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Catrike 700 gets 2018 makeover

Catrike is giving the venerable Catrike 700 racing trike a makeover for 2018 and addressing rider feedback gained over the years.

One constraint that has been a sticking point over the years is simply the 130" ground-shipping limit imposed by UPS and Fedex. In order to keep the length plus girth of the package close to 130 inches, the frame has to be physically limited. And although Catrike takes some liberties with that 130" limit, the fact is that the 700 recumbent trike, with its longer rear fork (to accommodate the larger 622 ETRTO rear wheel) and more laidback seating angle, will always be a large shipping package.

This is the primary reason Catrike has been unable to increase the frame length to gain the extra space to dip the upper seat cross-tube backwards to move it away from the rider's upper back. At our recumbent trike shop, we have addressed this issue for years simply by bolstering the upper part of the seat with large-pore open-cell foam, or with a Ventisit seat-pad.

For 2018, though, Catrike has formally redesigned the seat to include a special cushion on the upper seat covering the cross-bar. The seat now also includes lumbar/kidney side cushions to fit the rider more snugly and work against centrifugal forces in turns.

Catrike is also upping the ante on the specs converting the rear wheel to a modern disc-compatible 24-spoke Zipp wheel, and building it around a wider (142mm) hub with a 12mm through axle for increased stiffness. The new wheels will be compatible with newer 11-speed drivetrain technology.

New changes for the 2018 include:

  • new seat mesh incorporating upper support cushion, and side lumbar bolsters
  • slight frame change focusing on the upper seat
  • 142mm rear wheel with 12mm through-axle
  • carbon triple crankset
  • rear disc brake for drag and parking usage
  • new dropout system to accommodate the rear wheel and disc parking brake
  • 11-speed drivetrain compatibility

The new Catrike 700 will also be significantly more expensive than the current $2950 price tag, though how much more is still not known.

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HP Gekko FX26 folding recumbent trikes become scarce in USA

HP Velotechnik has sold the last of its US supply of Gekko FX-26 folding recumbent trikes to its premium stocking HP Velotechnik dealers like AlphaBENT.

HP has announced some changes to the Gekko components for 2018 which include hydraulic brakes and downgraded wheel hubs. Up until now the lower-priced Gekkos had the same excellent-quality hubs of the most expensive HP recumbent trike models. For 2018, however, HP promises that people wanting the premium hubs will have to pay a premium price. Buyers who want the easier-to-maintain mechanical disc brakes and top-quality hubs of the 2017 models will have to act fast before the last ones are gone from HP dealers.

The Gekko FX-26 is an entry level recumbent trike with a market position competing head-to-head with the Catrike 5.5.9. Though the two trike models share some design features including an integrated folding mechanism, they are radically different in their components and their production. The Catrike 5.5.9. is manufactured in the USA and has a premium 10/30-speed drivetrain and bar-end shifter set, whereas the Gekko FX models are equipped with the much less expensive 8/24-speed drivetrain and twist shifters.

US recumbent trike manufacturer, Catrike, has implemented a different supply chain by manufacturing its own frames in-house using just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing methods. Catrikes JIT model assures the company that it won't run out of trikes unless it somehow runs out of materials or components. The downside of Catrike's JIT model is that popular models might have lengthier lead-times if they are not produced anticipatorially.

Although HP Velotechnik is a German company, it has the Gekko FX-26 models manufactured in Taiwan and exported directly to the USA. This takes advantage of the lower labor costs of Taiwan, but requires much longer lead-times on production and shipping. Customized Gekkos remain available from Germany at approximately a $600 premium over the US models.

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Electric-assist torque anchors

A hub-driven electric-motor such as Bionx, Neodrive, or GoSwiss needs an anchor point that is physically fixed on the recumbent trike or bicycle, so it has something to push against. Without this anchor point, the hub would simply spin when activated with electricity.

With the anchor point, the hub can convert its spinning force or torque into forward force moving the trike forward. Every manufacturer has a unique spin (pun intended) on how this is best implemented, and each manufacturer calls the anchoring device something different. Bionx calls them "torque collars" whereas GoSwiss calls them "torque arms".

To complicate matters, Bionx has a gravity-sensitive strain-detector inside the hub. This means that the Bionx hub must be fixed in the recumbent tricycle at a particular orientation or it will not accurately sense the rider's pedaling force. Therefore, Bionx originally designed a torque collar wedged itself in place at any angle and it could be positioned differently to fit all of the plethora of different bike dropout profiles in existence.

This was a very simple and infinitely-adjustable design, and its only flaw was that removing and repositioning the torque collar required a special press tool and each shop preparing aftermarket Bionx electric-assist systems had to purchase the special tool.

After a while, Bionx redesigned the torque collar to go on and off with no special tool and it would key into a particular position with a flat edge of the torque collar fitting perfectly onto a flat edge of the motor axle. This design made it much easier to get the torque collar on and off, but it meant that a different torque collar had to made to fit each of the different dropout profiles / angles. All of a sudden, shops that used to be able to pop a torque collar off with the special tool were now required to maintain an extensive inventory of these torque collars, each holding the motor at different angles.

The standard torque collar included with a Bionx 350W electric-assist is a 27-degree torque collar. However, some recumbent trikes such as Catrike always require a different torque collar.

We recently came across a pair of these Catrikes that had Bionx systems installed without the correct torque collar. The tip-off was how much force it took to get the axle nuts off. When we pulled the wheels of each trike, we found that the unscrupulous dealer had filed away the flat keyed part of the torque collar and re-installed the torque collar with no torque anchor. To keep the axle from rotating under load, that dealer had had to tighten the axle nuts to an amazingly high torque!

GoSwiss and Neodrive electric-assists do not have the same gravity feedback as Bionx systems, so the orientation of the axle doesn't matter. Both of these European systems use a splined interface that allows the torque arm to be angle however it works best for the physical shape of the cycle frame.

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Bionx electric-assist on Bacchetta A26 recumbent bike

The Bacchetta A26 is the successor to the Giro ATT premium touring / commuting recumbent bike model. It is one of the fastest touring bikes made and A26 owners usually struggle to keep under a 15mph bike-path speed limit. 

On the open road, though, if you are commuting, you might just want to add an electric assist to ease the commute. Bionx offers a nice solution for this with a 350W rear wheel hub-based motor.

The standard interface to Bionx systems is to just pedal. This is because Bionx motors have a strain sensor that detects when you are pedaling and how hard, and the system multiplies your effort turning you into a Bionic Person.

However, it is always problematic to mount a battery, and it seemed moreso on the Bacchetta because we didn't want to force a rack onto it and we wanted to keep the weight low and central. At AlphaBENT, we have devised a nice battery mount for Bacchetta bikes that allows the battery to hang suspended just under the idler pulley. Advantages are:

  • plenty of clearance
  • low, central weight distribution
  • clearance for all leg and foot movement
  • universal design should work on all Corsa and Giro Bacchetta recumbent bikes.

If you are thinking of electrifying your Bacchetta recumbent bicycle, bring it on by and get it installed by Northern California's Bionx experts.

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HP runs out of US-available Gekko FX-20 recumbent trikes

Surprisingly, HP Velotechnik has run out of supply of its US-available Gekko FX-20 folding recumbent trikes for 2017.

Demand must have outstripped supply as dealers looking for Gekko FX20's in HP's US warehouse have been turned away empty-handed.

Gekko FX-20 trikes are some of the tightest-folding recumbent trikes in the industry and have all 20" wheels. This configuration is a bit slower than the 26" larger version of the FX20, but it folds up tighter and doesn't require a supply of two different tire and tube sizes.

HP Velotechnik maintains a supply of US-available Gekko FX-20's in their US warehouse and because these are shipped directly from Taiwan without touching German soil, they don't some with the same price constraints as the same model coming out of Germany. Gekko FX-20's are still available when custom-ordered out of Germany, but come at a $600 premium to cover the additional duties and international air-shipping.

This puts the price of a Gekko FX-20 shipped to the US from Germany on par with the base price of a Catrike Trail, or a base-model ICE Sprint-20 or Adventure-20.

The Catrike Trail has a similar folding system, but is U.S. made with a higher component specification. ICE recumbent trikes are of a modular design with each trike priced depending on configuration. ICE trikes are custom-configured in England and air-shipped to the U.S.

HP anticipates having Gekko FX-20's in stock in America for 2018.

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Day-6 semi-recumbent / forward crank bikes back in stock soon

Day-6 semi-recumbent bikes will be in stock again soon. Production delays have made Day-6 bikes a limited-availability commodity for the past two months, but the wait is almost over.

AlphaBENT expects a new shipment of Day-6 forward crank bikes on Friday, July 28, 2017, but it's not clear how long they will last.

Some customers have been waiting two months, and other potential buyers have had to exercise their patience waiting for the delays to end.

Full stock of Dream-24, Dream-8, and Samson Day-6 bikes will be ready for a test-ride soon.

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Summer travel issue: Recumbent Tandem Rider magazine hits shelves

The 2017 summer travel issue of Recumbent Tandem Rider Magazine is finally in print and on the shelves at recumbent stores across the U.S.

This issue features

  • a thrilling tale of cycling in the Argentine Andes from Mendoza, past one of the tallest mountains (Aconcagua) in the world and on many tall mountain roads on a RANS Screamer tandem recumbent bike.
  • a side-by-side comparisons of the Azub Six and the HP Velotechnik StreetMachine GTE by two recumbent travel adventurers
  • recumbent-friendly trails and roads at Lake Almanor in California just up the road from AlphaBENT's warehouse location in Chico, CA.

The current issue is FREE and available at fine recumbent shops like AlphaBENT.

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Time ticking against Azub price increases

In an unconventional move, Azub is raising prices in mid-season.

On Monday 15 May 2017, Azub prices will increase by 2-5%. 

Full-service shops like AlphaBENT are taking last-minute orders through the weekend of 5/13-14 of 2017. Some Azub trikes like a full-suspension Ti-FLY with Pinion 18-speed transmission can be quite expensive, so a 5% discount is a significant difference.

Of all the recumbent trike manufacturers, Azub is the only one offering Pinion transmissions.

Azub has also announced a new configurator to help buyers customize configurations and place orders through top dealers like AlphaBENT with a minimum of hassle.

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Recumbent Tandem Rider Magazine goes online

Recumbent Tandem Rider (RTR) Magazine has been covering the recumbent industry these last many years since the beginning -- and now, for the first time, the print copy of RTR magazine is available online.

RTR magazine publisher, Charles Coyne, is a constant shadow monitoring the comings and goings in the recumbent industry. He has also taken the initiative of creating the Recumbent CycleCon (the industry's only trade show in the United States).

As regularly as clockwork, stacks of RTR magazines have arrived in leading recumbent dealer shops like AlphaBENT. These unique magazines have been a key source of product information, reviews, and adventures dealing exclusively with recumbents and tandems.

Recumbent Tandem Rider Magazine will continue to be available in its print version and physical copies of the latest issue can be picked up for free wherever they were available before. But, now, the exact same magazine can be viewed online at RTRmag.com

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TARTAR Spring 2017 - Recumbent trike ride on Sacramento's American River Trail

An informal ride called Tour of the American River for Trikes and Recumbents TARTAR will be happening in Sacramento and riders from all points will be converging on the Sacramento area to enjoy the American River trail and to meet other recumbent trike riders.

This ride has been happening semi-yearly for quite a while and has gained a strong following.

Rides are scheduled for

  • Friday 28 April 2017 at 5pm
  • Saturday 29 April 2017 at 9:30am
  • Sunay 30 April 2017 at 9:30am

All rides start and end at the Double Tree Suites by Hilton - Rancho Cordova - 11260 Point East Drive Rancho Cordova, CA 95742

The main information page for the rides is at http://www.bentrideronline.com/messageboard/showthread.php?t=132689

There are announcements on two separate Meetup pages at:

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Disability

How to get out of a recumbent trike if you can't get out of a recumbent trike

Catrike Speed rider, Miles, has worked out a great system for getting in and out of his very low and laidback recumbent trike using a strap attached to his roof-rack.

The Catrike Speed is no longer in production, but is most closely related to the current Catrike 700. It is a sport trike with a very low seat and very reclined seat. Another trike in this sport or racing class is the ICE VTX.

Miles has ALS, but this technique would work well for a lot of other situations. His trike is equipped with a Bionx electric-assist.

It's all in the positioning of the trike and the foresight in lashing the strap to the roof rack, and then, when he comes in for a landing, he just grabs the strap off the ground and pulls himself up.

Thanks for demonstrating this clever trick, Miles.

Find Miles at the Walk to Cure ALS or back an ALS walker.

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Announcements

Catrike Road-AR quietly introduced -- full-suspension recumbent trike

Catrike recently removed the Road rear-suspension recumbent trike from its model line-up and replaced it with a full-suspension Road-AR.

The change was made with little or no notice to dealers and potential buyers, and has taken Catrike aficionados a bit by surprise.

For Catrike, with the main development work on the new front-suspension spindles behind them, it was probably a very easy change to make.

Catrike's new front suspension spindles have different engineering constraints, so a straight-across front-suspension upgrade path does not exist for end-users. But, with the manufacturing process completely under their own control, Catrike can easily change tubing specifications to meet the needs of the new spindles, and this seems to be what has happened.

The pricing of the new model is interesting. At $3550, the new Road-AR is $400 more than the Road model it replaced, but $600 less than its nearest comparable Catrike option -- the Dumont.

And, $3550 for a full-suspension recumbent tricycle with these specifications is extremely competitive. By comparison, HP Velotechnik's full-suspension trike with 20" rear wheel, the Scorpion FS-20, starts at $900 more with a very different set of components.

Comparing such models is difficult, though. With its integrated sway-bar, and indirect steering, HP's FS-20 is undoubtedly more expensive to build and the suspension handles bumps quite differently.

It is also important to note that the Road is NOT a folding trike like the Catrike Dumont and the HP Scorpion FS-20.

Top-level recumbent dealers like AlphaBENT expect to have Road-AR recumbent trikes in stock by the end of May.

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