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ICE VTX review

I literally fell into recumbent trikes when an accident on my rode bike left me with a fractured femur and the knowledge that I had osteoporosis. Yes, men get osteoporosis too. It wasn’t the bike that did me in but those damn clipless pedals. I know everyone does just fine clipping in and out, but that was not the case for me. My wife and I had taken up riding road bikes not long before my accident. It was not too long after my accident that two very nice, fairly new road bikes went up for sale. As every child and riding adult knows, riding a bike is both enjoyable and a great way to exercise. So, I spent my days recovering looking for an activity that could take the place of riding a bike.

A few searches on the Internet led me to the world of recumbent trikes. I was really excited to find a machine that my wife and I could ride without fear of falling, even with clipless pedals. A few more searches led me to what is now AlphaBENT Cycles, located in Sacramento, CA. We spent days and weeks test riding every trike they had in stock. They had and still have a very large inventory of trikes. After many test-rides my wife and I decided to purchase two HP Velotechnik Scorpions primarily because of their superior ride. The Scorpion is an outstanding trike but I will leave that review for a later date.

As much as I enjoyed my Scorpion, I couldn’t help wanting a trike that was “cool”. For a long time I tried figuring out how to convert my Scorpion from a station wagon to something more like a sports car. I thought about swapping my mesh seat for a hard-shell BodyLink seat (They are very “cool” but expensive). I could have replaced my standard wheels and Big Apple tires with narrow performance wheels and tires, but I would still have been left with a small 26” wheel in the back. For me, it is that big 700 rear wheel that makes the VTX and Catrike 700 “cool”. So, I finally bit the bullet and bought what I thought was the coolest trike in the shop, an ICE VTX.

Application

ICE describes the VTX as being sleek, lean and finely tuned. They say that it delivers superior performance to the most exacting enthusiast and racer. It does indeed have the stance and components for going fast but it is much more than a race trike. Don’t rule out this trike simply because you enjoy peddling at a more leisurely pace. To my surprise, the fact that it goes fast also means that it will travel at a leisurely pace with minimal effort. I was concerned that the large rear wheel and design for speed might make going up hills more difficult. What I found was that the VTX ascends hills very well. It’s simplicity in design has created a trike that is lightweight and very efficient which makes it a pleasure to ride up hills as well as on level ground. Choose the ICE VTX if you want a trike that is both stylish and performs like a lightweight road bike while still providing all the advantages of a recumbent trike.

Appearance and Styling

The VTX is the Ferrari of recumbent trikes. No other recumbent trike is as stylish as the VTX. The VTX is long and low and with its 700-rear wheel and hard-shell seat, the VTX looks fast while parked on the side of the road. The VTX is a minimalist trike much like the Catrike 700. The VTX has a hydro-formed chromoly frame that is stylish and vibration dampening. It’s white color scheme including white rims and hubs, black spokes and red anodized nipples adds to its sporty looks. Its hard-shell Airflow seat also adds to its streamlined appearance and beauty. As beautiful as this trike is, form still follows function. The beauty of this trike is that it is designed for superior efficiency and handling. It is a beautiful trike to look at and to ride.

Adjustments and Comfort

The only adjustments that can be made to the VTX are the length of the boom and the incline of the seat. I am 6’5” tall and weigh 195 pounds. I am happy to say that I fit just fine with the boom fully extended and plan on staying under the stated weight limit of 230 pounds. Anyone my size or smaller should find the VTX very comfortably. The AirFlow seat comes in regular and tall sizes. The seat reclines from 32 to 25 degrees with 5 discreet settings. I find the seat to be very comfortable when set on the second to lowest setting. I tried riding with the seat on the lowest setting but found that it periodically rubbed on the rear tire. I highly recommend getting a headrest if you plan on riding with the seat reclined. I rode my VTX for a few weeks before I had a headrest and found it to be very tiring. Having a headrest makes the riding position very comfortable. The AirFlow seat design is amazing. It is extremely comfortable and holds you securely in the seat when cornering. The contours of the seat create a “butt bucket” that allows the rider to easily peddle through curves. The seat is also shaped such that the rider can press the small of his back against the seat during hard peddling even when the seat is fully reclined. The seat cushion is made of superior materials and is designed so that air can flow between the seat and rider. The cushion is attached to the base of the seat with Velcro and can be removed for cleaning.

Handling

The VTX is very light and responsive. It corners extremely well even at speed. The Air-Pro seat holds the rider in position but still allows for easy leaning into a corner. There is absolutely no brake steer with the VTX or any other ICE trike. Not having brake steer takes some getting used to if you like using your brakes to get through a corner. No brake steer does make the trike more stable in panic stops and on slippery roads and trails. It also makes it possible to brake with one hand while holding on to your hat with the other hand.

Braking

The VTX comes with Avid BB7 160mm disc brakes and Avid speed Dial 7 brake levers. The brakes work very well. The clearance between the disc and pads is easily adjusted while sitting on the trike. I was pleased to find that there is no friction between the pads and discs even when cornering. The parking brake is very minimalist in order to save weight – it consists of two Velcro straps that keep the brake levers engaged. As was mentioned above, there is no brake-steer on the VTX as with all ICE trikes.

Efficiency

The VTX is probably the most efficient production trike on the market with the exception of the VTX+. ICE has done everything possible to reduce weight and wind resistance.

Wheels and Tires

The wheels and tires on the VTX are definitely designed for riding on roads and paved trails. They are equivalent to what one would find on a quality road bike. That being said, one should not worry about pulling off the road or riding through a park.

The VTX comes with an Alex DA22 Aero White rear rim with stainless black double-butted spokes and red alloy nipples. The front rims are white Alex DA 16 Aero rims with stainless black double-butted spokes with red alloy nipples. The rear tire is a Schwalbe Durano 700c (28X622) and the front tires are Schwalbe Durano 20” (18X406). The white rims with black spokes and red nipples really add to the sporty appearance of the VTX trike.

Summary

I thoroughly enjoy riding my VTX. I am not a racer and simply ride for pleasure and exercise. I find the VTX to be extremely comfortable and easy to ride. The VTX is easy to peddle on level as well as steep grades. You will be very satisfied with the VTX if you are looking for the most stylish and efficient trikes on the market.

[Jim Hybarger and his wife Gale are often to be found exploring the Sacramento, Bay Area, and wide-West on their ICE VTX and Sprint FS-26X recumbent trikes.]

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High-tech rim tape saves weight / fingers

Rim tape is an invisible partner to all recumbent trike and bike riders. Rim tape protects the inner tube from sharp hole edges on double-wall rims and spoke-ends on singlewall rims.

On double-wall rims, the rim tape has to withstand extremely high forces, particularly with higher-pressure tires. In addition, its adhesive must resist migration and yet be easily removable when necessary in the future, even years after it was first installed.

Traditional rim tapes dominate in the bicycle industry, and these tapes employ thick woven fabric for their protective qualities. However, the thickness of the tape actually makes the rim well larger and hence makes tire changes more difficult. On the smaller recumbent wheels, this increase in the interior rim diameter is a significant factor causing headaches (and sometimes pinched fingers) for recumbent riders who have to remove their tires and fix their tubes. In addition, the additional weight of the thick cloth is unnecessary and wastes rider energy each time the wheel accelerates.

We have been experimenting with a new high-tech rim tape that uses a super-strength polyester film with amazing rigidity characteristics to keep it from stretching or puncturing under the high-pressure conditions on the inside surface of a bicycle wheel rim. Furthermore, it uses a silicone-based adhesive that has a perfect quality of staying in place while still allowing the tape to be easily peeled off years later.

Three years ago, we installed the tape on our own bicycles and field-tested it ourselves. The results were so good that two years ago we started building all double-walled wheels at AlphaBENT with this tape.

When we had the occasion to rebuild one of these early wheels for very different reasons, we got to see how this new rim tape has been working in regular real-world application for the past two years. The results are an absolutely amazing. The tape shows no degradation, even where it has been pressed at high pressure against the sharp interior edges of the rim continuously since it was first installed. There has been no migration of the tape, and when we peeled it off, it came off readily making our job of rebuilding the wheel easier.

Here are some pictures of the tape before we removed it from the rim.

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ICE Adventure trike models more affordable with 24-speed drivetrain

ICE has tackled the high cost of entry into the recumbent trike market by putting together a solid entry-level components package for a sub-$3,000 price on the ICE Adventure trike model. The new gruppo uses solid 8-speed chain and cassette system, which combine with a triple front crankset for a total of 24-speeds and Schwalbe Citizen tires to achieve the price savings.

Schwalbe Citizen tires are a small step down from the standard Tryker tires, but are still a high-quality tire with Kevlar reinforcement and 50 threads per inch (TPI or EPI) carcass construction.

The biggest savings comes from using 8-speed chain, cassette, and shifters in this 24-speed drivetrain. 8-speed systems fit on the same cassette body and often have the same gear range as comparable 9-speed or 10-speed systems. 8-speed systems simply have larger jumps between gears. For top-level cyclists, this means it is harder to achieve optimal cadence, but for ordinary recreational cyclists, the difference will not be easily noticeable.

An advantage of the 8-speed drivetrain is that 8-speed chain is less expensive and more robust than 9 or 10-speed chain, and all of the consumable drivetrain parts such as chain, cassette, and chainrings will be less expensive to replace when they wear out.

People getting ICE trikes with the 24-speed gruppo get the same frame, seat, hubs, and all other fundamental parts as used on the more expensive ICE recumbent trikes.

ICE has also made some "standard" parts optional to allow purchase of ICE trikes for lower cost without all of the "bells and whistles".

This strategy of offering a lower-cost alternative with a less expensive component set is no stranger to the recumbent trike industry. HP Velotechnik has capitalized on this same strategy in the specifications for its "made-for-the-USA" Gekko and Gekko FX-26 recumbent trike lineup.

Meanwhile, Catrike sticks with its strategy of offering a very high level of components and appealing to buyers looking for the highest level of components at the highest value. Greenspeed tends to use a similar strategy by specifying Dura-ace or Ultegra bar-end shifters as the best value, though Catrike's standard 10-speed SRAM drivetrain and gearing/shifting systems outpace the somewhat dated 9-speed Dura-Ace barend shifter systems for precision and durability.

ICE and Azub bridge the strategies by offering a wide variety of drivetrains and models in a mix-and-match smorgasbord of build options that gives buyers an essentially "custom" build at a "standard" build price.

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Cool riding Ventisit cushion relieves Terratrike seat hotspots

Terratrike owners sometimes find that the front corners of the seats are hotspots that chafe their legs as they ride. Additionally, the relatively dense weave of the seat covers on Terratrike Rambler and Rover models keep rider sweat from evaporating readily.

We have found a Ventisit seatpad that provides relief to Terratrike riders by resolving both issues at once. The pad extends for the full width of the seat and smooths out the front hotspots.

Made of high-tech material, the Ventisit pad provides improved air circulation behind and under the rider. The pad is available in standard and extra-thick and will raise the rider's effective seat-height by 20-30mm.

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RideAtaxia NorCal 2016 comes to Winters

Ride Ataxia comes to NorCal this coming weekend!

Come out Saturday, June 4, 2016 to support this worthy cause and these fine individuals.

Every year, we all come together at this time of year to raise awareness of and money for curing this debilitating disease called Friedrich's ataxia. Last year, RIdeAtaxia NorCal raised more than $109,000 for research to cure this disease.

It promises to be a scorcher this year, but there will be plenty of hydration and snacks and a meal afterwards to keep the riders going.

PLEASE NOTE: This year, Ride Ataxia Norcal begins and ends in the beautiful little town of Winters rather than Davis, where it has been hosted for the past several years.

Join Teams Kyle, Sean, Megan and all the other Ataxians and their supporters on this pretty and worthy ride.

Links

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Catrike Dumont Update: Availability and front-suspension retrofit

Many Catrike owners are probably wondering:

  1. Will Dumont front suspension spindles be mountable on other Catrike recumbent trikes?
  2. When will the Catrike Dumont full-suspension trike begin production?

Front-suspension Retrofits NOT possible

Catrike reports that the engineering specifications and forces involved preclude retro-fit capability. The suspension spindles (kingpins / kingposts) for the Dumont have been completely engineered from scratch and they are designed to different specification than non-suspension Catrike recumbent trikes. Therefore, retrofits will not be possible.

Recumbent tricycle spindles are extremely complicated. They are not only responsible for resisting riding forces, they also make the ride and steering what it is. Spindles are the nexus of a recumbent trike's handling, stability, self-centering, anti brake-steer, pedal-steer, and turning radius. In short, they dictate how a trike will ride and behave.

Catrike is understandably playing it quite cautiously with the new suspension spindles in order to avoid making any costly errors like their massive spindle recall when they last re-designed their non-suspension spindles. In this instance, there were a couple failures and Catrike replaced every spindle at its own expense.

It is common for front suspension to be non-modular and non retrofittable. Certainly, no one has ever expected HP Velotechnik to allow front suspension retrofits pulled from its Scorpion FS-20 and FS-26 models. The new Azub front suspension due out this summer will technically be retrofittable, but the retrofit will involve a replacement of the front cruciform including spindles and this is expected to be an expensive proposition.

The only currently commercially available front-suspension retrofit option is on ICE Sprint and Adventure models. In such an instance, a retrofit is possible, though more expensive than when installed OEM at initial purchase.

Catrike Dumont full-suspension trike not available until June at the earliest

On 3 June 2016, Catrike will get word that will dictate when they will finally be able to begin production of their new Dumont full-suspension big-wheel recumbent trike. Other than that, mum is the word, but is is likely that people anxiously awaiting this model will be able to look forward to getting their own in July.

The Dumont was announced in 2015 at the Interbike trade show, and Catrike has been shooting for a Spring 2016 initiation of production.

Catrike manufactures recumbent trikes in Orlando, Florida using Just-In-Time manufacturing philosophy and methods.

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Ti-FLY action video | full-suspension recumbent trike

Assuming that a video is worth a million words, even if it is only half a minute long, Azub released a video today illustrating the Ti-FLY front suspension in action.

The recently announced Ti-FLY full-suspension recumbent trike will be in full production during the summer of 2016.

Ti-FLY recumbent trike is to be built as two platforms:

Production is limited so reservations are being taken right now. Reserve yours now.

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Announcements

First Catrike Dumont full-suspension recumbent trikes to ship on 1 October 2016

Catrike has announced that production of the full-suspension Dumont recumbent tricycle will begin on October 1, 2016.

The Dumont incorporates new technologies in its design and manufacture. It is not uncommon for next-generation manufacturing technologies to have inconvenient delay. In this case, the production preparation and testing is taking longer than Catrike expected when they announced the Dumont at last year's Interbike trade show.

Causes for the delay

A re-design of the rear-suspension is requiring the manufacture of new custom parts, and new production jigs.

As previously reported here, the front end of the Dumont is getting redesigned for the new front suspension system.

Catrike is also playing it safe with testing and allowing itself plenty of time to conduct a thorough battery of tests of the new materials and structures.

Manufacturing precision at Catrike will also be increased thanks to a new jig and fixture testing and adjustment system developed expressly for the fixtures used for the Dumont.

Short-term pain for long-term gain

As one of the few recumbent manufacturers in the world (Azub being another) actually doing its own frame production, Catrike invests more in its manufacturing infrastructure and less in inventory and shipping logistics. This delay is not entirely unexpected and similar to delays associated with Catrike's (now years ago) investment in its in-house powdercoating system, it is a bitter pill in the short term that will bear long-term fruit for the entire Catrike lineup.

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Bacchetta 2016 changes affect Giro ATT-20 and Giro ATT-26 recumbent bike models | Adroit recumbent bicycles

The first of the new recumbent bike models from Bacchetta have started percolating into the market.

Code-named "Adroit", Bacchetta changed key parameters in the design of Giro ATT-20, Giro ATT-26, and ATT-700 recumbent bicycle models.

  • Frame dimensions now allow a larger range of rider sizes to fit each recumbent bike model. These changes include moving the cable stops forward so the seat can slide closer to the bottom bracket, and also changing the bottom bracket distance from the head-tube and the front wheel.
  • Innovative new dropout system allows 130mm spacing of road wheels or 135mm spacing of mountain bike / 29'er wheels to be used on these recumbent bikes.

The new dropouts mean that there is an incompatibility of replacement derailleur hangers between older Bacchetta bikes and newer recumbents. However, with the new dropout system, riders can use ultra-high-tech carbon-fiber wheel technologies available for the fastest road bikes, or opt for heavy-duty 135mm mountain bike / touring bike wheel technology for better durability -- without having to change the frame once everything has been dialed in.

Most of the well-refined Bacchetta recumbent design features have been untouched:

  • the seat clamping mechanism is the same
  • components seem largely equivalent
  • brazeons for brakes still allow caliper and disc brakes
  • Bacchetta signature EuroMesh and Recurve seats still have the same positioning and almost equivalent rider positioning
  • Giro ATT recumbent bicycle models keep the B-pivot that allows the handlebar to pivot out of the way for the rider to get on and off the bike.

Advantages of the new system are that models from 2016 forward fit more people better and let Bacchetta recumbent bike riders choose the best drive-wheel dimensions to suit their riding style.

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Disability

RideAtaxia NorCal 2016 raises more funds for Friedrich's Ataxia research

Kyle Bryant rallied the Ataxians and their supporters at the 7th Annual Ride Ataxia NorCal. Riders, families, and friends gathered in picturesque Winters, California for the 4 June 2016 event. Kyle led the 25-mile ride on a stock-issue hyper yellow Catrike 700 recumbent trike with Iron-Woman Rachael on a modified HP Velotechnik Gekko recumbent.

Teams Kiela, Megan, Sean, Barney, ZOWIE, Riley, Lia, Tayggli, Lyndsay, MMCA, Horizon, Ash, Blue Skies, MAIN 40, Rupeloton, Buford& Co., Roadies for Kyle, Luke's League, Brown & Caldwell, It's Not Supposed to be Easy, Sophia's Flying Pandas, were there and a stunning $80,700 was raised in a few short hours.

After the 3-course Riders' Feast, Kyle announced promising clinical studies which are the fruits of the labors and fund-raising of the Friedrich's Ataxia Research Foundation.

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accessories

Pannier rack top-bag adapter for ICE 26" suspension recumbent trikes

Recumbent trikes with 26" wheels have a difficult time supporting top-bags -- bags that are intended to be mounted on top of a rear rack.

ICE has just announced the availability of a rack adapter for its 26" models to allow the use of top-mount packs such as the Arkel Tailrider and many more.

The inherent difficulties are these:

  • any rear suspension worth its salt will have a lot of travel and the ICE 26" rear suspension is one of these
  • the rear rack is a suspension rack (not directly connected to the rear axle)
  • the rear rack adapter must therefore be far enough away from the top of the wheel to accommodate all that travel
  • a 26" wheel is already quite high

Therefore, an adapter for this purpose will necessarily be high off the ground with a corresponding contribution to a higher center of gravity. It will probably have more flex.

ICE has clearly stated that this adapter is not intended for loads higher than of 5kg (11 pounds).

An adapter like this might impact the foldability or packability of the trike, but ICE has designed it to fit all Adventure, Sprint, and Full Fat models with 26" rear suspension.

One benefit to using this adapter is that it should stabilize side panniers with heavy loads better than without it.

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Czech Republic

Azub Ti-FLY titanium suspension recumbent trike flight-ready summer 2016

On the heels of winning the "Trike of the Year" award for their outstanding-handling Tri-Con rear-suspension recumbent trike model, Azub has just announced the availability later this summer of their first full-suspension recumbent trike platform.

Dubbed the Ti-FLY, the new model leverages the natural lightness and springing characteristics of titanium as a 40mm travel spring. Upper and lower titanium cruciform pieces form a parallelogram structure which is a natural spring. Dampers tune the spring for desired suspension characteristics.

The engineers at Azub have mated this new front suspension technology to the proven supple rear suspension of the TRIcon model for a recumbent trike with characteristics unequaled in the recumbent tricycle industry.

Reservations for the Ti-FLY are being accepted right now at AlphaBENT. At a competitive sub-$5k base price, the Ti-FLY is to be available in a gamut of gearing configurations including:

  • Shimano derailleur-based 24-speed, 27-speed, and 30-speed drivetrains
  • SRAM Dual-Drive 24 and 27-speed systems
  • Shimano Alfine and Rohloff Speedhub internally-geared rear hub systems
  • and the amazing new Pinion 18-speed front gearbox

Azub estimates that they will be able to produce one Ti-FLY per day, so a first-come first-serve reservation system has been put in place for prospective owners to get their names into the limited production slots for this machine.

Like the Azub TriCON and Azub T-Tris models, the Ti-FLY will be available with either a small (20") drivewheel or a large 26" drive wheel. The larger drive-wheel will have higher gearing and a steadier ride with all other factors kept equal.

  • Ti-FLY 20 has 20" wheels all around
  • Ti-FLY 26 has 20" wheels in front and a 26" drive wheel for ideal handling and gearing

The Ti-FLY is aimed squarely at the burgeoning full-suspension recumbent trike market. Until 2016, only two companies, Inspired Cycle Engineering (ICE) and HP Velotechnik, offered full-suspension trikes.

In 2016, the field will double with the arrival of the Catrike Dumont and the Azub Ti-FLY 20 and 26.

Azub's designer has written an interesting piece comparing the relative qualities of the Ti-FLY front suspension system as compared to other recumbent trike front suspension systems by HP Velotechnik, ICE, Catrike, and Stein. In a nutshell, he identifies the main advantages of this design as being lightweight through choice of titanium material integrated into the frame. He points out that torsion bars as used in the HP Velotechnik design is important for balancing load between the front wheels for cornering stability, and argues that in the Ti-FLY design, a balancing transfer of load between the front wheels happens through the middle section of the titanium plates since it is shared by both sides' suspension elements. It is an interesting read for anyone researching full suspension recumbent tricycles.

There are two videos on the web. One is in Spanish and the trike is shown while stationary. The rider narrates his experience and that it is quite agreeable. The other is a slick promotional video by Azub.

Initial pricing for the Ti-FLY in its various build-up configurations is available here.

Reserve your Ti-FLY full-suspension recumbent trike now.

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