Norway tour: choosing the bike: Grasshopper or Quest?

Preparing for my 16-day tour in Norway.  The choice of bike is down to two: a standard HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx with typical touring options or a customized Cruzbike Quest 26.  My trip is self-supported, fully loaded.

The Grasshopper has the advantage of being fast-folding and expedition-ready, unparalleled quality, and full suspension; basically, ready for the job, no questions asked.  I plan to take some buses and trains in order to reach all the areas I plan to scout, so the fast fold is important.  The Grasshopper goes in a suitcase, no problem.

However, with 16 days of riding, as per plans, the advantage of the faster bike — the Quest — could be huge if I can whip it into shape.  I’m calculating that the speed advantage may let me cover an extra 200 miles.  Also, given the hilly and mountainous terrain, I like the idea of having a bike that climbs fast.

The problem is that I need to do a fair amount of customization and tweaking to turn the Quest into what I consider an expedition-quality bike.  There are a few sizing issues.  (I need to cut down the riser because now it blocks my view too much.  I also want to experiment with seat placement.)  The gearing is questionable, but that’s my doing — this Quest 26 already has a custom front drive wheel, bottom bracket, cranks and chain ring; I want a slightly smaller chainring than the 48T I’ve been using.  I still use the original SRAM Dual Drive, which I love.  Peter White built me a really nice 20″ wheel with SON dynamo hub that I’ve installed at the rear for electricity.  I’ll use a B&M light system — it’s the same as HP Velotechnik’s standard touring lights — and I plan to add Sine Wave’s USB power outlet.  I’m replacing a handgrip or two.  Tires are Schwalbe Marathon Racers but I may switch to a 2″ Marathon Mondial on the front.  I don’t want the weight but I may want the extra traction and durability.  I don’t have a satisfactory solution for a front fender.  I’ll probably leave that off.

I’m using the rack Cruzbike made for their QX100s.  I’ll use Radical Design panniers.  I have the 55 liter (quart) size mediums; that’s plenty big.  I replaced the front disk brakes, cables and housing with HP Velotechnik’s standard Avid BB7s, snake seal, levers and Jagwire cables and housing.  I left the rear brake as is — Avid BB5.

I tested the first alteration this eve: the 20″ rear wheel.  I love the way the Quest handles as a result!  And, by dropping the rear, I’ve changed the rake and weight distribution.  It should also make the Quest more aero.  Based on the success of this test, I’m going to do the rest of the work involved with bringing it up to snuff.

The Quest 26 fits in a suitcase fine.  I plan to take a tube of locktite with me because the Q26 has a lot of bolts in vital locations.  I may replace some of the aluminum bolts with steel bolts in key locations.

All in all, this seems very promising.  It’s basically turning out to be a Cruzbike customized with HP Velotechnik parts, accessories and options.

I’m excited about turning this fairly basic commuter into a tourer that can handle the rougher sort of trips that I like to do.

Bike on,

Robert

Bend It Cycling Shorts Review – I like them.

Bend-It Cycling makes practical cycling shorts and shirts for recumbent riders.

A couple weeks ago, I had a chance to use my Bend-It Cycling road shorts for real.  By that, I mean riding about 280 miles over three days without washing.  Mine are the tights-style, not the mountain bike style.

Great shorts!  Snug but not uncomfortably tight.  I wear thin compression underwear underneath for modesty and they fit fine with that extra layer.  The seams don’t chafe.  The waist stays up.  Super comfortable while riding.  The bottoms of the legs stayed in place.  And, even after three days of riding, without washing, they didn’t start to smell bad!  (That’s an important feature!)  Is the fabric anti-microbial?  I didn’t see any clear designation of this so I asked the manufacturer.  Indeed, the short’s fabric is made from an anti-microbial polyester and nylon blend.

I’m very enthusiastic about these.  http://www.benditcycling.com/

Be sure to drop by their site the next time you’re buying recumbent bike shorts.

Bib wishes,
Robert

Sign petition to establish 3′ Safe Passing standard

This just in over the transom:

-RM

***

Dear Cyclists,

The campaign in New York State to establish a defined 3′ Safe Passing standard – consistent with more than half the states in the country – has reached a critical point in the New York State Legislature. The New York Bicycling Coalition needs everyone who rides a bike in New York State, and wants to be able to do so more safely, to sign on to the 3′ petition at the link below:

Join the Campaign for a 3 Foot Passing Law in New York! <https://www.votervoice.net/BroadcastLinks/_UCyg_QOfIRhXpgcSUNURQ>

Next month, during Bike Month, the New York Bicycling Coalition will be having a press conference at the State Capitol to present this petition to the leadership of the New York State Assembly Transportation Committee, through which the 3′ Safe Passing bill must move and was stuck the last legislative session.

To learn more about the history of this campaign, please see the second link below, at the New York Bicycling Coalition’s (NYBC) website:

* https://campaigns.transalt.org/petition/ny-cyclists-need-3ft-passing-distance
* http://www.nybc.net/action/campaigns/3-ft-passing-law/

Thank you for supporting NYBC’s efforts to make bicycling safe throughout our great state!

Best,

Ken
KEN MCLEOD, Policy Director
KEN@BIKELEAGUE.ORG <mailto:KEN@BIKELEAGUE.ORG> | 202-621-5447 <tel:(202)%20621-5447>
THE LEAGUE OF AMERICAN BICYCLISTS
<http://bikeleague.org/bikelaws> WWW.BIKELEAGUE.ORG/BIKELAWS
We’re leading the movement to build a bicycle-friendly America for everyone. Join us. <https://www.votervoice.net/BroadcastLinks/miqj_C4xBvicNkQJFZxGBQ>

Customer starting a tour from New York up to Northeast Vermont

A customer wrote me with questions about starting a tour up to northeast Vermont on an HP Velotechnik StreetMachine Gte.

 

On Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 9:19 AM, D–S– <d–s–@gmail.com> wrote:

Good morning Robert,
I want to mention a subject to cover when I pick up the bike in a few weeks (or before, if you are willing).  I’m planning a trip in June which will require shipping the bike at the very beginning.  I need to get myself, the bike, and all of the luggage to Amherst, Massachusetts.  From there I’ll ride to Northeast Vermont where I will stay for a month before biking back to New York.    My sense is that such a large pile of stuff is difficult if not impossible on Amtrak or Greyhound, but I’m looking into it.
I’ll need some advice about:
  1. whether it will be possible to save and reuse the original shipping box;
  2. how to safely pack the bike;
  3. how to ship it.
Looking forward to the end of May!
Dan

 

Hi Dan,

Sounds like a great trip.  Will you go through Craftsbury?  Are you using the ACA routes or something of your own?
A few ideas.
If it were me, because it’s simplest in terms of transporting the equipment, I’d seriously consider riding from the end of the Metro North in Waterbury, CT to Amherst, MA (or a hillier route from Amenia, NY).
I haven’t ridden this route but it would probably be an amazing ride.  It looks like a flat, one-day ride.  Note: this is just a rough Google route.  I haven’t optimized it in any way.

For shipping the bike, with or without you on board, you’re best bet may be one of the bus companies like Greyhound, which also has a shipping service.
If it’s with you on-board the bus, you may need to pay extra for “oversize” luggage.  For this, I’d wrap the bike in a cheap blue nylon tarp like this one.  It’s light but strong and you can either use it as a shelter (unless it gets holes during transit) or dispose it.  During shipping, brakes and derailers might get mashed a bit.  This will be a good test of the skills you’ll need to do road-side repairs.  I realize that sounds like a joke, but I mean it.
Unfortunately, the box the SMGte ships in from Germany isn’t suitable for re-packing because the bike arrives in pieces and the shipping box is smaller than the finished bike.
On Amtrak, the SMGte probably exceeds their current bikes-on-board size limits but their restrictions are evolving and the trains that newly allow you to reserve a bike space MIGHT work.  I haven’t personally seen how the bike racks work and, I believe that different trains have different loading options.  I tend to think I could make the bike fit if I have time for some disassembly.  If you end up using these, please let me know how it works.
Talk later,
Robert
# # #

Customer writes: “Bike race!”

R_Brown on her HP Velotechnik Gekko fx

—– Original Message ———-
Subject: Bike race!
From: RB <r–b—-@gmail.com>
To: “Robert Matson”
——————————————

The Gekko is incredibly well engineered and turns well.  I really appreciate the thought that you put into the gearing system.  Also, to get to the race would have been impossible with my previous trike.  We are car-free.  It was a simple matter to put the folded Gekko into the trunk of an Uber XL. I am also able to ride further with a smoother ride.  I felt like the 5K was too short. In the Fall I am planning on a 10 mile race.

I came to Robert with the desire to upgrade my trike.  It took a lot of thought. Robert was incredibly patient while I worked my process. Finally it became financially possible and he answered a million questions.  Plus finding a friend who was willing to deliver my Gekko to NJ.
Thank you again.
RB
Ed. note: I like RB’s blog. It is Three Wheeled Librarian.

Testimonial from a customer

This testimonial arrived today from a customer.  Very nice of him.  – RM

———- Original Message ———-

On April 21, F-C- wrote:

A couple of years ago, I became interested in recumbent bikes, and contacted Robert Matson at NYC Recumbent Supply. I was specifically interested in HP Velotechnik bikes, and Robert is the local expert and dealer. Robert gave me a lesson in riding recumbents, then spent several hours with me while I tried out the Streetmachine Gte and the Grasshopper Fx in Prospect Park. It was a difficult choice, but I decided on the Streetmachine.

When it arrived from Germany, Robert assembled and fully tested the bike before handing it over. As I started riding, over the next months, Robert was always available to answer questions by email or phone. Several times, I brought the bike in for a tuneup, or to add some component, like a rear rack, and I enjoyed watching Robert work on the bike and explain what he was doing. He’s a skilled bike mechanic and an expert on HP Velo and recumbent bikes in general. I’m really loving the Streetmachine, it’s a great bike.

Me with my HP Velotechnik Street Machine by the Hudson River.
Me with my Street Machine by the Hudson River.

My daughter recently decided she also wanted a recumbent (back problems run in the family). I found a good deal on a used Grasshopper Fx in Oregon. I contacted Robert for advice on packing the bike for shipment, and he phoned the HPV dealer in Portland to decide on the best packing option.

When the bike arrived, on a pallet, I took it to Robert who taught me how to fold and unfold it, shortened the boom and chain, fully adjusted it, and make sure it was in great working order before I delivered it to Katie in Massachusetts.

The Grasshopper fx arrives!
Robert checking out the Grasshopper fx.
Katie learns to ride a recumbent bike.

I can strongly recommend Robert and NYC recumbent supply as a recumbent bike dealer, expert mechanic and guru.

Frank C.
Pelham, NY

Q&A and summer wear

I have this customer who asks the sorts of questions I suspect everyone has, but they don’t ask.  Here’s a sample from two of our recent conversations.

On Mar 30, 2017, at 17:20, Robert Matson wrote:

Hi D—-,

I hope you’re well.  Responses below, in-line….
Thank you for your business,
Robert

============

Robert Matson
The Innovation Works, Inc.
Tel: (646) 233-1219

D:

On Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 3:27 PM, D—wrote:
Hi Robert,I hope all is well with you. I have a couple of questions that I wanted to ask which I forgot to bring up when you repaired the handlebars on my Grasshopper. (Thanks again!)

Does it cause extra/undue wear and tear on the brakes or drivetrain to have one foot on the pedal and a brake on at stop lights?

RM:

No.

D:Is moving the pedals backward harmful at all? (For applying lube and also getting the pedals in position before starting to pedal.)

RM:

No.

 

D:

Lastly, is the recumbent more or less subject to wind because of the more aerodynamic design? Is there any rule of thumb for a particular speed or type of wind where it becomes dangerously difficult to control the bike? (I know a big factor here is rider level of skill and there’s no exact reply but am hoping to get your thoughts nonetheless).

RM:

I don’t believe there’s any greater issue for recumbents as opposed to standard frame bikes regarding wind.  In a heavy wind I get blown around equally by both.
On the speed or type of wind question, I want to reply jokingly that I’d be concerned about hurricanes and tornadoes.
Maybe more helpful would be to say that high winds — maybe over 60mph? — are dangerous on bridges.  But I don’t know exactly at what point a wind becomes dangerous on a bridge.  One thought, it isn’t terribly rare to travel at 40mph on a recumbent bike, downhill, in which case the headwind, on a windless day, would be 40mph.
I suppose I think recumbents are less susceptible to winds because they’re closer to the ground, where wind speeds may be lower.
D:
Thanks as always,
D—

 

RM:

No problem.  You ask interesting questions.
Robert

……another day, another set of questions and answers…..

 

 

D:

On Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 1:06 PM, D— wrote:

I’m glad you find my questions interesting! I’m very grateful for your help.

RM:

Here go my best attempts at answers! 🙂 Below, in-line.

Best regards,
Robert

============

Robert Matson
The Innovation Works, Inc.
Tel: (646) 233-1219

 

D:
I do have just a couple more now if you don’t mind. (I’ve been trying to find answers for these on my own but haven’t succeeded much in finding reliable info.)
Is there a rule of thumb for estimating calories burned on a recumbent vs DF? Given that bents are more efficient because of lower wind resistance, I must be burning fewer calories than normal. Is 25% fewer a good ballpark? 30%? I’m wondering what your take is.
RM:
I think that may be true, but I have no idea how to guess at it.
D:
With the design of the GHfx [HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx], it seems like many cyclocomputers won’t work. Are there particular makes or models with which you’ve had success with the sensors for speed, cadence, etc.
RM:
I’ve used the standard brands like CatEye.  Sometimes I have to work a bit to make them fit, but nothing too outrageous.
D:
Lastly, do you have any suggestions on summer wear? I’ve been reading a lot about wool, synthetics, how many layers to wear for sweat, etc. and am unsure which direction to go in. I’m curious if you have any good recommendations for bents in particular as I tend to sweat a ton just walking around during the summer and want to make sure I can keep riding.
RM:
I like these guys’ recumbent-specific bike shorts — Bend It Cycling:
For a top, I often wear a standard “dry fit” running shirt like the Under Armour Tech Fit or Nike Dri Fit.  I also have several cycling jerseys.
I do prefer “high-viz” shirts and Nike and Under Armour have several of those.
D:
Thanks again, and I hope all is well!
D—
# # #

Explanation of Cruzbike Silvio / S30 Chainstay lengths

Cruzbike Silvio S30 frame kit illustrating explanation of S30 Chainstay lengths

I recently had an email conversation with Cruzbike’s Maria Parker about the chainstay options on the Silvio / S30

The question at hand was about the chainstay lengths for the S30. There are small, medium and large.
This is what she wrote:
The S30 comes with a medium chainstay. If a customer asks for a small chainstay, we can get them one.  Usually we don’t open the box and replace, we just send them a small along with the frameset and they can return the one that doesn’t work as well.
The large chainstay moves the feet very high on the S30 and at the same time moves the handlebar down – this doesn’t really work well. I actually have ridden the S30 that way, but it’s rather strange.
To give people more options for handlebar height, we have the curved slider. It can be used curved up or down depending upon whether the customer wants their hands higher or lower.  Most people want the handlebar lower.
The medium chainstay works really well for most people. Very short-legged people might like the short chainstay.
Ride on,
Robert

Radical Design Seat Bags, Rack Bags and Pannier Systems

Radical Design side panniers in blue, rack top bag in orange.

“A Brilliant Product”

Manufacturer website: Radical Design

I keep Radical Design (“RD”) bags in stock because I think this company is making some of the most exciting products in the recumbent marketplace. I’ve used RD bags for the majority of my tours for the past five years. They replaced my prior favorites, Ortlieb panniers, which have been relegated to grocery shopping and hardware store duties.

There are several significant reasons I like Radical Design bags: they are aerodynamic, they enable a lightweight solution for carrying gear, the overall cost is similar to bags of equal quality, the quality is excellent and they are easy to carry unmounted from the bike.

 

Aerodynamic
Radical Design large side panniers in blue. Manufactured for HP Velotechnik.

Radical Design bags and panniers are aerodynamic in several ways. The seat back bags and the rack-top bags are mounted behind the seat. Not only do they add no wind resistance, they smooth out the airflow behind the seat. The panniers bags are mounted beneath the seat but then continue on behind the seat as shown in the photo, above. There is only one small cross-section hitting the wind straight-on and the rest of the bag follows in that airflow. This is contrasted with standard panniers which put the the full height and width of the bag in the wind, creating significant aerodynamic drag. If under-seat panniers are also mounted, those present a full second set of bag cross-sections to the air flow. This contrasts strongly with RD panniers which, even in the largest sizes, do not add significant air resistance as bag capacity increases. It’s an incredible experience to have a heavily-loaded bike that is still very fast on the downs and flats.

 

Going Lightweight.
Radical Design side panniers in red

There are four ways Radical Design bags establish the basis for a lightweight touring system: the fabric is light but strong Cordura nylon; they minimize the requirement for racks which add to bike weight (RD bags require no rack or only one rack instead of two); bag weight is dedicated to carrying capacity as opposed to rack mounting hardware; and RD bags have a low weight to capacity ratio.

 

Lightweight Fabric

Radical Design bags are made from lightweight Cordura nylon with a water-resistant inner coating on the fabric. This is a lighter solution than traditional fully-rubberized panniers, like Ortliebs. For additional water-proofing, I suggest putting your gear in dry bags (water proof stuff sacks) which you would then put into the panniers. One could also seam-seal the pannier seams to increase water-resistance. While dry bags add to the overall weight, contemporary dry bags are light and, anyway, many people use stuff sacks or dry bags inside their panniers anyway, regardless of whether the panniers are “waterproof.”

 

Lighter without a rack.
Radical Design solo racer in yellow

Racks are heavy so they can be strong (and Titanium racks are expensive so they can be strong). Your bike will be lighter if you have fewer or no racks. For example, while exact rack weights depend on the rack in question, consider that the Tubus Logo Evo, a high-quality rack that can carry 88 pounds, weighs 1.6 lbs. For recumbent bikes, the traditional luggage solution is to have a rear rack for basic payload needs and, if additional capacity is required, one adds an underseat rack. With two racks, one is easily 3-6 pounds to the naked weight of the bike.

Radical Design makes small seat-back bags (such as the Solo Aero) with 10-12 liters (2-3 gallons) capacity, that are perfect for day trips. They hang from the back of the seat and require no rack. If you need double that capacity, they have a 25 liter (~6 gallons) “banana racer” side pannier that hangs entirely from the seat, again requiring no rack. Then, if you need still more capacity, you can combine those two models for ~37 liters capacity. This is just shy of the capacity of two 20-liter Ortlieb roller rear panniers, all without needing to add the weight of a rack, as you’d need to do for the Ortliebs.

For Radical Design’s larger panniers, of 40 to 70 liters (10-17.5 gallons) a rear rack is required. However, no underseat rack is necessary. This provides as much capacity as a traditional FOUR pannier system (60-70 liters) based on the weight of TWO panniers and a single rack. You can also add an RD rack-top bag (20-30 liters/5-7.5 gal) or seat-back bag to the setup, expanding capacity without adding weight to the bike in the form of additional racks.

 

Life is Lighter without Mounting Hardware.
Radical Design solo racer in blue

RD bags are also lighter than traditional panniers because they don’t have the weight of mounting hardware built into the panniers. Instead, the bags attach to the bike seat, frame and rack using light but strong nylon webbing and nylon plastic buckles and fasteners such as those found on hikers’ backpacks.

 

Low Ratio of Weight to Capacity

RD panniers are lighter than traditional panniers of equal capacity. A meaningful ratio is empty bag weight to capacity: how heavy does the vessel need to be to carry the things you want to carry? I’m going to continue picking on Ortlieb here because: 1) I respect them and sell and use their bags; 2) they’re arguably the world’s premier pannier manufacturer; and 3) I want to compare manufacturers who produce similarly high quality goods. It would be meaningless to compare Ortlieb to something that is lightweight due to lack of durability.

Comparison of the weight of Radical Design and Ortlieb empty panniers to their carrying capacity:

Radical Design Banana Large side-panniers
1,080 grams weight : 70 liters capacity
15.43 grams per liter capacity

Ortlieb Back-Roller Pro Plus panniers
2,007 grams weight : 70 liters capacity
28.67 grams per liter capacity

Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic panniers
1,900 grams weight : 40 liters capacity
47.5 grams per liter capacity

 

Overall cost is similar to bags of equal quality.

It may seem that RD bags cost more than pannier systems of equal capability. However, the cost of the bag is only one of several costs for mounting a luggage system on a bike. Additional costs are: cost of the rack, cost of labor (yours or the shop’s) to install the racks and, the cost incurred by equipment failure.

To create a comparison, here are several luggage systems of similar quality on an HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gte in descending order according to carrying capacity.

1) 70 liters capacity
$ 6.07 : 1 liter
Radical Design Banana Large side-panniers (70 liters): $ 276 (at current exchange rate)
Street Machine Gte rear rack: $ 149
Cost for 70 liters capacity: $ 425

2) 70 liters capacity
$ 5.70 : 1 liter
Ortlieb Back-Roller Pro Plus rear panniers (70 liters): $ 250
Street Machine Gte rear rack: $ 149
Cost for 70 liters capacity: $ 399

3) 65 liters capacity
$ 9.51 : 1 liter
Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic rear panniers (40 liters): $ 180
with Sport-Roller Classic front panniers (25 liters): $ 160
Street Machine Gte rear rack: $ 149
Street Machine Gte under seat rack: $ 129
Cost for 65 liters capacity: $ 618

4) 40 liters capacity
$ 8.22 : 1 liter
Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic rear panniers (40 liters): $ 180
HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gte rear rack: $ 149
Cost for 40 liters capacity: $ 329

5) 37 liters capacity
$ 9.46 : 1 liter
Radical Design Banana Racer side-panniers (25 liters): $ 215
Radical Design Solo Aero narrow (12 liters): $ 135
No rack required.
Cost for 37 liters capacity: $ 350

6) 25 liters capacity
$ 8.60 : 1 liter
Radical Design Banana Racer side-panniers (25 liters): $ 215
No rack required.
Cost for 25 liters capacity: $ 215

7) 18 liters capacity
$ 19.94 : 1 liter
Ortlieb Recumbent Backpack (18 liters): $ 210
Street Machine Gte rear rack: $ 149
Cost for 18 liters capacity: $ 359

 

Quality and the High Cost of Failure.

Panniers designed for serious usage are built not to fail. The most common failures I’ve seen with panniers are mounting brackets falling apart, buckles breaking, seams tearing, fabric wearing out in the corners, and straps wearing through. You get some warning as materials wear out and seams tear because you may see it happening. Mounting brackets, however, can fail suddenly when a bolt falls out or a spring mechanism breaks.

There are several costs present here. There’s a cost for over-building the mounting system so it doesn’t fail. There’s an additional cost in terms of what else gets broken when something fails: Does your laptop get broken when your pannier falls into the street? And there’s a cost in terms of secondary damage: Does the pannier fall into your wheel, causing an accident?

I like Radical Design bags’ mounting system because they are simple. Very little can suddenly go wrong: the attachment system is webbing and buckles. And it’s easy to repair if it fails: if a strap tears, the field repair is to sow or re-tie it with thread or dental floss. Repairing a mounting bracket or replacing (or finding!) a lost screw is harder.

I don’t know how to calculate the cost of “risk of failure,” but I value peace of mind.  I get a lot of that from the simple RD strap-mounting system.

 

Radical Design panniers are easy to carry with one hand, when unmounted from the bike.
Radical Design side panniers in red

RD panniers are like two small duffel bags attached to one another by straps. These straps may be used as carrying handles. The largest, 70-liter, size has carrying handles sewn in. So, when you need to carry your bags off your bike, it’s as easy as carrying one duffel. This feature is particularly valuable in situations where you need to manage the bike with one hand and your luggage with the other. Traditional panniers, each of which is an independent bag, require you to manage multiple separate bags, instead of just one “bag unit.”

 

Manufacturer website: Radical Design