Pressespiegel – bentrideronline.com 2008
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HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx
HP Velotechnik has been answering a lot of wishes lately. With the recent boom in trikes people started hoping for a trike with a really high quality longer travel suspension system. They answered with the Scorpion. Now that the cry has risen for a good folding recumbent to replace the defunct Bike Friday Sat R Day, HP Velo has answered us again with the new Grasshopper fx.
By Bryan J. Ball (Managing Editor)
The Grasshopper fx is based on the dual twenty inch short wheelbase of the same name that the German company debuted four years ago. I was an instant fan of the Grasshopper but it never seemed to catch on very well here in the USA when compared to the Streetmachine Gte. Twenty inch drivewheels have fallen out of favor in everything but the trike segment and the Grasshopper never seemed to get itself out from underneath its big brother’s considerable shadow.
To breath new life into the little Grasshopper the fx version has a stretched wheelbase in addition to its origami routine. The extra two inches is supposed to improve handling and provide room for the folding mechanism without mangling the steering system. Not surprisingly, the fx version has completely replaced the original Grasshopper in the company’s line-up.
Like all HP Velotechnik products, the Grasshopper fx has an option list as long as my arm. In fact, that option list has gotten even longer this year with the addition of the ErgoMesh seat. We usually order our HP Velo test bikes with a majority of those options but this time our test bike was fairly basic. That basic spec includes a SRAM Dual Drive II drivetrain and a BodyLink adjustable hardshell seat.
Like all HP Velotechnik’s I’ve ever seen, the Grasshopper fx was extremely well put together. The weld quality, powdercoat and finish were all top notch. The bike also has that same uniquely solid HP Velotechnik feel when riding it. I’m always amazed that HP Velotechnik can make a full suspension bike feel so stiff when sprinting. Now they’ve also managed to make a folding bike that feels stiff when sprinting.
I was fairly impressed with the Grasshopper fx when I saw pics of it in HP Velotechnik’s initial press release. However, I was much more taken with the fx when I saw it at Interbike last year. The slightly stretched wheelbase wasn’t evident in the photos and the folding process needs to be seen to be appreciated.
Obviously the Grasshopper fx doesn’t fold as quickly and as smoothly as a Brompton or Dahon folding upright. However, I do think that it is the first folding recumbent that has truly moved into the category of being a ‚true folder‘. While still not a small enough package for all forms of multi-modal transport it will be fine on some trains and the process is fast enough that you probably wouldn’t mind doing it once or twice a day. The folded package is a bit unwieldy and quite heavy but it would be just fine if you have limited bicycle storage at work and is ideal for chucking in the back of a car. HP Velotechnik claims a 60 second fold time. That seems about right. I think I could get it down to 45 seconds or so with some practice.
Of course, a good fold is all for naught if the bike rides like crap. I’ve never ridden a bad HP Velotechnik yet so I obviously wasn’t expecting the newest Grasshopper to be a disappointment and it wasn’t. Even if you totally discount the folding feature, it’s a major improvement over the old one. Low speed handling is very good on the above seat steering version we tested. Like the original Grasshopper, starting stopping was done with little drama. The extra two inches of wheelbase make a big difference at higher speeds where the old Grasshopper used to a bit quick when compared to its big brother, the Streetmachine Gte. Now the two HP Velotechnik siblings are more evenly matched in that department.
The riding position is very similar to that of the old version and in my opinion that is a very good thing. Our bike came with the tried and true BodyLink adjustable hardshell seat. I have a fair amount of experience with these seats now and find them to be very comfortable. I do have to recommend the airflow seat pad though. I’m not a big fan of the standard closed sell foam pad. I can’t wait to try HP Velotechnik’s new ErgoMesh seat. I had a sit on it at Interbike and it seemed very comfortable indeed. The bike’s bottom bracket height is only slightly higher than that of the seat and I can’t really imagine too many people having an issue with it. The overseat steering is open and very adjustable.
The Grasshopper fx’s full suspension also adds to the bike’s comfort level. HP Velotechnik still has recumbent suspension pinned down better than anyone else. A few companies have come close in recent years but HP Velo still has the edge. The ‚No Squat‘ rear swingarm and the Spinner front fork both did a great job of sucking up the bumps without sucking up too much power. That said, there is a noticeable improvement if you opt for one of HPVelotechnik’s optional rear shocks and forks instead of the fairly low-end stock pieces.
The Grasshopper’s only real flaws are its weight and price. Our stock bike weighed in at over 35 pounds and that creeps up substantially when you start adding options. If you’re buying a the Fx primarily for touring where the weight of the bike is a fairly small percentage of your overall mass, this isn’t a deal breaker. However, if you’re buying the Fx for its foldability and plan on carrying it up and down a flight stairs every day this can be an issue. HPVelotechnik’s have also never been cheap and the current state of the US Dollar isn’t helping that very much. The little transforming Grasshopper starts at $2550 and a lot of the add-on options aren’t cheap. Expect a Grasshopper fx with some mid-range commuting upgrades like a rack and fenders to cost well over $3000.
Speaking of those options… HP Velotechnik has now added a ‚Configurator‘ to their web site. This is similar to a ‚Build Your Own‘ menu that a lot of car companies have on their sites now. If any recumbent manufacturer ever needed such technology it’s HP Velotechnik. In addition to the seat and steering configuration options we’ve already covered the Grasshopper and every other HP Velotechnik model have a huge range of drivetrain, braking, suspension and color options. You can configure the Grasshopper fx to be everything from a sporty day ride bike to a bulletproof randonneuring machine to a globe trotting tourer. Our highly customized ‚Project Bike‘ articles have gotten a lot of attention lately but you can order your own project bike straight from your HP Velotechnik dealer.
I’m a big folding bike fan. I’ve owned a Brompton and a Bike Friday or two and always enjoyed their versatility. The Grasshopper fx hasn’t quite reached that level of utility but it is one of the first recumbents that even comes close. It can definitely outperform my trusty Brompton in my favorite folding bike application. That’s one-way riding where I’ll either meet the family somewhere at the end of a ride or ride home from a family activity. In those applications it only has to fold somewhat quickly and only small enough to fit in a trunk. It also should excel as a fly-away touring bike. It doesn’t quite get down to a suitcase size but it’s not far off and is very easy to reassemble at the other end of your flight. When unfolded/assembled you’re not making a compromise at all as far as load carrying ability or ride quality. I could definitely see having one of these bikes in my stable.