Function never goes out of style
By Caitlin Giddings
“Here’s a complaint that doesn’t get lodged very often: My commute is too short. It took me roughly five minutes to get to work on the Breezer Beltway Elite this morning, and despite enough sideways December sleet to feel like I was being subjected to a nonconsensual Polar Plunge, I wouldn’t have minded a few more miles of riding—just to get a few more minutes with the bike.
What You Need to Know
- Built-in front and rear lighting system, kickstand, rack, and fenders
- Shimano T447 Trekking hydraulic disc brakes
- Internally geared hub and gates carbon drive belt are clean and easy to maintain
- Weighs 29.8 LB (M)
The Beltway won our 2013 Editors’ Choice award for Best Urban Bike, and with good reason—it’s a smooth-shifting ride loaded with commute-enhancing features, such as a lightweight aluminum frame, Shimano’s slick Alfine 8-speed internally geared hub, a Gates belt drive, and powerful disc brakes. Breezer also piled on the extras, like dynamo-powered lights, comfortable Ergon grips, a rack, fenders, kickstand, and bell—pretty much everything you could want except for heated seats and a radio.
The term “urban cycling” often evokes visions of hipsters on fixies, but let’s be real—that isn’t the Beltway’s personality. This bike won’t wear tight pants anywhere, it won’t enjoy things ironically, and it certainly won’t drop out of school to “focus on its art.” It is built for everyday commuters who choose function over style, don’t want to waste time on constant maintenance, and want to pedal between points A and B with as little fuss as possible.
That said, the Beltway should appeal to more than buttoned-up legal aides and DMV clerks, because it’s a really fun bike to rip around on. It is unexpectedly light considering all the extras, and the shifting happens so immediately that it feels like the bike can anticipate your gearing needs. On the Beltway, I often looked for detours and took the long way home. Once, I veered off my one-mile morning commute and took a self-guided tour of the neighborhood Christmas lights, followed by a visit to my town’s farthest coffee shop. I swear I eventually made it to work.
Sometimes it’s not about having the hippest ride on the block. Sometimes I just want to ride somewhere and not worry about whether I brought my lights, what to do if it starts raining, or how I’m going to tote a 36-pack of beer home (maybe it’s PBR, maybe it’s not). The Beltway has me covered in almost any situation. And it makes my commute more enjoyable, especially on the days I take the long way in.
European bike brands have already figured out a few things we’re still puzzling over here in the US. For one: More people will ride, and ride more, when riding is made easier—by increasing the number of safe routes, and by simplifying maintenance.
That’s why belt drives, like the Gates Carbon Drive, are already hugely popular in countries like Germany and the Netherlands, which have strong commuter cultures and no-nonsense approaches to bike maintenance. Lighter, cleaner, and stronger than a chain, the Gates system looks like a mini tank tread and feels about as powerful. The belt is embedded with carbon fiber cords that won’t stretch, and it requires no lube—wash it off anytime it gets grimy, and say good-bye to greasy chainmarks on your jeans. We predict that in the US more and more urban bikes will be built with belt drives, with Gates being the current leading system.