SUPERMAX BELT DRIVES
Phil Ross, The Man Behind The Modern Belt Drive
Phil Ross of SuperMax Products has been involved with motorcycles for well over
half a century. One day someone may write a book chronicling his event-filled
life, but we are going to cut to the chase and talk about his belt drives.
Phil had always been disenchanted with chains and wanted an alternative that
would be strong and work well with little or no maintenance. First he
approached Uniroyal about producing belts, but they weren't interested in
working with small companies. Through a friend, he was directed to the Gates
In 1972, Phil headed to Denver on his gooseneck chopper and pulled up to Gates
facility. As soon as he said "motorcycles", he had their attention. Gates
engineers John Redmond and his associate, Don McCombre, showed Phil a poly-chain
belt they were working on for snowmobiles. They were having problems with
debris tearing up their belts. It was obvious that they had tackled the wrong
market and Phil had the answer. The engineers at Gates agreed to help Phil if he
would help them.
Gates provided some sample belts and cut some teeth into a giant piece of billet
aluminum. Phil machined it out and inserted a H-D clutch basket into the ring
for the first poly-chain test. That basket probably weighed 20 pounds. They
started out with belts constructed from No. 45 Kevlar cord, which weren't up to
the task. Then they changed to No. 65 and finally ended up with No. 80 cord
Kevlar belts, but they still experienced a few failures. At the time, they were
unaware of the fact that the transmissions and the engines were not flat with
each other, which was the primary cause of premature belt failure.
Early on they noticed that the aluminum pulleys were wearing out way too soon.
They tried hard anodizing them, but that didn't work well either. Then they
tried steel, which was heavy, expensive, and still wore out. John Redmond
suggested, "Why don't we make the pulleys out of a material similar to the
belts?". Phil and John started experimenting with materials and methods to
produce them. Finally, after many tries, they achieved success with
polyurethane pulleys. They now had pulleys that wouldn't wear out and a belt
strong enough to do the job. It was 1975 when they finished all the initial
prototype work and testing.
Next Gates and Phil attacked a rear drive just to see what would happen. Again
he was rewarded with success.
. . read the rest of this amazing chronicle.