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HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gt
By Bryan J. Ball, Editor
German recumbent manufacturer, HP
Velotechnik, has made news recently with the release of the high tech Speed
Machine semi lowracer and the more recent announcement of the impending Spirit
CLWB. However, it should not be forgotten that HP Velotechnik's stalwart
Street Machine and Street Machine GT full suspension touring bikes are what
made HP Velotechnik the force that it is today in the European recumbent market.
Just as the Speed Machine was looked at as a technological marvel when it debuted
last year, the Street Machine was also at the forefront of recumbent technology
when it hit the pavement in 1994. At that time, it was one of only a handful of
full suspension recumbents in existence and the Street Machine stood out as the
best of that small crowd.
As fully suspended recumbents became more prominent, HP Velotechnik refined their
Street Machine SWB and created the Street Machine Gran Turismo. The Gt entered
the scene in 1998 and immediately began garnering praise from the European cycling
The Street Machine GT has been most revered by touring and commuting cyclists.
This is due in large part to its long list of practical features, its durability
and its load carrying ability. During the years since its introduction, HP Velotechnik
has continued to refine the design and add features to further enhance
This latest version of the Street Machine Gt is based on the same chromoly
monotube design as its predecessors. It also still uses the same proven
"No Squat" rear swing arm design that was originally designed for this
bike. This swing arm can also be found on the Speed Machine semi-lowracer.
Appropriately enough, our test bike was covered with the same orange
powdercoat that has covered so many of these previous HP Velotechnik SWB's.
I have been exceedingly impressed with the build quality of every HP Velotechnik
bike I have ever encountered. I'm happy to say that this was also true with our
Street Machine Gt test bike. The welds were very good and the aforementioned
orange powdercoat was thick and polished. The frame was full of thoughtful
features like internal routing for generator lighting systems and braze-ons
galore for waterbottles, racks and fenders.
HP Velotechnik's seat is typical European fair. It's made of fiberglass and
comes with a choice of two different seat pads; a closed cell foam pad and a
fabric covered "air flow" version. The seat comes in multiple sizes to
make sure that it hits you just right. It's one of my personal favorites
amongst European-style seats and is features on both the Street Machine
Gt and the Speed Machine.
Of course everything is not the same as it ever was. The most noticeable
difference on our test bike was the new Meks carbon fiber suspension fork. I've
often complained about the level of technology exhibited in most 20"
suspension forks. I don't have any complaints about this one. It features
single piece carbon fiber reinforced legs, coil and elastomer springs, disc
brake mounts, 40mm of travel and FINALLY an adjustable hydraulic damper. It
looks pretty damn cool too. This is an extra cost option, but it is light years
beyond the stock Ballistic 600 and I highly recommend it.
The rear shock is still the same DNM DV-22 with adjustable preload that I've
seen on most European suspension bikes. It's an unremarkable, but functional
unit that yields 85mm of travel on the Gran Turismo. A much better ST8ARC with
an adjustable piggyback damper is available as an option.
The SMGT's drivetrain is also up to date. Our example came with the stock mix of
Shimano Deore, Tiagra and SRAM. HP Velotechnik uses the ever-present Dotek
crankset and provides a cool bottom bracket mounted chainguard to protect it.
The USS version uses Shimano Dura Ace tip shifters. The surprise component
choice was a pair of Quando roller-bearing hubs that I've never laid eyes on.
No idea how they'll hold up, but they roll VERY freely and look pretty good.
Best product I've ever seen with the name "Quando" on it, that's for
sure. The new hubs are laced to a pair of SchÃ¼rmann Double Master rims (never
saw those before either, but they seem strong). HP Velotechnik uses the very
durable Schwalbe Marathon tires. Our test bike used Tektro V-Brakes, but Magura
HS-33 rim brakes or Magura Clara discs are optional.
Unfortunately, this very complete and well-made package is not light. Our
tester weighed in at about 42 pounds with the rack and kickstand. This is
definitely a touring bike, not a racer.
The Street Machine Gt definitely has its own unique personality. If I had to
sum it up in one word, I would say "serene".
The HP Velotechnik seat is very comfortable once you find the right size and
the upturned USS bars fall very readily to hand. All of the brake and shifter
levers are in the right place and everything worked great. If you insist, an
OSS system is available.
Of course many recumbents are comfortable and shift great. The Gran Turismo's
suspension package is what really sets it apart. With the optional Meks
suspension fork, HP Velotechnik has finally found a front fork to match its
excellent "No-Squat" rear suspension design. The rear end works just
as well it says on the sticker and while I always thought that I had the
front suspension set too soft, it never showed any signs of excessive
pogo. The complete system is capable of soaking up some pretty serious
bumps. Riding off the occasional four-inch curb really isn't that
Combine that suspension with the SMGT's superb USS handling and the effect is
very much akin to riding on a little orange cloud. HP Velotechnik's touring
bike is plenty capable of tearing it up in the twisties and its calm demeanor
will surely tempt you to push its handling limits.
Fenders, racks and full suspension normally don't equal a fast bike and the
Street Machine Gt is definitely no speed machine (pun intended). However, it's
not a lumbering Neanderthal of a bike either. I was able to maintain some
pretty decent cruising speeds on the bike and the lack of any serious
suspension-induced power loss kept me going up the hills at a fairly acceptable
rate. In short, I would challenge too many racers on the Street Machine, but I
probably wouldn't be at all worried about taking the bike on a group ride
either. Its performance is nothing to write home about, but it's acceptable.
The Street Machine Gt really shines when it's burdened down with a heavy load.
To analyze the Gt's renowned pack mule qualities, I mounted the panniers from
my Greenspeed on the rear rack and hooked up my B.O.B. trailer to rear end for
some "heavy testing." The bike's handling seemed barely phased by a
load of almost 75 pounds. As Yoda would say, "Tour, she will!"
The 2002 Street Machine Gt starts out at a pretty reasonable $1750 with a
Ballistic fork and the same component package as our test bike. Our test bike
added the Meks Carbon AC fork ($149), a rear rack ($95) and a kickstand ($15).
Other options include a Shimano 105/XT component package, a Rohloff Speed Hub,
disc brakes, more rack options, fenders and lighting systems. You can basically
order a very complete touring machine direct from HP Velotechnik through your
dealer without ever having to touch a mail order catalog.
The Street Machine Gt may not be your typical, flashy high performance European
SWB, but it is probably the most practical and capable recumbent made on the
continent. They don't get too much more durable than this, and the bike is
truly capable of round-the-work trips if you ever choose to do anything that
extreme. It's got some of the best handling characteristics I've ever seen in
a USS bike and HP Velotechnik's attention to detail is outstanding.