Published: Silent Sports, August 2000
Author: Greg Marr, Editor
Road Tests: The Editor Takes a Ride
Upright bikes have changed little over the past century. Sure, there's the "Y" frame and suspension, but the majority of bikes out there have pretty much the same frame geometry. It's hard to tinker with a time-tested commodity. Recumbents are another matter entirely. Other than placing the rider in a recumbent position, frame styles differ greatly. Add over or under the seat steering and long or short wheelbase, and you have an overwhelming number of choices. The best thing an aspiring 'bent rider can do is ride a number of different models and designs, which is just what I did over the past few weeks.
First up was the Easy Racer Goldrush, a long wheelbase beauty with a 700C rear wheel and 20 inch front wheel. I know for a fact some people feel more secure on the longer bikes but I found them more difficult to initially control. My time was limited and I know with extended use, that perception could change. The Goldrush provided a comfortable ride with a fairly upright body position. Grip shifting (used on all the bikes I tried except for the Vision Sabre) is a wonderful feature that adds to the overall comfort. The Goldrush accelerated nicely; in fact, I had little trouble keeping up the 25-mph traffic on my way to work one morning, much to the surprise of the gawking motorists in town. I didn't scale any major hills with the Goldrush but the few I encountered were no more difficult than with my road bike.
When a kid says, "just learning how to ride that thing, huh?," you know you're in trouble. Such was my experience with the Rans Velocity². I just couldn't get the hang of it, wobbling all over the road at first and not feeling real secure later, either. With its length and small front wheel, I found a little turning went a long way. For some reason I also had a difficult time getting started from a dead stop (I experienced this with the Goldrush as well but not nearly to the same degree as the Velocity²). In fact, it took me four attempts to get across a busy state highway. When I did get it rolling and under control, it was fine - easy to pedal and a smooth ride. Although climbing the steepest hill in the area was a slow process in the lowest gear available, it did the job with about the same speed and effort of my upright.
Short wheel base bikes were another story completely. I spent time on both the SWB Vision VR45 and VR65 (the Sabre) and loved them. Both bikes were quick, responsive and very easy to ride. Although the more expensive Sabre is a more aerodynamic bike, I found the less aero position of the VR45 more to my liking; I felt more secure. And speaking of security, I had both over 30 mph down hills and felt totally in control, a feeling I didn't have with the long wheelbase bikes. What impressed me about the Vision was that is was a much quicker journey to feeling stable than with the long wheelbase bikes; in fact, it was pretty much just jump on and go - and "go" I did. Both bikes were rocket fast and fun. Chances are, although I prefer the short wheelbase right now, I'll end up on a long wheelbase when it comes time to buy. Why? I'll be buying a bike for the road and for touring. The long bikes allow space for front as well as rear panniers. Short wheel base bikes have only the rear wheel for panniers. Granted, the two-bag system works but I've become spoiled by the balance of front and rear bags. I guess this means I'll have to keep testing more bikes - and to think I get paid, too.
- Greg Marr, Silent Sports