Thursday, May 27, 2010

There is HP Velotechnik, and then there's the rest.

I don't like to play favorites, but time and again, I'm amazed by the way HP Velotechnik pays attention to tiny but crucial details.

They do a better job of wrapping bikes, than most.

Here is a Street Machine Gte in the process of being unwrapped for final assembly. Almost every other bicycle manufacturer in the world could learn something from this photo.

Of course you can clearly see this is a Scorpion fs about to be unpacked. Ain't nothin' getting scratched or dented or bent in that box.

Having said this, mind you, Volae packs their bikes equally well, which is why I also like Volae. That is to say, I like manufacturers who, when you buy a fresh new bike from them, you receive a fresh new bike. (Why all manufacturers can't do this is a complete friggin' mystery to me.)

It's in the tiny things, where they really set themselves apart. Like, with a simple water bottle. Friends, there are water bottles, and then there are HP Velotechnik Moonbiker water bottles.

Look closely. In case you missed it...
- It has two-color printing (not just one-color).
- It is translucent, so you can see what's in it and how much remains.
- The plastic doesn't smell nasty. (But you can't see that.)
- The graphic is huge, covering most the water bottle (costs more, looks better).
- It has a good well-threaded screw top with a good nipple so it simply works better. (You can't see that either.)
- It has milliliter markings on the side. Check it out.
- And, of course, each water bottle arrives separately, and entirely, wrapped in a sheet of bubble wrap so you get it in perfect condition.

Who else cares so deeply about the people who ride their bikes, and the quality of that experience, that they go to this kind of effort? Very few, my friends, very few.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2010 Robert Matson

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tubus racks on Volaes

The Tubus Logo. The classic touring rack. Now available for Volae recumbents.

For fast, light bikes, Volae bents are unique in that the steel frames readily accept racks and fenders and provide braze-ons (really, mounting holes) at the drop outs for this purpose.  With bents though, it's always a challenge to fit racks to the unusual geometry of the bikes.  Some bent manufacturers (Rans and HP Velotechnik stand out in this regards) make proprietary racks to ensure the racks fit the bikes.  And of course TerraCycle makes their excellent low-rider/underseat racks for Volaes.

For Volaes, up till now, the generally accepted solution has been to use the excellent Old Man Mountain racks, which can fit nearly any bike.  I continue to recommend them for any hard-to-fit ride that needs a rack and lower cost applications.

However, we're enthusiastic to now make public our work testing high quality Tubus racks on Volae bents and we are recommending them without hesitance, particularly for commuting, touring and urban applications.  We couldn't be happier with the match-up between a great bent and a great rack.

Possibly the most significant needs filled by Tubus racks, as it relates to city riders and tourers, are (1) a good rear light mount on the rack, (2) additional mounting holes for fenders, (3) they leave open the skewer if, for example, you want to attach a Bob trailer for a shopping trip*.  If nothing else, this makes Tubus racks stand out.  They have other good qualities as well. (*Volae does not recommend using Bob single track trailers for Volae bikes, so use at your own risk.)

Tubus' titanium "Airy." Weighs 8 oz, carries 66 lbs.  Note the two holes at the bottom of the supports; one for the bike, the other for attaching fenders.

Besides the light and fender mounts and liberated quick release, there are numerous other reasons why we like Tubus racks.

- Strong, well-made, well-designed, and carry a heavy load.  (The 25 ounce Logo model carries 88 lbs. and has lowered pannier rails for improved center of gravity.)

- Available in strong and lightweight 25CrMo4 steel, beautiful stainless steel, or titanium.

- The featherweight titanium versions start at 8 oz. (the Airy) and carry a remarkable 66 lbs.  (The well-deserving Airy won the 2006 Eurobike Award.)  For touring, the TI Carry, with lowered pannier rails, weighs only 12.3 oz and also carries 66 lbs.

- A rear light mount at the rack's back (50mm European-style mount).  Allows proper positioning of a rear light for great visibility. Enables use of B & M dynamo-driven front and rear lights.

- A model that works for disk brakes (the "Disco" model).

- The Disco model includes parts for mounting to the quick release skewer, if no rack/fender braze-ons are available or filled with fender mounts.  A new (longer) quick release skewer is included (and it's a good one).

- For non-disc brakes bikes, Tubus provides a very wide choice of racks.

- There are fender mounts on the rack itself (though not on the disco), so you can easily mount both fenders and a rack. This is a truly wonderful feature because otherwise it's a pain in the neck to mount ordinary fenders (like Planet Bike) along with a rack and it can weaken the mounting for both the rack and fenders.

- Racks (e.g., Logo) can mount on quick release skewers when rack/fender braze-ons are unavailable (Tubus' QR mounting kit required).

- Racks such as the Logo, Cosmo, Locc, and Carry all have lowered pannier rails, enabling recumbent riders to mount their panniers a few inches lower, to obtain a lower center of gravity. This also allows for full use of the top deck of the rack.

- Sleek and stylish but practical design.

- Long and highly adjustable arms for mounting to the seat stays.

- Seat stay arms that are pre-bent with an S-bend are available. But since the arms are aluminum, one may also bend the arms to fit a given need.

- Strong optional clamps from Tubus attach to the seat stays to provide for extremely secure attachment.  The clamps are also sold by us at New York City Recumbent Supply(TM)/The Innovation Works, Inc.  I strongly recommend using the purpose-built Tubus clamps instead of generic P-clamps and I use the 14mm clamps.

Above, Tubus clampset for mounting a carrier on Volae seat stays.

For installation, one note of caution, or rather of patience, is that if you're (correctly) installing a Disco along with Volae's kickstand gizmo plus fenders, is that it is a long and tedious process due to the way all the parts interconnect.  However, take your time and do it right.  You'll be well-rewarded with a light and fast bent that can also carry groceries home from the greenmarket.



Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2010 Robert Matson

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Why would you want fenders on a city commuter or touring bike?

There is basically one reason: cleanliness.  And I don't mean hygiene.

A big difference between a commuting or touring bike and a sport bike for day trips is choice.  Choice about whether or not you go out riding.  For a day trip, you can choose whether or not to go riding and which bike you'll ride -- the beater or the good bike.  But for commuters or tourers, you're stuck.  Rain or shine, you're out there.  If you're touring, you can either sit out a rainy day and miss your next stop, or try and ride between the rain drops when it rains in the middle of a day, or you can go out and ride in the rain to the next hotel or campsite on your itinerary.  If you're commuting, either you ride to work, or back home, or you figure out some other way of getting there.  Subway?  (Gross.)  Car?  (Gross.)  Bus?  (Sick.)  Helicopter?  (Noisy.)

There are other choices too.  Ride through a puddle or damp spot on the road, or not.  Ride down a dirt road, or not.  Do, or don't do; your choice.

What fenders do, is to keep the water, mud and dirt that might be flung up from the tires away from the bike and the rider.  But how much does it matter?  Is it worth the fuss?

What can get messy?........Does it matter?

Rider.......................You decide.  Wearing nice clothes? (Matters.)  Is it cold out and you don't want cold water flung up on you? (Matters.)  Don't want particles thrown up into your eyes?  (Matters.)  Letting someone else take their first bent ride on your bike in their best clothes?  (Matters.)  Don't care if you get dirty and muddy? (Doesn't matter.)

Other Riders............Matters.  It's a real drag to be riding behind someone who doesn't have fenders when they go through a puddle or it's raining.  Fluid is thrown up off the back wheel into your face and onto your clothes and bike.  So, simply for being considerate of others, fenders matter.

Chain.......................Are you in a dry environment with a good dry lube?  (Doesn't matter as much.)  Wet, dirty, sandy roads?  (Matters, since your chain will work better and require more infrequent replacement if you keep it clean. Likewise, this diminishes wear on the chain rings and cassette.)  Do you simply like having a clean chain so your leg doesn't get as greasy while you ride?  Or so your hands don't get as greasy when you lock up the bike?  (Matters.)

The Bike..................You decide.  Of course, you may prolong the pretty paint if you keep dirt and grime off the bike or if you gently clean it after every ride.  Generally easier to just use fenders.

The Headset...............Grunge off the front wheel is thrown up against the bottom of the headset.  Slowly but surely it creeps in through the gaps and creeps into the bearings.  (This matters.)  This dirt will slowly and surely wear down your headset.  Bad news because not only is this a critical component, but it's also an expensive one.  Of course, with periodic disassembly and cleaning, you can keep the headset clean.  With fenders, and less periodic cleaning, you can also keep it clean and lasting for a long time.

Care about speed?
I've read on the internet somewhere (so it might be absurd) that a tightly fitting fender would decrease wind resistance at the top of a tire by shielding the contrary motion of the top of the tire from the headwind.  (The top of your tire is moving at high speed in the opposite direction of the bike.)  This sounds reasonable.  It also stands to reason that if one shields this part of the tire, especially if it's a treaded tire, there will be a lower energy expenditure to maintain a given speed.  But it seems the fender would need to fit well or else it could create additional wind resistance.  And by logic it seems the fender would need to extend along the front of the wheel to give this advantage.  If one is concerned specifically with this, one may be better off using smooth tires as being the easier option.  Of course, carefully crafted fenders would be even better.

Care about weight?
Fenders add weight.  There are lightweight fenders available.  HP Velotechnik makes carbon fiber fenders for the Scorpion series trikes.

The problem with fenders in a race is that if they fall or break off, it could cause a significant accident.

The best thing about fenders?
You can put them on and take them off to your heart's content.  It's especially easy if your bike is designed for them.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2010 Robert Matson