Press room - Recumbent UK 04/02
HP Velotechnik in the news: the following text is an excerpt from the English magazine Recumbent UK, vol. 4/2002. We recommend to order the complete magazine from the publishing house to read the whole story.
The Street Machine
The HPVelotechnik Street Machine has been around for a few years now and has earned a deservedly excellent reputation as a reliable and practical all-rounder. The Street Machine GT, which we are testing here, has a number of upgrades and improvements to the original which, essentially, bring the bike up to date and make it, on paper, a very competitive machine.
First thing is that the bike looks great - it's sleek, and, to your eyes, the proportions look just right. However, it's much more than just looks, the bike features front and back suspension, a highly adjustable seat, a good component and accessory package, under or over seat steering, and excellent chain management.
Recumbent, SWB bikes in particular, benefit greatly from having suspension, and over the last few years more and more manufacturers have been offering some level of suspension, either as part of the package or as option. The GT comes standart with a Ballistic XL-450 AII elastomer and steel spring fornt fork, Ballistic MM22 rear suspension, with the option of hydraulic forks for rougher roads and a disc brake for heavily laden mountain tours. However, it is at the rear end that HPVelotechnik have done most of their development.
The problem with rear suspension design is to prevent activation of the suspension by force on the pedals, but by concentraiting on a very rigid rear triangle and the placing and rigidity of the pivot point, HPVelotechnik have come up with their very effective "No-Squat-Design". Again there are all sorts of damper and spring adjustments and options to cater for different rider weights, riding preferences and use.
The recumbent seat is another problem area for designers. It is very difficult to design a seat that is comfortable for all shapes and sizes and we are increaslingly convinced that some sort of adjustment is essential. HPVelotechnik obviously feel the same and their very middle position about 35° from horizontal. The seat is covered with, essentially, a high grade, closed cell camping mat, which is ideal for this type of seat. For hotter weather, or people who are troubled by sweat build-up on the back, there is the option of a soft nylon mesh material with a high wicking cover. Both are very comfortable, but we didn't have the opportunity to test the latter, 'air-flow' cushion in the conditions for which it is designed and, anyway, we have not yet had an overheat problem with any closed cell foam covered hard seats.
The steering configuration is another example of HPVelotechnik's commitment to rider comfort and satisfaction. They recommend the USS version, but knowing that this is not to everyone's taste and that it does have advantages in some applications, offer the option of ASS.
Chain management is another area that has changed significantly over the last few years. It used to be all pulleys, but gradually, lead by the maintland Europeans, tubes are taking over. The Street Machine uses a combination of tubes are taking over. The Street Machine uses a combination of tubes and pulleys, keeping the chain in position and keeping the muck that accumulates on it away form legs and trousers. Not so common yet, but possibly destined to become a standart feature on all recumbents, is the chainring protector.
For those not familiar with the older machine, the frame is large diameter, inert gas welded, 4130 Cromo, with some of the tubes being butted and ovalised according to the direction of the load. The workmanship is of a high quality and finishing good and durable.
Naturally we were keen to try out the suspension and, as always, the best way to test such things is to ride up the nearest steep to hill, preferably with a heavy load. And yes, we were impressed. This bike really is exceptionally good when pressed - the 'No-Squat-Design' does just what it claims and the very stiff frame adds to the excellent, stable feel. One result of the suspension that does take a bit of getting used to is a gently 'jack-knifing' on heavy breaking. Nothing untoward, but a little strange at first.
A lot of SWB bikes have a bit of a problem with step-over heights - shorter riders have difficulty getting on, and then starting and stopping - and the original Street Machine was no exception. The GT is much improved in this area and has become a very easy machine to handle. That said, the step-over with USS was still a bit difficult for our shorter test rider and we would recommen the ASS for anyone who rides an upright frame of less than a 20". The USS also suffers form limited lock. Not a problem out on the road, when most turning is by leaning, but a bit tricky for low speed tight manoeuvres.
Overall we were very impressed with the Uss, which feels stiff and very direct, and is shaped so that bars and controls fall to hand in a very relaxed and natural way. Similarly with the seat. We find seats around 250 to 400, because they spread the weight over a large area, to be most comfortable for any sort of distance and that of the GT, with its good range of adjustment and excellent shape, is amongst the best we have ridden.
Overall the Street Machine GT is an excellent machine to ride. The combination of a very stiff frame and steering (linkage), the geometry, well sorted suspension, and thoughtfull ergonomics lead to the rider feeling completly at one with the machine. Essentially the rider relaxes onto his machine and remains that way until the kjourney ends - no drama, just comfort, solidness, and certainty.
The Street Machine GT is one of the most thoroughly designed packages we have been fortunate enough to test. The bike itself is delightful to ride and there are sufficient adjustments and options that it can be tailored to suit any rider or requirement. In addition there is a complete package of accessories; HPVelotechnik having bulit or sourced racks, mudguars, lights and fairings and provided appropriate braze-ons for all fittings. Mention should be made of the 'Streamer' fornt fairing, which we have previously tested and recommended, and the rear fairing, which is al large aerodynamic box with very significant luggage capacity. The racks, hand made of tubular steel, are also superb; the main one in the traditional place over the rear wheel, and the secondary under seat, allowing the classic full touing load of 4 panniers.
Although we would recommend the GT for virtually any cycling activity, with those excellent rear and under seat racks, exceptional stability under load, and relaxed handling, we think it is absolutely perfect for touring or randonneuring - the longer and further the better.
The standart machine with front and back suspension costs £1150 and a frameset (wich includes rear shock, suspension forks, seat and handlebars) is avaiable for £900. Front and rear fairings sell for £245 each. If you are interested, give the main distributors, Bikefix, a ring on 01714051218, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or take a look at www.bikefix.co.uk