During Taichung Bike Week, we spoke with Chris Vasiliotis, Gates Carbon Drive's Global Business Development Manager. He told us about Gates' recent growth and participation in Taichung Bike Week, as well as the expansion of their range and how they see it benefits them, as well as some of the challenges the company and industry have been facing, and how the Taichung Bike Week format has fared for them.
“We’re not just a super premium solution, and it doesn’t have to be super complicated.”
He began by proudly describing their current situation. "It is extremely helpful that we have four different product lines across different setups," Mr. Vasiliotis explained, "but it is been the same for four years now."
"We are not just a super premium solution, and it does not have to be super complicated; we can have systems that interact with different capacities of rear hub motors." There is gearing integration with the bike's rear hub, which is great for us because it eliminates the need for a derailleur, which is where our belt drive can benefit."
Whereas full-suspension bikes typically chew through chains, CDX is their best-performing segment. By using chromoly steel in their CDX, they have created a very durable product that is 2-3 times longer lasting.
In many off-road applications where the trail can be rough at times, cassettes frequently wear out after 1200km. "It is a perfect fit for belt drives; throwing this beautiful cassette away because it is a little worn seems a little wasteful," Mr. Vasiliotis explained.
"It will not wear at all internally if we go to a Pinion system," he said of their collaboration. “It’s super robust and will last three times as long as a chain system.”
Gates has been working on a number of cassette designs that can provide superior debris shedding and belt engagement. Mr. Vasiliotis explained, "We worked on the center track capability of our belts; the original had the full flange between the teeth, and it engages with the belt, allowing for a compact system that can fit with a lot of internal gear hubs."
He said this while demonstrating how a belt fits perfectly into the cassette teeth. "Perfect fit!" he said.
Mr. Vasiliotis enthusiastically showed how well their belts fit the sprockets.
“We’re investing in new technology and protecting that, in this case, for better debris shedding.”
"This has been covered by a patent since around 2010, and it allows us to have these large debris ports," he explained. Many traditional sprockets do not have cutouts. These are mudports, which push dirt out. With center track, you can ride through extremely muddy trail conditions and still shed debris."
The cassette design has advanced thanks to the CDN. "We made a breakthrough to have a thin line; it has eliminated the portion between the teeth, removing a hiding place for debris. We may have less area overall, but the debris shedding is better than or equal to our CDX cassette.”
As stated at the beginning of this piece, Gates is more than "that premium part." Their patent for 'Fly By Wire' CDN sprockets is intended to keep costs low.
The CDN front sprocket Fly By Wire can be easily seen.
"We are investing in new technology and protecting it," Mr. Vasiliotis explained, "in this case for better debris shedding, because we have a wire that is been pressed into the system and folded over, and that serves as the guiding element for the center track." It can be used in rear hub motor applications and pedal bikes, with mid-motor systems becoming less important.
Gates’ ST range has a double flange setup, which goes away from their patent but allows them to “displace competition coming in from the lower end,” said Mr.Vasiliotis
The advanced CDX : Black, Gates’ premium front sprocket.
On the table in the Tempus Hotel, Mr. Vasiliotis and the Gates team shared about the ranges’ production and development.
Global businesses can have a more personal experience getting to know their clients by attending Taichung Bike Week, where they will not have to worry about large crowds ogling the expo displays.
"It is always good coming here; it is one of the final spec time frames for our OEs," Mr.Vasiliotis said of the overall experience. With lots of new stuff coming, new drive systems coming, and new gearing integration, both middle and lower, it’s twofold.
“We don't have to go to too many of the different hotels because most of our meetings are here, and people like this room; we love it. This has always been a super comfortable event for us; we enjoy it, and we get a lot of time with people both during meetings and after hours.
“This format works really well here; we don't have to be standing at a booth for 8 hours every single day; it’s a more inviting and relaxed environment to conduct business and educate people coming in who have some knowledge of our product. This format works really well for what we’re trying to accomplish here.
“We’ll get together with our development partners to see what’s coming over the next 3-5 years; we need to make sure the belts are compatible and be aware of what belts are needed. We tend to add more OEs, and we don’t see that trend ending.”
Taichung is a bicycle component manufacturing region that has evolved into a global hub for any bicycle product imaginable. Gates Carbon Drive benefits from the growth as well.
“We’ve been doing nothing but broadening our portfolio, even as inflation drives prices up for lots of things.”
When asked about their production lines and any recent projects in this area, Mr. Vasiliotis stated, "Some are produced in Taiwan; nearly all of our assemblies are done here; some are done in Germany for crank and spider assemblies." Front sprockets are primarily made in Taiwan, as are many rears.
“We just launched a sprocket manufacturing plant in Izmir, Turkey (in 2022), which was a big investment of around 15 million dollars.”
Mr. Vassiliotis spoke with us about the challenges the company has faced during a critical period in the bicycle industry.
He said, “I’d say challenges have been dealing with product line changes, and some with stocking, and making sure OEs plan ahead and know, for example, that a new Enviolo interface is coming, how many are left over, and how many sprockets are leftover because we’re switching over.
“That’s one of our biggest challenges with all the supply chain craziness - having the right product for the right combination.
“We’ve been doing nothing but broadening our portfolio, even as inflation drives prices up for lots of things. Some of our products have to get more expensive, but we’re trying to fill in the gaps.
“We’re using brand new technology to make these sprockets, and we’re investing in making the system more accessible across the different categories of bikes.”
Gates Carbon Drive sprockets have evolved from a traditional center track sprocket to a thin line design, to ‘Fly By Wire’, to sidetrack. They have options for all sorts of riders, like kids and “weekend warriors”.
Gates Carbon Drive wanted to show off their entire line of sprockets to remind customers that they have a product for every occasion; here are the CDX and CDC configurations.
CDN and ST setups
The Gamux World Cup Downhill Team currently uses Gates drives, which are also UCI-approved for BMX racing and tandem track.