High Praise for NuVinci

It’s a simple question I get asked often: Would you want to take a 5-pound internal hub [a NuVinci N360 Continuous Variable Transmission] up a mountain? I hit the road to the McKenzie Pass for the answer.BY RAZ

McKENZIE PASS, Oregon — It doesn’t take long for everything to fall into place. A perfect rhythm pulsates from my head to my toes. A comfortable cadence, steady breathing. This is the ultimate vibe for climbing a mountain.

Yet something in the laundry list of sensations seems different. I swing around a switchback. The grade steepens. I gently flick my wrist. My cadence remains perfect.

Then, it hits me.

Once I settle into a nice rhythm, it doesn’t matter how steep the grade — keeping my cadence is a slight twist of the wrist.

The only sound comes from my steady breathing. A huff. Then a puff. Huff. Puff. Huff. Puff.

Suddenly, another sound catches my attention. A few stones tumbling down the side of the mountain, just to my right. I glance to see these marble-size pebbles slow to a halt. Then silence, aside from my Big Bad Wolf impersonation. Huff. Puff.

The Bike Friday Silk, thanks to its Gates CenterTrack Carbon Belt Drive technology, takes quiet to another level. Without question, I’m sure this isn’t the first time a tiny avalanche has coincided with a ride. But it’s the first time I’ve heard it.

The smoothness of each pedal stroke enhances the ride quality to the point that I ascend above the typical riding experience. It’s something that I can’t explain; I can only experience. With a smile on my face.

It’s pretty much impossible to chug all the way up the mountain non-stop with photo opportunities like the Belnap Crater [background] surrounding you.The sleek ride of the Silk, however, is not what brought me out to climb the McKenzie Pass on one of the last days it is open only to cyclists and pedestrians, before motorized traffic takes over.

My test ride concerns the internal hub. This is our showroom Silk Infinity, dressed up with the NuVinci N360 Continuous Variable Transmission.

This five-pound hub is the source of countless debates for customers. Few deny that ability to shift anywhere within your gear range as smooth as melted butter offers a great attraction. But, they say, the weight …

I’m often asked at shows if I would want to cart a five-pound hub a mountain. I couldn’t answer. I want to. So, it’s time to find out.

Then there’s a couple of small ponds that beg for a nice shot of reflection.

I’m heading up from Alder Springs Campground at 3,600 feet elevation to McKenzie Pass at 5,335. The climb is 11 miles, with most of the serious ascending in the first couple of miles.

The first obvious question concerns the weight. This configuration is a few pounds heavier than my Pocket Llama, but that fact never feels like an issue.

From the outset, the bike feels as though it was built just for this. Attacking a mountain.

It climbs like a mountain goat, smooth and in control. Smaller wheels allow you to accelerate quicker on a hill, and the ability of the NuVinci to allow you to quickly find exactly the right gear seem to make sudden changes in the grade irrelevant.

With the sun setting, it’s easy to become obsessed with your own shadow.

By the time the most difficult climbing section is behind me and the grade eases significantly, I spend most of the time reviewing what has just transpired.

I’m not really sure if this is something of a placebo effect. That just might be the reason it is so difficult to describe what’s special about a belt drive, and in this particular case, it’s perfect combination with a NuVinci hub.

One thing I know for sure is that my confidence in the belt drive showed each time I stood on my pedals.

In my previous ascent of McKenzie Pass, years ago on my mountain bike, I couldn’t help but worry about dropping a chain and taking a face plant.

Or, just hoping that a change of gears wouldn’t result in a skip or two at an in opportune moment.

None of those worries with the Silk Infinity set up.

If anything, my entire connection to this bicycle seems so integrated — so synergetic — that all the worries and distractions disappear.

Instead, the experience of the ride itself takes complete center stage. When my breathing quiets on the flat section, I can hear twigs snap in the woods.

I can’t see what might be responsible, but the mere fact that I know it happened struck me as, well, unique for a bike ride.

This is more quiet than walking.

My goal of reaching the summit at sunset becomes a reality, but the images feel somewhat disappointing.

Instead, I find myself just staring at the Silk, in amazement.

Would I carry a 5-pound hub up a mountain? Without hesitation.

Proof that I made it to the top. And yes, I would do it again. And again. And again.





2 Responses

  1. That is one of my favorite roads. Down towards the bottom (before the switchbacks) there was always a stretch of trees over the road which on the right early spring day gave off the most beautiful tree-dappled sunlight.

    I’ve been looking at this bike for some time and wondering about–well about the weight, of course. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to a test or even a visual look-over of the Silk, so I appreciate your review very much. Can it possibly be true that all the extra weight of the steel framed BF plus the Nuvinci don’t have an impact? Not even the knees?

    1. Maybe I’m not the best test ride for this since I’ve never paid that close attention to the weight of a bike. That said, I expected it to be a more difficult ride than my Pocket Llama, but it wasn’t. Then again, the last time I rode up McKenzie Pass was on a GT i-Drive, so that certainly wasn’t a lightweight bike. That said, I did climb on a Super Pro earlier this year on a steeper, shorter climb.The Super Pro was sub 16 pounds. The Silk isn’t in that class, but for a bike that can take a touring load, it sure performed well.

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