Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The first Volae Urban Century has arrived - wow

Today, the first of the Volae NYC Centuries arrived. All I can say is "wow." And that's my reaction merely to the paint job and the ES coupling. Once again, I'm left speechless by Volae's design and Waterford's framework. What Volae calls a "silver metallic" for the ES frame is what artists would call a cold deep metallic gray -- a deep blue gray. I could almost lose myself in this color. The ES joint looks and feels tight and solid, as if it's a permanent seam.

I'll post photos first chance.

It's likely this bike will go on display at New York Naturals over the winter.

All best,
Robert Matson
NYC Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A recent Screamer TR customer

In an e-mail entitled "in case you are wondering...!", a friend and customer wrote that he and his wife have been having a great time on the Screamer TR they bought from NYC Recumbent Supply(TM) about a month and a half ago.

Since mid-August, they've already ridden about 250 miles, some of it on some pretty long and hilly rides. What's particularly remarkable and pleasing for me, personally, is that his wife hadn't ridden a bike for some 15 years due to a back injury. Now, they're out riding 75- and 65-mile days together!

His note also reminded me that customers wonder if it's truly as easy as I say to take the bike apart with the SS Couplings and reassemble it. Indeed it is, as "A" (name and initial changed) writes me:

>> We have also mastered taking it apart and putting it together in a few

>> minutes. This has been a great savior. Otherwise I have no clue where

>> and how we could have stored the bike. The two parts also easily fit

>> in the back of our car and we had no need for a rack.

>> We are very happy with the investment and have had a great time riding

>> it.

Most people who consider buying either Rans' Screamer or Seavo (especially in the more expensive but practical TR (travel) versions that I prefer to sell) think long and hard about the investment. Since I spend a lot of time with each customer, I believe I experience nearly as much "sticker vertigo" as they do. Though I feel confident about the product and thoroughly enjoy tandem riding myself, I can never be entirely sure how a couple will adapt to tandem riding. Will they discover, as my wife and I have, that it's a wonderful investment in a relationship?

I thought readers might appreciate seeing my note to him, below, after he told me how well it's been going.


Thank you so much for the update! I really appreciate it. This is wonderful news -- that you've been able to get in so many miles, have mastered the SS Couplings, everything. Perhaps I'll get that bungee cord sometime in the spring, no rush on that for me.

The Montauk ride -- 75 miles isn't shabby at all given it seems you've barely begun to ride together. I have to assume it's working out fine for "S"'s back [name changed] (I sincerely hope I've remembered your wife's name correctly) and I'm so pleased about that. And the 65 mile Escape with hills is a real accomplishment. I heard about the rain and slippery conditions on the Montauk ride and it sounds like a sane decision, to call it quits while you were ahead.

A note to remember, on a wet road, if you let some air out of the tires, you will give yourself a larger footprint, and a better grip, on the road. No flats this time, may I presume? :-)

If you ever get a photo of the two of you that I can use on my site, please do share. I'd love to have it. Your note makes a great testimonial (again). May I use it???

I've been wondering if you switched in the new Captain's sprint brace?? And, if so, how has this affected the handling and hill climbing?

On that hill climbing, this is a common challenge on recumbents. A few brief thoughts here (besides of course that it'll get easier as you gain experience):

a) The Marathons are made for sturdiness and puncture protection rather than for speed. Marathon "Racers" are still sturdy and puncture resistant, but have lower rolling resistance and a softer ride. Schwalbe also makes a Marathon Supreme that has yet lower resistance and excellent puncture protection (for a price). That may make some of the hills easier. Marathon Pluses are "bullet proof" but have a lot of resistance. I recommend these folks for recumbent accessories: www.hostelshoppe.com .

b) When I was at Interbike this past week (the annual USA bike market in Las Vegas), I met with the manufacturer of Bionix. (http://www.bionx.ca/) This is a high-quality electric assist motor that only adds power in relation to the speed at which you pedal (no pedal, no power). But it can also recapture energy when braking and going downhill. It may be something to consider as an assist on the hardest hills. I am considering stocking them beginning next spring, but of course would do so earlier if you were interested.

c) Of course a larger chain ring or a cassette with granny gear could help, but then you have the low-speed balance issues to address.

I probably don't need to remind you to resist the temptation to mash the pedals going uphill, since this can lead to knee strain. Also avoid the temptation to pull up too hard on the cranks when using clipless pedals, which can stress the tendons in the direction opposite that for which they're designed. This seems to be a more common problem for 'bent riders than diamond frame riders.

At Interbike, I had some great meetings, both with Rans and HP Velotechnik as well as with the manufacturers of components, like Velocity (who made your wheels). My Velocity meeting was rather interesting and although I've always liked their wheels, it gave me a new appreciation for their quality controls.

I also had a good meeting with the President/Lead Designer of Rans (Randy Schlitter). He has a rather nice new single short wheelbase 'bent that I got to test.

At Interbike, I bought two 'bents (singles) from HP Velotechnik, one a 20"x20" (wheels) that folds (Grasshopper fx) and their StreetMachine Gte (26"x20"). These both have underseat steering and are everything you'd expect from German engineers. I also got to ride one of their tadpole trikes, which is pretty much a human powered BMW -- a lot of fun. With the trikes, their unique design puts the rider high enough that your head is at about eye level with cars but is still stable. I'd like to bring in one or two models next spring, if economics allow.

And two of the new Volae's arrived the other week. They are superb. Good components, good wheels, frames made by Waterford Precision Cycles in Wisconsin and a company managed by a "demanding but fair" president. They may be the best deal in high quality singles right now. One of the bikes has a travel frame that separates, not too unlike the Screamer TR; it arrives next week. If HP Velotechnik is like BMW, then Volae is like Toyota.

I met with a Waterford executive at the bike show to learn about the Volae manufacturing process and left thoroughly pleased. The bikes demand a lot from me in terms of customization but I couldn't be more pleased to be working with this manufacturer.

A friend of mine told me to start writing a blog and e-newsletter instead of long notes to my customers :-).

Oh, last thing, I'm helping to coordinate some (free, casual) group recumbent rides starting next spring along with a 'bent rally. I'll post the info on my site (NYCRecumbentSupply.com), but I'll also announce them to the "NYCBentriders" Yahoo group, if you wish to take part. Rides will be apx. 50 miles, more or less flat, with a picnic of some sort in the middle. Just a fun casual ride. (BTW, we're using the NYCC ride library to choose routes, if you have any suggestions or requests from there. http://nycc.org/rl_db/home.aspx)

Good to hear from you, A. Very, very glad you two are enjoying the bike.

All best,



Robert Matson

NYC Recumbent Supply (TM)

The Innovation Works, Inc.


New SWB bent from Rans: the Enduro Sport

Hi Folks,

I just got in from Interbike about an hour or so ago. Wanted to post this before hitting the sack, because it's pretty interesting.

OK, so Rans presented a new SWB bent: the Enduro Sport. It's basically the F5 in a 20x26 configuration; so a combo of the V-Rex and the F5. 2" diameter Mono-tube frame. Has an over-under idler, so it looks an awful lot like the Bachetta Giro 20. Handlebars: current V-Rex style, superman.

Components same as current V-Rex (as shown at the show). They showed it in a beautiful deep metallic red they call "Rush Red" (not the Corvette red of their other bikes). The paint looks great.

Randy Schlitter (designer/president) told me they'll offer it in Small, Medium and Large, which is great, since Rans didn't have a SWB bent for smaller riders.

What's also cool is that it has a lower seat height than the V-Rex, making it both more stable, and even better for smaller riders. I don't have the measurements for the bottom bracket, but it felt pretty close to the V-Rex in terms of BB to seat height: aero, but not high-racer.

They are keeping the long seat rail, so it's still a highly adjustable bike. Same seat stays/sprint braces as current.

The rear braze-ons are positioned in a new way -- at the tail end of the frame -- maybe hard to imagine -- which should make it easier to mount a rack and fenders w/o the rack mounting kits.

It was shown in 4130 Chromoly steel.

Making this yet more interesting is that Randy is considering making it available in a 20x20 optional configuration, so we will again have something like the Rocket, which is good news for urban riders.

The bike also has braze-ons for a totally new style of under seat rack that will be Rans-designed. The rack wasn't shown, and presumably it isn't yet priced, but certainly one can hope that it will have a slightly lower price than the underseat rack from Terracycle, but who knows.

Retail price will be $1485 (not including sales tax or shipping surcharges), so this will be the entry level SWB bent.

In summary, I enjoyed riding it. I tested it at decent speed on a slippery polished cement floor; it was responsive and possible to sense whether the tires were losing their grip or not. I feel this is a good direction, certainly for the NY City urban market. If you already have a V-Rex or Rocket, it's pretty similar, but if you were considering in the future buying a V-Rex or the B-brand's Giro, I would urge new customers to consider it.

Photos....alas. I missed my chance. I'll post one as soon as I get something from Rans. If anyone else on the group got a photo, please post!

Regarding other bikes, I only carry SWB bents, so I didn't look carefully at the Long Wheelbase 'bents or crank-forwards. But they had an XStream there and it sounded like they may offer it in 3 different configurations at 3 diff. price points. I was told it may be a while before the website is updated with the new info., but of course that's the best place to check.

Robert Matson
NYC Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.

Instead of clips or clipless pedals: Notes from Interbike 2009

Instead of clip less pedals -- this just in.

I've long questioned the full value of clipless pedals, not to mention toe clips. After reading a compelling article in the "Early 2009" issue of the Rivendell Reader (#RR 41), a compelling case is made for ignoring clip systems entirely. And so I began experimenting with using better platform pedals and riding in ordinary shoes. The article's writer claimed to know of people wearing Crocs on cross-country tours, and so I began trying that too, wearing my bright green crocks and wool hiking socks out and about. How chique. Not. Nevertheless, I think we're on to something here and have been watching for "better" pedal systems, whether or not they include some sort of cleat or clip.

The other day, after returning from Interbike 2009, I posted the following note to Yahoo's RANS recumbent rider newsgroup. Recently, a friend and customer -- Dan, yellow V-Rex -- broke his leg when his shoe cleat refused to release from his clipless pedal. So, both for my own reasons, as well as having his injuries on my mind, I was intrigued by one pedal system I saw there, designed for BMX riders. My note follows.


I just got back from Interbike about an hour ago (2am now here in NYC). Vis a vis pedals, I saw something there that could be great for 'bent riders and directly addresses Dan's questions [regarding other pedal systems that people are using].

For two reasons -- both my own questions about whether clipless systems are optimal for 'bents and also knowing about your injury -- I have been on the lookout for better pedal systems. Like others, I have had close calls with clipless pedals using metal cleats in the shoes. (Brief note here: be very wary of worn out cleats and pedal clamps that have gone out of adjustment.)

At Interbike, I came across a small enterprise with a product that could be good for recumbents. They appear to have been designed for BMX racing, which is interesting because it seems that BMXers have to be able to get their feet on and off the pedals a lot.

Look up: Proton Magnetic Pedal Locks www.protonlocks.com

The magnetic pedal locks work by using a magnet on the pedal, and then a steel plate on your shoe, where the cleat would normally be. This lets you release far more easily, and I can see no reason why there would ever be a clip-out problem.

Furthermore, this addresses a concern I have with recumbent riders who tend to "pull up" hard on the pedal, to counter the push of the other foot, instead of mainly/only "pushing." I suspect this "pulling" can lead to knee injury. I find myself sometimes doing this when trying to crank up a hill w/o having a low enough gear. (Our knees seem to have evolved to be better adapted to pushing down against the ground rather than pulling up.)

With Proton's pedal locks, the magnets firmly hold ones shoes against the pedal so your feet won't slide off. It's a pretty interesting idea, easily applied to bents, and I think it could work well.

Other side note, for bents, I have good experience with Keo brand, though they are not walkable. My jury is still out on Speed Play. I seem to keep returning to GOOD -- not bad -- platform pedals and right now am happily using a pair of big grippy MKS Touring/Cyclocross platform pedals that are so good that I haven't missed cleats. I have also recently bought a set of Power Grips to test, for which I have high hopes, but haven't had a chance to try them.

[Addition, Sept. 2010]
Over the past year, I've kept the Power Grips on my "beater bent."  I've ridden regularly with them and have done some rather hilly routes.  In summary, they're good enough.  I don't feel I get a lot of power in the "pull" direction, but I may get a little.  Best thing is they hold my feet firmly to the pedals and so I believe I get a little more power on the "sides" of the pedal stroke.  A downside seems to be that I get a little knee pain on extremely long rides due to the need to constantly, slightly, twist one's legs to keep one's feet "gripped."  But what I particularly like is that they fit any shoe, so they're good for riding with boots in cold weather.  I use them with the MKS Touring pedals mentioned above and I'm pleased with the combination.

I hope this proves helpful to folks.

--- [Dec. 10, 2009 update] ---
A customer recently e-mailed me about the Proton pedals to see if I had more up to date information. We exchanged notes and he sent me a link (below) to a review.

The reviewer is rather luke warm on the pedals. At any rate, personally, since writing the entry here, I've been preferring instead to use high quality platform pedals for my urban stop/go/slow riding. It may remain a pretty good basic solution.


---end update---

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.