Monday, October 28, 2013

Street Machines hobnob on Bear Mountain on a perfect fall day.

Another beautiful day on Bear Mountain in New York. Two Street Machines, and two street machines, and a lot of long hills. Photo copyr. 2013 R Matson
Last weekend, a friend and I went for a two-day ride around Harriman State Park on our Street Machine Gtes.  The weather was spectacular, if cold and breezy, and the fall foliage was on the early side of peak.  One of us went off into the weeds while trying unsuccessfully to make a tight high speed turn, the other fell into a lake.  In both cases, don't ask why.  Or how.  But one thing is clear: we had fun.

Go enjoy a view,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Azub Origami is in the house.

The "Origami," made by Azub in the Czech Republic.

This pretty folding recumbent bike arrived the other week.  This is an Azub Origami.

Kitted out with SON dynamo hub and full light system with Busch and Mueller Lumotec Lyt headlight and the ever-reliable Bumm Toplight Plus at the rear, fenders, shock-absorbing Schwalbe Big Apple tires, and a rear rack welded into the frame, it begins to approach a reasonable answer to the Brompton for the recumbent bike world.  I'm not sure anything comes close to a Brompton in terms of sheer magic of fold, small size and ride quality, but designers keep taking swipes at the top of the pole, always getting closer.  For recumbents, inherently long and heavy, it's a worthy challenge to make a folder that is just as fun to ride as a non-folding bent.  The Origami folds pretty easily, the seat can remain attached, there's nothing too weird or complicated about it, you (I) can pick it up with one hand once it's folded.  It weighs about 36 lbs with the extras shown here which, in fact, is only about 6 lbs. heavier than my 30 lbs. Brompton with all the same accessories, so we're well within striking range.  I think a dyed-in-the-lycra weight weenie -- I originally mistakenly wrote died-in-the-lycra, which is awfully friggin' bleak but, frankly, barely registers as a slip for the cycling realist -- could get it down to 30 lbs. by throwing money at the problem.  This is the Shimano Alivio 8-spd drivetrain, so it's not as if we tried to shave grams anywhere.  Bike payload is 100kg (220 lbs).

Interesting note: the red paint is matte as opposed to gloss.  That was a nice surprise.  Matte colors are less common on bikes in the USA than gloss colors and, IMHO, lend a refined appearance.  But those attached to gloss will need to be aware of this.

Ride Quality
When you have a small-wheeled bike, you lose the stability created by the gyroscopes of larger wheels.  I think stability is a matter of perception, assuming we have a professional quality bike and strong legs, and riders will only notice greater or lesser stability at extremely low speeds, like on steep hill climbs or making slow tight turns on city streets.  Azub has done something interesting as concerns this quality.  By stretching out the wheel base of a small wheeled bike, they have counteracted somewhat the "instability" of small wheels.  Of course, when you stretch out the wheelbase, you lose something in turning radius -- it gets larger -- and in compactness -- it gets longer -- but I really like this company's creativity, both in this solution and in other places.  Since the Origami has above-seat steering and a wheel that turns backwards should you wish, you can make your extra sharp 91 degree turns.  Another note about this "stability" issue.  I tend to look askance at claims that a given bike is "unstable."  Instability problems may be problems of rider balance, skill and core strength in combination with the forces that create instability, like speed, payload, center of gravity, absence of wheels....  Once one masters a given machine, assuming it's a straight frame, round wheels, and an appropriate center of gravity, instability (should) become less an issue.  Is it the bike that's unstable, or is it the rider?  A unicycle is unstable, but you know what?

Wheelbase comparison:
Azub Origami: 122 cm (48")
HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx: 109 cm (43")
The Grasshopper has that sporty, nimble feel for which HP Velotechnik's are famous, but it also has a tiny bit more of a learning curve, compared to the Origami.  The Origami has a touch of that long bowsprit feeling when making tight turns and navigating within buildings, but you get used to it.

Something cool:
The Origami's seat can be reclined from 50 to 20(!) degrees.  That is unusual.  The result is a machine that can make the upright-sitting crowd happy, but also those riders who want a seriously aero machine can get that too.  I can enjoy an aero bike, so I was pretty happy to discover how far I could recline the seat.  Also, the above seat bars are more an aero praying mantis style than a Harley chopper style.  On both points, you might (or might not) lose something in comfort to gain something in speed, but I thought it was a good move.  It helps confirm Azub's character as a manufacturer of sporty, performance-oriented bents as opposed to sofa-cycles.  They're still working in a crowded marketplace, but they are offering something good that is a little different than the others, making them well worth checking out.

Another note about the seat and the fit.
Azub uses both a sliding boom and a seat slider on the frame.  Fine, it's easy enough to find that perfect adjustment of seat angle and leg length with any decent boom and seat angle adjustment system, but what is really noteworthy is that you can also adjust the location of your center of gravity on the bike, fore and aft, between the wheels.  That's pretty critical with a performance-oriented bent that allows a severe seat recline.  Otherwise, as you recline the seat, you end up moving your CoG over the rear wheels, which causes a dangerously lightened front wheel.  So, the upright-sitting crowd can to dial in their CoG same as the reclined crowd.  Excellent design work.

Stay reclined, stay healthy,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Recumbent Cycle-Con Trade Show & Convention, November 1 - 3, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Street Machine Gte: is factory gearing low enough?

Me (Robert) at the end of the road at the top of Whiteface Mtn. with my Street Machine Gte. The factory gearing (and my legs) got me and my luggage there okay.

On the Yahoo Group for HP Velotechnik owners, there has been an interesting sharing of perspectives on the standard gearing for the HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gte.

I share it here, edited to the essential parts about gearing:

From original poster L Campbell:

I would appreciate suggestions as to how long an axle should be for a triple and also, does the factory suggest any minimum / maximum sizes for the chainrings?

Zach Kaplan of Zach Kaplan Cycles wrote in:
The stock crankset on the Street Machine has 52-42-30 rings. They have used various brands of cranksets and spindle lengths over the years. To get lower gearing, I have replaced the stock 30T inner rings with 26T or 24T rings. I have also set up Street Machines with MTB cranksets with 44-32-22 rings which I think is a better gear range for a bike designed for loaded touring.

Writer Ed Walkling seemed to have a similar view:
When I get a new (secondhand) GT the first thing I do is change the crankset. I find the standard chainrings much too large for full camping gear touring or pulling my daughter in the trailer.
I run 22, 32, 44 chainrings as said before and also use a large 36 tooth cassette giving me a very low gear. This allows me to pull the trailer up a steep gravely hill we use often on the way back from our local town.
The axle length on your bottom bracket will be determined by the crankset you choose to install. Only the shell diameter and width is predetermined by the frame. As you have a deralieur post you should be fine fitting a triple.

My (Robert's) own view was the following.  I tried to provide context so others may translate my experience to their own terrain and habits.

I'd like to contribute to the range of perspectives about the SMGte's factory gearing since I have a different experience.
I ride an SMGte for solo, self-supported, loaded touring, carrying all gear for shelter, cooking, repairs and travel.  My last tour, this past July, was a 12-day, 750-mile rainy (cycling) trip through the Adirondacks in New York State with a brief dog-leg through Vermont.  I basically followed the Adventure Cycling Association's "Adirondacks Loop."  The trip included constant and often steep elevation changes on both improved and "unimproved" roads: paved, dirt, farm, trail, mud, broken asphalt, etc.
The steepest, longest incline during the trip was up Whiteface Mtn., the ski mountain used during the two Lake Placid Winter Olympics.  I rode up with full panniers, which, in addition, were particularly heavy due to my having been caught in daily thunderstorms without a chance to dry my gear.  From the direction I was riding, it was a 10-mile climb, in all, with long steep grades, often between 8-10% during the last five miles, and a somewhat rough winter-damaged asphalt surface.

This is the elevation profile for the Whiteface Mtn. section of the Adventure Cycling Association's Adirondacks Loop.
I rode with HPV's factory-supplied Shimano XT drivetrain with their Truvativ Tuoro crankset and their 155 mm (short) crank arms.  It was okay.  I believe the Elita crankset yields more power output and 170 mm crankarms would give a lower gearing, but I didn't leave the trip believing I needed yet lower gears.
The RPMs of my preferred cadence may be slower than those who prefer lower, mountain bike gearing; I, personally, seem to have better slow twitch than fast twitch leg muscles.  Between me and others, there may also be differences in the weight of the payload, rider plus luggage, as well as strength.

It's important to remember that the cadence speed of one rider may be very different from that of another and that cadence will hugely effect the optimal choice of gearing.  A rider with a high cadence may benefit from mountain bike gearing for loaded touring.  But a rider with a low cadence may not, and may really regret losing the higher "cruising" gears, as the chain rings are all reduced in size.

It is also impossible to predict the future.  In this case, I mean that you don't know how you'll pedal after you become an experienced rider on a specific bike.  When you're new to a bike, you may pedal with one cadence, but as you get to know the bike and grow stronger, you may develop a preference for a different cadence.  Also, on a new bike, you might begin with one seat angle or boom length (x-seam length) or cleat position or leg extension, and that may lead you to prefer one cadence.  As you become stronger and more experienced, if you're like many other people, you will tweak these things and those tweaks may effect cadence.  Also, in my own case, I find that the time I spend in the saddle changes my preferred cadence; on long trips and long days, I seem to prefer a slow cadence.  On short trips and day rides I seem be happy with a faster cadence.  Maybe I don't know what I'm doing; maybe a great coach would tune my cadence and it'd be better if I pedaled the same way always.

I continue to believe it's fine and maybe best to start with the factory's gearing, and use that to get to know the bike and yourself as a rider of that bike.  As you develop your strength and technique on a particular frame, you'll come across instances where the gearing wasn't quite what you needed -- not high enough, not low enough, not close enough, not wide enough.  Then, based on personal experience, you can experiment with your set-up and hone in on your optimal gearing.

All that said, there is indeed one good shortcut to slowly and surely putting in the miles and experimenting as you ride.  It's called "intensely putting in miles and experimenting as you ride."

Have fun and -- why not:? -- try something new,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Recommended chain lubricants

For the chains on HP Velotechnik and Azub bikes:
- T9 Boeshield.  This is a good all weather dry lube.  HP Velotechnik chain tubes have teflon particles in the tubes, so they are very low friction.  Our concern is not to introduce gunk into the chain tubes.  T9 is the product for that.

Since CB's have a traditional chain, with no tube, you can choose whatever lube you prefer.  These are my favorites:
- T9 Boeshield (for a dry lube)
- No. 5 Chain-L, Huile de Chaine (for a tenacious wet lube)

There are a few other products I sometimes use. They're the usual suspects: Finish Line, White Lightning, Phil's Tenacious, etc.  And I have a few other "secret" lubes that I experiment with, but, sorry, they're secret.

One not-so-secret lube is graphite dust applied liberally to the outside of the chain.  Very old school, dirty as heck, and highly effective.

What you DON'T want to use on your chain:
- WD40
- Fluids that penetrate and remove grease from the chain (grease is good).

To clean dirt off your chain, simply use a clean dry dust-free rag to wipe off the dirt.

Before all else, I should probably say, you need to start with a clean high quality chain.  You can't turn a dirty old chain into a good and efficient chain.  Chains are cheap.  So are cassettes and chain rings.  Start fresh.

High quality chains, such as those from Shimano, KMC and SRAM, have been assembled in the factory with industrial grade lubricants.  So, that job has been done for you, better than most people could ever do it themselves.  Generally, you just want to protect that industrial grade lubricant and keep dirt particles from getting inside the chain (inside the chain's bushings).  Dirt on the inside of the chain's bushings causes the greatest amount of friction and wear.

Corrosion on the outside (and inside) of the chain is something you want to avoid, by keeping your chain lubed.  If you have chain tubes on your bike, you'll want to dry off your chain between rain storms because moisture inside the chain tubes will cause corrosion on the outside of the chain.

Dirt on the outside isn't a huge concern in terms of performance and wear.  For one thing, you can't do much about it, so there's little point in worrying about it.  There may need to be asterisks and foot notes here (you need a clean chain before applying lube; dirt on the outside may be desirable, it actually may prevent dirt from getting inside the bushings; dirt on the outside will wear your chain rings and cassette, but you can't stop parts wearing out, same as you can't stop entropy; dirt on the outside of a chain may mask corrosion on the outside which you definitely do not want; the best thing of all for long term chain and "cog" life is to have a bike with an enclosed drive train, e.g., Flevobike's Green Machine).

Are you keeping all this straight?  The main thing to remember is this: start fresh, apply T9.

Your mechanic may have a few chain maintenance secrets too.  There's no reason not to go with whatever they suggest.

Have fun and stay healthy,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Granny Gear" banned from shop as sexist terminology.

Here at New York City Recumbent Supply we have officially banned the phrase "granny gear" to describe that single easiest, hill-climbing gear on a bicycle.  It's sexist terminology and has no place in this shop.  Also, I'm among many recumbent cyclists who frequently find themselves using that gear on steep hills; so what does that make me?  Yes, a granny.

So, from now on, that single easiest, hill-climbing gear on a bike shall be known as the "mountain gear."  That makes me, and everyone else who uses that lowest gear, a mountaineer.  And I like that better.

Have fun and stay young forever,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson