TREK District 2010, £750, www.trekbikes.com
You need to get close to see what makes the District so unique — it uses a belt-drive rather than regular chain (see inset). The technology’s been around for a few years, though only a handful of companies have really trialled it, so what are the advantages? Well the belt’s made from carbon fibre composite that’s reinforced to prevent stretch, no lubing makes it maintenance-free (and you don’t get chain grease on your trousers), there’s no worries over rusting and it’s completely silent — I mean, sneak-up-on-you-ninja-style quiet.
In a couple of months’ testing the belt has run smooth and direct, noticeably more efficient than even a slighty worn chain, with the 55T front belt sprocket coupled with a 22T at the rear providing a gear that’s more than happy across Zone 1 and on smaller rollers in adjacent boroughs. It takes a bit of muscle to tackle inclines like Greenwich or Sydenham but that’s as much to do with the geometry and cockpit layout as the size of the gear — and it’s missing the point as this is intended as a flatland specialist.
Of course, as a one-piece unit the belt cannot be split like a chain, so the frame has to separate somewhere to allow it to be fitted; Trek has opted for a clever dropout design, with integrated tensioner. Critics have suggested that this may cause rear end flex, but in practice it’s totally undetectable.
The Alpha aluminium frame’s beautifully-finished and twinned with a Bontrager carbon fork, while fashionistas will appreciate the colour-matched deep-section rims. The 700x25c Race Lite tyres have coped well with our season-changing weather, the dual- pivot brakes have needed only minor adjustment and the leather-look saddle and grips (a little fat for my liking) give that retro kudos to what is really a very modern machine.
The bar shape takes some getting used to if you usually ride flats or drops and, in tandem with the longish stem, makes racing anywhere tricky. The 'chain-guard' is obviously redundant, and rattled, but you can whip it off. Available in five sizes from 50-60cm, also in grey/orange. It's the future for townies. JK
PROS low maintenance, lightweight, stealthy
CONS fiddly if you puncture