Reader’s Ride(s) – Dave’s Belt Drive Schlick Northpaw

Dave Schlabowske, Communications Director for the Bike Federation of Wisconsin sent us this write up on his belt-drive, internally-geared fat bike! Very cool, Dave!

I caught Fatbike Fever earlier this year so I went to see Dr. Greg Smith of Schlick Cycles who prescribed a cure in the form of an Orange Schlick Northpaw. There are other manufacturers of fatbikes out there, but since we have such a great bicycle industry in Wisconsin, I always try to ride local if I can. Schlick Cycles is company on the north side of Milwaukee founded by John Schlick andGreg Smith. The Northpaw is their version of an offset fat-bike. It is built right here in the USA by long-time Iowa frame builder Tom Teesdale.

I had my frame built with Paragon Slider belt drive compatible dropouts and standard front and rear dropout spacing so that it would accommodate a Gates CenterTrack Carbon belt drive, and the new Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal hub and a matching Alfine dynamo hub.

The frame is built with a 1.5” head tube to accommodate an adjustable headset, like Cane Creek’s AngleSet, so riders can dial their ride to the local or seasonal conditions. Rack mounts in the rear and on the (cooler than unicrown) front segmented fork come standard.

While the Shimano hubs are certainly a departure, I built the Northpaw with as many locally sourced products as I could find. I think of it as a Cheddar Build, extra sharp.

Given orange is my favorite color, it was only natural that I look to Fyxation for matching orange bmx grips, bar plugs, Gates pedals, and Curve Saddle. For those of you out of the loop, Fyxation is a company based in Glendale, WI and run by long-time local bike nut, engineer and all-around cool guy Nick Ginster.

For stoppers, I did not have to go any further than Hayes Brakes, headquartered in Mequon, WI. The Hayes Prime Pro hydraulic brakes are top-of-the-line, lightweight brakes with two-piece rotors and a ton of adjustability on the fly.

In the cockpit I chose the 90mm Answer Rove AM stem and opted for the Answer Protaper 720 AM bars because they come with a 2-inch rise. The 720s are wider than I can run on our local single track trails, but they come with handy guides to make symmetrical cuts easy. I used an off-the-shelf pipe cutter to trim them to fit my local trails.

Even with the 409% gear ratio on the Alfine 11, I am running smallest front and largest rear sprockets Gates make for the Alfine to get the necessary low-end fat bikes need in deep snow and loose sand. That meant a 24 on the back and a 39 in the front. The frame’s 100mm BB shell, an FSA bottom bracket and crankset and Gates center track all worked out for perfect chainline (something belt drives need). If the folks at Gates are listening, guys like me with normal human power could use a bigger rear sprocket by about 4 teeth.

Final touches are a Thompson set-back seat post, 800 lumen dyno-powered Supernova E3 Triple. For longer rides I swap out the Fyxation Curve saddle for a Brooks Imperial with a Carridice Low-Saddle Longflap to haul extra gear. Bar Mitts have been a godsend for my wimpy fingers that get cold even in heavy mittens.

All in all my Northpaw has not only been a successful belt drive experiment, it has changed my winter and boosted the local economy. The slightest bit of fresh snow hits the ground and I am aching to get those fat tires out on the trail, so I ride a lot more, which increased sales at Cranky Al’s Donuts and more tips for my neighborhood bartender.


About Greg Smith 1127 Articles
Greg Smith, known to many site visitors as Sven Hammer, founded in 2011 and the site quickly became the #1 online community for all things Fat. You can currently find Greg outfitting Everyday Cycles; a Milwaukee, WI retailer of gear for fatbikers, adventure cyclists and urban assault riders.


  1. Outstanding rig! I love that you have it set up for hunting. I”m hoping to do something similar (with as big or bigger gears) for Colorado Elk hunting this fall.

  2. I’m new to fat tires… What kind of money does your belt rig involve? I like your made locally concept. Any advice? I live near Chicago.


  3. Sweeeeeeeeeet…I just love the Gates belt drive system.
    However, like Phil I’d love to know how much something like that cost to put together.

    Cheers from a snowfree England (at the moment)

  4. Dave,

    Is that rear triangle built offset like a pugs to get the rear to the right enough to clear the tire? Very cool build!

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