Sneaking Up On Your Opponents
Fast-forward to 2013. The MonoCog is still alive and
well (although now with 29er wheels), and it has been joined
by an aluminum-framed version with a suspension fork, the
$1000 MonoCog Flight. Rounding out the MonoCog line is
our test bike, the $1700 MonoBelt; its name is derived from
the bike’s Gates Center Track carbon belt drivetrain.
WHO IT IS MADE FOR?
While we have met riders who call a Mono their one and
only, the nature of the MonoBelt makes it an ideal second
bike for trail riders who want to experience something new
and be challenged on familiar trails. It is also a good option
for riders in harsh conditions where conventional drivetrains
take a constant beating.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
In light of the recent parade of carbon fiber and aluminum-framed bikes that have joined our test fleet, the MonoBelt’s
chromoly frame tubes look downright microscopic. Redline
puts a sizable open-end gusset below the downtube/head tube
junction. The frame uses slider-style dropouts for properly
tightening the belt. And, if you look closely, the right-side
seatstay is split and lugged. Why? Belts don’t have master
links. One of the stays needs to separate to get that black
beauty in and out of the rear triangle.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Gates Center Track carbon belt drivetrain is something
you don’t see every day. The belt and, technically, the pulley,
not cog, have a feature called Center Track. The pulleys have
a center ridge that seats into a hollowed-out channel in the
center of the belt. Think of it as a chainguide for belts. The
belt sells for around $70, the same price as a high-quality
chain, and the pulleys average around $75.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The setup: The key to the Gates belt’s performance is
a fairly snug fit. Gates offers a free iPhone app for checking the belt tension. The app uses the phone’s microphone
to record the frequency of the belt’s vibration when you
pluck it (like a guitar string). They have a frequency range
depending on rider size and riding style. Our belt worked
trouble-free between 63 and 65 hertz for riders up to 180
pounds. Gates also offers a $52 Belt Tension Meter,
but we did not have the opportunity to evaluate
The fork offers RockShox Motion
Control, plus a negative air-spring adjust-
ment. Some crewers preferred setting the
fork for optimum small-bump compli-
ance and using the external compression
adjustment to firm the fork for climb-
ing. Others set up the fork so it was
super stiff. The point is, the RockShox
Reba RL lets you have it your way.
On the trail: The MonoBelt springs
forward 13. 5 feet for every crank revolu-
tion (and does it quietly). You never real-
ize how much noise a chain makes until you
don’t have one. The 13.5-foot gearing means it
is easy to get moving on flat ground but requires
commitment on a grade. It also means you will spin
out quickly when gravity takes over.
Cornering: The MonoBelt is lively and quick for a 29er.
Its shortish wheelbase (for a 29er) makes it a switchback
conqueror. The bike has a great counter-steering feel to it
when dropping into fast sweeps. The tires bite nicely, even
under hard braking—though you should avoid hard braking
on any single-speed.
Descending: The MonoBelt’s steel frame has more give
in the rear triangle than most aluminum frames. The rider
needs to stay out of the saddle, keep his arms and legs bent,
and choose his lines carefully. You will be surprised how
fast you can attack a downhill with minimal front suspension and no rear suspension. You will also be surprised how
quiet this bike is while bumping down the trail. This bike
will sneak up on your friends.
Climbing: The stock gearing reduced us to hike-a-biking
the steepest climbs on our test loops. Longer, gentler climbs
required us to alternate between seated and out-of-the-saddle positions. The key to climbing on any single-speed is
to pick your battles. Break the climb into sections and ride
or hike to the top. Remember, your legs have a limited number of hard efforts in them for a given ride. Use your energy
Braking: The plain Jane Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
with 6-inch rotors are more than up to the job, but you
want to use them sparingly. Momentum is the key to single-speed success.
Efficiency: On the trail, there is no noticeable drag
generated from the belt. It feels smooth and is quiet when
We have a long-running love affair with the Redline MonoCogs, and why not? When we first tested one over 12 years ago, the 26-inch-wheeled, chro-moly-framed, rigid single-speed sold for $415 (it has jumped
all the way to $650 today), and it delivered five times that
amount in fun.
The Redline MonoBelt 29