Press room – Recumbent & Tandem Rider Magazine #43
HP Velotechnik in the news: the following text is an excerpt from the magazine Recumbent & Tandem Rider Magazine, issue 43 (2013). We recommend to order the complete magazine from the publishing house to read the whole story.
HP Velotechnik Scorpion fs – Trike Review
by Brian Zupke
When l was young. I thought enduring discomfort and pain while engaging in outdoor activities was a sign of coolness and masculinity. You know, like proudly showing off the blisters I got on my hands after swinging on the monkey bars, or backpacking in the mountains and sleeping with just a paper-thin foam pad between me and the bedrock where I’d chosen to pitch my tent. And then there was the time I was riding a bike with no seat (just a seat post) and a missing pedal (just a peg), and decided to try out the homemade jump ramp in the middle of our street. I shouted, “Hey guys, watch this!” as l rocketed up the ramp. Then my foot slipped off the peg. Yeah. there was a landing that almost changed my future forever. Those were the days of being tough and cool!
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a little wiser. After experiencing a few too many of those “Let’s see if I can still do what I did as a kid….ooops!…ouch!!! Nope!” moments, l’ve come to appreciate what my body has told me all along: pain and discomfort are not cool and should be avoided. Nevertheless, the primitive part of my brain fights against this notion and keeps telling me that without danger, there can be no adventure.
Then I rode the Scorpion fs 26 recumbent trike from HP Velotechnik. l have discovered that one can have adventure and excitement, without risk of grievous bodily harm. This is one performance bike that doesn’t skimp on comfort.
The Scorpion is 26 is a tadpole trike that weighs in at 43.5lbs, which is not bad for a trike with full suspension. It has 20″ wheels in the front and a 26″ wheel in the rear (they have a version with all 20″ wheels as well). The 26 inch rear wheel makes for a more comfortable ride than you’d get with a 20 inch one. It does mean that you need to worry about two tire and inner tube sizes, but both are fairly standard and can be found almost anywhere. If you are doing self-supported touring, then l think its worth the additional comfort to carry the extra few ounces it takes for two spare tires and tubes instead of just one. The larger rear wheel gives the trike a longer wheel base, but since the trike folds, it doesn’t increase the space needed to stor
e it. The slick tires are great for hard surfaces, and level dirt or gravel terrain. If you’re going to be doing a lot of climbing on dirt trails or gravel roads, you will probably want to add knobby tires for a little extra grip.
When I test rode the Scorpion fs 26, I found the disk brakes provided excellent modulation and required little effort to apply significant force to the brakes. l was easily able to control the brakes with just my pinkies. As with most tadpole trikes, applying the brake on one wheel caused the trike to pull slightly in that direction, easily corrected by slight pressure in the opposite direction. Hard braking on a single wheel locked up the wheel pretty easily. Hard braking on both wheels stopped the trike fairly quickly without locking up the wheels (I wasn’t able to induce a skid on pavement with both wheels.) I was able to cause the rear wheel to lift off the ground when l braked really hard (and while going at a fairly high speed), but it took some doing. I doubt it would happen accidentally under normal riding conditions, but with practice, a daring rider (translation: someone who is still suffering from testosterone poisoning) might be able to start and hold a reverse-wheelie while coming to a stop (Kids. don’t try this at home!).
The bottom bracket sits at the end of the front boom tube. which is adjustable for different-sized riders. To reconfigure, simply loosen the two bolts securing the tube and slide it in or out. Minor adjustments can be made without having to worry about chain length, but larger adjustments may require removing or adding links to the chain. The pedal position in relation to the seat was quite comfortable. Using clipless pedals made it even better, as no energy had to be expended to keep my feet secure.
The chain is routed alongside the main boom and under the seat, held in place by an idler pulley. Plastic tubing encases most of the chain, so there is little worry about getting chain tattoos.
As tested, the Scorpion fs 26 was equipped with a 9-speed cassette coupled with a triple chain ring. This combination gave me sufficient gearing to climb steep hills in comfort and to maintain high speeds on level ground and during descents. While climbing in first gear, I was able maintain about 50 pedal RPM at about 3 MPH. On downhill and in the highest gear, the pedals spun out at about 45 MPH. HP Velotechnik provides additional gearing options if you want something different. They even offer an 81-speed configuration (front and rear derailleurs plus a 3-speed internal hub).
The bar-end shifters made it very easy to change gears on both the front and rear derailleurs. The only downside to them is they take up the best place to attach accessories (such as a GPS or a bike computer) – the barends are highly visible and within easy reach. I did have a problem with the front derailleur: if I shifted too quickly, occasionally the chain would overshoot the large chain ring. However, I could re-seat the chain by moving the derailleur slightly in the opposite direction and pedaling slowly. The chain stopped overshooting the chain ring once l got in the habit of shifting more slowly. A slight derailleur adjustment would likely be the real remedy.
HP Velotechnik offers two different seats for their trikes: BodyLink and ErgoMesh. The previous HP trike I reviewed had the BodyLink seat which allows for more adjustment, including in the lumbar support. The Scorpion fs 26 had HP’s ErgoMesh seat, which is a lightweight frame with a padded fabric mesh stretched across it. The seat bottom is fixed in relation to the seat back, meaning if the seat back is tilted back more, the front of the seat bottom is tilted up. (The BodyLink seat back and seat bottom can be adjusted independently.) When I removed the seat to fold the trike. I was really surprised at just how light the ErgoMesh was. I found both seat types to be comfortable, but now that I’ve done test rides with each, I find I prefer the mesh seat. If you have the chance, I’d suggest you try each type to see what works best for you.
The seat height is fixed in relation to the trike and the ground. The seat is connected to the trike frame by three quick-release levers, with the center lever being the pivot point. The tilt can be adjusted from about 32 to 41 degrees from horizontal. For most of my riding, I had the seat in the most reclined position.
Gear and water bottle cages can be attached to the back of the seat. I mounted my CamelBak bag on one side of the rear wheel and had plenty of clearance. An optional headrest can be attached to the seat back. The test trike had the headrest, and once adjusted it was very comfortable – especially when I used the more reclined seat position. However, I did notice that when l was pedaling with the weight of my head on the headrest, the oscillation in my body caused my head to bob up and down. At first I’d use the headrest only when I was coasting, but then I realized it could be a useful tool in developing a smoother pedal stroke. When I concentrated on pedaling smoothly. there was no head bobbing.
The under-seat steering includes a mechanical advantage: so little effort is needed to change direction, and the trike is very stable (not twitchy) at high speeds. The position of each handlebar can be independently adjusted (fore/aft and in/out). The front wheels had plenty of clearance when the handlebars were in a more outward position. Adjusted too close to the seat they reduced my ability to turn as sharply as I wanted (the bars would hit the seat). The BodyLink seat is narrower than the ErgoMesh, and if I’d been using it, perhaps I wouldn’t have had the problem.
As with most tadpole trikes, the rider must lean into sharp turns to keep all wheels on the ground when turning aggressively on the Scorpion fs 26. The trike was very maneuverable when it came to avoiding road debris or potholes. It didn’t take much effort to deliberately get one of the front wheels off the ground during bouts of, “Hey, watch this!” (Hey, a guy has to have some fun.)
One of the things that most impressed me about the Scorpion is how comfortable it is to ride. The full suspension, coupled with the mesh seat, relaxed riding position, and under seat steering makes for a cushy ride; I mean, you could take a nap on this thing. Also, the front and rear suspension are independently adjustable, so you can dial in a firmer or softer ride. The HP “No Squat Design” rear suspension is known for not robbing the rider of pedal power, and in my experience, it lived up to that reputation.
If you do cross-country touring, you may find yourself having to ride in rough conditions. I took a spin down one of our local roads that is “in great need of repair” (ie: a stinkin mess of ruts and potholes). Not only was my ride without bone-jarring moments, it actually reminded me of sitting on one of those massage chairs at the mall. I almost felt a little sorry for the guys I was riding with (who were on diamond-frame road bikes). They were losing stuff out of their jersey pockets and when they talked their voices vibrated like they were driving on railroad tracks. Riding off-road was also very comfortable. The only concern I had was losing traction while going up steep inclines on loose dirt.
One of my favorite tests when reviewing recumbents is assessing stability at high speeds. After climbing my favorite local hill, I got quite a rush going back down at 50mph. (I would have gone faster if I hadn’t been wearing my baggy shorts – which are pretty effective air-brakes.) The Scorpion was extremely stable at 50 mph, and the thought of trying for 60 mph or more wouldn’t concern me greatly (though my wife has refused to provide transportation to the emergency room if I eat it on that “damn hill.”) HP’s sophisticated Advance Steering Geometry (ASG) system is no doubt responsible for said stability, and also delivered a turning radius of a shade over 15 feet.
Since the Scorpion‘s disk brakes allow for rapid slowdowns, I could keep enjoying my speed run all the way to the bottom of the hill and still stop safely at the intersection at its base, thus avoiding becoming a happy meal for a big-rig truck.
Riding with one hand was easy, although using two hands used less effort since both arms could relax and “hang” on the handlebars. On level surfaces, the trike would hold its position for quite some time with no hands on the handlebars, so long as I was coasting. Pedaling with no hands had a tendency to make the steering bounce around a bit, (smooth pedaling should improve this as well).
You can carry plenty of gear on the Scorpion fs 26, behind and below the seat, as well as on a rear rack offered by HP Velotechnik. It will also pull any trailer that will attach to the rear wheel of a bike. The best place for a computer would be on a bar-end accessory mount. The trike l reviewed was configured with bar-end shifters so it wasn’t an option for me. However, I really liked the shifters. so if I were to keep this trike. I would look for or make something that would provide an accessory mount above the bar-end shifters. An alternative would be to get the computer mount accessory from HP Velotechnik. This mount attaches to the main boom and may raise the electronics up high enough for clear visibility when riding. (The test trike didn’t have the computer mount and I could not find pictures of it on their web site.) While it’s possible to mount electronics on the lower part of the handlebars, the visibility would be poor and there would be a greater risk of damaging them against the seat frame while turning sharply. Accessories can be mounted to the front derailleur post, but it’s too far away to be able to clearly see any display read-outs. That mount is better suited for a water bottle or front lighting. I mounted my water bottle there – it was within easy reach when l was at a stop or coasting, but it would have been difficult to retrieve it while pedaling.
One accessory I’m a firm believer in but was missing from this trike (but is available as an option ), is mudguards for the wheels. I rode through puddles of water on several rides and was caught in the spray. The previous HP I tested had mudguards, and they made quite a difference. I highly recommend getting them if they are available.
One cool thing about HP Velotechnik is they have an online “Configurator” that lets you select all the options and accessories for your trike, and it ensures compatibility with each selected option. There are plenty more accessories available than are mentioned in this review, and it’s fun to dream!
A key feature of the Scorpion fs is its ability to fold in half. Simply loosen the three quick-release levers to remove the seat, unlock the hinge on the main tube, and pull the rear wheel up and over the front portion of the frame. When folded, the trike is a bit taller but has a much smaller foot print. On many of the folding trikes, the rear wheel stays vertical after the fold. With the Scorpion fs 26, the wheel ends up being parallel to the ground. When I transported the trike in my minivan, I lowered the rear seat and rolled the trike in backwards so the rear wheel was between the two middle seats. I didn’t try fitting the folded trike in the cargo area without lowering the minivans back seat, but l think I might have been able to make it work.
I used to worry that as I got older, l’d end up spending my afternoons sitting on the front porch with my old dog, watching the cars go by, our glory days of me riding and him running along beside me, over. However, with comfortable, maneuverable recumbent trikes like the Scorpion fs around, I’m starting to see a whole lot of fun rides ahead of us – that is, once I figure out how to steer with an 80 lb Golden Retriever on my lap. Do you think HP Velotechnik carries optional slobber-guards?