Whether to use a chain or a toothed belt in order to transfer the rotation of the pedals in the direction of the propeller depends mostly on the situations in which the OpenBoat is going to be used, and thus on individual preferences.

The Chain

Using a chain between the sprockets is the dominant solution for sweetwater operation. For obvious reasons, whenever possible the parts will be made of stainless steel (SS) or adequately protected against getting wet, otherwise the user will have to be extremely careful to dry all components after each use and protect them with an anti–rust coat.

In salt water or mixed use, even an SS chain might not hold up very long, since parts of it (e.g. connectors) might be made of ordinary steel, so extreme caution is advised selecting the product.

User–innovator Joe Tracy comments: «…I use my boat in salt and fresh water and thought an SS chain would solve the corrosion problem. Well, it turns out that the connecting link is not stainless and it did corrode rather quickly. The constant need for lubrication because of the hostile operating environment does create a mess. …»

The Belt


The belt has its advantages over the corrosion prone chain. Again in Joe Tracy's words: «I do feel the belt drive is the superior drive method… One drawback to the belt is the need for some precision in the sprocket to sprocket distance. Before I had my components welded everything seemed perfect, but after welding, somehow, the sprocket to sprocket distance was slightly shortened, requiring an idler pulley. I may end up modifying the tube and allowing for some adjustability to properly tension the belt.»

Having enough tension on the belt to keep it from jumping on the sprockets is one of the challenges with this solution, maybe not so much for its use with bicycles as with such custom made vehicles as ours. However, as Joe writes, the tube carrying the upper sprocket can always be modified.

Joe Tracy is using a Gates Carbon Drive Belt System.

(more information on the best selection of belts to follow here)



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