A closeup of the crank and CenterTrack Carbon Belt Drive on a Raleigh carbon singlespeed cyclocross bike. © Cyclocross Magazine

A closeup of the crank and CenterTrack Carbon Belt Drive on a Raleigh carbon singlespeed cyclocross bike. © Cyclocross Magazine

Last year at Interbike, Gates Carbon Drive Systems announced its new CenterTrack carbon belt drive drivetrain, and Cyclocross Magazine is the first publication to test the system on a cyclocross bike. We’ve recently received a Raleigh carbon singlespeed outfitted with the new CenterTrack system and have already enjoyed a few rides on the stunning 15 pound machine.

We’ve reviewed the Gates Carbon Drive components before: back in October, Kenton Berg wrote about trying out the Gates Carbon Drive at CrossVegas. If you’re all about the bike, check out the review from Interbike of the SSCXWC singlespeed from Raleigh and read another review of the 2011 Raleigh Limited Edition SSCXWC and RX 1.0.

According to Gates, the new CenterTrack system is designed to be lighter, 20% stronger and shed mud and debris better than their previous system. The belt features a narrow channel that splits the teeth into two sections, and the “pulleys” (or chainrings/cogs) feature a raised, narrow track that mates into the belt’s channel, keeping the belt aligned and helping prevent any the belt from slipping off, even if belt tension isn’t ideal.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is that with this system, the pulleys (beltrings?) no longer need a raised flange on one side as a keeper/guide, and instead the sides of the rings are cut away to clear mud, snow, ice and organic matter.

While the narrow channel in the belt may look susceptible to mud clogging, our early tests indicate the belt does well when conditions get sloppy and the pulleys clear wet mud quite well.

The complication of the new system is that with such a narrow track, perfect chainline is paramount, and thus in these days of non-adjustable Q-factor bottom bracket and crankset systems, lining up the rear pulley is a detail-oriented task.

The entire system (belt and two pulleys) weighs just 190 grams (pulleys are aluminum), compared to an average chain (eight speed, popular with singlespeeders) weighing about 300 grams, there’s a real opportunity for weight savings here. Dressed on the new Raleigh carbon cyclocross frame, with Easton EC90SL carbon clinchers and FSA SL-K components, the bike not surprisingly set CXM’s light-weight record at just around 15 pounds. We’re excited to really put it to the test and see what it can handle.

Stay tuned as we give the system and the bike a full review.