Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fleavo vs. Seavo

Having finally put enough miles (600+) on the Flevo back to back to get a real feel for the bike, I thought it would be interesting to rate it against my trusty Rans Seavo. It's mostly an academic exercise though since the Flevo is generally unavailable on the market now. I'll rate them both on a scale of 1-10 for comfort, speed, transportability, maneuverability, cost, and stoker satisfaction.

Comfort

Flevo: This is the most comfortable bike, tandem or single, I've ever ridden. After a 50 mile ride there are no sore body parts and no recumbent butt. This is due no doubt to the fact that my stoker and I are basically riding on our backs. In addition, the suspension piston at the top middle of the frame smooths out all but the biggest bumps. Rating: 10

Seavo: As comfortable as the Screamer and most other single recumbents I've ridden. I do get recumbent butt on this bike after about 30 miles. Rating: 7

Speed

Flevo: It's performance is a quantum leap over any recumbent I've ridden. It easily cruises in the high teens with little effort and can cruise in the twenties with a bit of push. It's oblivious to headwinds. We easily pass almost every DF in sight in a headwind. Rating: 9

Seavo: The Seavo was a performance improvement over the Screamer, enabling us to cruise at 15+ for the first time. Headwinds are a problem though, as with most other bikes. Rating: 6


Transportability

Flevo: At a little over 13 feet long, the Flevo presents some transport issues. I'm not aware of any rack that will hold the Flevo. The bike breaks down easily into two pieces and set up is straightforward, so it can be broken down and carried in the back of a truck or SUV. For a Saturday ride, however, that means breaking down and reassembling the bike twice each. I solved this problem by acquiring, with the help of friend David, a trailer that holds the Flevo securely. Transport and set up are a breeze now, but I do have a large trailer taking up half my garage. Rating: 5

Seavo: This bike is easily transportable on most tandem racks. I use the Draftmaster with no problems. The bike also has SS couplers and breaks down into to halves without much trouble so I can stow it in the back of my SUV when necessary. Rating: 9

Maneuverability

Flevo: While the Flevo is swift and very stable, it doesn't exactly turn on a dime. I find that on winding bike paths, like those at George Bush Park, things can get a little dicey, particularly when there are pedestrians to cope with. My friend Damien in Australia owned a Flevo and comments,"It's not stiff enough...after applying some steering lock, it takes a second or so for the frame to wind-up and actually start turning the corner." I've never noticed this on my bike. Rating: 5

Seavo: Very stable and agile. The bike turns easily and quickly. Rating: 8

Cost

Flevo: I picked up the Flevo with on online WTB ad. It was in perfect condition with only a few hundred miles on it. $3000 plus shipping ($150) plus the cost of the new trailer ($300). Total: $3450. I think that's a steal for such an unusual bike that is long out of production. Rating: 8

Seavo: I bought the Seavo early last year for a little over $6000. Not a bargain but we've ridden it 2500 miles so far, so I'm getting my money's worth. Rating: 6

Stoker Satisfaction

Flevo: After getting over the initial nervousness involved in riding backwards and building trust, most stokers who have ridden this bike any length of time find that they actually prefer it to conventional tandems. The view back there is pretty much unrestricted. On organized rides conversations with other riders are possible. Rating: 9

Seavo: While the ride is comfortable the view is restricted. The stoker seat is set lower than on the Screamer. Rating: 5

And the winner is.....the Flevo with 46 points to 41 for the Seavo. They're both great bikes, but I find myself mostly riding the Flevo on weekends. I suppose that will change down the road once the novelty wears off. It's hard not to fall in love with a bike that dramatically boosts your speed and enables you to pass everything in sight, particularly at my age. And, as I've commented before, this bike puts a smile on the face of everyone who sees it. The Flevo never fails to garner a crowd.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"On your left...on your right...whatever"

"On your left...on your right...whatever." I actually heard this call from an overtaking rider at the Katy Flatland this past weekend and it represents one of the interesting twists in riding a back to back tandem. The passing rider meant, of course, that he was coming up on my left. Then he made eye contact with my stoker who was in the back facing him. Although he was passing on my left, he was passing on her right. On the Flevo, or any back to back tandem for that matter, all directions are reversed between the captain and stoker.

This phenomenon wouldn't be a problem except for the fact from the stoker's perspective riding backwards and blind requires a good deal of trust. One of the things a good captain must do on a back to back, at least initially, is to keep the rearward facing stoker informed of the road ahead. This means announcing bumps, gravel, turns, slowing, stopping and any other significant event accurately and well in advance. Announcing a left or right turn on the back to back takes on another dimension. The captain's right is the stoker's left and vice versa. On our first few rides the stoker just tried to make the mental adjustment and reverse all the turn directions I gave. It didn't always work. Often the stoker was distracted or focusing on other things and didn't take time to make the mental translation of right into left and left into right.

It was only after I asked Danny over at Cycle Genius to work on the bike that he came up with the perfect solution. The front and rear chain rings are both on the same side of the bike. So if I signal my stoker that we are turning towards the crank, it needs no translation at all. The same for turning away from the crank. This system made sense immediately and has served us well ever since. Now we use it not only to announce turns, but to point out things of interest while riding the bike, such as "Check out the cool tandem dropping back on the crank side."

Thanks Danny for another great idea!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Katy Flatland Report

Another Katy Flatland is on the books. This was our first Flatland on the Flevo and my first Flatland in the last few years. Last year was rained out, at least for Aimee and me. This year the weather cooperated. Liz and I were up by 5 and on the road by 5:45. David arrived at the start line early and phoned in a route change to avoid the heavy traffic at Katy Mills Mall where the ride started. Setting up the bike from the new trailer is a breeze compared to having to yank the two halves out of the back of the truck. Now we just take it off the trailer, load it up and go. I'm getting spoiled.
The ride seemed well attended. I haven't ridden it in a couple of years but attendance doesn't seem to have dropped with higher gas prices.

The start was staged by distance and limited to groups of a hundred or so. Tandems were placed in the first group so we were able to avoid the trouble of negotiating the Flevo in a solid mass of bikes. Instead we launched with a group of tandems before anyone else. Sweet. We saw Danny, Ken and David in the lot before the start and Tim and Vic in the first few miles.
As usual, the Flevo got lots of attention. Even though we passed or were passed by at least a thousand bikes, we didn't get a single "She's not pedaling in back" comment. We did get lots of other friendly comments though and Liz had a chance to talk to many riders as we cruised down the road. I think she enjoyed it. There's something about riding in a group that raises bike speed. We cruised at 19-20 on the leg to the first rest stop. The weather was perfect: a few clouds and very little wind. I thought temps were moderate for this time of year and it really didn't get hot until the end of the ride.
The route was well marked with color coded signs, but the color coding was not put on the maps. You either had to listen carefully to the starter or figure out the color coding while underway. We didn't have any problem. Rest stops were every 12-13 miles. I thought they were small, considering how many riders were on the road. There were long lines for the porta-potties and even longer lines for water and Gatorade. I can understand the logistical problems of positioning porta-potties, but it seems an easy matter to have more than 3-4 coolers available at the rest stops.
All of the riders we met were courteous and fun to talk to. I was surprised, however, to see several people on the open road who just refused to move over for cars. I just don't understand that kind of behavior. It reminded me of something my Dad, who was a pilot, used to tell me about flying: There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.
We passed several wreck scenes with ambulances in attendance. There were lots of SAG wagons and most of the busy intersections were flagged by local police. Just as with the Pedaling the Prarie ride in June, we started and ended at Katy Mills Mall. This is an okay place to start the ride and I guess it draws traffic into Sun and Ski Sports, but it's a horrible plave to end the ride. The last few miles featured lots of high speed auto traffic. Back in the day when I did this right on a DF, the ride started and ended at Katy High School. I don't know why it moved to Katy Mills, but moving it back to Katy High would be a distinct improvement.
We planned on doing the 60 miler, but opted to shorten the last leg of the ride for a total of 50 miles. This is Liz' longest ride of the year and I didn't want to push it. It was a smart choice because it really got hot in that last hour.
Thanks for a great ride!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Katy Flatland


The Katy Flatland is on for this Sunday and the weather looks like it might be pretty decent. Aimee and I had plans to do the Flatland last year, but it started raining as we pulled into the parking lot. This year Liz and I plan to do the 60 miler on the Flevo. I'll be posting a ride report. For reviews of a few past Flatland rides go here.
My regular Saturday ride and the Flatland this weekend should put me over the 1000 mile mark for the year. I's still optistic about getting the 2500 miles I set as a goal after I broke my femur in January.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Morris' Seavo

The only other Seavo owner I've ever spoken with is Dennis Morris of Tulsa. Dennis and Verlyn are dedicated tandem riders and were most helpful in sharing what they knew about setting up a Flevo when I was building mine. They have a great web page with lots of Seavo pictures. Be sure and check out their "Bike History" page as well as their "Seavo Q&A". Lots of good info there.

Monday, July 7, 2008

An Amazing Tandem Family

I spotted a mention of this amazing tandem family on EZ Biker's blog and can't help doing the same here. Have a look here for their story. Like EZ, I wish I had been born into a cycling family like this!

Aimee and I rode with this crew in the 2006 Hotter N' Hell in Wichita Falls. Here we are at the start line:

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

Happy 4th to all my biking friends out there! This is America's 232nd birthday. Let's never forget those who made it possible.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Flevo Trailer

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any) know that my ride of choice this year has been the Flevo back to back tandem. The bike is a joy to ride, but not easy to transport. It won't fit on my Draftmaster rack or any other rack I know of because of it's length. End to end, the bike is just shy of 13 feet long (12'10"). It comes apart in the middle for easy transport. This means unscrewing a couple of connections, taking the rear hydraulic brake lever off of the front handle bar and unclipping the brake line. Then the two halves are stowed. Even the two halves are so big and unwieldly that it's easy to inadvertantly damage them. Taking the bike out to Fulshear for a Saturday ride means breaking it down for loading, setting it up in Fulshear, breaking it down for loading after the ride and then unloading it at home and setting it up again. That can become tedious.

Solution: a trailer with a mounting system long enough to hold the Flevo. Good friend Z has found me a trailer and designed and built a mounting system.


We hope to have this unit up and running in the next few days. This means no more breaking down and setting up the bike. Hooray!
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Danny on the Flevo

video

Here's a short demo video shot from the back seat of the Flevo. That's Jim behind us on his Ti Aero. Notice that the stoker (Danny) is able to pedal normally even though he faces backwards. Like the Seavo, the Flevo offers the advantage of totally hands free stoking.