Long Term Review: Raleigh XXIX Singlespeed Belt Drive 29er

2012 Raleigh XXIX single speed belt drive 29er mountain bike review

Last spring, I signed up for the Burn 24 Hour in the solo single speed category and our good friends at Raleigh Bicycles were nice enough to supply me with a XXIX 29er with Gates Belt Drive for the race. Check out my unboxed, weighed and first impression review here.

Now, with almost a year of riding on it and multiple solo single speed races I have a much better grasp of the bike’s capabilities.

In a nutshell, the XXIX is meant as a go everywhere, do almost anything single speed bike that brings the Gates Carbon Drive technology to a slightly lower price point. The stock bike came in at 26.04 pounds in size medium with tubes in the tires which was fine for rolling around the local flat trails around Charlotte, but when the trail turned toward the sky the extra weight was apparent. However, the nice thing about the alloy cockpit, steel fork, stock wheels and tubed tires is that it left plenty of room for an easy parts diet. Swapping these parts for a mix of more race oriented offerings from Avid (X0 hydraulic brakes), RockShox (Reba 100mm fork), Truvativ (various cockpit bits) and Stans NoTubes (tubeless conversion) brought the weight down to a more manageable 22lbs.

It’s worth mentioning that the 2013 model upgraded to CenterTrack, hydraulic brakes and a standard 10-speed hub with spacers, making it easier to swap in a standard drivetrain and making the bike just that much more versatile.

I rode the bike around my local XC trails and took it to Dark Mountain, Warrior Creek and other mountainous trails for a proper test. Here’s how she fared…

2012 Raleigh XXIX single speed belt drive 29er mountain bike review

THE GOOD

After spending many hours on the bike this season in both “race” and stock trim I can say that it is a very solid performer. The bike is a comfortable, stable, fun singlespeed that rocks the Gates Carbon Drive System and I am sad to see it leave the Bikerumor stable.

Though I’ve read comments to the contrary elsewhere, I had no issues with the split shell or eccentric bottom bracket (EBB). It’s been quiet, not slipped and other than the required routine cleaning has been maintance free. The bike does have longer chainstays than some others to accommodate the large 46T chain ring, but once you figure out the manners of the bike I never found the longer chainstays to be a problem. For 2012 (and 2013) they have been reduced to 440mm from 466mm version found on the 2011 model. I found the frame to be very compliant over the rough stuff, but plenty stiff and I never had any problems with the Gates Carbon Drive System due to frame flex. The simplicity of the Carbon Drive belt has been great. It allowed me to just hop on the bike and go without worrying about chain lube or derailleur adjustments.

2012 Raleigh XXIX single speed belt drive 29er mountain bike review

THE “GETTING BETTER”

While I never had any actual problems with the Raleigh XXIX or the Gates Carbon Drive belt system I am glad to see that Raleigh changed the 2013 model to the newer Gates CenterTrack Belt Drive system. This system is more tolerant of chain (er, Belt) line issues and being thinner than the origional CDX system allows more chain stay clearance. It also sheds mud and dirt easier allowing the belt to last longer.

The biggest key I found to getting the most out of the Carbon Drive system was to use the proper belt tension. When I had the belt under-tensioned it would occasionally slip and too tight the free hub made really weird grinding noises both of which could really shorten the life of the drivetrain. After ponying up for the Krikit tension measuring device I never had these issues again. It saved me from many of problems with free hubs, sprockets, and belts that others have complained about. The only issue I had was with the Avid BB5 disc brakes. I did not like the lack of modulation between these and hydraulic disc brakes, but in fairness it has been a few years since I have ridden a cable actuated disc brake. Either way I’m glad to see Shimano hydraulic disc brakes spec’ed on the 2013 model.

THE VERDICT

If you are looking for an honest all around do everything single speed 29er with Gates Carbon Drive belt then the Raleigh XXIX could be the ticket. It provided me with many, many miles of riding and racing with zero issues. The steel frame is heavier, but will last a lifetime. Likewise, the stock parts build is a little heavy, too, but they are durable. This allows the Raleigh XXIX to be a solid value  that’s perfect for future upgrades. The only real downside I found is that the initial costs of items like belts and sprockets is greater than that of chains, etc. As a reformed geared bike rider turned single speeder I always have multiple chains and several different gear combinations ready to swap out as needed depending on where I am riding and this would be more costly with the Carbon Drive system. However, when you look at parts and amortize their cost over their lifespan, the cost of the Carbon Drive system is more than reasonable.

The Raleigh XXIX is a solid do it all bike and a great value for someone just getting into singlespeeds or for someone wanting to add a belt drive bike to their collection. Check out the 2013 Raleigh line up for more details, or head over to RaleighUSA.com for a full spec list.

 

Comments

VanMan - 03/06/13 - 3:03pm

Swapping the stock rigid fork for a Reba saved weight? Really? I’ll buy that the other component upgrades shed a bit of weight, but I doubt the fork did…

pantsandjacket - 03/06/13 - 3:21pm

Right, because there is no suspension fork on earth that is lighter than a cheap steel rigid fork.

pmurf - 03/06/13 - 4:23pm

I was wondering the same thing, actually. I think most steel 29r forks sit around the 1100g mark, so while it wouldn’t be out of the question to see one AT the weight of the Reba (~1500g), It’d be a damn heavy fork if it was higher…

JonDanger FTW - 03/06/13 - 4:59pm

Belts are good for one thing, holding up my pants.

Bikehoarder6 - 03/06/13 - 5:06pm

Single speed, rigid fork, hardtail MOUNTAIN BIKE?

Why? That’s like using a 1971 VW bus in the Indy 500.

Frank - 03/06/13 - 7:11pm

I have no doubt that switching to the Reba saved weight, that frame/fork is freaking heavy.

My wife’s (medium) weighs in at 26 lbs even with a few upgrades, so I assume the quoted 26 lbs stock weight is without pedals, which is a bit dishonest. The wheels are also porky, but I’m not sure it’s work upgrading the wheels or swapping to a carbon fork considering how heavy the frame is. I realize that at the price they are selling this at we can’t expect a super light, high-end steel frame, but it seems a bit overbuilt for its intended purpose. I don’t think anyone will be hucking a fully-rigid 29er.

That said, my wife really likes the bike, it’s simple and rides well on our relatively smooth (but certainly not rock and root free) local trails. She likes to use it when it’s muddy/snowy so she doesn’t foul up her geared bike, or for short rides to maximize her workout.

stratosrally - 03/06/13 - 7:21pm

Seems the 2013 does have a suspension fork – a Fox F29 CTD 100mm w/15mm Thru Axle… I just followed the link to Raleigh.

They also have the XXIX+G that is identical (including fork) except it has a chain and F&R derailleurs.

Chris S. - 03/06/13 - 9:23pm

1971 VW Bus? Love those. It’s the last year of the Type 1 Beetle engine and and first year of front disk brakes. Like this mountain bike, it’s simple to maintain and has a fun soul.

Start over - 03/07/13 - 10:17am

So to get a 22lb (without pedals) bike you essentially doubled the price & have a boat-anchor frame with decent components.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to start with a $400 ebay generic cf frame & used the “race oriented” components & get a lighter bike for less cost & not have a room full of crappy parts?

Bikehoarder6 is right..what exactly IS the purpose of a rigid singlespeed…. self-flagellation?

Stoker - 03/07/13 - 10:44am

@bikehoarder6: Not the best analogy. VW buses are horrible going up hill. Fully rigid single speeds will blast passed any FS geared bike uphill, at least I do.

Jeff - 03/07/13 - 1:59pm

@ Stoker – U R my hero…

A rigid single speed is only faster when the trail is smooth and there is traction. No matter how fast or fit you are, when you spin out on wet roots and have to stop, because you are standing and pushing too big a gear, you are not longer faster than the FS rider sitting, spinning the right gear and maintaining traction. Sorry. If they were really faster, WC riders would be racing SS. Now there is a fair amount of them riding gears AND FS.

Dave - 03/07/13 - 5:59pm

For those who have not tried a SS ride around Afan in Wales, give it a go, see where you think your fitness is. SS is a worthy addition to any stable.

RIDE1GEAR - 03/07/13 - 10:08pm

a single speed is way more enjoyable as a rigid. It teaches you how to be more aware, better and stronger pedal cadence. and more importantly Jeff, single speeds, rigid or not, is actually faster, because of the skills it teaches you. I have done the Burn 24 several times on both SS and geared and my lap times were minutes faster on the rigid SS.

pick lines like a ninja not a snow plow

Stoker - 03/07/13 - 11:27pm

Oooo I love variables. Okay now take that slippery un-tractiony hill and add two feet of snow. Who is faster now?! Actually the SS is still faster because once I get to the part where I lose traction and can’t get over the gear. I dismount and “hike a bike” faster than my FS brethren spinning their life away:) Seriously though SS does not work well with technical climbs if your goal is to stay on the bike at all costs. And of course chunky downhills are brutal. But hey I love it. FS geared is legit too, ride what you love. I swear I don’t have tattoos and Im not a curmudgeon.

Bikehoarder6 - 03/08/13 - 2:18pm

OK, so I didn’t use the greatest analogy here… But my point is this: About 8 years ago I bought a Giant Simple single speed beach cruiser thinking I would “get back to my roots” of my teenage years rocking the Schwinn beach cruiser all over town and on my paper routes. About 1 week after buying the single speed I thought “WTH was I thinking”? Even on paved bike paths with no hills, the single speed was an excercise in frustration and disappointment. To each his own I guess. But I believe that if you go out and buy the above bike, after it’s initial “neat new gadget” effect wears off, it will be spending a lot of lonely time in the garage giving you the “sad puppy-dog eyes” as you take off on one of your other multi-geared bikes. Save your money for something truly revolutionary in the future.

Stoker - 03/09/13 - 11:21am

Or you might end up loving it and leaving your FS geared in the garage. There is anecdotal evidence supporting switching full time in both directions and the reasons vary. It’s all bikes, SS rigid just happens to be my favorite Mtb ride. Most of my riding buddies are exclusively FSG and none of us question each other’s bike, we just ride and have fun doing it. Ride till ya die!…and if its RSS that might be a little sooner.

singlespeeder - 07/30/13 - 2:46pm

I went from a full suspension Salsa with xtr components to the 2012 Raleigh xixx belt driven single speed. I have about 130 rides since buying it at a local bike shop this past October. It has taught me many things about biking skills and I have absolutely no plans to go back to suspension bikes. I now track down the trails with a higher degree of awareness as I hear nothing but the sounds of the woods around me. The belt is practically silent and the connection to the Earth is in a class of it’s own. I upgraded to elixir 9 brakes, carbon bars (685mm), a carbon seatpost & mtb saddle, and a mountain king 2.4 rear tire. At dirtfest this past year, I had the opportunity to ride a few hardtail 29er carbon bikes that weighed in the range of 18-20 lbs. I couldn’t wait to finish the demo laps so that I could get back on my rigid, steel frame, belt-driven, raleigh xixx.

rallExxix - 09/05/13 - 6:16am

I love my xxix. I bet every single one of the negative comments on here are coming from people that do not own a SS rigid.

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