Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review: The 2013 HP Velotechnik Scorpion fs 26



BY STEVE FOX

I am a 200 lb. septuagenarian who has been riding recumbents (long wheelbase, short wheelbase, trikes) since 2002. Here are some of my bike tours and travels.  

A few years ago I purchased a Terra Trike Tour 1 (a Wheel Wiz product), which, like the Scorpion, has the ‘tadpole’ configuration (two front wheels and one rear). It doesn’t take much imagination to see how the name derived from the frog’s larval stage.




The Tour was a fun ride but ill-suited to rough local roads. It had no suspension and the brake handling was dangerous, particularly on freeway down hills where I found myself trapped between guardrails and nasty rumble strips (more on trike braking below). The latter combination led one morning to my being flipped upside down into the slow traffic lane of our freeway. So, after a couple of years, I traded the Tour for a long wheelbase Easy Racer, my second. I assumed my trike days were a thing of the past.

Then the trike bug hit me again; it’s such a fun ride! I turned to the Hostel Shoppe catalog to see how trikes had evolved in ways that might be more suitable locally, and to discover what was available. I settled on one—I thought, but a friend suggested that due to my earlier complaint about the Tour, I might want to shell out a bit more money and go for suspension. The result: my excellent (for the most part) new Scorpion! Although this trike has a long name, it boils down to this: ‘fs’ (folding and suspension), and ‘26’ (rear wheel size). All you need to know about HP Velotechnik is that it’s a German company (English option on page 1 of their site). HPVelotechnik has a dealers all over the world

SHIFTERS AND CHAIN RING

1.     I opted for grip twist rather than bar end shifters. The right-hand shifter (rear derailleur): Your hand is in a slightly different position because the shifter is vertical. Shifting is easy and natural, however, if you remember that turning the shift knob counter-clockwise moves you into a lower gear (bigger cog), and turning the knob clockwise results in a higher gear (smaller cog).



2) Left-hand shifter: The Scorpion fs 26 comes standard (from the Hostel Shoppe) with a 3-speed hub (SRAM DualDrive), so no front derailleur. You can opt for chain rings, but I have found the hub arrangement very satisfactory, although I do wonder about maintenance.Twisting the knob counter-clockwise moves you to a lower gear. If you imagine having 3 chain rings instead of the hub, the same counter-clockwise motion would move your chain to the left onto a lower (smaller) ring. Turning the knob clockwise results in a higher gear, or larger ring, if you prefer thinking of it that way. 

To me, the big advantage is that any hub selection (1, 2, or 3) gives you the full range of the rear cluster in each setting. You never need worry about an awkward chain angle, front to rear, which can throw your chain if you are not paying attention. You will also find that shifting the hub is much smoother than shifting rings. (Notethe hub configuration prevents use of a trailer that attaches to the right side of the rear axle.)



BRAKES

As I had so much difficulty with braking on the Tour, I opted for a single lever on the right shifter for my Scorpion, which makes shifting significantly safer and less compacted  On the Tour, with a lever on each shifter the rider is required to squeeze them equally lest the bike swerve dangerously. This is especially problematic when instant, hard braking is necessary, such as on a hill with traffic on the left, assuming you have a shoulder, or in a bike lane. I recommend the single lever, but I also recommend you have it installed on the left shifter so that your right hand is completely free for shifting. Although the Hostel Shoppe can give you a free brake setup adjustment, you may have to fiddle with the mechanical discs until the braking lever pulls evenly on both wheels.

SUSPENSION


The full suspension of the Scorpion fs 26 is perhaps its most outstanding feature. Fully adjustable, the front and rear wheel suspension smooths all but the worst potholes you’ll encounter. They add immeasurably to stability and make riding this trike a pleasurable experience. 

Believe me, our local roads are as tough as they come, but the Scorpion provides as close to an air ride as you are likely to get on two or three wheels.


FOLDING




I haven’t tried folding the bike yet, but the instruction manual provides a step-by-step guide.

REAR WHEEL REMOVAL

Again, I have yet to remove the rear wheel (knock on wood), but here is the explanation provided by a Hostel Shoppe mechanic: Shift into the lowest hub gear (it’s labeled ‘1’); press ‘in’ the button on top of the gizmo that receives the shifting cable from the shift lever (pictured above); remove the gizmo and unthread the axle caps with the proper size wrench. There is no quick release, which strikes me as a distinct but correctable design flaw.


OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT


Ergomesh wide seat (Hostel Shoppe technician recommends this seat).


Wide mirrors (2) attach to kingpins. Essential on both sides for rider safety!



Rear Rack with a built-in flag holder (note: with 26 in. rear wheel you can’t mount a flat surface to the top of this rack because the top of the wheel exceeds the height of the rack). A flag makes a trike much more visible in traffic. 

Planet Bike Protégé 9 computer.




CHAIN LENGTH ADAPTER (‘front boom-quickadjust’) 



The boom quickadjust is additional equipment for HP Velotechnik recumbents that feature a telescopic front boom for leg length adjustment. It replaces the standard bolts of the of the front boom clamping by quick release levers. Two pulleys provide chain length compensation while moving the front boom.

FENDERS

I don’t have fenders yet, but the Hostel Shoppe recommends them.

ERGONOMICS

HP prides itself on ergonomics, and judging by their Velotechnik fs 26, they have succeeded. The controls are easy to operate. The bike’s ergomesh wide seat fits my body well, and it’s easy to get in and out of the seat. There is no need to adjust your position as you ride. I have experienced no aches and pains during or following an outing. This is a vastly superior ride when compared to the Terra Trike Tour I owned. Credit for this belongs to the engineers at HP who have given us full suspension, a 26 in. rear wheel for increased smoothness and speed, and single lever braking. 

PROS: 
Suspension; folding; stability; overall comfort.

CONS:
Turn radius; no quick release; bottle cage attachment requires "hot punching" the ergomesh seat.





SUMMARY


The HP Velotechnik fs 26 is a terrific ride (lots of fun!) and well worth its price tag. The pros so outweigh the cons that I am a bit embarrassed to mention any. If possible, you should go to a trike dealer and try several brands and models. Then get yourself a Scorpion! The contrast will amaze you.


South Side of Arcata Marsh on Arcata Bay



Mary Bradley, Steve Sipma and Steve Fox. Washington and Oregon Tour



If you had a trike, you could eat like this. 




Trike fans: Steve Fox will be happy to respond to your questions or comments below.





Post a Comment