So a couple of weeks ago I found myself in the van with Micah and he started his data dump from Recumbent Cycle Con. I’d sent him up to Philadelphia to pester my suppliers, and this is what he learned. Mind you I doubt that this is everything that was to be found and learned at RCC, this is just what Micah finds interesting. My apologies if not all of this makes perfect sense. If you’ve talked with Micah you’ll know this is to be expected:
AZUB (Micah’s favorite brand)
AZUB is applying the Shimano STEPS e-motor technology to their trikes. Mounting the STEPS motor requires a special boom to carry the motor up at the crankset. You can’t use a front derailer with the motor system, but there isn’t much need to have an extra wide gear range with an assist. Anyway, rear derailers are handling wider ranges on their own now. Faster road trikes don’t need the lower gears since the motor will help with climbs, and off-road trikes don’t need the higher gears. Though the STEPS motor has less overall power than a Bionx, it still has high torque for acceleration. Paired with a NuVinci continuously variable transmission AZUB is seeing great efficiency in this motor, and that means range.
A challenge with motor systems on recumbents, like many accessories on recumbents, is setting up the controls in an elegant manner. ‘Bents often don’t have handlebars like a mountain bike does, and that can make it a challenge to elegantly arrange the controls so that everything is at your fingertips and the wiring is concealed. I saw some clever new parts from AZUB that aided this, and which could work on other e-motor systems on other makes of recumbents.
I also saw Shimano’s new application of the Di2 electronic shifting optimized for use with the STEPS motor system. It is very flexible in application, which is a good thing for recumbents. The controls are compact and can be arranged for a variety of handlebar arrangements. The controls can be set to work on internally geared hubs or derailers.
I spent a lot of time with AZUB. I got to meet the owner and saw Honza, their sales manager, again for the first time since the HOT. Honza seemed cheerful and relaxed. I checked out their fat tire T-Tris for the first time. There’s more to be said about that, and you may be getting a chance to try one out on an Easy Street glamping trip soon.
I got a look at the new Catrike 700, but I never had much chance to talk with a Catrike employee. The one person at the booth seemed to spend a lot of time talking on the phone to his girlfriend. :^( The two big changes to the 700 are the thru-axle rear wheel for greater frame stiffness in cornering (like AZUB did two years back on the TriCon) and the SRAM WiFLi wireless electronic shifting. I never got a chance to ride the new 700 since the booth was poorly staffed. I was disappointed to see that Catrike developed their own thru-axle system instead of using an off-the-shelf system, like the Syntace axle that AZUB uses. The SRAM WiFLi transmission uses a compact double crankset, more modern, more standard, but not as wide a gear range as the triple cranks used on other Cats. The way the industry is going we’ll just have to put up with this unless someone starts making a recumbent specific component group.
Like AZUB, ICE was showing off trikes with the STEPS motor system. ICE paired their motors with Shimano internally geared hubs, and this gives you the option of switching on automatic transmission, helping you to “make cycling easy.” It was on ICE’s electric trikes that I got the sense of how “get on and go” the STEPS system could really be. Like AZUB there were no new offerings in their model line up, but lots of experimentation with and application of Shimano’s electric motor system.
My concern about all this Shimano stuff is Shimano changes their specs and their designs so often that by the time this stuff is really available and supported in the US market it may be completely different. Sometimes they come out with some parts that work really good for something and then suddenly you can’t get them any more. I start recommending something and getting them on customer’s trikes, and suddenly I can’t get parts. We’ll see, and I’ll hope for the best, but too much Shimano worries me.
TT had a lot of their new line of bags, which I’m pretty familiar with now. They also had the EVO, which I think shows great promise but isn’t as supported as it can be. I got a first look at the new Gran Turismo, intended as the replacement for their classic Tour model. The most significant thing on the GT is the stiffer rear frame.
Lots of electric assist stuff on a variety of brands. Some were brands that only sell direct. Lots of trike brands were there with assists installed.
TerraCycle was there, of course, and in keeping with the electric theme of the show they were showing off newer, more highly adjustable battery mounts. Keeping TerraCycle parts in stock is a hassle, not because of TerraCycle but because of recumbents. As usual, there is such a variety of frame designs, especially main frame tube width, that we’re always finding we don’t have what we need in stock. Any time they can make an accessory that is more flexible in application it is good news.