Washing a bike for the first time is a defining moment in the relationship between bike and rider.
Granted, I liked the Spot Rocker SS from the first pedal stroke, but it wasn’t until I slathered it with soap, ran my fingers over its intricate curves and rinsed off three weeks worth of grime—revealing the Made in Colorado tattoo in the process—that I became enchanted by its outgoing personality.
The Rocker SS—beautifully crafted at Spot’s Golden, Colo., shop from True Temper’s space age OX Platinum tubes—is a gorgeous frameset, but their adaption of the new Gates CenterTrack Carbon Drive is where they’ve really outdone themselves.
The first key to success is the belt drive system itself. With the new CenterTrack, Gates has worked out bugs from its initial belt drive offering, the primary difference being a thin center cut in the belt that lines up with a center track on the drive rings (or “pulleys” as Gates refers to them, avoiding the word chainring), keeping the belt firmly inline while pedaling. This CenterTrack belt is 20 percent stronger than the previous model and does an even better job of shedding mud. An aluminum front pulley and stainless steel rear pulley complete the system.
Overall, the CenterTrack Carbon Drive is 40 percent lighter than a chain drive system. The primary benefit, though, is that it’s smoother than The Fonz. The more mud and water you throw at it, the better it performs (hence the three weeks of muddy riding before my first soapy affair with the Rocker SS). For a singlespeed, that smooth, silent, low-maintenance ride is icing on the cake.
One challenge of adapting the Gates Carbon Drive system is fabricating a dropout system that allows the seat and chainstay to be split to install the belt (the belt cannot be broken like a chain). Spot’s new patent-pending Kobe slider dropouts achieve this in splendid fashion.
The dropout design is simple and strong, easy to open, and functions better than any other variation of a split, slider dropout that I’ve seen. The system is clamped together with the same bolts that hold the aluminum slider portion of the dropout in place so no extra hardware is needed. Tensioning the belt was simple, and the dropout is designed so the wheel can be removed and reinstalled without changing the tension setting. Flawless is the word. The singlespeed dropout can be easily replaced with a derailleur hanger option if gears are preferred.
Details like S-bend seat and chainstays, a subtle teardrop-shaped downtube, and a rear brake brace give the TIG-welded frame just enough personality to make it attractive without being overly dressed up.
Spot has long been known for its distinctly balanced 29er geometry and the Rocker SS follows proudly in that tradition. The medium frame offered comfortable, reliable handling and great climbing traction. Having ridden a number of 29ers, I’m used to the handling nuances, and the Rocker SS offered nothing but a comfortable, inspiring ride.
Handmade steel singlespeeds have had this effect on me before, and I could be blinded by the miasma of newfound love, but Spot’s Rocker SS, spec’d with Gates’ new CenterTrack Carbon Drive could possibly be singlespeedus perfectus.
Price: $3,599 (complete), $1,399 (frame only)
Weight: 23.1 lbs (w/o pedals)