Kalkhoff Endeavour 8 Benelux
The bike after two years. I have the 2018 model; the 2019 and 2020 model have upgraded belt drive components and a hollow crank.
Why I bought this bike
At the end of 2017 I had the opportunity of buying a bike through my employer's bike discount program. A year before I had been looking for a bike that matched my requirements but I couldn't really find any; now, a year later, there were a couple of contenders. My requirements were:
- Belt drive, preferably with some sort of cover
- Disc brakes
- Hub dynamo powering both lights
- Fenders and a luggage rack
- A lock, or at least the option of adding one
Basically, I wanted a functional bike, a modernized, sportier version of the Dutch city bikes I had always been riding around on. My usage consists of a 11km round-trip commute each day, an occasional longer ride (lets say 20km) and once or twice a year a 100km trip - I often use my road race bike for these longer trips, but the fact that the Endeavour has fenders and a pannier makes it much more practical. Now in retrospect, the disc brakes and belt drive, while working great, are more finicky than the traditional components they replace, but I didn't know that and wanted something a bit fancier.
I ended up with three contenders I could actually take a look at in person: the Trek L500, Kalkhoff Endeavour 8 Benelux and the Gazelle CitiZen c8. All these bikes were around €1000, which isn't really high-end bike territory but still significantly more than a basic city bike. It was about the limit of what I wanted to spend. I actually liked the looks of the Kalkhoff the least, but the other bikes had other disadvantages: the Trek didn't have a cover over the belt, and while the Gazella had a really nice belt cover, its lights were battery-powered and it didn't come with a lock.
The Endeavour 8 'Benelux' is different from the non-Benelux version in that it has a rigid front fork, which I prefer (so I guess they did their market research...). It does come with an adjustable steering stem, nice grips and saddle, and matches all my requirements.
Nice handlebars, grips, etc.
I added a Abus Bordo folding lock, works great and is compact. It does bounce around noisily in its holster on rough roads, though. I also added cargo elastics, the standard spring-loaded clamp on the luggage rack is quite useless. Finally I added an Agu Urban Trend camo pannier. It's really handy and water-tight as advertised, however it's already starting to discolor from the sun (see leading picture), while my bike most often has a roof above its head. Also, the attachment screws were of low quality.
This lock is great!
These screws not so much - got chewed up immediately and started rusting.
First of all I recommend this Trivio Starter toolkit for work on a bike like this. The tools aren't of super high quality, but they work fine. This toolkit has allowed me to:
- Adjust the belt tension using the included pin wrench
- Open up the rear hub using the cone wrenches
- Pull off the crank
- Remove the bottom bracket bearing using using included socket
- Remove brake rotors
In general it can be concluded that bikes with these features, in this price bracket, are built to a price. The most basic belt drive, the most basic disc brakes, etc. It all works fine for my (not very heavy) usage, but a more expensive bike might have through axles, the higher quality Gates CDX belt drive, etc. Also, being that the bike is built to be light (compared to a Dutch city bike) things like the fender mounts are a bit flimsy.
The first issue I ran into was play on the adjustable steering stem. This was just a matter of loosening and then tightening it, I chalk this up to the dealer, not the bike itself.
A bigger issue was the front wheel being pulled out its mounts under heavy braking. This is an issue inherent to using quick-releases (instead of through-axles and a more expensive hub dynamo) with disk brakes. Probably again sloppy assembly by the dealer, but after tightening the quick-release enough to properly secure the wheel, I had to re-align the front brake caliper so it wasn't rubbing the disc. This is simply a case of loosening its bolts, holding the brake lever and then tightening the bolts again. In any case I do really like the brakes compared to drum/roller/rim brakes, and even though these are pretty much the lowest-end Shimano hydraulic disc brakes you can get, they work great. Another small issue is that they squeal when wet.
One of my requirements had been some sort of cover over the belt to protect my pants. The cover on the Endeavour sucked - its shape was just so that with wider cut pants, my pant leg would catch on it and pull it into the belt, bending its mount. It took some research to find a better chain guard that might fit - there's a million of them available online and almost none to look at in stores. I measured the front pulley and converted this to the number of teeth a similar chain sprocket would have, this allowed me to look for a fitting guard. I ended up with a Horn Catena 17. It looks a little bit larger than I would have liked but I still feel it looks like it could be a stock item. At the front the guard is attached with a bracket that mounts to the bottom bracket. I didn't realize this at first but this does complicate adjusting the belt tension an it's an eccentric tensionor, i.e. you rotate the bottom bracket to set belt tension. Which of course now moves the chain guard mount. To secure the rear of the guard I 3D printed an adapter that attaches to the original belt guard mount.
The stock belt guard.
New belt guard.
When the winter got a bit colder I ran into the belt squeaking, especially when pedaling hard. First I attempted to fix this with a little silicone grease. This worked for a while, although it does negate one of the belt's main advantages, i.e. not being dirty. In any case, the squeaking returned eventually. The fix was to loosen the belt a little. No idea if it was the dealer who sold me the bike or the factory that put it on too tight, but since loosening it a little it's been silent. Adjusting Gates belts is supposed to be a complex process that involves special tension measuring tools or a phone app to measure the belt's sound, but I just did it by feel and by comparing it to other bikes with similar belts (that's what made me conclude mine was on too tight in the first place).
This bike uses the low-end Gates CDN system with plastic pulleys instead of the metal CDX system. After a bit more than two years, the rear pulley was getting a bit pointy. It was still working fine, but a worn pulley will result in increased belt wear as the sharp teeth cut into the belt. The front pulley was still fine. I got a replacement metal CDX rear pulley. The amount of available rear pulley permutations and their mounting systems/offsets is bewildering. I bought a CT1122XMN pulley for a 43.7mm belt line, which matches my CDN pulley. The technical manual states "XMN sprocket type for 43.7mm beltline will be discontinued for MY20/MY21, replaced by XMN-U for 45.5mm beltline.". This has something to do with e-bike compatibility. The 45.5mm sprocket would actually have been cheaper and I think it would have just been a matter of slightly adjusting the front pulley alignment, but I played it safe and went for the pulley that more closely matches the original. Update: Gates also state "When using these new sprockets, it may be necessary to increase the clearance betweenthe shifter cable and the rear sprocket. Shimano has released new special cassette joints for this purpose."
The old and new pulleys. Unfortunately the metal pulley is pictured wheel-side-up.
In fact, it seems the plastic CDN rear sprockets are no longer sold (as of 2019?) - I've seen various bikes with a plastic CDN front pulley and a metal rear pulley. It looks like the 2019 Endeavour 8 Benelux has CDX front/rear sprocket and as of 2020 a CDX belt as well. Another interesting fact it that CDN front pulleys are only sold as complete crank/pulley assemblies, so the cheap stuff really is meant so OEMs can put together a more cost-effective bike.
Installing the new pulley is a matter of removing the rear wheel and shifter cassette, popping off a dust seal, removing a very annoying lock ring and then removing the pulley itself. It is easily removed by gently prying up the 'fingers' with a screwdriver.
At the time I also took the opportunity to inspect my rear hub, it looked fine. I added some water proof grease to the bearings anyway.
Nexus 8 hub opened up. This is a matter of removing the pulley, removing the brake disc (requires the right kind of spanner) and removing the locknut and cone nut on the brake side.
Eventually I ran into a lack of rear braking power. This brought to light a disadvantage of a somewhat fancier bike - not all bike mechanics understand disc brakes and so it took me a while to find one that gave solid advice instead of stuff like "the back brake is supposed to be like that so you don't lock it up". In any case, the issue was contaminated brake pads - I had already cleaned the disc before, but soaking the pads in brake cleaner fixed it right up.
Some other issues:
- Noise on uneven roads. This is due to my folding lock, as mentioned, but also the brake levers and the rear brake line where it goes into the frame.
- Two years in I took apart the headset and it didn't have much grease in it, there was moisture in there though. Also, a bit of corrosion on a steel part at the bottom of the steering stem.
- Brake lines rubbing on the frame, easily fixed with a zip tie.
- Corrosion. I do use the bike in areas with road salt, though.
- After a bit more than two years of owning the bike, I had noise from one of the pedals. Taking it apart, greasing everything and securely tightening it again solved the issue, but unfortunately I also discovered that the bottom bracket bearings were already gone. Thanksfully, a replacement 119x63 square taper bracket was cheap. The 2019 2020 model of the bike have hollow cranks (external bottom bracket?) so it looks like that was upgraded.
Rusty quick-release and brake disc.
All in all I'm really happy with the bike and its suitability for my usage, which is commuting and the occasional longer semi-sporty trip. I like how silent the belt drive is, how well the brakes work, and hub dynamo powered LED lighting is awesome. I like how it's practical but still light enough to be fun for spirited riding. However, the bike did/does suffer from sloppy assembly by the dealer and/or factory, as can be seen by things like the improper belt tension, rubbing brake lines, lack of grease in the headset.