$100K: Gates Belt Drive Offers Huge Bounty for World Cup Downhill Win

Closeup of a Gates carbon belt drive; (photo/Gates)
Closeup of a Gates carbon belt drive; (photo/Gates)

Cycling company Gates believes that belt-drive bikes are the future of downhill racing, and the rider who proves it will receive a hefty reward.

The first cyclist who wins a World Cup downhill race using a bike with a Gates belt drive will receive €100,000 (about $106,000) from the company. That’s quite a bit more than the few thousand dollars downhill racers usually receive from Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) for a first-place win.

This Gates Belted Purse Prize will also roll over if not claimed this season. In other words, the company’s reward will remain available until a winning cyclist comes to claim it. But they’ll have to win using a belt drive, which may offer advantages over traditional, chain-based transmission through improved handling and control and reduced risk of malfunction.

“The time has come to make history,” Chris Sugai, General Manager of Gates Global Mobility, said in a news release.

What’s a Belt Drive?

carbon belt drive 3
carbon belt drive 3

The basic explanation of a belt drive is simple: It replaces the conventional bike chain with a toothed belt, often used with an integrated gearbox.

Carbon belt drives have existed for over 10 years but have become more popular recently among commuter bikes and e-bikes. The absence of greased metal components means less maintenance and more durability. Belt drives also weigh much less and won’t add black stains to your pants.

man riding a mountain bike with Gates belt drive
man riding a mountain bike with Gates belt drive

It’s unlikely that belt drives will become standard in road racing, as they require more energy to propel the bike forward than a chain drive. But in downhill racing, Gates’ bike engineers think that a belt drive win on the world stage is “inevitable,” as one said in the above video.

Carbon belt drives give downhill riders “greater control, improved balance, and better handling,” Gates claimed in a news release. “Navigating tight corners and technical sections are improvements enabled by this radically different drivetrain configuration.”

To win Gates’ prize money, cyclists must win in the “elite” division of a World Cup downhill race with “a bicycle using a Gates CDX belt as the sole transmission of power through the bicycle’s drivetrain.” Teams and athletes can apply for the challenge starting April 22 but must submit at least 72 hours before the start of a competition.

Visit the Gates website to see the complete list of rules.

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