Front wheel drive...

Recumbents and all feet forward machines

Front wheel drive...

Postby Hotdog » Thu Mar 13, 2008 11:28 am

Much as I love the Comfy Chair (my Bacchetta Giro 26) the N+1 rule has got me looking at other bikes, and I've become very interested in the moving bottom bracket front wheel drive recumbents from Cruzbike.

Partly this is just a desire to try something different (which was a big part of why I got into recumbents in the first place) and the Cruzbikes are certainly rather unusual, even for a recumbent. Another factor is that these bikes are developing a reputation as good climbers and sprinters. It's claimed that the unusual configuration makes pulling on the handlebars are worthwhile exercise, allowing the upper body to contribute and provide a burst of power much like standing on the pedals on an upright. So far there's only anecdotal evidence, but the suggestion is that an acclimated rider on the lightweight Silvio can climb as well as they would on a road bike, which would be pretty much unique for a recumbent.

Given the hilliness of Sydney this has got me dreaming of getting a Silvio to zoom up the big climbs on my weekend group/event rides. They are expensive bikes, however, especially if you don't already happen to have a decent road bike lying around unused and ready to act as a parts donor... The framest is around $2500 and on top of that you need wheels, handlebars and a groupset. Not something I can really afford at the moment.

I'm now leaning towards a more realistic short term plan of getting a Sofrider V2, which is far more affordable at around $1300 complete and looks like excellent value. It's not a high performance bike and is certainly a heavy beast, but it would give me a chance to try out the MBB FWD concept without spending an enormous amount of money. The Sofrider is also part of my cunning plan to encourage my girlfriend to cycle. She wants to get more exercise, and is receptive to the idea of going riding with me, but her current bike (a department store thing) is frankly horrible, and she has problems with saddle pain. She's too short to ride either of my current bikes, but Sofriders can adjust to accommodate a wide range of heights so she could ride it too. I figure with a higher quality bike with a comfortable seat at her disposal she'd be much more likely to enjoy cycling and want to do it regularly.
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by BNA » Thu Mar 13, 2008 1:42 pm

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Postby europa » Thu Mar 13, 2008 1:42 pm

Try to find some footage of the Cruzbikes climbing over mounds and things - they really are a 'go anywhere' bike. Most impressive.

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Postby Kalgrm » Thu Mar 13, 2008 1:47 pm

I ride with John Tolhurst regularly, so I'm as familiar as one can be with the Sylvio without actually having ridden one. We are also occasionally joined by one of his customers (Alex) on a Sofrider (v1).

John is certainly no slouch on his Sylvio, being one of the top three fastest riders in our group*. How much of that is engine and how much is chassis, I don't know. He and I climb hills at about the same rate. One day I'll ask to borrow his bike for a day or two and test it out. (I should have done it this week, since he is OS at a bike fair.)

When Alex joins us on his Sofrider, there is no drop in the speed of the group: he is a very strong rider and really pushes us along.

John has designed the Sofrider V2 to accept 700c wheels. The brake callipers are set in a position which allows the pads to be moved outwards to accommodate the greater diameter, so even though it's heavier than a Sylvio, it should be quick everywhere except the hills - given the right engine.

If the Sylvio is really piquing your interest, consider buying a used roadie as a donor bike. Size doesn't matter (that's what they tell me, anyway ... ;)) so you can just find the cheapest one out there.

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Graeme

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Postby Hotdog » Thu Mar 13, 2008 4:14 pm

Kalgrm wrote:John is certainly no slouch on his Sylvio, being one of the top three fastest riders in our group*. How much of that is engine and how much is chassis, I don't know. He and I climb hills at about the same rate. One day I'll ask to borrow his bike for a day or two and test it out. (I should have done it this week, since he is OS at a bike fair.)

I'd be very interested to hear what you think if you do give it a ride, especially as you can offer comparisons with something I know well (a Giro 26).
John has designed the Sofrider V2 to accept 700c wheels. The brake callipers are set in a position which allows the pads to be moved outwards to accommodate the greater diameter, so even though it's heavier than a Sylvio, it should be quick everywhere except the hills - given the right engine.

Great, so I'd end up with two bikes with 26" wheels that I want to replace with 700Cs... :roll::wink:

I didn't mean to imply I thought the Sofrider was a clunky slow thing, I'd expect it to be plenty fast enough to have a lot of fun on without feeling it was holding me back speedwise. The geometry of all the bikes is very similar so, as you say, the main differences that give the Silvio a performance edge are its lighter weight and easy rolling, narrow tyred 700C wheels (which you could put on a Sofrider V2 anyway if you really wanted).
If the Sylvio is really piquing your interest, consider buying a used roadie as a donor bike. Size doesn't matter (that's what they tell me, anyway ... ;)) so you can just find the cheapest one out there.

Yeah, that would probably get the cost of getting a Silvio on the road down a bit. I suspect you'd still be looking at well over $3k total costs unless you were prepared to settle for putting pretty low end components on a shiny new $2.5k frameset though, and that's still a bit too rich for me at the moment.

In any case, I think if I was actually to buy a Silvio I'd want to kit it out 'just so', whereas when you're hunting for eBay bargains you need to be a bit flexible. I'd likely end up buying mostly new componentry in order to get exactly what I want and that'd put the price nearer to $4k, well out of range for now.

I gather that Bryan Ball at Bentrideronline will be receiving a Silvio review bike in the next week or two, so I'm looking forward to hearing his opinion. He tests each bike he reviews on a standard test course so he should be able to give some (largely) objective and (vaguely) quantitive information on its performance in comparison to other performance 'bents.
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Postby Kalgrm » Thu Mar 13, 2008 4:39 pm

Yeah, Bryan's review will be worth watching for. He rides a lot more 'bents than I ever will in my lifetime, so his review will obviously carry more weight than anything I write. My understanding is that BB already has the bike.

John is a little concerned though, because the FWD bikes require slightly different muscles than other 'bents. Unless BB spends the time to really get used to riding the Sylivo, he may not fully appreciate the subtleties of such a bike. A FWD-experienced rider's impressions of the bike might be different to BBs. That's why I'd want to ride John's one for at least a week before trying to pass judgement on it.

I should have more faith. BB has reviewed enough to know these things, so we'll see what he comes up with.

I'm like you: I'd want the bike to be perfect from the first ride. However, my finances have always dictated an incremental improvement in components whilst still riding the thing. I actually think this is a good way to go about getting a great bike, because you can estimate the effect of each upgrade before hand, and then assess the reality after the fact.

In your shoes, I'd be saving for that 700c wheelset for the Giro before lusting for a FWD. The improvement in the ride is worth the outlay, in my not-so-humble opinion. As they say in the fast-food ads, "I'm lovin' it!" :)

(Edit: sorry, forgot this will be a shared bike. Go ahead: lust away!)

Cheers,
Graeme
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Postby Hotdog » Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:29 pm

Kalgrm wrote:Yeah, Bryan's review will be worth watching for. He rides a lot more 'bents than I ever will in my lifetime, so his review will obviously carry more weight than anything I write. My understanding is that BB already has the bike.

John is a little concerned though, because the FWD bikes require slightly different muscles than other 'bents. Unless BB spends the time to really get used to riding the Sylivo, he may not fully appreciate the subtleties of such a bike. A FWD-experienced rider's impressions of the bike might be different to BBs. That's why I'd want to ride John's one for at least a week before trying to pass judgement on it.

I should have more faith. BB has reviewed enough to know these things, so we'll see what he comes up with.

I can undersand the concern, I'm sure a fair bit of acclimatisation in terms of both muscle development and technique would be required in order to get the best out of a moving bottom bracket FWD bike. I've seen somewhere in the Cruzbike that MBB FWD versus fixed BB bikes is like free weights versus fixed track gym equipment, in both cases the former require better control and the development of stabilising muscles.

On the other hand BB doesn't tend to rush to write up his reviews, I get the impression he does try to spend a decent amount of time on each bike in order to form a fair opinion first. And he's already said positive things about the Sofriders, including the comment "it climbs much better than a bike that heavy has a right to" about the Sofrider V2.
(Edit: sorry, forgot this will be a shared bike. Go ahead: lust away!)

Yep, that's the key factor. What I'm hoping is that it'll end up with me having essentially bought my girlfriend a nice bike and infected her with the cycling bug while getting to have a bit of fun trying out the MBB FWD concept myself in the process :D Even if I end up not wanting to ride it much myself I'd consider that money well spent. In the worst case scenario where neither of us end up wanting to continue to ride it at least it's not a super expensive bike, and I could probably sell it for only a modest net loss.
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Postby Hotdog » Fri Mar 14, 2008 2:38 pm

Well, I've gone and done it :shock: I placed an order for a Sofrider V2 today, so another strange bike should be joining my stable within the next week or two :D
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Postby Leigh_caines » Fri Mar 14, 2008 4:26 pm

Two years ago when I first read of them I wanted to meet one
But it never happened :(
They've come a way since the first kit they offered...
I look forward to hearing all about it
How much dose it weigh?
How dose it go up hill?
Is it as good as they say off road?
Can pulling on the bars really help in hill climbing?
and and and...
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Postby Hotdog » Fri Mar 14, 2008 4:46 pm

Well, I can answer one of those questions already... The Sofrider V2, according to both the review at bentrideronline and the shipping weight in the Cruzbike online shop, weighs around 15.7kg. The Silvio is quite a bit lighter, it depends on component choice but apparently it can be built up at around 10.5kg without using exotic weight weenie parts.

As for the rest of your questions, I'll do my best to answer them soon :D
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Postby Leigh_caines » Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:09 pm

Good work :)

My homemade is 23ks
so 16 would be better
and 11 would be great with narrow tyers
but it's not cheap
and one would like to have a ride on one before spending those kinds of $s
:roll:
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