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How to Clean and Maintain Your Bike’s Belt

If your bike has a belt instead of a chain, you are probably already familiar with some of the big advantages of belt drives, including a much longer service life (compared to chains) and remarkably low maintenance needs.

That being said, there are still a few things you need to do to keep your bike’s drivetrain in tip-top shape. This article will explain how to clean and maintain your bike’s Gates Carbon Drive belt and provide some additional maintenance guidelines.

When and how do I clean my bike’s belt?

Whereas bike chains need to be cleaned and lubed quite frequently—especially in wet and wintry conditions—your belt should need very little attention, no matter the weather. It’s a good idea to clean the belt when it’s visibly dirty, but how you accomplish that is up to you.

Some owners suggest hosing it off (just keep your sprayer away from your bike motor), others like to wipe it down with a sponge, and some suggest going at it with an old toothbrush (especially if there’s gunk in the belt’s teeth). Just get any obvious debris and buildup off the chain and you should be good to go. Your belt never needs lubricant and can’t rust.

Please note that while your bike’s Gates Carbon Drive belt is definitely a lot more durable than a chain, almost any material will break down more quickly when exposed to salt and other chemicals for long periods of time. While your winter riding routine should still be pretty low maintenance, if you’re riding through slush every day, you may want to clean your belt more often to be on the safe side.

What else do I need to know about belt maintenance?

The only maintenance issue to be aware of is your belt’s tension. Improper belt tension can negatively impact your ride and lead to more wear and tear on the belt and sprockets.

The Gates Carbon Drive app for Android and iOS can help you set your ideal belt tension. This app will use your smartphone’s microphone to listen to the noise your belt makes when you pluck it. Based on the frequency, the app may suggest that you increase or decrease your belt’s tension.

Some common belt problems are caused by improper tension. If your belt is running off the sprockets, jumping on the sprockets, or squeaking, you may need to adjust the tension. Excessive sprocket wear can also be a sign of improper tension. If you experience any of these problems and aren’t able to resolve them yourself, the best thing to do is take your bike to your Tern dealer for help.

How long should my Gates Carbon Drive last, and how do I tell when it’s worn?

The lifespan of your Gates Carbon Drive belt is much longer than that of a chain. That’s because it’s made of a very durable material and has no moving parts (it’s just one continuous loop instead of lots of little links).

Exactly how long your belt and sprockets will last depends on many factors, including what kind of hub your bike has, your riding style, your typical load, your riding conditions, your belt’s tension setting, and more. It’s safe to say that a regularly cleaned belt should last at least 2-4 times as long as a chain would, for a lifespan of up to 30,000 km (19,000 mi).

The sprockets on the rear cog that your belt sits in will also need to be replaced eventually. They may wear out at about the same time as your belt, but could also wear out before your belt or outlive it. Again, the relative rate of wear of the belt and sprockets depends on many individual factors that affect the mechanical forces on those parts of the drivetrain.

For pictures of what worn belts and sprockets look like, check out page 72 of the Gates Carbon Drive manual. If you’re unsure whether your belt and sprockets are worn (or need help replacing them), see your Tern dealer for assistance.