Press room – Bentrider Online 2010-06
HP Velotechnik in the news: the following text is an excerpt from the American magazine Bentrider Online, issue 2010-06. We recommend to order the complete magazine from the publishing house to read the whole story.
HP Velotechnik Scorpion fs
By Bryan J. Ball [Managing Editor]
Less than two years ago, a full suspension tadpole trike was a very rare thing. They were something that you may have seen on the Internet but you weren’t very likely to see them at a recumbent rally and you definitely did not encounter them on your dealer’s showroom floor with any regularity. That’s all changed now. I actually have two full suspension trikes in my living room right now! One of them is the subject of this review.
HP Velotechnik has been a fanatic supporter of full suspension since day one. Therefore it’s not terribly surprising that they were the first to bring a fully suspended trike to the market in anything resembling widespread availability. I first saw the Scorpion fs at Interbike in 2008. It makes a helluva first impression. The tie-rods, beefy anti-roll bars and front suspension struts look like they’d be more well suited to a Grand Prix car than to a human powered trike. The oversized aluminum tubing is typical HP Velo and the trike’s low slung and laid back look give it a menacing edge.
The low slung aspect was a bit surprising to me. For some reason I expected a full suspension trike with at least 2.4″ of travel at each wheel to be a bit taller. The Scorpion fs is no knuckle dragger but it’s seat height is only a hair higher than that of the standard Scorpion and actually a few inches lower than the Scorpion fx folder. HP Velotechnik’s explanation for this is that this trike is not meant to be an off road bomber. It excels on dirt roads and paths but its not meant for hardcore off-road riding. The suspension on the Scorpion fs is meant to enhance comfort and improve control not to launch the trike over logs and boulders. It’s designed to make the trike less prone to tipping and less likely to bump steer at higher speeds.
HP Velotechnik’s option list can be technically described as “freaking huge”. It used to actually seem a bit overwhelming but with the addition of an online configurator (similar to what carmakers often have on their sites), setting up your dream bike or trike is actually a lot of fun. I may have spent too much time clicking buttons on the HPVelo web site and wound up with a large percentage of those available options. My test trike came equipped with an upgraded DT Swiss rear shock, carbon fiber fenders, a rear rack and a SON Dynamo hub with front and rear lights. I also replaced the stock SRAM DualDrive with a more conventional 3×9 Shimano XT derailleur set up. The final weight for my test trike is 44 pounds. That’s definitely not light but it’s actually not bad for a fully suspended and fully kitted out trike that’s fully prepared for cross country touring.
A close inspection of the Scorpion fs quickly shows HP Velotechnik’s almost obsessive attention to detail. Build quality is superb. Every custom machined part looks like jewelry. The paint and welds are also fantastic. It’s a tiny little thing but even the high quality double wall rims that came on the Scorpion are custom made and have a very tasteful HP Velotchnik logo on them. Little details like this really make the Scorpion fs look like a complete package rather than an assembly of parts. Every ride I took on the Scorpion fs revealed some little detail that I hadn’t noticed before. There’s an optional small seat bag that turns into a fanny pack. The stunning carbon fiber fenders have a small wheel well to better protect you from rain and muck. The stock BodyLink seat has more adjustments than a barcalounger. All of the wires for the lights are neatly hidden away inside the frame. I could go on and on here. When I first rode the Scorpion fs I thought it reminded me of a Mercedes S-Class. I was wrong. This thing’s a human powered Maybach.
And like a Maybach, it has one major flaw. It’s very expensive. Or more accurately, it’s often very expensive. The base price of $3990 is high but not excessively so for a full suspension tadpole trike. An ICE Sprint 3fs is about the same. The problem is that almost no one orders a trike like the Scorpion fs in its bone stock form and some of the options are very pricey. Those beautiful carbon fiber fenders I mentioned? They cost $520. You’d basically be insane to order them when the plastic ones are shaped the same and cost almost $300 less. The fancy rear shock with the nifty little lock out switch is another 400 bones. The final price for my test trike is a bit over $6500. I took a bit of an informal poll of a couple of HP Velotechnik dealers and several owners and the average final price was around $6000. Of course none of this matters if the trike is really worth it, right? So let’s get to how it rides.
From the first turn of the pedals, the Scorpion fs feels like an HP Velotechnik. Once you’ve ridden any of their products you’ll understand. They just have a solid, sturdy, purposeful feel that you don’t find many other places. The Scorpion fs doesn’t flex anywhere at all and is eerily quiet and smooth. I don’t know how HP Velotechnik makes a machine with so many moving parts feel like it has none at all.
The most unique aspect of this trike is its suspension. As I said above, the Scorpion fs uses a very robust and intricate system that consists of HP Velotechnik’s tried and true “No Squat” suspension design in the rear and an automotive like front system with MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar. Both the springs and elastomers in the front suspension and the anti-roll bar stiffness can be customized to the rider’s liking. If I had to pick one word to describe it, I would choose “impressive”. It does more than just take the edge off of the occasional road irregularity, it swallows them whole. Bumps that caused me to wince on other trikes were only heard on the Scorpion fs. The rear suspension didn’t seem to bob at all when climbing or sprinting. The front suspension did move a bit more when putting a lot of power to the cranks but I’m not sure it was really slowing me down at all. The suspension could also be felt in corners. I definitely felt as if I could corner significantly harder and at higher speeds on the fs than I could on a standard Scorpion I tried alongside it.
The suspension is also highly adjustable and easy to customize to the individual rider. The standard rear shock is a coil over affair with a hydraulic damper and is adjustable for preload. If you go for the DT Swiss air shock, you get a rebound adjustment as well and a lock out switch if you want to stop it from moving entirely. The front shocks can be customized by playing with the amount of elastomers and solid spacers. I only weigh 175 pounds and I found the stock configuration to be pretty good although I did stiffen up the front shocks after a few rides.
I performed the initial test rides with the stock BodyLink adjustable hardshell seat. As far as hardshell seats go, this is about as comfortable as you’ll find. You can adjust the seat for length, recline angle and hip angle. There’s also an optional headrest. If you want to go for something even more cushy, HP Velotechnik’s ErgoMesh seat also fits the Scorpion fs. It comes in two different heights, both of which will place the rider higher off the ground than the BodyLink.
With the BodyLink in place, the Scorpion’s bottom bracket is a few inches higher than the seat but the differential isn’t as much on as it is on a more performance oriented trike. I don’t think it will exacerbate anyone’s numb foot issues.
The handlebars are also highly adjustable for both width and angle. The Scorpion fs’s cockpit is definitely a place where I wouldn’t mind spending several days in a row.
With a curb weight of over 40 pounds, the Scorpion fs is obviously not a rocket ship but it’s not as slow as I was expecting it to be. On flat and level ground it was pretty equal to the ICE Sprint 2fs I also have here on hand. It was a bit slower than that trike on the climbs and a bit faster on the descents. My biggest performance nitpick was that, given the trike’s weight, lower gearing if you choose the full derailleur option would be nice. The stock 60-53-40 crank set is a bit silly on a 44 pound touring trike.
And lest I forget… The Scorpion fs does fold! Removing the BodyLink seat requires three quick releases and popping it back on quickly takes some practice but the HP Velotechnik folding joint and quick release system is my favorite. The resulting folded package is pretty large when compared to an ICE or a Greenspeed but it does make putting the trike in the back of a hatchback or SUV very easy. This is a very welcome feature if you’re a guy like me whose a bit nervous about leaving his $6500 trike on the roof rack while he grabs something to eat at Denny’s.
When I started getting into this review process I asked for some feedback from Scorpion fs owners. The first think I learned is that there are more of them out there than I thought. The second was that all of them seemed to think that their money was very well spent. One described his trike as “decadent comfort”. I really can’t think of a better way to describe the Scorpion fs.
Update – I received the ErgoMesh seat for the Scorpion fs a couple of days ago and have been testing out that seat for about 100 miles split over three rides. It’s one of the most comfortable mesh seats I’ve ever sat on and allows for a more upright seating position if you desire it. The ErgoMesh also lifts the seat height just a bit so it makes the bottom bracket feel a bit lower. The higher seat height does not seem to affect handling at all. I have to say that I think this seat fits the personality of this trike better than the BodyLink does. The Scorpion fs is never really going to be a full on performance trike so many of the benefits of a hardshell seat are pretty much lost on a trike like this. The ErgoMesh seat really plays into this trike’s strengths and noticeably increases the “decadent comfort” factor.