Belgian bikepackers Kelly & Joris near crossroads

by Raymond Parker on September 6, 2012

in Adventure, Cycling, Touring

Belgian Bikepackers

(click to enlarge)

Kelly Kempenaaes and Joris Doossche have come a long way. When I met them last week in Blue River, British Columbia, they had already bike toured South America and the United States, and were continuing their northward trek, towards the Yellowhead Highway (16) where they would turn right, towards Jasper, Alberta, and ultimately, New York.

As their blog records, the journey began on October 8, 2011. By the end of August, 2012, they had covered 10,607 kilometres by bike, in Argentina, Chile Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, USA, and, of course, Canada, with links by plane, bus, train or boat.

Belt Drive

Their bikes are the aluminum-frame “Travelmaster,” built by Santos Bikes. But I was most interested in their drivetrains: 14-speed Rohloff Speedhub, turned by Gates Carbon Drive belts. According to the duo, this system has been virtually trouble-free, requiring far less maintenance than any traditional chain-drive mechanism. Santos proprietor Robbert Rutgrink is a convert to this this set-up, with 15-years experience rolling on Rohloffs and 4-years as a carbon belt believer.

I must admit I’ve been somewhat resistant to these innovations, based on the idea that when strange things break in strange places replacements are hard to come by. However, when it comes to internal hub gears, having worked in a shop that sold Rohloff hubs, I have seen few issues to support my hesitation. I have been unlucky enough to ride derailleur-equipped bikes over unpaved roads thick with “gumbo” mud, which required stopping every few kilometres to clean the drivetrain so cogs and chain would mesh.

I’m guessing Joris and Kelly will encounter less muddy tracks than Bolivia on their route eastward to The Big Apple, and none of the 120 km/h headwinds they faced in Patagonia.

Happy trails, guys!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Conor Ahern September 6, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Those drive trains sound like a manna from heaven.
In 1994 I went through 2 freewheels (one actually broke and left me with a fixed wheel for a few days) 3 chains and two chain rings, plus my rear dérailleur broke but that was a roadside fix.
There is one thing you don’t mention, cold weather performance, on wet snowy roads with sub-zero temperatures you must keep pedalling to stop the entire drive train seizing up with ice.


Raymond Parker September 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm

As I’ve suggested on the Winter Cycling page, the Rohloff does well in all kinds of nasty conditions. Not sure how the belt drive does in extreme cold. Hopefully, someone may be able to offer their experience.

My experience with snow and temps hovering around zero is that the rear cogs turn into a ball of ice around which the chain “freewheels.”


Conor Ahern September 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Harley Davidson have been using belt drives on their motorbikes for a good few years and they seem to be durable. Maybe I should look into this belt drive system more closely.


Randobarf September 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm

The secret to winter cycletouring is to go further north where it is colder. I spent last winter cycling in northern Canada. Except for frostbite everything worked fine (on my derailer bike). I used common garden variety Finish Line Teflon Dry chain lube, which does not acquire an unacceptable viscosity at cold temperatures (-45). For freezy slush found in balmy southern Ontario and on semi-tropical Vancouver Island I make sure I have full coverage mudguards with extensions.


scott September 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Hi met you at kilbys campsite in harrison mills . wanted to say hi and hope everything is well.


Raymond Parker September 30, 2012 at 11:37 am

Thanks Scott, but I think you have the wrong person.


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