Press room – bentrideronline.com 2006-10
HP Velotechnik in the news: the following text is an excerpt from the online magazine bentrideronline.com, issue Oktober 2006. We recommend to visit their website and read the original review there, for documentation purposes we store the text on our site.
By Bryan J. Ball, Editor
I first reviewed the German HP Velotechnik Speedmachine quasi-lowracer during our first year of publication. At that time I compared it to a Rolls Royce or a Bentley. Years have past since then. The Speedmachine has recently undergone a redesign and separate German companies bought out both Rolls Royce and Bentley. I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Anyway you’re probably more interested in how the design tweaks affected HP Velotechnik’s sportiest machine.
The new Speedmachine has received some new frame geometry to improve low speed handing, a new seat (the same adjustable BodyLink seat used on the HP Velo’s other models) and a slight change in seat height and geometry. The first two changes were designed to being this sleek quasi-low in line with the rest of the company’s offerings and make it more user-friendly. The last one has slightly repositioned the bike in the marketplace. Since the Speedmachine always has been a fully suspended bike with some touring aspirations, it hasn’t really been as “speedy” as many other lowracers. With the higher seat height, many prospective buyers may look at the bike as a sporty tourer or a long distance machine rather than an out and out racer.
Our test bike was ordered with a long list of add-ons that definitely favored practicality over racing. HP Velotechnik’s options list is the longest in the business and it just doesn’t seem right ordering a “naked” bike from them. The silver Speedmachine that I rode for this review had a rear rack, Avid disc brakes, Schmidt dynamo hub, DT Swiss air shock, fenders and an upgraded Shimano XT drivetrain. The base Speedmachine starts at $2490 but our fully loaded tester came in at $3641. Definitely not an inexpensive machine and even at that price our test bike came with some generic Taiwanese hubs and cranks. The Quando hubs and Dotek cranks were good quality but some buyers may want name-brand parts for their money.
No matter what your opinion is of the component choices, HP Velotechnik’s world-class build quality is definitely worthy of the asking price. Everything about the Speedmachine showed the company’s relentless attention to detail. All of the welds were perfect, the powdercoat was great, the custom-made parts were exquisite and even all of the bolts and other hardware looked a little better than most of the rest.
As the name would imply, the Speedmachine has a much racier riding position than HP Velotechnik’s Streetmachine or Grasshopper. However, it’s not as extreme as most highracers or lowracers. The bottom bracket is a full nine inches above the seat. I don’t always do that well with high bottom brackets like this but I didn’t have any toe numbness on the Speedmachine.
One of the major reasons to update the Speedmachine‘s design was to accommodate the BodyLink adjustable hardshell seat. This seat is still the most comfortable hardshell I’ve ever been on and it’s a very welcome addition to this bike. The seat angle is widely adjustable. Because of this, I didn’t feel a need for a headrest but HP does make a very nice one if you need it.
I chose the open cockpit steering for our test bike. I don’t have any extreme preference one way or the other between the two HP Velotechnik above seat steering systems. I just hadn’t tried the open cockpit version before. These handlebars and the stem they are attached to are both very adjustable. I was able to find a comfortable hand position very quickly. Sometimes that can be a challenge with my short arms so that says something. The SRAM shifters that came on my test bike worked very well with these handlebars but a set of Shimano bar-end shifters would also be very comfortable.
For such a racy bike, the Speedmachine is not exactly a featherweight. HP Velotechnik says that a top-of-the-line bike with all of the weight weenie components can get down to about 33 pounds. That’s not shocking for a fully suspended recumbent but it’s not very light either. With our lengthy list of gravitationally challenged options ours tipped the scales at over 37 pounds. With a stat like that it may be easy for some of you to discount the Speedmachine as an overweight pig with an inappropriate name. Not so fast
On level ground this bike is still a lowracer. My flat land cruising speeds were plenty fast enough to impress me. The Speedmachine didn’t cut through the air as fast as the Bacchetta Aero I recently had here but it was in the same neighborhood as a Gold-Rush with a front fairing.
When things got a bit more vertical the Speedmachine didn’t feel quite as fast but it wasn’t dead weight either. There was no detectable performance loss due to the suspension and the hardshell seat gave me a good surface to push off from. I didn’t climb as fast as I do on my P-38 or even a Gold-Rush but I didn’t feel the need to shy away from any hills on the Speedmachine either.
The Speedmachine‘s handling is not what you would expect from a lowracer. It is very manageable at low speed and rock solid at higher speeds. There is no learning curve here. Any novice can handle the Speedmachine just fine.
In my opinion, the best thing about the HP Velotechnik Speedmachine is that it feels like an HP Velotechnik. It has that same absolutely rock solid feel that other bikes from this German manufacturer have. The long chain tubes that Speedmachine uses for chain management may look like they would cause a lot of drag but I thought the bike’s chain management felt very efficient and quiet. The larger single drive side idler probably had a lot to do with that.
And of course there’s the suspension. HP Velotechnik has always very firmly believed in full suspension. And fortunately, they’re very good at it. As expected, the Speedmachine‘s suspension was excellent. It sucked up the bumps very well but didn’t seem to pogo much at all under power. If I had one complaint it’s that the front suspension was perhaps a bit too soft. It didn’t bounce when I was pedaling hard but it seemed to sink through half of its travel when I sat on the bike.
If one thing will hurt the Speedmachine‘s sales, it could be that it’s almost too versatile. It looks like a lowracer, but doesn’t really perform like one. And its riding position may be too extreme for some people to consider it a touring bike. However, sales figures seem to indicate that people are using it more for the latter. At Interbike, HP Velotechnik told me that sales of the underseat steering version of this bike have been surprisingly strong. That seems to indicate that buyers are looking at it as a faster touring/commuting bike rather than a hardcore racing machine. With the options we ordered on our test bike, I felt that the Speedmachine would make an excellent mount for longer non-competitive events like brevets. That full suspension may be handy if your bleary eyes don’t see a pothole in the middle of the night.
The bike’s fully suspended ride and comfortable seat made miles disappear. On flatter rides the bike’s speed can also be impressive. It’s also the fastest bike I’d feel comfortable taking on a cross-country tour. This is the second classic bike that HP Velotechnik has tweaked in recent years. So far they’ve both been much better than the bikes that preceded them. I think that my previous analogy comparing the Speedmachine to a Rolls Royce applies now more than ever. I hear that the Germans have improved those as well.