Dutch based bicycle manufacturer Santos Bikes gave us a Santos Travel Lite for a first ever durability test. With more than 20.000 kilometers I guess we can now give you some insight on our experiences with this 29-er.
With a growing amount of dealers all over Europe, Santos Bikes is a well known bicycle manufacturer among bicycle travellers. Since 1997 they stand for innovation and quality and at the moment Santos is one of Rohloffs best customers. They were one of the first to put a bicycle on the market with both a Rohloff hub and a Gates Carbon belt. They have more user experience than any other brand in the bicycle travel section.
Custom build bicycles
Many bicycle manufacturers only offer out of the box bicycles, not taking into account the specific wishes of each customer. Not Santos. With their custom build program you can compose the bicycle which suits you best. They offer a wide range of quality products to choose from to make it the best bike for ‘you’.
The Santos Travel Lite is a 29-er and has an aluminum frame with smoothly welded junctions and alu fork with Magura hydraulic firmtech brakes. We chose to ride one with a Rohloff hub and Gates Carbon belt drive. A Tubus rear rack, which is created by Santos (Santos Travelrack) and wide Tubus Tara front rack to put our panniers on. It comes with a 64 centimeter wide Santos handlebar with a 10 degrees bend. We ride with Schwalbe Mondial 50-622 EVO tires and to produce some light/energy, we have a SON 28 hub dynamo. The Dutch Rigida rims have a special ceramic coating, CSS. Front rim is the Rigida Sputnik and the rear rim is a Rigida Andra 30, the latter is especially manufactured for the Rohloff hub. We put our feet on Wellgo ‘platform’ pedals, which are extra wide and have pins attached to them for support. The bottom bracket is an old fashioned square one. Oh, and we ride with mudguards.
Little maintenance, durable and a 50% stronger rear wheel. With a little over 20.000 kilometers the hub is performing great! Changing gears is very smooth and quick. Multiple gears in one single switch and when not pedaling. No chainsuck, no grease and less wear and tear. We just love the hub. All we did so far is change oil after 7000 kilometers (Rohloff recommends 5000 kilometers) and once more after 15.000 kilometers.
Normally the Travel Lite with Rohloff and belt has 55T sprockets in the front and 22T sprockets in the back. We believed this was just not enough for the steep climbs, especially when you cary a lot of luggage. That’s why we changed the front sprockets for 50T. This proved to be very useful in mountainous terrain.
Gates CDC riem
There are two types of Gates Carbon belts: the CDC and the CenterTrack. We tested the CenterTrack on our Santos Race Lite for 17.000 kilometers, but after 8000 km wear and tear was showing. Santos did the same kind of test and came to the same conclusion, the CDC lasts about 2-4 times longer than the CenterTrack. Plus, the CenterTrack is more expensive and has more resistance to it.
So, we ride with a CDC belt and so far it is still going strong and we expect it will last at least 35.000 kilometer.
The only thing we noticed which can be a bit annoying, is the grinding sound we have with very dry and thin dust. It kind of sounds like a chain that needs to be oiled, but no effect on how the belt drives. And, no problems with snow, mud or rain.
Tensioning the belt
As with a normal chain, a belt needs tensioning too. Even though this needs to be done maybe only once. There are actually two ways on the market to do this: the first one is with sliding dropouts and the second way is with an eccentric bottom bracket.
In order for a belt to perform at its best, the sprockets need to be perfectly alligned. With sliding dropouts it’s a bit more difficult, but still doable.
With an eccentric bottom bracket it is a bit easier to allign the sprockets perfectly, this is the proven technology when using a belt. Santos implemented the eccentric bottom bracket method to tension the belt. The bottom bracket does need a bit of maintenance every now and then.
Oke, how does the Santos Travel Lite ride?
In our opinion a good travel bicycle needs to be stiff, strong and maneuverable. Being used to riding a 26 inch bicycle we were sceptic at first. But, we turned out to be wrong. This 29-er knows how to twist and turn when needed. Maybe not as much as a 26 inch bicycle, but the difference is negigible. It is very, (and I mean) very stable in sharp curves, even in high speed and with a heavy load.
The 29-er combined with the 50mm Schwalbe Mondial tires runs more easily over stones and rocks than a 26 inch bike would do. And on smooth tarmac it takes less energy to keep the same speed.
The Santos Travel Lite does what I want it to do, not the other way around. It has the ideal position for long distance cycling, but you can easily adjust this to a more comfortable / straight up one if you’d like.
The ‘ass’ of the bike doesn’t shake, it is very stable. In short, we were positively surprised with its comfortable driving characteristics.