Pressespiegel - Recumbent Cyclist News #65
HP Velotechnik in the news: the following text is an excerpt from the American magazine Recumbent Cyclist News, issue 65 (September/October 2001). We recommend to order the complete magazine from the publishing house to read the whole story.
The HP Velotechnik Speedmachine
Performance Bikes for the new millenium
by Simon Moray
Having been the satisfied owner of an HP Velotechnik Street Machine GT for two years I was very interested when I heard that they were going to add a full suspension lowrider to their range. I was fortunate enough to be able to put in quite a few miles on the Speed Machine before committing myself to getting one.
Frame and forks-The Speed Machine is a full suspension aboveseat steering recumbent. The main frame and front boom are aluminum while the forks and rear triangle are CroMo. The front suspension is tidily enclosed within the head tube. The rear suspension is "no squat", which is HP's term for no reaction with the pedaling, which comes via a swing arm with an adjustable gas shock. The quality of the welds is high as is the powder coat finish. HP Velotechnik claim a weight of 33 pounds but with rack and Schmidt dynamo hub mine comes in at 38.
Steering- Being very different to what I was used to I initially found that the long handlebar stem made the bike feel a bit too twitchy for comfort but I soon found that the leverage just means that a lighter touch is needed which makes the steering effortless once mastered.
Drivetrain- I already own an HP Velotechnik Street Machine GT so I was expecting a smoother than usual chainline and certainly was not disappointed. The SRAM Rocket shifters are the best that I have used from the SRAM range. They have a very efficient action, which I think is a necessity given the lightness of the steering. The triple front chainrings (52/42/30) coupled with the nine-speed Shimano block provides an ample range of gears.
Brakes- Magura Louise discs front and rear. When you are on a recumbent that goes downhill as fast as this one, disc brakes feel less like a luxury and more an essential piece of kit. In less demanding situations these are still a pleasure to use. The extra power at your fingertips affords very smooth controlled braking. These are an integral part of the bike's easy handling characteristics. The Magura Louises are one of the cheapest disc brakes on the market, having a piston on only one side which pushes the disc on to the opposite pad, but they have so far not given us any problems; once set up there is no rubbing on the pads and we have never needed to bleed them. Maintenance should be fairly straightforward, the pads are easily replaced and can be adjusted in from both sides.
Wheels- With a 559mm rim at the rear and a 406 at the front there is a wide choice of replacement tires available should you wish to replace the very light and narrow Continental Grand Prix that come as standard. I prefer Vredestein S Slicks especially for undertaking any serious touring. The rims are a narrow section lightweight V-section should provide a good compromise of weight and strength.
This is the Speed Machine's forte. There are four sizes of seat available, enough to fit just about anybody. I already knew what size would fit me, but if you make a mistake the seat is removed with two quick-releases and most dealers should be happy to let you trade in. It is moulded from carbon fibre with a pronounced curve for lumbar support and a nice recess down the centre which is double padded to provide a bit of extra comfort for your spine. The seat angle is easily adjustable with the same two quick release levers although even at its most upright position this is still an extreme bike by American standards. European riders tend to favor this kind of riding position as it spreads your weight over the largest area of your body, and means that your Gluteus Maximus is free for pedaling efficiently. In North America there seems to be a concern that this can cause discomfort to the neck, which can be an issue at first although you tend to get used to it, and a well designed seat will keep your head well supported.
I highly recommend upgrading the standard foam seat cover to the 'airflow' version, which wicks sweat very efficiently away from your body and provides a bit of extra cushioning. Handlebars are rather wide for aerodynamics but seem to be very well positioned for comfort. My hands just fall naturally onto the bars when my elbows are resting on the back of the seat. If you wanted to race this bike it might be worth experimenting with handlebars which are a little narrower and provide more stretch for the arms.
I know that HP Velotechnik takes suspension very seriously and has spent a lot of time getting it right. In fact the only other recumbent that I have ridden that can match the level of comfort afforded by the suspension is the Street Machine GT, also made by HP Velotechnik. It wasn't comfort that sparked my initial interest in recumbents but it has been a very significant factor in keeping me riding them over the years. If you work hard all week on a building site you are constantly jarring your upper body. The last thing that you want to do on your ride home or in your leisure time is to continue punishing your body in this way. The Speed Machine seems to glide along even the harshest of roads.
Stability- One of the advantages of the low centre of gravity of a lowrider is cornering. You can really lean this bike over. It doesn't seem to matter what I do it always feels unbelievably solid. Sometimes I find myself speeding up for the twisty bits just because they are so much fun! The suspension helps out here as well; nasty bumps that would normally throw me off line are simply not a problem.
Tracking- This is a very well balanced bike. You gently point it in the direction that you want to go and it goes there.
Maneuverability- Improves with speed. The tiller effect caused by the long handlebar stem means light touch is required at low speeds, but with practice I found it was possible to swing the bars right out for really tight turns. After two or three rides you no longer notice anything odd. At high speed the bike is very responsive and easy to control. I found the handling took a bit of getting used to at first but now I like it a lot.
Speed/Efficiency- Well it is a Speed Machine! Obviously it is designed to be fast and it is. HP Velotechnik have something that they call "no squat" suspension. What this means is that instead of your pedaling action being absorbed by the suspension and bouncing you up and down it is used to drive you forwards. This makes for a very fast and efficient full suspension recumbent.
User-friendliness- I would not describe this as a beginner's recumbent. I haven't spent this much time riding a lowrider before. However I feel that my small investment in time learning to ride this bike has been well worth it. The Speed Machine is a very sophisticated piece of engineering that has obviously been designed around the human body. The comfort of the riding position and the suspension combined with the light touch needed on the controls add up to an exceptionally rider friendly recumbent.
The Ride- There are some bikes that want to be ridden in a certain way. The Speed Machine seems to want to be ridden fast although. I am not sure if it is just because it does it so well that I want to ride it fast! Your pedaling action is the only thing that requires any effort but because of the extremely small frontal area it does a lot more with the effort that I put in than any other bike that I have ridden. Because of the lightness of the controls you should not try to force it to do anything but when the bike will do anything that you want with a gentle touch, why force it?
Fun Factor- If your idea of fun is throwing a recumbent around at high speed then you will enjoy this bike at least half as much as l do. If you also like clocking up a lot of miles without feeling like you have spent the day in a cement mixer you are guaranteed to have a lot of fun on this bike.
Versatility-Despite the high performance capabilities of the Speed Machine it is also designed as a touring bike. High mileage riding is almost luxurious. Strength and reliability are important considerations for me when choosing a bike for eating the miles. I thought that anything more than day rides would be beyond the Speed Machine but it has proved itself to be ideal for light touring as well. The only limitation for heavily laden touring is the one rack, which means that I don't have anywhere to put my tent, or the kitchen sink! It is also a demanding bike, so if you want to last the distance you have to resist the urge to go like the clappers from the start off. I commute on it from time to time but am still wary of its low height in rush hour traffic. This can be an advantage though, as the novelty factor makes you stand out from the crowd and people seem to be afraid enough of an unidentified high speed object to give you a pretty wide berth.
Quality/Durability- The overall quality and attention to detail is very high. This is the kind of bike that you could own for life. All the components are of a high specification and work well together. Although it hasn't been around for very long, so cannot really be said to have stood the test of time, robust engineering of this quality can be relied upon, barring accidents, to keep on working for years. When you see the extraordinary level of engineering refinement that has been achieved you will appreciate why the Speed Machine costs what it does.
We asked USA dealer Zach Kaplan about the quality of the HP Velo Speed Machine, "Excellent, as good or better than the best US manufacturers."
Options and Accessories- Fenders, rack and kickstand are available, the rack is made from 12mm welded aluminum and is incredibly light and strong. It is mounted to the suspension pivot point. Their is a superb dynamo lighting system, consisting of Schmidt's original hub generator, specified specially for the Speed Machine with mountings for a disk brake, front and rear stand lights and twin core co-axial cable routed through the frame. The latest models feature a light-sensitive switch which switches the system on when it gets dark.
For the really sports oriented there is an aerodynamic rear fairing with integral seat. This adds about 1.4 kilos over the weight of a medium seat. There is only one seat size which seems to be well shaped for most medium to large people. There is space for about 20 liters of luggage in two narrow but slightly inaccessible panels on either side of the wheel and accessed through a panel in the back of the seat. HP will provide this separately from the bike so you need to be confident of your skills in mounting it, although it is fiddly rather than extremely technical. Once it is on you lose the ability to quickly adjust the seat.
We asked Zach Kaplan how Street Machines are being fitted out in the USA, he had this to say, "So far they have all ordered the Shimano 105 crank upgrade, Airflow scat cushion, rear rack, fenders and lighting system with Schmidt hub. People are buying them for sports touring type riding."
Value/Depreciation- Not cheap but excellent value for money. This recumbent has been designed to be as good as it can be rather than being built down to a price. It hasn't been around for very long so it cannot really be said if it will stand the test of time. However robust engineering such as HP Velo uses is a good indicator. The bike is too new to be on the used market yet.
Market/competition- Yellowbikes and M5. HP Velo has more dealers in the USA and the bikes are easier to find.
I wanted to have a lowrider just as a fun fast bike but have found the Speed Machine to be so versatile that I use it more and more. Over the years that I have spent riding bikes I have slowly progressed from owning old clunkers to learning to appreciate finely crafted machines and in my opinion they don't come any finer than this.