Press room - Recumbent Cyclist News 07/08/2004
HP Velotechnik in the news: the following text is an excerpt from the magazine Recumbent Cyclist News, issue 07/08/2004. We recommend to order the complete magazine from the publishing house to read the whole story.
RCN Road Test:
The HP Velo Street Machine
By Bob Bryant
The HP Velo Street Machine is a very refined short wheelbase (SWB) under-seat steering (USS), full suspension touring recumbent. The bike has a luxurious front and rear suspension, Euro hard shell seat and many unique details that make it a special bike.
While the Euro shell seat offers a firm ergonomic fit and surface to push against, the suspension is about as plush as they come. The German HP Velo design is efficient and finely tuned. The company has been building SWB USS recumbents since 1991.
Frame: The HP Velo frames are beautifully built in Taiwan. The details on the frames are better than any Taiwan frames that we´ve seen. The frames are shipped to Germany where there are powdercoated and assemble. The bikes are shipped to USA customers from the German factory. The bikes are carefully packed using lots of bubble wrap. Unpacking an HP Velo bike is a pleasurable experience.
The Street Machine´s little details make the bike. There are a host of braze-ons, including rack mounts, seat mounts, fender mounts and cable mounts. The bike has continuous cable housings and there are braze-on in a few places to direct the cable housing. I only counted one zip tie on the bike.
Rear suspension: The very comfortable and well designed HP Velo rear suspension uses a DNM DV 22 hydraulically dampened rear shock with adjustable preload. According to HP Velo, what makes the rear suspension so special is that "We´ve designed our rear suspension using our No-squat concept: the combination of a very rigid rear triangle with the sophisticated positioning of the point of pivot, and an extremely rigid picot point completely prevents activation of the suspension by force on the pedals." There isn´t much more to say. This may be the best SWB rear suspension.
An optional DT Swiss SSD 225 lightweight shock is also available.
Suspension Fork: Our test bike was outfitted with the Meks Carbon AC 20" fork. This fork offers adjustable hydraulic dampening, and an adjustable spring preload. The fork is carbon fiber reinforced with aluminum stanchion tubes. There is a "hard spring" option for anybody over about 225 pounds.
Steering: The Street Machine is offered with a direct USS steering requires a shorter wheelbase than is found on most SWB bikes today. The system works well, though some may be put off by the long stem and "USS tiller feel" of the steering. The "U" bars with bar-end shifters offer a wonderfully comfortable ergonomic feel for the controls - the best of any USS SWB recumbent we´ve tried.
Weight: The Street Machine is a relatively heavy bike, as are most well equipped touring recumbents. You just can´t have super light weights for a well equipped bike.
Components: The Shimano Deore rear derailleur and Tiagra front are shifted via Dura Ace bar-end shifters. While this works perfectly, an XT/105 upgrade is affordable ($79) and recommended - if for no other reason than the bike deserves it. A Rohloff 14-speed internal hub gear option is available for this bike ($890). The crankset is a forged alloy Tracer 30/42/52. Upgrades are available from your dealer. The coolest set up we´ve heard of is from Zach Kaplan who has set up a Street Machine with Rohloff 14 speed rear hubs and a Dura Ace double crankset up front /28 gears). I´d just like to see a simple MTB microdrive style triple offered as an opinion.
HP Velo outfits their bikes with the highest quality PTFE/Teflon chain tubes. Especially unique for a SWB, the chain is encased in a tube going in both directions. The power-side also rolls under a high quality oversize idler underneath the seat, just ahead of the idler.
The beauty of chain tubes is that they keep your pants clean, and these low friction tubes are as quiet as they come.
Braking: Our test bike came outfitted with the standard Tektro v-brakes and levers. These are fine, but not good enough for this fine recumbent. HP Velo offers several brake options:
- Tektro mechanical discs ($129)
- Tektro mechanical discs ($209; Rohloff)
- Magura hydraulic rim brakes ($159)
- Magura Marta hydraulic discs /$519)
- Magura Marta hydraulic discs Rohloff drivetrain ($599)
- Magura Julie hydraulic discs ($239)
In retrospect, I should have gone for the Tektro disc, but I´d like to see HP Velo offer an Avid mechanical disc option.
Wheels and Tires: Our test bike was outfitted with very nicely built wheels, with "Quando" hubs, Schurmann DM hollow chamber rims and DT Swiss spokes. The Quando hubs are a little known brand hub from Taiwan. They have cartridge sealed bearings and are reasonably high quality. However, a known brand name option would be nice on a bike of this caliber.
Tires: Our Street Machine came outfitted with the Kevlar-lined Schwalbe Marathon Reflex 1.5" 100 psi tires. These are fine touring or commuting tires, though they aren´t the best performing tires we´ve tried. The benefit is in the durability. We haven´t had a single Marathon flat tire.
Zach Kaplan is a recumbent dealer in the Bay Area of California who handles HP Velo. Zach had this to say about tires: "The stock Schwalbe Marathons have lots of rolling resistance. When I put Stelvios on the bike it totally transformed it with faster acceleration and higher level ground speeds and the ride was still very smooth. I´ve also put Kenda Kwests on them for someone wanting tires as wide as the stock ones but with lower rolling resistance."
Seat: The HP Velo Euro shell is the finest of its type we´ve seen. The seat quick releases to the frame in two spots. Custom plates with a few inches of adjustment range mount the seat to the base and back and provide 10 degrees of seat adjustment. The seat itself has a recessed center section which allows the mounting bolts to be covered with foam within the recessed fiberglass mid-section of the seat.
To optimize the seat comfort on this Euro shell seat, HP Velo outfitted the seat with several options:
-A custom "Ergo Add On" is a carbon fiber, anti-slide, curve between legs, seat nose-section. It´s adjustable to increase the size of the seat base (forward) ($29.90).
-Our test bike came with the optional carbon fiber headrest, which mounts to the top of the fiberglass seat shell ($29.90).
-Our test bike also came with the optional AirFlow seat cushion.
If you are unsure if you will be comfortable on a Euro shell seat, I recommend all of the above options. This was the most comfortable I´d been on a Euro shell. An upgraded carbon fiber seat is available ($139).
Ergonomics: The HP Velo Street Machine is a very reclined recumbent. (35° +/- 5° adjustment). The bottom bracket (BB) is 2+inches above the seat (barely detectable). I found the riding position very comfortable - once rolling. Climbing on the bike is a bit odd. You first must straddle the boom, get in between the wide under-seat steering (USS) bars and sit straight back, even with the seat in the most upward position. Starting off can be a bit weird the first time. The riding position is very European, not like your average American style SWB.
The benefit of this riding position is that it takes the weight off your hiney, and spreads it to your back. Recumbent butt shouldn´t be an issue on this bike. The laid back riding position presents its own set of concerns. First, it´s not the most user-friendly due to the extreme seat recline.
Some riders experience neck fatigue with laid back seats (the natural line of sight is up to the tree tops, not straight ahead. Upon my first ride, I thought that I may have found a Euro position recumbent that works for me. The optional headrest worked really well - until I put my helmet on. My Louis Garneau helmet has a dial adjuster across the lower back of the helmet. This is where the headrest comes into contact with my helmet. So unless you can find a helmet that works well with this headrest, or don´t wear a helmet (not recommended), or only use the headrest for rests, the concept just didn´t seem to work the way I had thought. (This has been my experience on every headrest I´ve tried. A neck rest or small pillow to prop up my neck might be a better idea, and could be adapted from this headrest).
Stability: The layout of the bike, wheelbase, steering geometry and road feel make the bike very forgiving and overall easier to ride than you´d think. The bike is moderately maneuverable. The long stem makes for a bit of USS tiller, though when riding the bike, the steering geometry does feel fairly neutral. In extreme sharp low speed turns, the bars come into contact with the seat and the ac stops. Overcoming these details came surprisingly easily for me.
Performance: The Street Machine is a rather heavy bike, with wide USS steering. It is extremely comfortable to ride, but high performance is not its forte. This is a European touring SWB USS recumbent. While no slouch, faster and more lightweight SWB recumbents do exist.
We asked Zach Kaplan about performance and the Street Machine. Here is what he had to say: "In a hilly area, not much. The lightest I ever got one was for a customer who wanted skinny tires. Got it down to 34 lbs. 2 oz. without pedals and with Stelvio tires. With the seat all the way laid back the aerodynamics are probably slightly better than a typical American style SWB like a V-Rex or Hepcat. Also the hard shell seat makes it climb better than the weight would make it seem. On one hilly course my average speed on the Street Machine was identical to that of my Trice Mini and both are equipped with Rohloff hubs."
Climbing: The HP Velo Street Machine climbs nicely, though you won´t race up the hills. The short 41"wheelbase makes turning easy, but the reclined position takes some getting used to when climbing steep hills. Lastly, for a touring bike, the Street Machine could use some lower gears. The 22 gear inch low won´t cut it with a full load going over a mountain pass.
Utility: The HP Velo Street Machine is a very unique bike. It´s a versatile touring SWB USS. This bike can do most anything you´re comfortable with.
Options & Accessories: HP Velo offers a long list of options and upgrades, many of which are mentioned in this article. Additionally, there are Dynamo lighting and hub generator systems, a lowrider rack ($95), rear rack (12mm tubular aluminum; $99), a Speedbag (aero lockable fairing/trunk;$419) and even a Streamer Lexan fairing ($279) with quick mount adapter. (We really liked our Streamer fairing on the HP Velo Spirit CLBW).
We also recommend the optional SKS Bleumels fenders ($39); Mirrcycle rearview mirror and mount ($29.90) and a kick stand. HP Velo offers two kickstands: one mounts to the lowrider rack ($14.90); the other to a braze-on on the swing-arm ($19.90).
Comparison: With Vision out of the market, there aren´t many SWB USS recumbents to choose from. HP Velo GrassHopper is a similar model that has dual 20" wheels, OSS or USS and full suspension. Watch for an upcoming review.
Pricing Details: HP Velo prices will vary depending on where you buy them. Some dealers don´t charge for shipping and duty, some might. I suggest you check the HP Velo website USA pricing sheet.
What´s not to like? This is one of the finest recumbents we´ve reviewed. It´s unique, high quality and there are many options to customize the bike to suit the owner.
If we had a criticism, it would be some of the upgrades. Many are to lighten the bike, make it heavier or stop better once it´s been made heavier. Due to our falling dollar, the Street Machine is an expensive bike, and with options, the price can increase quickly.
Other nitpicks: We´d like to see an upgrade path for the Quando hubs and Tracer crankset. And while they are at it, lower rearing for touring wouldn´t hurt. I´d like to suggest a Dore XT crankset.
Ergo Question: The crucial aspect of deciding whether the Street Machine is for you will be the laid back seat position. It doesn´t work for every ricer due to the potential helps somewhat, but you still have to want to be in a very laid back position.
Sure we have some criticisms, but the Street Machine is one fine recumbent bicycle. With it´s Euro-style ergonomics, extremely smooth HP Velo full suspension, and a host of custom upgrades, the Street Machine is the finest SWB USS recumbent available today - the ultimate recumbent magic carpet ride.
NOTE: Hp Velo has recently introduced their GrassHopper SWB model. This new offering has dual 20" 406mm wheels, a choice of direct USS or OSS, full suspension, and a new BodyLink adjustable Euro-style shell seat. Watch for an RCN review coming soon.
Most HP Velo buyers will want to upgrade to the Airflow seat cover. It provides more breathability and comfort. It really should be standard equipment on these bikes.
1. Beautiful high quality bike
2. Expedition ready
3. Friendly European mfr.
1. Laid back ergonomics
3. Old School short wheelbase
5. Needs lower touring gears
Why Buy This Bike
HP Velo is THE manufacturer of high quality touring and sport SWB USS recumbents - with a European flair.