Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Flevo Back To Back Tandem

In the last few weeks I've been doing research on this bike. Because it's no longer in production there's not much around. What there is is something of a mixed bag. Here's a favorable 8 year old review I found posted on a message board:

The seats on the Flevo are far lower than the seats on the Screamer. The low seats immediately gave me a feeling of confidence. They were right down there were they should be. I was able to easily put my feet down flat with my upper legs approximately parallel to the ground like on a Tour Easy, not at some unnatural feeling downward angle like on every other too highr ecumbent tandem I have ridden. The seat backs were nicely reclined at about a 35 degree angle which improves the aerodynamics and rear end comfort on long rides yet isn't so reclined that it causes neck strain. The seats came from the Flevo Basic single recumbents and appear to be modeled after the Linear seats with supportive mesh over steel frame backs and foam bottoms suppported by a triangular steel frame. Flevo was at one time(maybe they still are?) the Dutch Linear importer. The overall length of the Flevo is considerably longer than a Screamer butstill shorter than a LWB tandem like a Ryan Duplex. The extra length was due to a combination of back to back seats and fairly laid back seats.There is a tremendous amount of cargo space between the seat backs, enough for two people to do fully self supported touring without a trailer, unlike the Screamer which has rather limited cargo space. Furthermore the cargo between the seats is low and at the middle of the bike for optimum weight distribution.

The back to back position has other advantages besides aerodynamics and also has some disadvantages. Conversation is much easier with the heads close together though we noticed the backs of our helmets sometimes banged against each other. The stoker makes a nice rear view mirror and is in a good position to negotiate with following drivers about making lane changes and such. With the stoker unable to easily see forward there is no back seat driving going on about conditions up ahead. I did have to communicate bumps and turns more. I have ridden on the back of other back to back tandems and it is an interesting sensation sitting backwards looking at the straight road behind and suddenly feeling the side forces of the bike going into a turn.

Looking back my overall impressions were the Flevo back to back tandem was a blast to ride and very fast but in need of some significant refinement. It overall had a prototype feel to it which may be why some people assumed it was homebuilt. The desireability of this basic configuration of tandem was clearly demonstrated to me. For years I have thought a 2 wheel drive back to back tandem was the way to go for maximum performance (which can also mean least exertion for a given speed if your aren't out to go fast). Just as da Vinci drive proved to me the advantages of independent coasting, the 2 wheel drive configuration proves to me how much better yet having two completely independent drive trains is. I can really appreciate this as most of the stokers I ride with have lower cadences which compromises my efficiency and requires me to reduce my power output to avoid knee pain or force them to spin faster. Although the Flevo could use a lot of mechanical refinement and some people might not get along with the high bottom brackets I don't recall ever riding an HPV which causes so many others to smile. This machine got far more attention than all sorts of other unusual recumbents I have ridden. At one point we were riding behind the Screamer and passed some people on road bikes. We heard them make the usual comments about the Screamer but they just about went crazy when we passed and they saw the rear facing stoker. When stopped we got lots of questions about which direction it drove in (both ends look the same from a distance) and why the seats were back to back. Vincent had a good answer, he said the bike was designed for Siamesetwins joined at the head.