carrying all their food and gear, including inflatable rafts for river crossings, Stuart and his team traveled from 15 to 50 miles per day, depending on the roughness of the terrain. Grizzly bears were a constant worry. Bike malfunctions were not an option. To avoid mechanical issues and derailleur failures, Stuart rode his singlespeed belt drive mountain bike, a Norco Judan. His Gates Carbon Drive performed without a hitch, with no need for lube or daily maintenance.
Stuart wrote about the arduous adventure in Bike Magazine in 2013 in a story called “Pipeline Passage.” An excerpt from his report:
“The Canol is often credited as being Canada’s most rigorous backpaging route: 22 days of mountainous wilderness, 10 big climbs, high concentrations of grizzly bears, three major river crossings, and dozens of miles of boulder-hopping, stream crossing, and leaping over mud pits. But rather than hike it with two or three food drops like most adventure seekers, we’ve decided to ride it unsupported with 10 days of food packed on our singlespeed mountain bikes.”
Stuart is among the growing number of bicycle adventurers who are using their belt drive bikes for epic expeditions that cause problems for chains. Other recent examples include Reza Pakravan who rode 11,000 miles from the Arctic Circle in Finland to Cape Town South Africa on a belt drive touring bike, and Geoff Harper of the Unchained Iceland expedition who rode a fat bike with Gates Carbon Drive around Iceland’s gritty beaches for three weeks. We salute Stuart and all the other adventurers who are taking their belt drive bikes on expeditions that push the limits of endurance and allow the rest of us to dream big.
Mitch Westall of Team Gates Carbon Drive takes the top stop of the Shimano Cyclo X Series podium, while the team takes a total of six of the top 10 placings!
Mitch Westall and Taylor Nye take 1st and 3rd in the Shimano Cyclo X Series
After seven races, the Shimano Cyclo X Series presented by Without Limits Productions, still had several possible winners as racers lined up for the eighth and final race! And it was sure to be an epic race, as single digit temperatures and and a shortened snow-covered course at the Boulder Reservoir greeted riders Saturday morning. And if the arctic temperatures weren’t enough, the snow made for an extremely technical course, offering up just a narrow lane of solid snow which turned to loose snow and sand just inches off-line. The battle was on from the start, and it didn’t take long before the leaders were into lapped traffic on the course, which made passing another technical aspect of the race. Without a doubt, Mitch was able to put his past years of mountain bike racing to the test, taking aggressive lines and maintaining traction, because of the superior traction of his low-pressure Stan’s No Tubes setup.
At the finish line, Mitch stayed upright to take second place, with just five seconds covering the top three places. That was just enough points to ensure he maintained first place in the series to take the win! I’m sure much of the other racers were jealous of the Carbon Belt Drive and TRP Helix full-hydraulic disc brakes both of which were completely unaffected by the ice and cold temperatures. Overall in the series, Team Gates Carbon Drive took a commanding six, of the top ten placings in the series. Congrats to Mitch Westall in 1st, Taylor Nye in 3rd, Ryan McFarling in 6th, Taylor Jung in 7th, Derek Strong in 9th and Jesse Swift in 10th!
Sunday’s race was less dramatic, but no less miserable, as Taylor Jung and I lined up in Morrison, Colorado in more single-digit temperatures. Another tricky, icy, yet very fun course laid out by the RLW crew, with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. I can tell you, the race was all about survival, even as we waited for the signal to race. But in the end, Taylor did an awesome job learning from a crash on Saturday, and took an impressive 4th place on the day.