Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: Rans Stratus: The Ergonomic Difference


Bike ergonomics done right: the bike adapts to the rider. 


After a year and more than 2,500 miles on my Rans Stratus XP I have just one question: why aren't there millions of these bikes on the road?  

Whether you ride a Stratus XP for a few minutes or half a day it sails down the road almost effortlessly. You simply sit back and watch the scenery fly by. You have to ride one to appreciate what I'm talking about: it's the Mercedes Benz of recumbent bicycles. Rans has been working on this bike for decades and it shows. Everything about the Stratus adjusts to the rider: the handlebars, the grips, the seatback and the seat position. The big wheel up front eliminates fiddly small wheel handling. The Stratus XP fits my body like a glove, nothing to "break in." no tedious "learning curve,"no aches and pains. 

How did Rans do it? They thought about ergonomics and put the needs of the rider first. Practically the whole bike industry is headed in the opposite direction: adding cost-be-dammed racing features to minimalist frames. The result: fast bikes with terrible ergonomics that torture riders. I talked with Randy Schlitter, the head of Rans, who put it this way: "Over the years we've refined the Stratus, adding helpful features when we could." That shows too. The Rans Stratus XP is a supremely ergonomic bike.  


Bike ergonomics done wrong: the rider adapts to the bike. 

Yes, this slightly exaggerated version of the familiar "racing bike" is fast. Make sure your medical insurance is up to date. Your lower back, crotch, neck, knees, ankles, neck and wrists will be overstressed every time you ride this bike. Your wrist joints, for example, aren't designed to support half your body weight while you pound away at them. Until the invention of the racing bicycle, nobody had figured out a way to bounce half the body up and down on the large blood vessels and nerves in the crotch--until the whole area goes numb--and call it fun. 

Rivendell and Rans make rider-centered ergonomic bikes. Most other manufacturers cater to the speed at any cost crowd, which put the needs of the machine ahead of the rider's needs. You'll go fast for a few months and then you'll get to know a good Chiropractor. 

I redid the stock gearing on my Stratus XP for better hill climbing, moving from the stock 30 tooth inner chain ring to a 24.  Schwalbe Marathon tires put an end to the rash of flats that shredded the stock tires in my first 500 miles. I also added a brass bell along with a Rans seat bag and rear rack. With that setup you could ride this bike across North America and most other continents. I've done Washington State and chunks of California. More--much more--to come.