Pressespiegel - Recumbent Cyclist News 05/06/2006
HP Velotechnik im Spiegel der Medien: Der folgende Text ist ein Ausriss aus der Zeitschrift Recumbent Cyclist News, Ausgabe 05/06/2006. Wir empfehlen für die komplette Lektüre das Originalheft beim Verlag anzufordern.
ROAD TEST: HP Velo Speedmachine
BUILDER: HP Velotechnik
ORIGIN: Taiwan & Germany
STYLE: SWB OSS (over-seat steering)
PRICE (frameset): $1,790, as tested $3,961 and stock complete DualDrive bike: $2,490
CONTACT: www.hpvelotechnik.com & www.bentupcycles.com
By John Duval
"The Speedmachine is faster, more efficient and more comfortable than you would ever have thought possible. It´s an ergonomic machine dedicated to absolute speed.
You have probably never ridden a bike this fast or this comfortable. In fact you probably assumed that gain meant pain. But the Speedmachine rewrites the rules. By combining an oversized aluminum frame, a full suspension ride and a totally ergonomic riding position with perhaps the smallest frontal area on the planet, we have created a machine to give you incredible performance along with total comfort."
With all the attention focused on highracers in the last few years, some feel the venerable 26/20 SWB is poised for a comeback. While the Speedmachine is not a new model, it serves as a reminder of what a 26/20 SWB layout has to offer: an easy reach to the ground, lower center of gravity, and a perfect layout for adding suspension. This is achieved without sacrificing aerodynamics or rolling resistance.
The Speedmachine is a short wheelbase (SWB) semi-lowracer offering incredible performance with a silky full suspension ride. At HP Velo, full suspension has been part of the design philosophy since the company produced its first bike in 1991. Located in Kriftel, Germany, HPV has earned a reputation for producing highly refined Euro-style sport and touring recumbents. HPV offers many options to customize your machine, or you can start with the frameset and build your own as I did.
As someone who enjoys speed a fair amount of time in the saddle, and is a lifetime member of the Clydesdale class (XL-sized rider), this bike offers the perfect solution. My typical rides include the semi-urban roads and bike paths of Los Angeles and Orange County. Frequent stops, spine-crushing bumps and poor road surfaces are a way of life. Where other bikes are forced to slow down, this one flies.
The Speedmachine is best suited to fast, all-day rides and centuries, but it is also quite capable of racing, light touring or a run to the grocery store. The layout of the bike does not allow much room for cargo, but HPV makes a beautiful bike-specific rear rack. With careful hunting you can find bags that will carry the bare essentials without it.
I set up the Speedmachine purely for speed, with skinny tires and rims and no rack. The rear tire will crush conventional seat bags. I use a Fastback Carbon LS, which slings under the left side of the seat. It carries a water bladder and pump, and its piggyback compartment is stuffed with three tubes, multi-tool, patch kit, wallet and cell phone. I had the factory install the optional water bottle mounts on the seat so I would mot have to drill the holes myself.
To carry more you will want the HPV rear rack. It is very sturdy, allows a substantial load. Credit card touring would be fine. A lockable tailbox trunk is an option, which improves aerodynamics as well. Fenders, lights and generators are all available form HPV.
COMFORT & ERGONOMICS
Sliding into the saddle of this bike gives you the feeling of becoming part of a high performance machine. The seat rides 16" off the ground so my feet reach the ground easily without stretching. The crank spindle is 11" above the seat while the seat recline adjusts form 25-35 degrees, giving it a slightly more closed position than other performance bikes and a stable platform for applying torque to the pedals.
There are two options for steering: tiller steering (praying hamster), and tweener OSS. Both versions use the same fixed-angle stem. I tried the tiller steering but the bars hit my belly and my elbows were well behind my back. So I opted for the OSS tweener bars. I would have liked a third option with a stem that places the bars low and just behind my thighs.
I do not recline the seat back all the way because the handlebars begin to intrude on the line of vision down the road, which is typical of performance-oriented machines.
The shape of the hard shell seat allows for a much more reclined position than a typical flat-backed mash seat. The shape opens up my stomach and chest for easy breathing and blood circulation. The top curve keeps me from sliding up an places my neck in a semi-relaxed position. I do find that I need to take a moment to stretch a little more often than on a mesh seat to prevent numb spots.
In the past, I have occasionally had foot numbness and recumbent butt. On the Speedmachine I have not experienced any. It seems there are many factors besides bottom bracket (BB) height that contribute to these issues, but if you suffer from them, you will want to take extended test rides before purchasing.
My bike has a previous one piece Euro-shell seat.
Other options include the Airflow seat cushion, which has a good looking breathable mesh surface. The standard cushion is closed cell foam (like backpacker mats) and is light and good for foul weather, but the Airflow is a must-have. I also opted for the lower seat extension, which kicks up the front end of the seat. I got the headrest, which does not seem very useful.
This is a one-size-fits-most bike. My 49" X-seam is the absolute limit. The fore-aft position of the seat is fixed so leg length adjustment happens at the adjustment. HPV says the dealer can cut the boom down if needed.
The handlebar stem telescopes, but at the limit it was too close to my shins. When I wrote to the factory about this they sent me a 3" longer upper stem. Moving the bar out another 3/8" made all the difference in the world in comfort and handling.
I would attribute a bit of the road feel to the exceptionally stiff chassis. I cannot detect any give in the seat mounting at all. The rear wheel tracks true and firmly on line. Bending, twisting and shimmy are non-existent, which is something I can´t say about many bikes I have ridden. Even the handlebars feel more like a piece of gym equipment than a bicycle, a benefit of the fixed-angle stem.
As you might guess, a bike this stout is no feather. Even at 34.5 pounds, it rides like a lightweight bike. On the same hills I struggled a week before in a 30-32 gear combo on my Lightning Phantom IISWB (decent climber), I now found myself climbing in a 42-24 at twice the speed. Sprinting around slower riders used to take a long windup, but now takes a few sharp jabs on the pedals.
The front fork feels like it has a bit of trail. This makes for rock-steady handling at high and low speeds, but also makes it want to over-correct. I suspect the tiller steering would be more neutral handling, having the mass of the bars further back. I found the learning curve pretty short for a recumbent.
This is the quietest bicycle I have ever ridden. This is surprising because hardshell seats and oversize aluminum tubes tend to act as sounding boards for every road bump and sound the bike makes. In this case, shifts are marked only by the click of the lever and the twang of spokes. Driveline noise is nonexistent. Road noise is very muted. Even the Velocity freehub has a nearly silent ratchet. On the other hand, anything that is not adjusted perfectly breaks the silence in a most annoying way.
Riding straight at slow speed is as stable as sitting in a resistance trainer, which is good for climbing. The handlebar configuration makes it ungainly at tight, low speed maneuvers, or when I do sometimes lose balance on a slow climb. Knee clearances require straightening my inside leg on tight turns, which is a bit counter-intuitive. There is no heel overlap with the front wheel.
The feel of the Speedmachine is one of smooth, quiet precision. The suspension gives it a very car-like ride. It inspires incredible confidence at speed with outstanding stability and firmly planted wheels. I didn´t realize how fast I was blazing turns until I noticed the horizon at angles I had never seen before.
The frame is all aluminum, fabricated and heat-treated in Taiwan, then shipped unfinished to the HP Velo factory in Germany. When an order is received the frame gets its powder coat paint, decals, and is finished off with a full clear coat. Red and silver are standard colors, with many more available at a modest additional charge. The paint is glassy smooth and nearly flawless.
Welds are neat and even, neither too large nor too small to my eye. Tubes are tapered, nicely formed and ovalized at critical joints. Dropouts appear to be CNC with a replaceable derailleur hanger with smooth tumbled finish. Attachment points are welded on for fenders, cable clamps, one water bottle at the front shifter tube, and for the bike-specific HPV rear rack.
Like the more touring-oriented bikes in the HPV lineup, the frameset and suspension are designed to be reliable with a heavy load. I have had problems in the past with recumbent load ratings that were, shall we say, a bit optimistic.
Suspension: The rear 'no squat' suspension delivers on its promise. The front works nicely while giving good road feel. It transparently does its job, improving comfort in all road conditions while keeping the wheels firmly planted on the ground. The exclamations of my riding companions are more unpleasant (and entertaining) than the actual bumps.
The ride is much softer and more supple than any upright bike I've ridden. On this suspended recumbent, pedaling efforts are not directed into the suspension, so softness does not detract from pedaling efficiency. Adding suspension allows the frame to be very stiff to maximize pedaling efficiency without making for a brutal ride quality. The tradeoff is added weight, and I think it's a worthwhile feature.
The suspension contributes a low rolling resistance that has no match, and the wind resistance is very low. It still feels strange to stop pedaling and not sense the bike slowing down. Bumps and surface irregularities that once ate momentum or had me slowing down in fear are simply erased. Road condition mow makes little difference in cruising speed.
The rear end is a triangulated swing arm driving a coil-over hydraulic shock with a rising rate (the shock moves faster deep in the stroke than at the beginning). The front suspension is housed within the head tube similar to a Cannondale Headshock. The front rises slightly on launch and dices slightly when braking, but otherwise remains steady.
The rear shock is a DNM DV-22 coil-over. A lighter (and much more expensive) air shock is offered, but the coil spring unit offers a rideable bike even if the internals should blow out entirely. The peace of mind was more valuable to me than the grams saved.
There are surprisingly few parts and no ball bearings in the front suspension other than the sealed headset. When lifting the front wheel off the ground there is a light clunk, but this does not show up while riding. The damping adjustment knob above the stem compresses some elastomers to create friction damping. This creates some initial resistance to eliminate unwanted motion from pedaling action, but allows it to respond easily to bumps.
This is not to say the suspension is perfect. Front and back each erase smaller impacts equally. Larger impacts and g-outs on rare occasions reveal some disparity between low-tech friction and high-tech hydraulic damping.
This bike was custom built with my own component selections. HP Velo offers a standard spec of a SRAM DualDrive and single chainring up front as well as other stock options.
The frameset comes standard with seat, forks, headset with integrated suspension, stem and handlebars. You get your choice of tweener bars or tiller steering and coil-over or air rear shock.
Cranks: FSA Gossamer 175 mm. These cranks are fairly light, have a nice glossy black finish and a reasonable cost. The spindle is an FSA Platinum with sealed bearing. It seems like a good quality unit also at a reasonable price.
Drivetrain: I selected a Shimano XT rear derailleur with 105 triple front all driven by XT M760 STI levers. With the integrated shifter/brake levers I shift at least twice as much as I did with bar end shifters. It is easy to shift and brake at the same time. The rear derailleur is 'low normal' which means that when approaching a stop I can quickly punch the downshift button 3-4 times and the derailleur does the rest with a slow turn or two of the cranks. Upshifting is accomplished by pushing downwards on the brake lever, which gives a very light and precise feel. This setup seems tailor-made for a recumbent. The front shift lever, however, has never worked quite as well.
Gearing: The Shimano 11-32 9-speed cassette and 30/42/53 crankset setup gives 23-120 gear-inches. I have more gear choices in the upper end for my flat home rides while still having some reasonable bailout gears for doing hilly centuries. I seldom use the granny on this bike so I may switch to a tighter-spaced rear cluster.
Chain Management: The chain runs under an over-sized idler wheel on the drive side and Teflon chain tubes. Until now I was skeptical about chain tubes. In practice this setup is very efficient and the chain has no opportunity to flop or to cause mess or damage anywhere.
The idler wheel is made of hard plastic hardly wider than a chainring. A center ridge supports the chain by the bushings, not the side plates, while O-rings on either side stabilize the chain and keep entry and exit silent. There is no chain drumming at all, a common problem with hard, performance-oriented idler systems.
The return path is entirely within a chain tube supported by two adjustable brackets. The continuous housings not only keep my legs clean, but keep dirt from the tires off the chain so it takes a lit less lube and maintenance. The chain tubes are flared at the ends to ease entry and exit; a nice touch.
Brakes: This is my first experience with the Avid 7 disc brakes. HPV offers the Avid 5 brake along with other offerings by Magura. The main difference between the Avids is that the 7 has brake pad adjusters on both sides of the caliper while the 5 has them only on the outside. This makes the 7 easier to keep the pads centered on the rotor and take up wear. I appreciate this because when the inside rear pad rubs the rotor it squeaks. Braking is noticeably stronger up front with the smaller wheel, but it seems entirely proportional to their respective duties. Braking is strong and quiet, except in the rain where it howls.
Wheels: Velocity Heater 26/20, 32-spoke with Velocity sealed bearing hubs, 14g spokes front and 14/15g butted rear. Velocity does offer sexier looking wheels with reduced-count paired spoke patterns, but they are probably less durable. One problem I have always had with OEM wheels is that it is very difficult to get the tire on and off when I get a flat. I don't know if this is an oversight or a safety feature, but I think it is a pain in the tire levers. With the Heaters, you can peel the tires off or on easily by hand.
Tires: The bike has Schwalbe Stelvio tires. These are small, high pressure tires and I do get flats occasionally on my typical urban rides. I can't say they flat any easier than the marathons I used on my previous bike, but they are noticeably faster rolling. With the suspension I run the pressure at the max 115 psi, where my unsuspended Phantom II ran the fatter Marathons at about 70 psi in order to retain my teeth in skull.
A very sweet rear rack is offered, which is about the only way to carry anything. Fenders, generators, even a lockable trunk are offered, but I am a fair weather flyer and there is plenty of that in Southern California. I got the Airflow seat cushion, seat extension and headrest. The headrest doesn't seem to work well while wearing a helmet. The seat is XL and the suspension springs firm, of course.
Other bikes I considered included the RANS Force 5, the Bacchetta Strada and Corsa highracers, the Challenge Wizard, and the HPV GrassHopper and Street Machine. The RANS and Bacchetta bikes start at half the price of the Street Machine, while the Euro bikes are all similar in cost.
The lower cost, lighter weight and simplicity of the highracers makes them strong candidates for tall, light riders on smooth roads with few stops. I'm tall, but the rest describes someone else. A stick bike is a bad choice for someone my size.
The Challenge Wizard looks similar to the Speedmachine but sits a little higher and has a lower bottom bracke. The Street Machine is similar to the Challenge, but I don't like its forward weight bias. The GrassHopper was a possibility with its reclined position, higher seat and greater cargo space, but I didn't think a rear 20'' wheel was best for performance.
The low riding position limits visibility, so I plan my routes to some degree. There is room for substantially beefier wheels and tires. The bike is not suitable at all for off-road riding.
The Speedmachine is an excellent choice for a large or heavy rider looking for speed on less than pristine roads. It is on the heavy side, so smaller riders may not benefit as much form its stout construction.
There is little to nitpick about this bike. I would like to see better front suspension for this cost, and more options for the handlebar/stem setup. A lighter version would be nice (not that I could ride it).
It goes without saying, this being an owner review, that I think it is worth the very high price tag. A better question is, does the Speedmachine meet the high expectations of an HP Velotechnik product? The answer is yes, which is high praise indeed.
Faster than a pack of roadies
Outstanding build quality and reputation
Easy reach to the ground
Need more handlebar options
Low (choose your routes carefully)
Not enough dealers
HP Velo bikes are available only through dealers, but HPV will provide direct service, accessories and spare parts if needed. My dealer is Bent Up Cycles in Van Nuys, CA, which also does online orders.
NUMBERS: Wheelbase: 47". Seat height: 16". Bottom bracket high: 27". Weight: 31 lbs. Weight limit (rider & cargo): 275 lbs. Seat angle: 25-35°. Weight: 35 lbs (not current model; 2006 weights from 31.5 lbs).
FITS: 5'4" to 6'6", 49" maximum X-seam.
FRAME & SEAT DETAILS: Frame: TIG welded aluminum with suspension. Fork: aluminum suspension. Chain idler: power-side idler, slack-side tube. Headset: HP Velo. Seat: HP Velo BodyLink. Handlebar/stem: HP Velo. Color: Silver grey, Carmine red or custom.
UPDATES FOR 2006
HP Velo has recently updated this model for the new year. Here are the changes: BodyLink seat, new low rider option, a total of four panniers can be mounted mow, indirect underseat steering, improved steering geometry, new lighter aluminum fork, weight from 31 lbs., standard colors silver grey and carmine red, optional custom colors, lower entry price for basic model with the SRAM 3x8 DualDrive.