Press room - Cycling Plus August 1999
HP Velotechnik in the news: the following text is an excerpt from the British bike magazine Cycling Plus, issue no. 08/1999. We recommend to order the complete magazine from the publishing house to read the whole story.
A laid-back Richard Grigsby tries out the versatile one-size-fits-all full suspension Street Machine recumbent.
Richard Grigsby is a qualified engineer, bike shop owner, ex-recumbent racer and twice British unfaired recumbent champion.
Unlike the trusty diamond frame which, save for a few minor tweaks, has remained the same since the last century the recumbent continues to evolve. Here though, we're testing what could become the standard in short-wheelbase, fullsuspension recumbents for the new millennium.
The Street Machine's main frame is manufactured from 4130 CrMo steel which is subsequently rust-proofed with zinc phosphate before powder coating. Standard colours are orange or dark blue, with custom colours available for an extra £60.
To lower the height of the pedal bracket the main frame is kinked above the front wheel and the headtube pierces the main frame with classic SWB recumbent simplicity. Two 6mm Allen bolts clamp the telescopic front boom. The front suspension forks have elastomer damping and can be adjusted to cope with different ride weights via an external preload dial.
The seat is pivot-mounted on the main frame with quick-release clamps allowing 10° of adjustment. The seat's back-frame is made front glass reinforced fibre supported by the upper leg of the "Y" main frame.
A tubular steel rear rack mounts on the back of the main frame with its lower support bolting onto the pivot point of the rear suspension. This rack also acts as a mounting platform for a range of aerodynamic rear fairing/luggage carriers starting at 245. [Note by HP Velotechnik: A little mistake, the rear fairing replaces the rear carrier.] Up to four "lowrider" style panniers can be mounted under the main boom between the two wheels.
The rear triangle pivots along the chain line using plain teflon bushes. Bush wear life shouldn't be too bad as the only torsional stress will come from the rider's pedalling forces, leaving all other road-induced forces to be handled in-line with the rear triangle's line of movement. A coil-over-shock suspension spring and damper unit sits behind the seat and is adjustable for spring rate by screwing the spring's compression collar in or out along the damper body. Adjustable damping is available for an extra £95.
A sturdy metal chainwheel guard, full tubular plastic chain covers and quiet-running rollers keep the drive train clean and quiet.
Any SWB recumbent feels a little ponderous to the uninitiated rider. The unloaded Street Machine's meagre 38mm of trail helped it join the ranks of the ponderous without hesitation. With a rider on board this figure would have been more as the rear-end squat relaxed the head tube. In my own experience the only really steady recumbents have been the Streetglider with its negative-rake forks and the Trice three wheeler.
Because of its small stabilising trail figure, the Street Machine was easy to handle and went where it was pointed at low to moderate speeds.
Considering its touring pretenses the handling was pretty sharp and I kept having to remind myself to relax.
Swinging into bends and descending were handled well, probably because of the way the suspension positively affected the handling giving great reassurance to the ride. Ridges like lorry channels in the Tarmac could be traversed with an ease unfamiliar to rigid recumbent riders. The 3 1/2 in rear suspension travel soaks up virtually all bumps and you can drop of kerbs without the usual spine-jarring jolt.
Bearing in mind my preference for mesh-covered frame seats I was pleasantly surprised with the rigid seat on the Street Machine, the shape of which is ubiquitous in Europe, its contours well proven. The firm foam pad was comfortable and no "numb-bum" was experienced. An alternative "Air-Flow" seat cushion in "air-permeable" fabric is available for an extra £35. Basically, you sweat using this seat. On long trips getting back onto the bike is a soggy experience until your sweat-soaked top warms up!
The seat is adjustable which is useful for those wanting to trim their position. I could have coped with a slightly more laid-back seat angle and felt I was not quite perfectly poised, especially over rough ground.
The high pedal bracket was good for aerodynamics as the legs are held within the riders frontal profile. This high foot-position was initially tiring on longer rides, comparing unfavourably to low brackets on LWB touring recumbents.
Alesa Explorer rims are a perfect choice for an all-round recumbent. They will withstand potholes well and their semi-deep section should outlast any standard flat-profile rim. 2mm plain gauge spokes add to the robust quality of rims and Sachs/SON dynohub. Choosing a 26in MTB rim for the rear is also highly recommended as there are many brilliant MTB slick tyres out there. The Vredestein Monte Carlos are just one of those good gripping, fast rolling combinations.
Refreshingly non-Shimano, the Street Machine uses a Sachs rear hub, rear derailleur and shifters. The front hub fitted to our test bike is a beautiful SON dynamo generator powering Busch & Muller lights. For added safety the rear light has a capacitor powered standlight providing continuous lighting even when stopped. This complete lighting system costs an extra £190 or a 'bottom bracket' type system can be specified for an extra £105.
The non-Shimano theme is continued with a Dotek chainset and a front derailleur by SunTour. All gear changes at the front were quick, accurate and, being in full view, easy to manage. Gear changes at the rear however were completely invisible because both the gear indicators on the twistgrips and the rear mech were out of view. Apart from a bit of over-shift these changes were reliable and twisting the grips the right way became second nature after a few rides.
Aiming for the impossible "one size fits all" the main boom adjusts to suit riders between 1.62m (5' 4") and 2m (6' 7") tall. Expect to add or remove chainlinks for adjustments above a few inches.
I rode the Street Machine to work, around town and country lanes - and would have no qualms loading it up for lightweight touring. The lack of really low gears would need addressing as the existing 26in bottom gear was hard work even unloaded! Even though the bike did not get very mucky riding along muddy towpaths, I would also add mudguards to save cleaning and accelerating wear on suspension bushes etc.
A clear plastic front fairing is available for £230 which, combined with the rear tailbox, should make a fast and weather-protected vehicle. Curbing extra speed can be a problem but the Magura Louise front disc brake option (an extra £315) will sort that and get rid of rim brake squeal.
Under-seat steering with the forward curved Ergobars was comfortable and mostly relaxed. Above-the-knees steering with a pivoting, ease-of entry/crash-friendly stem is available for an extra £70.
Cycling Plus Verdict
The Street Machine runs seriously close to setting the standard for SWB full suspension recumbents. Its suspension makes it safe, comfortable and efficient.
My only reservations are around the Street Machine's rigid seat which, by description, has to fit the contours of your back to work well.
All equipment is sourced from high quality sources - interestingly and distinctively not from the house of Mr Shimano - so should last almost as long as the rider's smile.
The basic model is good value at £1150 - but if you've got the money you can also customise this to your own specifications with extras of your choice, including custom colours for an extra £60.
Comfortable and safe, the Street Machine sets the standard for full-suspension short wheelbase recumbents.